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Fit India

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Some of the criticism against PM Narendra Modi has been that he has laid greater emphasis on ‘distributive justice’ than on developing the economy. It is as though a person can only do one thing and not others at the same time. He has also promoted with vigour – not just in token form – a number of social reforms during his days as Prime Minister. His economic reform has been multi-pronged because it involves correcting numerous faults that have bedeviled the system. Those expecting ‘big-bang’ reforms that were expected to perform miracles have been disappointed, but that is often the case with those who believe in such solutions. The change has had to be calibrated and care has to be taken to deal with the natural repercussions on the people, particularly the poor. Above all, it is important to keep up the morale in challenging times. His latest campaign, Fit India, is a part of this strategy – people should know that quality of life does not entirely have to do with how much one earns. This aspirational model of development places the onus to transform India as much on the people as it does on government. He has set an ambitious goal – a 5 trillion dollar economy. Many critics point out that this is not possible based on the present rate of growth and existing potential. A more moderate goal, however, would not inspire people as much and they would leave it to others to achieve the easily possible, meaning nobody would end up doing it. In the present circumstance, however, it is clear that only a concerted effort by all can achieve the target. As Robert Browning has said, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or, what’s a heaven for…” It is interesting to note that a number of other leaders are picking up on this style of leadership by involving the people and making them feel responsible – Arvind Kejriwal in his battle against Dengue; Mamata Banerjee with her version of ‘Man ki Baat’; even Imran Khan with his half-hour ‘stand- up’ for Kashmir. Once the message is communicated to the people and they take responsibility instead of looking to others, the leader can take a step back and watch events unfold. It had become a habit during the ‘mai-baap’ days – so carefully fostered by the Congress and its dynastic leadership – to promise catered solutions in return for feudal subjection. This meant that people began to expect from the government even that which they could easily fix in their immediate environment. This weakened all the structures of power, with decision making left only to those at the very top. So, it is that despite India’s space age technological ability, it is still possible for the rifles of an entire guard of honour to misfire at the funeral of a former Chief Minister. Nobody was responsible, so nobody cared about making sure. Change in such an environment can only come incrementally and through great determination.