The Dream

What is the Indian Dream for the nation? North Indians have the ideal of Ram Rajya: the regime of Shri Rama after his return from the wars and exile. Ideal of perfection. But we Malayalis (literally, Hillbillies) have our own ideal: Maveli Nadu Vaneedum Kaalam. The time when King MahaBali ruled our land. Every Malayali is supposed to know that, irrespective of religious belief, absence thereof, or Comradeship.

It struck me, as I first saw the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, that those pretty accurately reflect the words of the song. Must have been jotted down by a Malayali while the rest of UNESCO were arguing about Terminological Exactitude.

Song LineUN SDG
All people equal.5, 10, 15, 17
All lived in joy and fulfillment, No danger to anyone.1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12
No epidemics, or diseases. No child mortality. Affordable, top-notch Healthcare for all. 3,6
No theft, no looting, or murder. Peace, law and order. Consideration and empathy for others.16
No lying or liars. That would displace the entire South Asia Scholars Collective, sorree onlee. Even UN SDG dare not have such a dream.0
Good rains at the right times; great harvests. Reverse Climate Change, Restore Mother Earth. 8, 9, 13, 14, 15
People celebrated arts and music, learned the Vedas (knowledge base). They practised their beliefs and worship. Right to worship. Education, Culture.4
Women and children lived free to grow, think and express themselves (and occasionally allowed men to do so as well? 🙂 )4,5

The striking thing is that there is nothing there about unlimited accumulation of wealth at any cost to others, or about taking away the hard-earned gains of others to give to Party goons. This is the Indian Ideal, as much as I can figure out. Let’s use this as the goal. Not GDP. Not PPP. Not Standard of Living. Not Human Development Index. Not Killing or Enslaving the Infidels. Not Saving the Souls of all the Heathen Sheep out there. And most certainly not World Domination or Claiming All Lands For Ourselves In The Name of Godzilla or The Queen or Comrade #.

Expectations through the decades

The only time I voted in India was in December 1984. It was soon after I had written my first-ever Letter To The Editor – of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Mr. Ackerman, former university professor (OK, U. Georgia but still..), had written in the “usual” sneering style of the AJC’s Sunday World News Perspective: “If it took an Indira to rule it, India is no democracy”. Ackerman predicted Know-It-Allly and gleefully that India (then viewed as a Soviet stooge in the legendary Centers of Excellence that have guided US Foreign Policy through the decades) was about to disintegrate in short order.

Incidentally, this was the theme of “Experts” all around the world since 1947, getting more strident into the 60s with Malthusian Population Explosion Theory and 1970s Nuclear Non-Proliferation scams as it turned out that India was not going to be one of the “poodle”nations despite being in the British (Looted) CommonWealth. Got rid of the Queen’s Governor General in 1950 long before Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Refused to join NATO, SEATO, CENTO, Warsaw Pact, or any other Banana Republic “TO” (Treaty Organization).

Defied POTUS Johnson’s pressure using PL480 “Aid With Strings” and (my parents too) went hungry rather than give Jammu-Kashmir up to the gentle mercies of the Islamic State in 1965. Stood up to Tricky D1ck Nixon and the accused Harvard war criminal Kissinger’s sending the US 7th Fleet in the Bay of Bengal, outracing it to get the Pakistani genocidal rapist “Army” to surrender en masse and beg for Indian protection in 1971, stopping their American taxpayer-funded genocide fun & games. Exploded a “peaceful nuclear device” at Pokhran in the face of the racist “Nukes for Pakistan Treaty” (NPT). Turned “basket case nation” into “food basket nation”, a net exporter of food by 1980. And… still managed to hold massive free elections every 5 years like clockwork.

Shockingly, the AJC published my whole letter as a column titled: “Citizen responds to ..” I got some strange looks at work next day, esp. for my cracks on the US Voting Rights Act strictures against vote-rigging scams under which Georgia still rankled, after 200+ years of American democracy. A full 100 years after Atlanta, razed by US General Sherman’s forces, rose in Reconstruction. A warning lesson: Aerospace nerds used to read newspapers beyond the Comics Section, in those days.

Back to India, December 1984: The first thing I saw getting off the Air Bridge at Mumbai was a policemen. With a Bren or Sten gun, not the lathi/cane associated with Indian Police when I was in India before, nor even the 0.303 rifle that they taught me to fire without breaking my collarbone in the NCC. An interesting trip home to Keralam. Relatives assured me that some enthusiast of democracy might vote on my behalf so I might as well stir myself to go vote. I was surprised that my name was on the voter’s rolls. As I had promised Mr. Ackerman, I voted – with no regard for what he or Washington DC or Moscow had to say on the matter.

Moral of the story is that I have been reading the “Mainstream Western Media” since 1964 or so, and have my own opinions about its honesty and perceptiveness when it comes to understanding India.

The Wolf at the Door, Vultures Overhead

1984 was particularly grim. But in the words of the song “In a New York Minute”, the Wolf Is Always At the Door. And the buzzards of “McKenna’s Gold”, and termites, and Bubonic Plague, the SARS and MERS and Nipah and Wuhan viruses and Kargil and Pulwama and Doklam and Galwan. At the CDC in Atlanta back around 2005, a presenter on Biological WMD casually mentioned in passing: “like the Plague attack in Surat, India, you know…”.

Praise be to those who protect us, and to the Power that protects the Protectors.

Small-Signal Gain: India’s Progress

Through all this, plus the annual floods and droughts and tsunamis and cyclones and earthquakes and riots, India has continued to maintain a grinding forward progress. 1.0000001 steps forward for each step back. “Small signal gain” in the terminology of lasers, but enough, when the alignment is right, to bloom into focused brilliance.

It was always said that India posed “immense problems”. People shook their heads wisely, and went on to criticize the government. And previous leaders. And were happy that they had contributed such wisdom. But what if someone were to actually sit down and see what was needed to solve **ALL** those problems, and figure out the order in which they should be solved, and make a plan to implement those solutions? What I suggest below is that this happened, in a manner that none of us, at least I, had really realized. All those naysayers have been shown up to be fools. Or worse.

The leaders made mistakes. But they did some things right. The politicians, the Ministers, said many wrong things, made many mistakes. They were cartoon material. But they did have some deep passion for their homeland in them, and they did some things right. The Administrative service is much lampooned in stiff-necked safari coat-suit-boot (no kidding: see the video if it still exists, of the plane-crash rescue effort, where all hands from the nearby village are racing to try to save people in the monsoon darkness before the wreck catches fire.. but one precious policeman is assigned to hold an umbrella over the Presiding Babu standing well back). But they are still selected from a very ambitious set of high achievers, through a gruelling process: they are at least as smart as the rest of us. Some of them went the wrong way. But others stayed the course, learned to get things done, and did them. I have met some and seen them work: they are stellar (and, oh! the best were in Kerala shirt and ‘mund’ and chappals, not suit-boot. Or simple saris). When they coordinate a billion people’s energies to do something, they really get some amazing things done. This is how a large nation moves forward, and India is large!

And so the people of India, both resident and non-resident, citizens and “diaspora”, have made amazing progress, against all odds. Let me list a few. Perhaps in reverse chronological order because it is a very long list indeed. Perhaps I should call this “Asahiti” because is Itihasa backwards.

There’s so much to write on each but I need to get this on the web: its like 1998 again when I first searched under the term “Kashmir”. There was only ONE article out there, out of over a hundred that came up on the Search Engines of that time, that gave the Indian perspective: the Indian Embassy in Washington DC. Inspired me to set up my own “About Jammu-Kashmir” page: after all I would in the Top 2! But on CAA, which is my first item, I can’t even find that easily: a dismal failure of whatever distinguished Think Tanks are supposed to articulate policy decisions of the Indian government. Maybe they outsourced that too to InfoSys who “do” the Income Tax portal (thank you! Smt. Finance Ministerji, a long-time annual prayer heard!), or to JNU.

Many more posts to come. I give a short preview. Constructive suggestions welcome. Note that I am not into Indian (or American) Party politics. The trouble with Party Loyalties is burned into my brain by the bumper sticker I used to see on my commute:


I vote for who I think will bring positive change for the nation, based on the best information, knowledge and thinking that I can acquire. And I support those who strive to ensure that all people can get, likewise, the best information, knowledge and thinking possible, from all points of view, but not go into Analysis Paralysis.

This is so hard today with Information Overload forcing people into Tweets and WhatsApp Forwards rather than thought. Tweets, unfortunately, are rarely on the level of the Rks of the Rg Veda – and each of those takes aeons to unpack. And Twits who Tweet are hardly Rsis composing Rks. My essays are a small effort to collect the facts and analyses as I can find them, and separate them from the squawking of the Turkey Buzzards. So that I can begin to understand the issues.

Here’s a list of the other things I want to write about, again in roughly reverse chronological order.

Policy InitiativeLooking Back
The Citizenship Act, Amended. (CAA).
Rarely amended since Independence, India’s citizenship act carried a large bureaucratic burden, requiring common-sense solutions. The link is from India’s Parliament: I had to hunt for any serious Indian site that carries the info, with the deluge of buzzard-droppings on Google Search obscuring the truth.
Ayushman Bharat
Medicines at affordable cost! A little-known (why?) e-Sanjeevani Tele-consultation portal puts India far ahead of, say, the USA if not the rest of the world.
The Farm Bill: Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Promotion and FacilitationThe Bill frees millions of small farmers from the tyranny of Cooperatives and Communes that have long-since fossilized into political corruption rocks. With new reforms, millions of Indian farmers have already begun using their native instincts and the best of modern technology to negotiate, plan and trade efficiently: a story totally suppressed by the Turkey Buzzards fomenting hatred against India. Farmers can still choose the Cooperative, but they can also trade directly with end-use customers. They can even compete in the Global Market! Predictably, liberation and modernization bring fears of change, as well as regressive and reactionary pushback. And when that is exploited by foreign terrorists and enemy nations, along with domestic political losers…. with the help of the Turkey Buzzards of Mainstream Media…
A resolute mix of very very brave and tough warriors and very very smart leaders avoided a major conflagration while teaching a major lesson to a bully. Last heard, Chairman “Winnie The Pooh” Xi is ordering Chinese youth to become more maccho. May grow beards as the Taliban prescribes. After replacing his Comrade-in-Command, Western Empire (Tibet, Occupied Ladakh, Xinjiang) for the 4th time in 2 years. The “restraint” claimed by the PLA can be fully ascribed to their bad days at Doklam and Galwan and the Kailash Range and the lakeshore of Pangong Tso – and to the well-prepared forces on the Indian side. As Mao said: “Power Comes From The Barrel Of A Gun” when dealing with bullies. As Mao did not say, Power also comes from the resolute eyes and muscles of a brave people.
Self-reliance policy in manufacturing. Came just in time to deal with the pandemic and its economic consequences, as well as give India a chance to counter the mass-manufacturing dominance of a bullying, aggressive neighbor. A timely citizen boycott of imports from the bully became the impetus and the unexpected protection for nascent domestic innovation. Indian Patent applications have shot up in numbers. India is now racing to the top in “VC-funded” innovation ventures – as much as I recoil in horror at the waste of such a culture and hope for a common-sense, humane Indian version.
COVID-19 response
Absolutely amazing, starting with a very early Top Level recognition that this was equivalent to a WMD attack. Got vaccine R&D and a mix of native remedies and grassroots healthcare working, with eye-opening mix of technology and common sense. The response to the second “Delta” wave, with oxygen deliveries, and the scale-up to over 25 million vaccine shots delivered per day, are mind-boggling and utterly heroic as are the stories of India’s medical and contract-tracing workers.
The freeing of Ladakh from the grip of Islamist terrorists and corrupt Kashmir politicians is seen to be a major coup 2 years later, as Ladakh zooms ahead with infrastructure and the breath of fresh mountain air.
Micro Renewable Energy Architecture
The India-US agreement at the Paris Accords boosted the Indian retail solar photovoltaic industry with subsidized installations. Buy-back deals converted chronically underperforming State Electricity Boards to affluent supply coordinators; blackouts are no longer the norm. Cheap natural gas from the USA enabled distribution of gas cylinders to hundreds of millions; setting the state for domestic biogas conversion and independence. Now retail production of hydrogen, perhaps using otherwise un-usable excess solar PV, and other sources, promises total energy independence, and clean urban air!
Integration of Jammu-Kashmir.
Article 370 added to the Constitution as a “temporary” measure over 70 years ago, was seen as the “impossible” millstone around India’s neck in resolving the Pakistan Problem in Jammu-Kashmir. Removed in a brilliant flash, preceded by no-nonsense security measures and careful maneuvering to pass the microscope of the Supreme Court. Compare the life of a Kashmiri Indian Muslim citizen two years later today under “Hindu Nationalist” India, to that of a Muslim citizen of the Islamic Republics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Turkey or the People’s Republic of China. The trauma of Kashmiri Hindus, driven from their homes by terrorists in 1989, now shows some signs of a positive ending as people slowly return and reclaim what is their own, in their own land. Two years later, the lights flashing above the (seriously cleaned-up!) Dal Lake are from a spectacular fountain display, not terrorist mortar fire. Violent deaths are far, far down in Jammu-Kashmir. Roads and rail lines are coming up with awesome feats of civil engineering. Development will follow, if Peace is given a Chance. Compare to NATO “strategy” over the past 40 years a.k.a. “Fak-Ap”.
A sharp lesson to the terrorist state of Pakistan. Caused a swift evacuation of any remaining nuclear infrastructure. Showed that India can- and will- strike and strike with ruthless force unless the terrorist state keeps the peace.
Removal of the “Triple Talak” evil.
Another “impossibility”: This evil vestige of Vote-Bank Politics, prevalent only in “free” India while most Islamic States had removed it, gone in a flash, no one even mentions it. There was no “violent Minority backlash”. Muslim Indian women came out to vote, and the “Hindu Nationalist” party won big in Uttar Pradesh with its large Muslim population. Another superstition blown away. Citizenship made more meaningful.
A heroic venture to cut the Gordian knot of inter-state taxes and duties and long miserable delays at state borders, and the resulting Corruption Raj. Still a work in progress as Babudom “License-Raj” habits complicate what is intended to be simple. The implication is that money and goods are tracked through the lifecycle, and proper taxes collected at source. Some say that with this, the individual income tax could be abolished for all but the top 0.1%. OK, let’s stop and think. How would Indians have fared with the old system of food-bearing trucks delayed for days at a time in endless lines at each state border, during this pandemic?
DemonetizationImagine trying to get through the Pandemic lockdowns with transactions done with soiled currency notes. In one (hard) month, Indians learned to switch to electronic commerce. Had they not done that, most small businesses, vegetable vendors and farmers would have been driven out of business in the COVID lockdown while urban homes would have no way to buy groceries. Also cut deep into the Black Money mess of Indian real estate and most other “black economy” businesses. A massive blow to the fake-currency enterprises inside and outside India. A heavy blow and deterrent to corruption. Stopped the rent-a-stone-thrower industry of Jammu-Kashmir. This made a crucial difference when Article 370 was abolished: electronic payments can be traced – more to the point, they need mobile phone coverage which was limited and tracked for a time until peace was ensured. Pssst: Do you read any more of the gloom-and-doom from the Turkey Buzzards about the Tortured Populations of Kashmir With Mobile Internet Denied? As far a I know they are going about their lives in peace, they have phones and Internet, but the gnawing fear of the Pakistani terrorists which always hung over the Valley is now far lower. Though just this week, we hear of a big intrusion attempt in Uri that has claimed the life of an Indian soldier while pest-e-sha’eeding a few terrorists.
IPL: The Indian Premier League (cricket)
Remember when Avoiding an Innings Defeat was the heroic objective of Indian cricket abroad? When the Indian Pace Attack was slower than the other side’s spinners? IPL redefined “World-Class”. Brought wealth to sportspeople (other than the Board Babus). Now Indians EXPECT to win. A massively profitable win-win model which holds promise for many other sports enterprises.
700 Million New Bank Accounts, with Catastrophic Insurance Cover.
Stunning when announced from the Red Fort on Independence Day 2014, this was the first demonstration that a determined government, backed by best-in-the-world thinkers and implementors, can do the “impossible”. Enabled direct assistance to citizens through the pandemic shutdowns. Brought security with the Life/Catastrophic Insurance cover. Already reached 431 million new accounts. Note that it was enabled by Aadhar. The government would only make payments electronically, directly into the bank accounts, identity proved by Aadhar. Now people would actually get the money. Banks were ordered to start zero-balance accounts, no fees. Indians are savers. The accounts accumulated good balances, rapidly. Victory. NOW Aadhar and being Indian really meant something to every citizen!
Swach Bharat Abhiyan.
A “Hindu Nationalist” PM who started his career declaring from the Red Fort on Independence Day that building toilets was far more important than building more temples! Another superlative initiative, again proved so precious in conveying sanitation imperatives through the pandemic. Essential to cleaning up groundwater and the earth itself. Now most States are “100% ODF” in Indian parlance.
AadharA National ID card, useful for all sorts of transactions from voting to medical care to government assistance and direct payments. Brought 1.4 Billion citizens into a common knowledge base. Came in very handy for the pandemic response, but initially the Buzzards attacked it as Big Govt intrusion, anti-Minority etc etc. Aadhar enabled people to claim government benefits. It brought meaning to “citizenship” for people who had no ties to the next state, much less New Delhi.
Right to Food Security Act
Criticized as “Socialist”, this 2013 initiative – keeping the best of the previous government in Indian democratic tradition – told Indian citizens that they could get direct help from the government when unemployed, enough to keep people from starving. For a country accustomed to Famines in some part or other every two years until the 60s, a huge leap forward. But many of the government payments never reached intended recipients, who had no bank accounts. Cash leaks. So now scroll back up to those 700 million bank accounts, accessible via (scroll down) Mobile Phones with (scroll up) Aadhar.. and ponder the brilliance and deep planning – and the seamless continuity across politically-opposite governments!!
US-India Strategic Partnership.
The Clinton White House wisdom that set off the Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott dialogue of mutual understanding, developed into first the Indo-US Civilian Space Agreement, then the Civilian Nuclear Agreement, then the Strategic Partnership that has now grown into the Quad and full-fledged military partnerships – without mortgaging India into Banana Republic Treaty Organizations. It was based on some simple realizations of how the oldest democracy in the New World worked, and adapted to how the newer democracy in the Oldest World thought.
Indo US Nuclear Deal.
Started with a bang on May 11, 1998 with six nuclear explosions. Risked everything. The diaspora stood up to international bullies with an overwhelming subscription to National Bonds to deflate Sanctions. Brought realization and empathy for India’s nuclear posture. Again, a move that transcended Party Politics. Started by the NDA government, continued by the UPA government, now continued by the NDA government. I remember an American (ex) Ambassador asking me why one side was suddenly “against” the agreement after all the work they had done – and laughing “that’s what I hoped too” when I said: “Because they are not the ones now getting to implement it”. Classic demonstration of the debate and civilized pressure (a.k.a. noise) of a functioning democracy.
The Light Combat Aircraft
Breakout from 40 years of frustration where foreign lobbies ensured that no Indian initiative reached full system deployment, the LCA project leads India’s AtmaNirbhar towards aerospace excellence. A childhood dream come true for me, though vicariously. And since then, Indian engineers have doggedly pursued development, as I predicted to debunk the Import Lobbyist ex-Admiral who wrote: “”Now that it has been demonstrated, the LCA should be cancelled”. And just last week, I see that the Arjun Maon Battle Tank has been ordered in quantity to serve the Indian Army. And the Arihant Nuclear-powered Ballistic Missile submarine is keeping the peace with India’s Strategic Triad.
Enabled by first the laptop computer and then the SmartPhone, e-governance has slashed the misery of waiting in queues for hours to reserve rail tickets, find laws, pay bills, apply for licenses, file tax returns, and deal with more and more of the functions of government.
500 million Mobile Phones
In 1984, there was a 10-year wait and a Priority List and Preference for Foreign Currency Depositors – all to get a landline rotary dial phone that worked part of the time. But Indian railways, to get over the high price and theft attraction of copper wire, went to microwave communication towers all over India. The nucleus of the network that in short order, enabled practically every Indian household to have at least one Mobile Phone. Today Indians transact everything through phones, watch movies and sports, the global news, financial transactions, business deals, “eHarmony” prospects for marriage… take online classes, and even file tax returns.
An unprecedented “expansion” of a workforce with leading edge skills, permeating workplaces all over the world, but not as invaders. As workers solving problems to detailed customer specs of people everywhere, under their rules, understanding their cultures and needs. All from a few Indian companies. The Indian “IT” workforce changed the world for the better, and gave people everywhere a voice and confidence that they never had before. Including, to counter the forces of evil that had seized the “Vedas” of knowledge and power, along with all “mainsteam” publications. This hard-working generation won back the Vedas for Humanity, both figuratively and literally. My deep admiration for the pioneers of Tata Consulting Services, InfoSys, Wipro, and that huge army of peace.
Rejection of the biased CTBT.
“Not today, not tomorrow, not ever!” declared Dr. Arundhati Ghose, to the bullies of the China Tests Bombs In Tibet treaty scam. We are so glad you did, Arundhatiji! I once attended a discussion of the NPT and CTBT in a US university. At the end an American student (nothing to do with India, just a patriotic, sincere, self-respecting citizen) stood up and declared: “I CANNOT understand how such a dishonest treaty was developed in the name of my nation. Who were the people who did this? It is a disgrace and should be scrapped!” Unfortunately few have taken the time to study these things.
Akash, Brahmos, Nag, Dhanush, Agni and Prithvi
The IGMDP was the determined effort that has kept the peace and allowed India to stay whole and free. I am privileged to call some of its pioneers my friends.
National ServiceA tradition started in the 1890s by Swami Vivekananda to break out of colonial oppression, and suffering persecution (Veer Savarkar paid with his life, snuffed out after years of torture in the Andamans dungeons for daring to speak the truth) through much of its existence, India’s National Self-Service Society has turned into by far the world’s largest and must successful “self-help” organization. While the many enemies of India outside and inside paint dark pictures, the fact is that India today routinely and politely rejects offers of foreign relief and rescue in natural disasters. And instead is among the first responders all over the world.

The Path Forward

There is of course a very long way to go.

National Education Policy
NEP has come out and has huge goals. Usual pessimism clouds implementation plans. Imitating a decaying US mega-university model and chasing Global Rankings may not be the greatest of ideas? Just look at JNU… The far bigger threat may be the decline of Merit as the deciding criterion in education, the last frontier.
National Attitude Therapy for the Bureaucracy.
The PM is known for insisting on accountability. Recent straws in the wind suggest that his patience is being strained as citizens want the nation to rise to its potential.
Sustainable Growth & Rural Self-Reliance.
The idea that Indian villages can be both ultra-modern in conveniences, and wonderfully rural, is catching on. That is what we pushed at the 1st Abdul Kalam Conference.
National Register of Citizens.
Another hugely overdue move, under massive attack. So the government wants to have accurate data on who is living in the nation! How shocking, per the Turkey Buzzards.
Energy Self-Sufficiency.
My dream from my first year in engineering school, seeing the havoc wrought by the Oil Shock of the Arab-Israeli war. Now within reach.
Nature Credits.
Why is only “Carbon Reduction” recognized with Credits? Why not all, or many, SDGs? We have studied how.
Ayurveda-led diagnostic telemedicine.
Modern Indian Ayurveda education includes all that is required to make the Ayurvedic physician and her Clinic the first point of patient contact, in the Wellness and Healthcare revolution.
Climate Change Reversal.
Yes, we can push back the Climate to the level of 1990 or earlier, along with a cleaner, friendlier Earth. It can be done surprisingly cheaply and safely.
Give Peace a Chance….All the good in the world cannot survive with a deadly evil in the neighborhood. ParitrAnAya SadhUnAm cannot be sustained in isolation.. without the second part. Sad but true and the earlier we face that truth the better.
Table 3: Looking into the future

Satyam Eva Jayate.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.