There is a strong urge in many Indians to look to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for cues on everything. Modi is merely human. He cannot compensate for all Indians.
Here are ten urgent things Indians don’t need Modi for. When done well and fast, they could help India and Indians immensely.
1. Stop overpopulating
The Indian landmass is not cut out for 1.25 billion people and more. The population clock of India adds a person every two seconds, which is 1.55 crore people born a year in India. The influx from other countries, particularly Bangladesh which is sinking, adds to it. The US, Russia, China and Canada have about six times more landmass than India and less people (barring China). Indians don’t like the state telling them not to have too many children. They’ll have to do it themselves. It is the number one task of Indians – cut the numbers. More people mean less of everything else.
2. Get clean
A 2012 study, sponsored by the Columbia University, put together the largest database on waste generation and disposal in India. It collected data from 366 cities in India that covers 70% of the country's urban population. It said the total MSW (municipal solid waste) generated in urban India is 68.8 million tons a year or 188,500 tons a day. Should things continue as they are, urban India would generate 160.5 million tons a year or 440,000 tons a day by 2041. Rural garbage adds to this, which damages public health, air, water and land resources, and the quality of life in India. The state can’t clean this. Only Indians can.
3. Work smarter
Indians tend to work longer hours than most – at times 12 to 14 hours a day. They also have more unpaid work hours than peers in other countries. This makes Indians seem inefficient and unintelligent. A 2011 Reserve Bank of India report said India’s manufacturing sector needed to improve productivity and efficiency. It, for instance, said the textiles and food (including beverages & tobacco) industries were the biggest providers in India - about 41% jobs in the organised manufacturing sector – but they had the worst performance. Indians resent the state telling them they’re laggards. Change has to come from within.
4. Do their chores
A March 2014 report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Indian men did the least amount of housework in the world – 19 minutes a day. This keeps them sedentary which is a major risk for several lifestyle ailments. This also creates dependence on domestic help where none is needed. Days ago, the World Heart Foundation warned that sitting is the new smoking. Chores are simple everyday therapy for a variety of negatives – from sloth to digestion. India’s Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, did chores to stay superbly fit. There is precedent. Indians simply need to resume.
5. Smoke and drink less
The WHO global status report on alcohol and health 2014 – released a month ago – said close to a third of Indians drink, 11% of them binge-drink. Indians rank 4, on a scale of 5, in terms of years of life lost to alcohol. Kerala, Maharashtra and Punjab are the heaviest-drinking states. In January 2014, the American Medical Association published a study on smoking in 187 countries between 1980 and 2013. It said India has more female smokers – 12.1 million – than any country except the US. Forty-eight per cent of Indian men consume tobacco. Only 20% of them quit. Smoking is the third-largest risk to life in India.
6. Beautify surroundings
Indian cities never make it to the pretty cities lists. Not to the top 40, not to the top 100. For reasons not entirely studied, Indians have lost their sense of aesthetics. The beautiful parts of Indian cities – Mumbai, Delhi or Jaipur – are from the Mughal and British times. Rural and urban India is uniformly ugly in use and design of space. The state cannot force beauty on people although the Swiss authorities in the past advocated that citizens ought to have flowers in their balconies to encourage tourism. Indians defy laws. Their sense of architecture and beauty needs to be self-driven.
7. Nurture trees
Ancient India had magnificent understanding of plants – there are many works including the seminal Vrukshayurveda by Surapala. The general wisdom that one tree is equal to ten sons and a thousand wells comes from here. With such background, India today struggles to have 33% tree cover. A February 2014 World Congress on Agroforestry in New Delhi listed it as an objective. The state can only indicate so. Citizens need to execute it. But in a country of people with no tree culture – many houses in metros kill trees routinely – this is a serious challenge. Only population is a bigger urgency that environment.
8. Read more
In 2010 the National Book Trust and the National Council of Applied Economic Research released a report on the reading habits of Indian youth. It said the young of India barely read books. They prefer music and films (77%), news and current affairs (72%) and religious and spiritual topics (59%). Maximum time was spent on TV, followed by radio and the internet. Magazines and newspapers topped the choice in print. Books came last. This shows in adult behaviour in many ways. There has since been an effort to motivate youngsters to read more books although families need to do more than the state.
The World Giving Index 2010, put together by the Charities Aid Foundation, said only 12% Indians volunteered. This is far less than Australia (38%), the US (39%), Sri Lanka (52%), Canada (35%) or even the UK (29%). Globally, most volunteers work to alleviate poverty. India has been kept poor by unscrupulous polity, weak enforcement and indifferent citizens. It follows then that India ought to attract maximum volunteers from within and from other countries. It doesn’t; it is not even in the top 10 volunteer destinations. The state cannot enforce giving. It is an individual instinct.
10. Improve personal finance
A World Bank report on the state of the poor in 2013 said 33% of the world’s poorest live in India. This is by the global poverty line of $1.25. Indians have mostly stayed poor over the years although purchasing power in urban areas has increased noticeably. Only a handful of Indians now make it to the global rich list. Most languish. State policy is important but governments tend to think welfare, not wealth generation. Eventually, it is down to families to defeat poverty. Less population and more work are two indisputable factors that help. The people must rise. It is the only guarantee against poor personal financials.
More from the author:
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The scary BJP work ethic Modi should change
Modi beware: All Indian politicians end in failure
10 things I support Narendra Modi on
The descent of Arvind Kejriwal
What the new Lok Sabha would look like with proportional representation
Sonia’s time is up, not Rahul’s
Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi.
Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org