Who “Drives” India’s Agenda on Sustainability?

Other day, I took a good review of all economic, environmental and social initiatives (and in that priority) of the ruling NDA Government. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a significant progress was made in terms of launching missions, signing of (vibrant or “vibrating”) MOUs and reforms on identity (Aadhar), demonetization and the GST, just to cite a few.

I was in full praise of the Government when I met the Professor, right outside the Parliament house. It was Monday morning. The Air Quality Index was moderate, and we could do conversations without wearing masks.

I asked “Professor, the Government, I mean the Ministers of this Government, are real visionary and are contributing so much to the progress of the country. Without saying anything explicitly, the Government seems to be moving towards Sustainability.  For example. Make in India mission is going to increase the productivity and the jobs, National Skill Development Corporation will do the skilling, Programs like Smart Cities and Nanami Gange programs will bring in investment flows, innovation and partnerships.  The PMO has asked Niti Ayog (earlier Planning Commission) to take charge of reporting on the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). I know that Niti Ayog has all the expertise and the might to roll out numbers that the PMO would want to see on the attainment of the SDGs. Everything is so perfect”

Professor smiled. He said “I presume you are not sarcastic as usual and for a change you are accepting the good performance or at least good intentions of this Government.  But do you know the secret? Its not the Ministers who are driving India’s agenda on Sustainability. The car drivers who take the Ministers around are the real visionaries. They discuss between each other and give suggestions to the Ministers when they drive them and when alone. The Ministers simply steal these ideas and present to the PMO and get them endorsed for implementation”

“You mean, the car drivers run this Government?” I was simply astonished.

“Of course, Dr Modak, and don’t treat these drivers as people who know only how to drive. These drivers are MBAs from Harvard and London School of Economics, or D Sc from institutions like MIT and Berkeley and few come from some of the world famous liberal arts schools from Finland and France. Some come from the Ibaraki prefecture of Japan and Hello Berlin that are hubs of innovation. So even if PM shuffles the Ministers, the strategy of the Ministry does not change. Selecting these drivers is one of my important functions designated by the PM himself. China did this long ago and President Trump is following this model of modern governance”. Professor said in a proud voice and as a matter of fact.

I was astonished to learn about this top secret. I knew the importance of car driver from the epic Mahabharata. Arjuna’s driver or sarathi of the chariot was none but Lord Krishna. While Arjuna sent the arrows, it was Lord Krishna who did brilliant advisory and stole the show.

“Now let me walk you to the parking lot of the Parliament House where you would meet the real drivers to India’s growth” Professor made me walk a few hundred meters.

The drivers of the Ministers cars had assembled under a tree. They were busy chatting.

Driver of the Minister of Power. Piyush Goel was explaining the scheme for promotion of electric vehicles. It seems he was the real architect and the brain. But he was not happy as Mr. Goel himself was not using an electric vehicle. “Oh, I have been telling him again and again, that he should be the first one to shift from petrol to electric. These Ministers don’t set an example”.

“One day I am sure he will, said the driver to Mr. Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways.  “My Minister checks every day the kilometers completed at the highways against the promise made and compares them with the kilometers we drive. We always win. Minister is informed about the “meta data” such as the number of trees felled, and number of people displaced etc. I have advised him not to bother about this statistic however as it does not affect the sustainability that much at least for the next 2 years. Access to voters in rural areas is perhaps more important as it will improve sustainability of the government in the coming up elections”.

I thought the driver was smart and made a valid point. He came from the London School of Economics.

The driver of Arun Jaitley’s car had something important to share. “Well, I just advised and convinced Mr. Jaitley to waive income tax for annual incomes less than 10 lakhs. In any case only 1% of India’s population pays the income tax. Raising the slab of income tax from 3 lakhs to 10 lakhs will increase the popularity of this Government only at a marginal “loss”. He was not wrong.

The driver of the Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change wasn’t speaking. When asked why he is keeping quiet, he said that there was no use in speaking. “Nothing changes in this Ministry”. He sighed. He was a PhD from Yale University.

There were lighter conversations as well. A news was exchanged that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditya Nath’s driver was fined Rs 500 for chewing tobacco on government duty. The joke was this very driver had convinced the CM to institute a ban on chewing tobacco! Driver of the Minister of Communication Manoj Sinha said.

As the drivers  were telling us how they were driving the agenda of various Ministries, a stiff, aloof but impressive driver walked in. He was one of the highly trained elite official who looked like a SPG commando!

“Who is this?” I asked the Professor. Oh, he is the driver of our PM. PM has made sure that he is not as educated like others; knows only how to drive and he will protect him in case of emergency. He has knowledge of many languages, knows using arms in case of emergency and is equipped with latest communication gadgets and is well trained for their use. He is “muted” i.e. not allowed to speak.

I said “I understand. This PM does not need a drivers advice like the other Ministers. PM clearly knows how to drive India’s (political) sustainability agenda – all by himself”

“Are you sarcastic this time again Dr Modak” Professor retorted closing the conversion. I kept shut.

When we reached his car, I noticed that Professor’s driver was wearing a cap with an emblem of the Stanford University!

Wow. now I understand! – I said to myself.


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4 thoughts on “Who “Drives” India’s Agenda on Sustainability?

  1. I do understand frustrations of driver of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Minister finds it difficult to get time to site in this car and lesser time to listen to the driver.

    Liked by 2 people

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