Published January 10-21, 2022
To change the economic future of Indians, we need to change the political policies and the people in power. India’s politicians and their parties favour, irrespective of their specific ideologies, all agree on one thing: less freedom for those they rule. So, if we want prosperity for Indians, we need to ensure more freedom, which will mean creating a new compact between the rulers and the ruled. This will mean changing minds and channelling votes by uniting the non-aligned and non-voters to create a Lok Sabha of Independents which can implement an agenda for freedom and prosperity. This is the revolution India needs to break from its past; this is the Nayi Disha India and Indians need.
Over the past couple years, I have written extensively about these ideas and how to make Nayi Disha happen. One of the prerequisites for Nayi Disha’s Indian Revolution is to change minds. That needs a content factory with a new narrative, and a distribution pipe to take this message to the people. Without a change in people’s views, there will be no change in the way they vote – they will still keep selecting from the menu of politicians and parties who have no interest in changing the status quo of extraction and exploitation that served the British well for 200 years, and has served the ruling class well since 1947 when instead of new freedom, Indians got continuity of serfdom. All that changed was the skin colour of the rulers.
A new future for India is possible – but only if the people change their minds. Unlike some other countries where wise leaders brought about the changes needed for prosperity, India has been singularly unfortunate with its leaders – each one had an opportunity, but each one failed. That’s the nature of power, and none could resist from their top perch imposing more controls and constraints on the people. India’s perpetually planned poverty has been made by India’s politicians and their parties. Unless the controls are put on those in power, unless the size of the Indian state is shrunk, unless the ability of politicians to discriminate and interfere in the lives of people is removed, permanent and mass flourishing will be elusive.
This is the change Nayi Disha hopes to bring: replace those in power (and their challenger clones) with a new government which in a single term (or two) dismantles the Indian state and its powers to create an irreversible cycle of freedom and prosperity for the people. To succeed, Nayi Disha has to become a decentralised, bottom-up people’s movement. It has to be led by local leaders in every one of India’s neighbourhoods, rather than one omnipotent person at the top who can fall prey to the same trappings of power. This will only happen when new ideas reach the people. That’s where creating the pipe to distribute the ideas is one of the most important building blocks for Nayi Disha.
Past Writings – 1
Before we get to the discussion on the pipe, let’s understand the need for change and a Nayi Disha for India. Here’s a survey of my previous writings about Nayi Disha over the past 18 months.
The Revolution India Needs: “What India needs is a people united to create a bottom-up movement to dismantle the corrupt political party system and end the mai-baap Sarkar that pervades our lives. Only then will a new India rise — an India not steeped in poverty but reaching out for riches, an India not divided by ancestral surnames but united in our individual diversity, an India not searching through history books for its lost glory but powering its way through entrepreneurship to future prosperity… What is needed is to elect a Lok Sabha of Independents – people selected through local primaries by unaffiliated Indian voters (who constitute two-thirds of the voters). These non-aligned and non-voters (NANV) have to create a coalition, connect digitally, communicate the ideas to each other and craft political change. They number 60 crore out of India’s 90 crore voters. Staying undecided till the end or abstaining from voting can no longer be the options. It is in the hands of this ‘silent majority’ that India’s future lies… Will our generation lead the revolution for our nation’s transformation? If not us, then who? If not now, when?”
Nations, Leaders and their Decisions: “India’s leaders failed on each of the five attributes of leadership. None of them prioritised economic growth and mass prosperity. None understood the roadmap to prosperity. None had the best talent in place around them. None had a sense of urgency. And on the fifth point, while many were good communicators, since there was no internal belief in reforms, none could communicate and persuade the people on the policies needed for growth…It needs one leader to change India’s economic trajectory. That leader has yet to emerge. The current system of Indian politics will not throw up such a leader. That is why we need a political revolution before the economic transformation can happen. Only through economic growth can we make a great nation. Will another generation be wasted? Or, can we, the people, unite to make that happen? The choice is ours.”
India needs a Debating Culture: “A revolution might sound disruptive and violent. It is not. Just as technology is helping us buy, learn, connect and communicate, it can help us change our nation. For this a few of us need to first understand that change is really needed. This is the job of political entrepreneurs. They have to change minds. Only then will the votes change… A debating culture can thus be one of the key pillars for building a better discourse, an open society and lead the political and economic revolution India needs.”
Circles: Starting the Indian Revolution: “If we had to start India’s political and economic revolution…it would be very important to bring people together and change minds – one at a time. For this, there would be a need for neighbourhood cells all across India with a dual purpose – creating the social infrastructure and an organised cadre…[We need] a national decentralised organisation of Circles and citizens who believe in a new vision of India and are willing to devote a few hours a week to make it happen.”
Past Writings – 2
Sabhas: Powering the Indian Revolution: “Local Circles can start the revolution; Sabhas will power it onwards. Circles, with their meetups and debates, will lay the foundation for people to come together in their neighbourhoods. Sabhas will create the incentive via a ladder for political entrepreneurs to act and lead. Think of Sabhas as mirror governments. In a nation bereft of political alternatives with a comatose Opposition, Sabhas can emerge as the voice of the silent majority – the two-thirds who are non-aligned and non-voters (NANV). Sabhas are equal parts game, movement and reality show. Sabhas is the engine for the political revolution India needs.”
Talk Radio: Voice of the People: “There is an opening for talk radio – where the listeners are as engaged and there is more information, analysis and education, rather than misinformation, entertainment and conspiracy theories. If there is a hope for holding leaders to account and changing minds, it can come from new independent voices. Talk radio hosts can be India’s salvation…There are many people in India who want betterment for their families and children as their primary agenda. They do not want to get caught into civilisational debates about the past, but genuinely want a tomorrow that has more opportunities than today. They need their voices heard. They need a megaphone for their aspirations. Talk radio can be their voice and platform. The listeners can in turn provide the political entrepreneurs and foot soldiers for the revolution India needs. Talk radio can take up the responsibility that Indian media has abdicated.”
How the Pandemic will drive Digital Politics: “The basics of every election campaign are constant: identify, register, persuade and turnout the right voters. What the world of data and digital does is bring precision to the process of targeting. This is the world which digital technology will impact and transform even more in the months and years ahead…Even as politicians make the move to going digital, can challengers create new platforms and marketplaces to create political disruption? If ever there was an opportunity to put India on a new path and correct the historical mistakes that kept Indians poor, this is the moment. Are digital-savvy political entrepreneurs listening?”
United Voters of India: The Logic of Collective Action: “Votebanks or voting blocs are not uncommon in India – political parties know this and exploit them for electoral success. There has never been a voting bloc for prosperity. This is what UVI must become. 60 crore non-aligned and non-voters, two-thirds of India’s electors, is the target group for the creation of UVI. They are not loyal to any of the existing political parties. If a significant chunk of the non-aligned and non-voters (NANVs) can be persuaded to come together to form a loose coalition in the form of UVI, political change and economic betterment is possible. UVI is the spark that can fire the Indian Revolution… A digital platform like UVI can help the silent and disenchanted majority come together to coordinate their actions to overturn the power structure in India that has made serfs of its citizens. Street protests are fine but what’s needed is electoral power. Votes of the selectorate keep the incumbent parties in power. It is time for the independents to rise to complete the unfinished freedom movement of 1857 and 1947.”
Past Writings – 3
India Awaits its Washington: “A revolution results in a new political and economic system. We need both. We need a revolution to give ourselves freedom and prosperity. We need to take power away from Them – because They are simply the new Governor Generals of India. The British never gave Americans their freedom. The Indian Britishers will never do so either. That is why Revolution. Changing rulers by voting for a different symbol is not revolution…How do we make a people believe they are free and understand what freedom really means? How can we muster the courage to rise against Them who control the levers of power to crush all dissent? The How is not easy or obvious. And yet, we must. Some amongst us have to rise. India doesn’t need another Father, what it needs is a Founder – one who can truly set us free. This is the Washington India awaits.”
Nayi Disha: We are the Alternative: “To change minds, channel votes and win elections, we need to offer an alternative. A new direction, a Nayi Disha. We need a clear purpose, a messaging pipe to reach out to people, political entrepreneurs to rise, a platform to unite these entrepreneurs and the voters, leading to a path to power and eventually prosperity. This is our struggle for a better India…The first step to making this alternative vision of a new India a reality is to get the message across to large numbers – a pipe to the masses. In an increasingly repressive environment where the mundane could be seen as seditious, we need a mechanism to create safe spaces for people to communicate and coordinate. A content factory needs to constantly separate fact from the fiction we are fed, and to spread truth in a melange of falsehood forwards.”
United Voters of India: Constructing the Collective: “The idea of UVI needs to be embedded into software – just like Bitcoin. Essentially, UVI is a set of rules wrapped into code. Just like miners and traders gave Bitcoin its initial value, it will be the members and candidates who will provide the impetus to UVI…If half of the NANVs can be persuaded to join UVI and vote for this candidate in the election, the odds of victory are better than even. Repeat in enough constituencies and one has the makings of a Lok Sabha of Independents – a Swatantra Lok Sabha (SLS).”
The Alternative India Needs: “The alternative we should be seeking in India is freedom from our politicians and political parties. The alternative we should be wanting is liberty and prosperity. Unfortunately, there is no leader who will do that – they are all the same. So, if it’s a choice amongst one of them, it really doesn’t matter whom we choose. But if we really want to craft a new future for ourselves and our children, we need to create a new alternative which draws its power from the people – a national movement to free every Lok Sabha seat from the politicians and their parties to form a new government of prosperity which breaks the 250-year-old curse of poverty, which turns ‘caged and poor India’ to ‘free and rich India.’ This is the Nayi Disha Indians need. This is the real alternative India needs.”
Community Organising: The Art of Grassroots Campaigning: “UVI will need an organising model to harness the power of people at the local level – this is where community organising (or just ‘organising’) comes in…Each of us has to create our own group of 10 or 20 people we inspire and recruit. They in turn can fan out and do the same, thus creating snowflakes. Each of us becomes a field organiser – tell our story of self-us-now, build relationships in our neighbourhood and communities, do small meet-ups in our homes, recruit volunteers and then make them into the next set of field organisers by helping them with the planning needed to achieve their goals.”
Past Writings – 4
My Manthan talk brought many of these ideas together. “Our revolution is to change the rules of the game, not merely replace the people while the rules continue to be the same…To de-couple governmental power from the power to extract wealth from the national economy, the institution of political parties has to be dismantled. That necessitates a new set of rules, not new rulers who wield the same old power to control the lives of others. To do that, the netas and the babus have to be defanged, and the political party system has to be dismantled…We the people must control the Lok Sabha. We have to elect MPs who are independent of political parties. They will have the incentive to serve the people…This will require unity among voters – a selectorate larger than that of any political party. This is “United Voters of India” (UVI) – new power to replace the old…This is a decentralized movement that has no central command and control. Every UVI candidate is chosen by the people of the constituency and therefore only accountable to the people…Community organising would be required to convey the core principles of limited government, of self-determination, and create a sense of shared purpose among the lakhs of voters in each constituency. This can be achieved through a combination of in-person persuasion and digital coordination. Done right, UVI, built on the foundations of grassroots community organising, can make Mission Free543 a success by winning in the national elections to form a Lok Sabha of Independents… The primary focus of the new government will be to unshackle the Indian civil and commercial society from the clutches of the license, permit, quota, control raj. The result of achieving this would be to increase economic growth, and create well-paying jobs. The economic part of the agenda is Mission 10-20-30. It stands for the creation of 10 crore (100 million) jobs, within 20 months, paying at least Rs 30,000 a month…We can choose a Nayi Disha. Or we can choose to be what we are. It’s up to us – to choose and act.”
I discussed the pipe in an earlier series on Changing Minds for Nayi Disha: Attention to Action. “A content factory and a pipe. These are the two building blocks for changing minds. To get people to act, we need to get them to pay attention. The content factory needs to lay out the new ideas and package them in an attractive manner so they can cut through the clutter and impact people… How does one create a content distribution mechanism to reach tens of millions daily, cost-effectively? In doing so, each of these recipients has to become a micro-influencer spreading the messages further downstream. New “customers” must be attracted continuously to increase numbers to reach the 30% critical mass in every polling booth, neighbourhood and Lok Sabha constituency in India. And eventually, this pipe must also help attract candidates aligned with the Nayi Disha agenda… The combination of a content factory, an email distribution list, and WhatsApp redistribution can lay the foundation for a pipeline to get a different set of messages out to people – messages which they will never get from their regular media sources…To change minds, we need to get their attention and then nudge them towards action. To get attention, we need to create a content factory which educates and persuades. This content needs to be then distributed via email and WhatsApp to tens of millions – a pipe that bypasses government controlled media properties and platforms. One person at a time, this all-digital movement needs to grow in strength…Once the outreach is there, attention needs to be transformed into action. This is where the Nayi Disha app needs to play a starring role. By borrowing ideas from successful mobile games, it needs to encourage actions and teamwork to create winning coalitions in every part of India to fulfil the endgame of a Lok Sabha of Independents. The numbers are there – two-thirds of Indians are either non-aligned or non-voters. This is the audience that must be persuaded to unite against the politicians and their parties for a free and rich India.”
The Time is Now
Even as the stock market reaches all-time highs on a regular basis, the real economy has faced significant challenges – the stress induced both by the pandemic and government policies. Good upwardly mobile jobs are limited to a few sectors fuelled by startup and growth capital. Many households have lost two years of growth. Children in schools have also been impacted on account of Covid-related closures and inability to make the online shift. Below the calm under masks, a discontent brews – with an inability to get an outlet. Polarised messages on WhatsApp groups are a manifestation of the split in opinion about the government, its policies and the future.
The irony is that it does not matter who is in power. What the BJP does today parallels what the Congress did yesterday. And should a new party, front or formation appear in the future, it will be inspired by the BJP government’s actions. All politicians are cut from the same cloth and power corrupts – not that the current crop needs any advice! This has been the tragedy of India – every time some hope appeared for a free and prosperous tomorrow, it has been rudely and soundly crushed. Not for India its Washington or Madison, or even a Lee Kuan Yew, Deng Xiaoping, or Jonathan Cowperthwaite. Not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow. Yogi lurks behind Modi, Mamata and Pawar lurk behind Gandhi. No ruler will change the rules; every ruler will strengthen the rules that limit freedom.
We can keep waiting. Or we can together decide to do something about it. There is no better time than the coming months and years. The reach of digital can be a great leveller for a new movement. In due course of time, it too will be controlled for no one in power can stand independent voices for very long. There must be an urgency of now. But for that, we have to awake to an understanding that notwithstanding the free food and all the other freebies and subsidies some sections of India get, the path to mass flourishing and prosperity is not the way our political Pied Pipers are taking us down on.
It is not an easy persuasion – either on the narrative or the timing. The poor have to worry about their next meal, the elite have their cocoon to protect. The institutions that should have been the protectors of our freedom and future have been infiltrated and compromised. There is no Great Leader to turn to for guidance. So, who will bring about the change? Who will challenge those in power? Let’s first understand who will not.
Change and Challenge, Anyone?
In today’s India, many of the institutions that should have held ruling politicians to account have either succumbed or simply abdicated their responsibilities. There is no group speaking truth to power.
India’s Opposition parties and their leaders are silenced because those in power know their weaknesses and wield the threat of jail over them. So barring the occasional orchestrated statements and some periodic protests, there is nothing much they do. The Opposition is as hopelessly splintered as it has always been. In a first-past-the-post system, without a united vote, it is not easy to dislodge an energised incumbent backed by a selectorate.
India’s media has long given up on its role as a watchdog. The lure of government ads, the carrot of some favours (or the stick of threats) – and they fall in line with whoever is in power. Every powerful leader has learnt from predecessors on how to control the narrative. For those independent voices that rise, pressure is applied via sedition cases and targeted raids. Social media platforms are also complicit – amplifying the false and hateful, rather than the true and objective.
The judiciary too has been largely tamed. Not that it needed to be. With hearings taking years if not decades, justice is always delayed and denied. Barring a few, judges at all levels can be ‘persuaded’ – by fear or favour. With the legislative and executive arms of the government already merged into one, the judiciary too has been co-opted creating a single dominant force which rules India. Once again, the decay is not new – the descent has been in the making through the years and previous governments.
The last hope, India’s middle class, is nowhere in the picture. They are the only ones who could have through their numbers held institutions to account. But they too are compromised. As Devesh Kapur wrote recently: “The growth of a middle class was expected to play a transformative role in propelling the economy on the one hand and modernising Indian society and politics on the other. The former would be achieved by its consumption potential that would drive domestic demand and the latter by pressuring the polity to address corruption and transcend identity politics. That this has occurred more in the breach is self-evident…The failures of the middle class to better govern the very professional organisations that have been the source of its social power are manifest, be it the governing body of accountants or of architects, lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers. The Bar Council of India and the Medical Council of India (replaced by the National Medical Commission in 2020) are prime examples of professional misconduct themselves. They epitomise a harsh reality. The institutional malaise in the governance of the professions is an important reason not just for the weaknesses of the professions themselves, but in their larger failure to hold the state to account – a failure that is all too manifest today.”
India’s middle class, which was anyways small, has also shrunk in the past couple years. 800 million Indians now depend on free food from the government to survive. Who can think revolution and develop a spine for change on an empty stomach?
Therein lies the conundrum. With no mesmerising leaders, with no alternative message, with no mass messengers, with no mainstream media support, with no middle class voice – how can minds be changed and votes be channelised for a new future? Is there a ray of hope? From Albert Hirschman’s “exit, voice, and loyalty”, is exit the only option left? Or is there a possibility of voice for those who are not in the loyalty camp?
There are many who have a sense that things are not going right, and a change and challenge is needed. But every such person feels they are alone, and therefore other than speaking over encrypted messages and calls, there is a sense of helplessness. This is not a Hindi movie where one hero can take on the system and survive. And so, we build our own small world — public acquiescence and silence blended with private frustration and outspokenness. Days go by and the little remnant resistance crumbles; life gets busy with other pursuits. There is no place for the “angry young man” persona.
But what if we could create an emergent, self-organising system that can connect us together? The big difference in the past 5-10 years has been the interconnectedness among Indians. Digital has become a necessity, even as it has become an escape. A few clicks and the world’s knowledge and entertainment are available to almost every Indian household. The slow, “downloading…” connectivity has been replaced with high-speed denoted by an ever increasing “G”. Kbps has been replaced by Mbps and Gbps beckons. The phone screens have become higher resolution resembling mini-TVs. Even as personal freedoms have diminished, digital freedom has increased. The always-on, anytime-anywhere world is upon us – thanks to our smartphones (new or used).
Until a few years ago, we were limited in the number of people we could individually communicate to – via phone calls or letters. Now, our “Good Morning” message can be sent instantly to all, or a delightful video can be forwarded with a few taps to dozens via WhatsApp groups. Each of us is a creator and micro-influencer, an ant in the digital kingdom, capable of producing great outcomes even as we go about just doing what gives us joy, recognition and dopamine.
Even as the content creation and mini-distribution problems are largely solved, what is missing is the curation and mass amplification. This is what will convert the micro-moments among the anonymous to a mass movement with local leaders and champions. A cruel state can suppress a few central nodes, but is powerless against a popular distributed uprising of the many. These many, suppressed and anonymous voices need to coalesce into a larger whole, glued together by digital threads.
What the voices need is a distribution system, a pipe. Just like a vaccine when injected into the body is carried by the blood to different parts, so also the pipe must take the voices and their messages across the nation – and perhaps even outside. Even as the content factory exists and improves with each passing day, it is the pipe which is missing. Content needs creators and their creativity; the pipe needs techies and their engineering skills. It is in their marriage on which lay hopes for a free and rich India.
How do we go about constructing the pipe?
The objective is to connect like-minded individuals together and enable them to expand the reach of the network. In that sense, it is akin to how a virus works – infect a person, then spread to others through the proximity contacts of that person, and thus cause contagion. Adam Kucharski writes about ‘R’, the reproduction number, in his book, The Rules of Contagion: “R depends on four factors: the duration of time a person is infectious; the average number of opportunities they have to spread the infection each day they’re infectious; the probability an opportunity results in transmission; and the average susceptibility of the population. I like to call these the ‘DOTS’ for short. Joining them together gives us the value of the reproduction number: R = Duration × Opportunities × Transmission probability × Susceptibility.”
In the context of ideas, Kucharski writes:
If we want an idea to spread, we ideally need people to be both highly susceptible and highly influential. But Aral and Walker found that such people were very rare. ‘Highly influential individuals tend not to be susceptible, highly susceptible individuals tend not to be influential, and almost no one is both highly influential and highly susceptible to influence,’ they noted. So what effect could targeting influential people have? In a follow-up study, Aral’s team simulated what would happen if the best possible people were chosen to spark a social outbreak. Compared with choosing randomly, the pair found that picking targets effectively could potentially help things spread up to twice as far. It’s an improvement, but it’s a long way from having a few little-known influencers who can spark a huge outbreak all by themselves.
Why is it so hard to get ideas to spread from person to person? One reason is that issue of people rarely being both susceptible and influential. If someone spreads an idea to lots of susceptible people, these individuals won’t necessarily pass it on much further. Then there’s the structure of our interactions. Whereas financial networks are ‘disassortative’ – with big banks connected to lots of small ones – human social networks tend to be the opposite. From village communities to Facebook friendships, there’s evidence that popular people often form social groups with other popular people. It means that if we target a few popular individuals, we might get a word-of-mouth outbreak that spreads quickly, but it probably won’t reach much of the network. Sparking multiple outbreaks across a network may therefore be more effective than trying to identify high profile influencers within a community.
So, if we have to build the distribution pipes for ideas, we need to focus on the components of R: duration, opportunities, transmission probability, and susceptibility. And we need to think not just of high profile influencers in a single community, but also reach multiple influencers in different communities. Think of them as the superspreaders who help increase the R. Our challenge is that we need to create a repeatable process out of this – and thus create a pipe through which ideas can flow regularly.
I had written earlier about combining two distribution platforms together: email and WhatsApp. Email can provide the mass distribution, while WhatsApp takes care of the last mile outreach. Emails to superspreaders will work even better. They can then amplify it across their own networks – via their own email distribution lists or through WhatsApp groups. A WhatsApp-only system will not work for the pipe: there are limits on the number of members in a single group and hence hierarchies need to be made, which also means that the hops for messages increase. Also, WhatsApp is controlled by a corporate entity, which can change rules as per what it (or a government) wants. Hence, the need to combine WhatsApp with another distribution channel – email with its ability to send rich media wins over SMS.
So, to build a resilient pipe, here are the steps:
- Create a website where anyone interested can opt-in with their email address
- A small team can curate content and send out emails to the list
- Recipients on the list can then distribute locally to their WhatsApp groups
- Track all activity and incentivise actions via atomic rewards: this will allow superspreaders to rise to the top
- Encourage the WhatsApp recipients to also sign-up directly via email to eliminate one hop
- The goal over time should be to grow the direct email broadcast list as much as possible
- Incentives can be provided for referrers who help with email sign-ups
- Recipients of the messages can be encouraged to do their own local meetups – and thus recruit email recipients
- Over time, the most powerful asset will become the email list
- One of the incentives for superspreaders could be that they can, should they wish, become political entrepreneurs and contest primaries
Email has been the communications channel of choice for marketers for many years. It has had little or no use in Indian politics, which has largely depended on mass media and huge rallies. In the past couple national elections, social media’s role has increased – primarily, Facebook and WhatsApp. Both are controlled by the same entity, and any corporate entity can be pressured into blocking specific channels or users. That is where email shines. It is independent of Big Tech with no single person or entity in control.
One point to note is that any dependency on a single point of failure in such a system must be avoided. Therefore, it has to be a system without a single entity controlling it – which is where email works best. There is no intermediary between the sender and the recipient; unlike SMS (Big Telco) and WhatsApp (Big Tech). And any place where a corporate entity is involved, Big Government has the controls!
There is no single narrative that will work. The approach to take is to build coalitions. I have mentioned NANV (non-aligned and non-voters), before. But it is not a monolithic block of voters. While the unifying theme can be that India’s politicians and parties are the biggest anti-prosperity machine in India, a few specific messages can help draw in more people faster into the broader Nayi Disha fold. Each of these messages can be communicated through the pipe. Emails allow tracking of opens and clicks, and thus specific narratives can be calibrated based on feedback from recipients.
There are three narratives which can serve as starting points. One of the obvious ones is that the controls need to be on politicians and not on the people. Poverty is an outcome of politicians getting a free hand to run amuck with policy interventions – India is replete with such examples. Prosperity results from constraints being put on those in power, thus ensuring freedom for people.
The second narrative can be about ending religious discrimination. While all public discrimination is wrong, religious discrimination is the most pernicious. One cannot change one’s gender or caste, but one can change one’s religion. Thus, policies can be crafted which actually encourage conversion. And the Indian government has been doing this for decades, irrespective of which party has been in power. Most Indians aren’t even aware of this, but once they know, they will feel the anger. The root lies in the Constitution which has enabled and encouraged all sorts of religious discrimination. (Of course, there is also caste-based discrimination, but that’s another story for another day.)
The third narrative can be about economic justice via Dhan Vapasi. The public wealth is being controlled by the government; this needs to be returned to the rightful owners, the people of India. This is the fastest track to creating an enabling environment for mass prosperity in India. (I have written extensively about Dhan Vapasi earlier – see under “Economic Revolution”.)
These can be the starting narratives. They address different groups of people. The first one about politicians being the problem can be addressed to the non-aligned and non-voters, who do not find the right party or candidate from among the choices on offer. The second narrative about ending religious discrimination focuses on the cultural right who want real secularism in India – where the government treats everyone the same irrespective of their religion, rather than favouritism and ministries for specific religious groups. The third narrative targets the poor, who are treated not as citizens but as votebanks – given freebies which actually diminish their future opportunities, in return for being reminded to vote for the Supreme Leader in whose name the theft is being done.
With the pipe in place, these narratives can make the political game competitive – all the politicians, parties and their supporters on one side, and everyone else who wants to dismantle India’s 250-year anti-prosperity machine on the other. With the pipe in place, it should be a no-contest!
The solution to India’s problems does not lie with the politicians; they are the ones who are the problem. Every Indian leader has determinedly worked, despite having all the power, to constrain the people. Every leader comes in thinking they have the power of God to remake our lives. New schemes get launched or old ones are renamed; every one of them funded by productive money taken from the people.
A broken education system ensures that few actually understand why some nations are rich. We are taught about India’s long past but not the recent past of countries like America which have created the rules that have led to their residents becoming among the richest in the world. We are not taught why Indians are poor, why our freedoms are controlled, and why many British-era rules are still in place. If we question the Indian Constitution (a derivative of the 1935 Government of India Act written by the British colonisers), we could be charged with sedition. In such an environment, no politician or party will come to our rescue. It is a revolution that has to be engineered by the people.
Even as we begin celebrations for India@75, we need to ask ourselves: are we truly free? Does just having the right to vote mean we are free? If we are really free, why are we not rich? Why do 800 million Indians still need to be provided free food by the Indian government? If that isn’t the biggest indictment on our politicians, what is? Why is the average Indian’s annual earnings only a fifth that of the average Chinese when just 40 years ago both were at the same level? And why is the average Indian’s annual earnings just 3% of the average American? Why does India rank so low in various indices of human development and economic freedom? All have the same answer. Freedom, denied to us by the British and then their successors, the Indian British who have successfully established British Raj 2.0 in India.
It is this that Nayi Disha seeks to overturn. A Nayi Disha for India will only happen when the people awaken and act. The pipe is the crucial step in getting alternative narratives to them to counter the government propaganda machine that works in overdrive with money from every Indian (since all of us pay taxes in one form or another). It is the pipe which has to do the “Moh Bhang” (break the illusion) of the love affair that some of us have for the Indian politicians, their parties, their policies. The growth of digital and its primacy in our daily lives has created a new opportunity for rebirthing India – we, through our cooperation, have the power to change the future of 1.3 billion Indians in our hands. What we now need to do is to use it for the greater good and a better future for each of us. Maybe India@77 will truly see the start of a free and prosperous India.