On 23rd August I had a rare experience. A workshop on Chief Ministers pet ‘Vision : 2020’ was held in the Jubilee Hall. This was a workshop in which ‘Think Notes’ were presented by 12 Task Forces in crucial subjects like Governance and Development, Social Sector Policy, Industry, Agriculture, Infrastructure, Human Resource Development, Health, Information Technology and Tourism. The Chief Minister and most of the ministers sat through the workshop as one convenor after the other made their presentations. Three consultants – two from abroad and one from India were also present besides a number of experts on each subject not only from the State but also from outside. Each convenor was given about 15 minutes and the presentations was made through multi-media on the screen. I was roped in as one of the experts and so attended the workshop. The workshop was closed to the media.
The presentations were precise, pointed and were refreshing exercises in brevity. They defined the subject, indicated the goals identified the problems, gave the vision of the future and then spelt out the strategy.
As we rose for a late lunch I thought to myself that that was a unique experience for me – and indeed for everyone. Chandrababu Naidu had made the beauracrats dream. He had made them imagine, made them brain storm the problems. Such a thing had never happened before. The civil service has been likened to a missile that doesn’t work and which can’t be fired. And here were civil servants who had over-worked for days together and picked the brains of experts to make this hi-tech spectacle possible.
It was remarkable for another thing. In the course of their presentations civil servants were able to say things which they could ordinarily never have dared to say before the ministers, much less the Chief Minister. They commented on corruption, inadequacy of political will and short tenures. They seemed to have acquired a rare courage suddenly.
Another spin- off was that a lot of statistics were generated - again something which is seldom available in government when you need it. That alone would have been worth the effort.
Also an impersonal ambition was sparked in the minds of the civil servants. Industry Group wanted to beat Maharashtra, Tourism wanted to over take Kerala and Rajasthan. Most wanted A.P. to be the foremost State in India. Bravo!
Cynics have lampooned the concept of ‘Vision : 2020’ ever since the Chief Minister talked about it in public. It is a Utopia and the questions often asked in the media are : “Is he sincere ?“ “Will he be around then ?”. The answer to the first question is; he is entitled to a chance. To the second, the answer is that by the law of averages he will probably not be. But he is young. By the law of exception as in the case of West Bengal, he might be. But to my mind the significance of the event lay in the fact that he had dared to dream. More important, he had made the hard-boiled civil servants dream and think big. He has spread an infection.
It has been said that a politician thinks only of the next election while a statesman thinks of the next generation. This workshop was about the next generation. Through that, in one sweep, Chandrababu Naidu seems to have lifted himself from a level of a politician and become a statesman. It was the first meeting that I ever attended which was organized by him and in which he sat through moderating and mostly listening. The discussion which followed were frank and free. I must admit that I went a skeptic and returned a believer.
Some good interventions were made including the one by Tarun Dass, Secretary General of FICCI. His suggestion would necessitate a reorientation of Government publicity.
In my brief intervention I gave a formula for the development of tourism. That is x + I = T where ‘x’ stands for anything or even nothing and ‘I’ stands for imagination. You will note x is in the small case. This is to emphasize that the raw material need not be big or may not even be there – like in the case of Haryana, or significant like in the case of Rajasthan and Kerala which now are as the model states in the subject. On the other hand ‘I’ is in capital which means a lot of imagination is needed. In this State there are numerous resources and raw materials crying for development. They are like the sleeping beauties waiting for the kiss of the Prince Charming to be awakened.
Later as I thought over the subject myself I felt that this formula need not be restricted to Tourism. It has universal applicability. What is required is a big dose of imagination. And now I would like to add a ‘C’ to the equation. ‘C’ stands for courage.
In this workshop a statement about what we want was made. The resource constraint would be applied in the next workshop where a vision of what is realistically achievable would be worked out. Then it would be discussed in public for popular approval.
If the Chief Minster can make the beauracracy, legislature – and beyond – the people share this vision and if he doesn’t allow his integrity to be tainted in its implementation, I could sit smug in the house in the confidence that we are in safe hands and also that we are on the march. A band of workers is busy drafting a blue print for the welfare of the people. Sometime there is courage needed to dream and that seemed to be in evidence on that day. To vary Shakespeare, one might say, “Now let it work; Imagination, thou art afoot, Take thou what course thou wilt”.
One hopes that one’s optimism generated by this workshop will not be defeated.
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