By Dinesh Wagle
Old India trudges through waterlogged roads; new India flies. This is because Indian democracy is dictated by the flourishing middle class, according to a professor.
Facets of India. Kathmandu Post (15.07.10)
The eagerly awaited monsoon arrived last week in Delhi bringing great relief to the residents. The temperature dropped by as much as 10 degrees celsius to 30. Clouds covered the sun. A cool breeze could be felt while walking on the streets. Heaven. But then another problem appeared soon after. Roads were waterlogged forcing vehicles to move at a snail’s pace. At some points traffic signals stopped working. A trip to the swanky Select City Walk mall in Saket from Jangpura took almost two hours. It’s normally a less than half an hour journey. This is Old India.
New India, on the other hand, flies. That too from a newly built world class terminal soon. With the completion of work at Terminal 3, Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport has gotten a facelift. Prime Minister Manmonah Singh inaugurated the three billion dollar terminal on June 3. While doing so the Prime Minister declared the forceful arrival of his country to the powerful stage of advanced nations. “An airport is often the first introduction to the country,” said Singh. “A good airport would signal a new India, committed to join the ranks of modern industrialised nations.”
The world has certainly taken note of the arrival of new India. Powerful nations are seriously considering enlisting the country along with a few others as permanent member of the UN Security Council. To take part in such meetings that have a lasting impact on world affairs, the Indian prime minister travels to Washington as frequently as Nepali prime ministers arrive in New Delhi. But New India has some confidence issues too. Terminal 3 is an example.
The biggest public building of India was scheduled to open to the public on July 15. But citing some “confidence issues” and alleged lack of necessary equipment, the terminal will come into full usage from July 28. The terminal needed some trial flights, argued the company that runs the IGI airport, so as to gain confidence to operate fully. Airlines, on the other hand, have complained of a lack of necessary infrastructures like backend offices and wire connections at the counters.
The reasons may vary but the fact remains that India has built a world class airport terminal and nothing can stop it from coming into operation very soon. Yes, there are critics who question why there is so much extravagance in a country with millions of people who can’t even imagine buying an air ticket, let alone fly. That is where democracy comes in.
“I am proud of India because it is a democracy,” said Prof. Dr N Sridharan of Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture. “But democracy is also the system of survival of fittest,” he told me. The fitter and more powerful you are the greater the chances of you receiving better treatment. As the Indian middle class is becoming larger (300 million and counting), richer and more powerful, the professor said, it’s also becoming influential over the government. The Indian democracy may not have become “for the middle class and to the middle class” yet but there’s no way political parties can stay in power without appeasing them. As they become richer, they demand more facilities and better infrastructure. The common man (aamadmi), meanwhile, watches the extravaganza from the sidelines. [Related link: New Delhi of Old India]
The second part of this article, published in yesterday’s Kathmandu Post, is related to July 5 Bharat Bandh which is available here