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Thoughts on a Sojourn

I have been busy off late and here's why - for Diwali we (me & my wife) went to Vadodara and drove to Bhopal with my parents and brother, the last 2 days of Diwali were spent at Indore; on my return to Mumbai I made a trip to Shirdi and office work made me travel to Bangalore - Chennai lined up next. Posted below are my thoughts from my sojourns:

I have posted similar thoughts earlier under the same title. You can read them here. This time, I plan to restrict my post to a reality-check and not suggest any solutions.
Gujarat
Narendra Modi has been hailed for his development model across the country and rightly so - Gujarat boasts of fantastic infrastructure - urban or rural. From Expresshighways between major cities to BRT in Ahmedabad or roads in smallest of villages - Gujarat's prosperity is quite evident. This also manifests from the habits of Gujarat's rural folk who prefer commuting to cities on a daily basis than emigrating to them.

What I am not sure is that is political stability the reason for a sustained development or vice versa - more so, unlike most long term serving state governments, how has the Modi government kept itself from going into a 'absolute power corrupts' phenomenon - answers would be lessons for the freshly re-elected Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. 

Madhya Pradesh
If Gujarat is an example of turnaround because of political system, MP is an example of survival in spite of it. When you enter MP from Gujarat, you are greeted by roads which are worse than those in Somalia or Uganda; one actually prays for absence of a road so that there would be patch of smooth ride on plain mud.  

When Nandan Nilekani says - "India has a very small window of opportunity. It had this huge demographic dividend and this young population, but that demographic dividend could well become a demographic disaster if we did not make the right investments", he is speaking his mind for states like MP. With CM's such as Nitish Kumar, even states like Bihar (which were considered even more hopeless than MP) have started capitalizing on the window of opportunity, but MP still lags behind.

What worries me is more that the present government came to power two terms ago claiming that Digvijay Singh made MP miss the development bus - but on its own it is itself doing the same thing. Even though Shivraj Singh Chauhan's been granted a second term, unless he goes into a massive development mode for the next two years, his victory in the next poll is at best questionable.

Shirdi and the miracle of progress
How economic development of one city can catapult the whole region is a well proved case study across the globe. So many industrial towns led to growth of a large suburban sprawl and  aided growth of the whole region.

Shirdi, however stands out - a religious movement resulted in the sleepy village becoming a town and the constant increase in the number of devotees is helping develop the whole belt from Nasik to Shirdi. Already a new railway line was laid and now the road is being redone into a 4 lane highway.

The growth of Shirdi into a national pilgrimage centre (like Tirupati or Vaishnodevi) is helping the whole belt from Nasik to Shirdi prosper. Its easy to see how better connectivity is helping improve the Standard of Living villages along the Nasik-Shirdi route. Farmers now have better connectivity to the markets, they own more comfortable vehicles instead of the rickety tractors only, those whose land was taken for the road development have been compensated handsomely and have loads of cash to invest - the benefits are numerous.


Endgame
The conclusion from the Gujarat or Shirdi stories simply is, building more urban/semi-urban centres - religious, economic, cultural or political - will result in rapid development  of the rural hinterland itself. Governments - State or Central - must hence concentrate on urban enablement to aid rural growth.

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