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Small is Beautiful

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Gollapudi Maruti Rao: Small is Beautiful. Years back, I visited a friend in West Wigan, near Manchester in England. We were supposed to catch a train the next day at precisely 7-06 hrs. I had a hearty laugh. I was skeptical about the fuss about that extra minute in the time table of British Railways.

Years back, I visited a friend in West Wigan, near Manchester in England. We were supposed to catch a train the next day at precisely 7-06 hrs. I had a hearty laugh. I was skeptical about the fuss about that extra minute in the time table of British Railways.

However, we were on the platform well in advance. To my utter surprise, I could see the engine at the end of the platform by 7-05 and 50 seconds and the train did stand before us by 7-06! Wigan is not a terminal station - it is a transit station. This reflects the character and discipline of a nation.

No wonder this is the country that ruled almost 54 countries for more than a century. What is more, the bureaucracy of that time did yeomen service to the community, which is unparallel even by today’s standards. Sir C.P. Brown’s Dictionary has no replacement even to this day.
Sir Arthur Cotton became a demigod to East and West Godavari districts for revolutionising the irrigation system and making Andhra Pradesh the golden rice bowl of India. And by poor contrast, the present generation of bureaucrats is ending up in jails for criminal offences, abetting crimes and embezzlement etc. A pity!
I had been to Norway and Sweden recently. Any country in Europe looks like any other country for all practical purposes except, of course, for the national character and the life styles that make each one different from the other. Norway is a small country, whose population is almost that of Visakhapatnam district. What is it that is amazing in this part of the world?
In Norway people use bicycles as we use taxis. Even a Member of Parliament or a minister goes by a bicycle with a rucksack on his back. The man next to you in a bus may be a minster of the country for all you know. My friend’s wife told me that sometime back she was standing on a platform to catch a train. On the opposite platform the Crown Prince was standing with his PA to catch another train. In India we have half dozen chamchas following a Member of Parliament with two armed jawans and a caravan of cars. We have politicians drawing a gun in this country even when a clerk at the toll booth asks for their identity!
In Sweden, for any transaction there is no column asking about your religion and caste in any application form. They say these two aspects are respectfully personal to an individual. Religion and caste have no place in the day to day life of Sweden. In contrast, our democracy is run only by these two factors. We have any number of parties, minority associations, groups, blocks -blackmailing, bullying the society through vote bank politics only in the name of these two considerations.
And then the pollution and the congestion on the roads! Here are the stern steps taken in those countries in concurrence with the public. In Sweden every car parking is charged- be it at the public place or at the office premises. Every car that enters and exits the city will have to pay toll. The charges will be hiked during peak hours. This is how government discourages the generous usage of vehicles and congestion and most importantly pollution. Those who can afford will have to pay more. The money thus collected will be used for the improvement of roads and allied amenities. In our country, surely, a law of this nature will have any number of exceptions. The ministers, parliament members, members of legislature, their families, friends, bureaucracy, leaders, their chamchas and Robert Vadras have to be exempted from the levy.
For instance, can anybody dare to stop auto-rickshaws from our roads citing pollution as the reason? You will have half a dozen ministers, a dozen trade unions, another dozen parties of the down-trodden, pouncing on the establishment for interfering with their livelihood. We would rather suffer the pollution than parting with our right to contaminate the atmosphere. Collective strength defies the basic health norm.
There was a furore about women’s reservation in our Parliament and State Legislatures since very long. We hear more about this during election time. Our leaders shout at the top of their voices promising equal opportunities without gender bias. Nobody talks about it here. Here are the details of women’s’ participation in Parliaments of Schengen States. In Sweden it is 47%. In Norway it is 38% and in Finland 43%.
We have any number of leaders swindling funds of Volks Wagon and Chief Ministers chasing the industries out of their States for whatever reasons. In a small country like Sweden- you have any number of brands ruling the world market like - Volvo, Ikea, Ericsson, Skype, H & M, Electrolux, Svanska, not to forget Bofors. Bofors, unfortunately for us means a big scam involving crores of rupees and it could never be solved even today. We almost forgot that but for the Bofors Howitzer field gun, we would have lost the Kargil war.
Ours is the largest democracy in the world. We also have the largest number of scams at any given time. We have the genius of sending spacecrafts to Mars, our culture is ancient and a glorious one, our arts are unique and have a coveted place on the world map. But caste, religion, parochial mindset, selfish outlook, myopic thinking made us slaves to a tiny country like Britain for centuries. Did we learn any lessons all these years?
We have any number of noble souls. But the ‘individual’ character at the micro-level is stinking and rotting. Crowd frenzy is taken for democratic right and mass appeal is considered to be the societal sanction and hence the bane.
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