Punjab progressed as a state in the early years of Independence because of its enterprising population, which included those who had to migrate after Partition. They took to the Green Revolution and small scale manufacturing like the proverbial duck to water. However, over time, this ability to do well, over time, meant that the state’s best rose the country’s highest positions, spread their businesses to other states. Others migrated abroad in large numbers to grab opportunities elsewhere. As such, the state was denuded of its ‘top soil’ in terms of human resources. This led to a gradual decline to the point where one of India’s most dynamic states now languishes near the bottom. West Bengal, too, went into a similar tailspin when it famously ‘discovered’ Communism!
This is an example of the fact that no matter what the past record, a state cannot rest on its laurels. Every challenge must be recognised by the leadership in time and the hard decisions taken to stay ahead. It can be seen that the other well-off states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, etc., are facing similar challenges that are also reflecting on the social firmament. It is not a coincidence that they are in the news for various kinds of unrest that have absolutely no logical base. The political leadership is so obsessed with the caste and communal politics that brought it to power that it has no time to recognise the actual problems. Currently, for example, the ‘threat’ the government in Maharashtra fears is the ‘seditious’ decision by an MLA and MP couple to recite the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ outside the Chief Minister’s ancestral home! To outsiders, it seems like everybody there has gone bonkers!
This situation reflects the sad state of politics in the country. There are too many parties that lack any kind of an ideological base or world-view. In the identity politics that drives these parties, there is little place for the principles of good governance and economics. Too much is being taken for granted – there is no understanding of the shape things are taking in a fast changing world. A state like Uttarakhand, if it ignores the long-term perspective, may face the bust even before a boom. It may seem a cliché, but the corrective can be applied through a well-informed public that keeps the real interests in mind when it comes time to cast the ballot, instead of being distracted by petty issues that have absolutely no importance in the long term.