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February 21, 1998


'We are the world's largest democracy; it's time we learn to appreciate this fact and use it to further our progress in the world'

Sunil Bafna, 39, managing director, Seva Auto Pvt Ltd, Dhule

How does one rate the political situation today? It's disgusting -- that's all I can say. Everything depends on it, but it takes everyone for a ride. The field is filled with selfish self-centred people who unashamedly vow that their only concern is the well-being of the nation.

Everyone saw the deterioration happening -- but it was so gradual that no one took it seriously. Suddenly, the fall of political standards has become so drastic that everyone was forced sit up and take notice. My main concern is that we don't become another Indonesia.

Look at the way the rupee has crashed!! Look at the way it has affected the ordinary businessmen like me!!! Imports are part of my business and, since the fall of the rupee, I find that I am having to pay more, considerably more, for everything. What is the government doing about it? Pumping money into the economy is not the solution.

If we want to achieve anything as a nation now, we have to improve ourselves. We have to concentrate on making our policy straight and transparent. Finance should be easily available. Taxation should be streamlined; instead, they make you waste your time running from one department to another for this or that form. If your tax structure is clear, it gives the tax payer room for investment.

We need to focus on excise, transportation and infrastructure. Massive projects -- with people who are committed to completing them at their helm -- need to be launched in the fields of health and other community services. The means of communication must be taken to the remote interiors of the nation.

I wish India was more like New Zealand, a country I have just visited. Everything there is so systematic -- it is so easy to function as a business entity. Here, you have to cope with so many hassles.

It is sad that there is not a single good politician in the country today. India is barred from the path of progress only because of the politicians. So is Dhule. Otherwise, this place would have been as economically important as Jalgaon or Nasik. Dhule, as a district, has been blacklisted by the politicians.

How am I supposed to feel about it? I was brought up in Bombay, I had pretty good prospects there. Yet, I returned to Dhule, set up this showroom and autoparts business here because I believed I could make a difference. I came back home, and now I'm beginning to feel that I'm paying too high a price for it.

The thing is, today's politician does not want to work. Nor do the people. We crib about unemployment, but even the employed will only work the set eight hours before rushing out. There is no sense of commitment. Sometimes, I feel the solution is to bar all uneducated people from joining politics.

There are good people out there -- I know it and you know it. We have come in contact with, or seen them, in the course of our daily lives. They should all come together and take on the responsibility of running the country. And people like us, who are not good enough to enter the field, should support them in every way we can.

India should never again have a coalition government; a government that is formed without any kind of 'external' support is infinitely better. At least, there won't be any string-pulling. I don't really care which government comes into power -- all I wish is that the next government should stick to the economic plan and follow through on all our two and five year plans.

Employment and infrastructural problems need to be tackled on a war footing. They've opened up the economy to foreign cars, but where are the roads for these kind of cars to travel on? The government, and the politicians also need to give more priority to the people; for without the people there is no country.

We are the world's largest democracy; it's time we learn to appreciate this fact and use it to further our progress in the world.

As told to Savera R Someshwar. Photograph: Jewella C Miranda.

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