Dedicated to the nation
Public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people and to the nation.
— Margaret Chase Smith (American politician, 1897-1995)
The past few weeks saw the Prime Minister dedicating to the nation a slew of projects – power plants, transmission lines, national highways and suchlike. It is very interesting to observe that such “dedications” took place mainly in poll-bound states like Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. In almost all the cases, the projects were already commissioned and in full commercial operations. The dedications were therefore merely symbolic and were nothing more than vehicles to achieve political mileage.
A traditional country that India is, there is a natural tendency to make “glorifying ceremonies” even out of trifling achievements. Whenever elections are round the corner, achievements are given more credit than they deserve; extravaganza is magically created out of non-events. It is ridiculous to imagine a power transmission line commissioned and operational over six months ago being so abruptly “dedicated to the nation”. One fails to see the objective meaning of this exercise.
It is time that “dedications to the nation” are given serious rethinking. Infrastructure development in India, at least over the recent years, has been a painfully slow exercise. Projects tumble at every conceivable hurdle—be it securing clearance or land acquisition or project financing. This delay is of course over and above the tardiness caused whilst facing project execution challenges. India is replete with examples of projects not moving an inch from the foundation stone laying ceremony, which is incidentally another superfluous item on the government agenda! Even if a project is commissioned years behind schedule, it is dutifully “dedicated to the nation”. The folly of such a dubious act is never questioned.
Let the government spend its valuable time in accelerating the pace of infrastructure development. There should be no bigger prerogative. Infrastructure is the only channel to socio-economic development and national progress; there is no middle path. Because infrastructure is a holistic subject and because India has no separate ministry dedicated to infrastructure per se, it is necessary that relevant ministries collaborate and synergize their energies in achieving the unified objective of infrastructure development.
When any infrastructure project – be it a village road or an ultra mega power plant-- is successfully completed, national progress ensues unconditionally. In every sense, infrastructure is always dedicated to the nation, and so will always be a government that vows to expedite infrastructure development. The rituals can be put to rest.