Sunday, 25 March 2012


Naya Daur was a 1957 Hindi movie with a story written by Akhtar Mirza and Kamil Rashid and starred Dilip Kumar, Vyjaynthimala, Jeevan and Ajit. The movie was produced and directed by BR Chopra. The focus of the story-line was on gradual industrialisation of India threatening the livelihood of people with traditional skills.
Horse cart winning race over motor bus
Photo courtesy:

The son of a rich landlord starts a bus service in a town that doesn't bode well for the tongawallahs since the intention is to first drive the tongawallahs out and then to make exclusive profits from potential passengers. This is seen as injustice and unfair competition. Dilip Kumar is their hero who, much like the movie Lagaan accepts a challenge to have a race between the motorised buses and the tongas. The farce of a horse-cart beating a  machine kept people on tothe edge of their seats in the ending scenes of the movie; because, on the outcome of the race was dependent whether the tongas would be  eased out or not. In the end, despite all the hardships, the tongawallahs win. Hindi movies, with an eye on their popularity and hence profits, have always let the traditional win our modernity, uncouth win our suave, simple-minded win over the clever.

Naya Daur is translated into New Period, Age, Cycle or Round. Regrettably, 55 years after the movie, Naya Daur is still not a reality both in our infrastructure as also in our collective mindset. We have the penchant to live in the past and choose archaic over modernity in the name of nostalgia; in the name of traditions and heritage.

I brought it out in 'How Proud Should We Be of the Indian Republic at 62' on the Republic Day last year how the Indian Republic was meant to be "the greatest political venture" in the history of the world, the greatest "social movement" to uplift millions of the poor of the world into prosperity, safety and security; and how, the politicians and bureaucrats in India failed the people completely by being self-serving. At the time of independence we chose our own version of socialism as the answer to the problems of the impoverished. It failed not because Socialism as an ideology is bad and destined to fail. It failed because the netas and babus ensured that people were kept poor and un-empowered so that the rule or misrule of the babus and netas was perpetuated. These unworthy Indians were busy filling their coffers irrespective of the party affiliations.

India needed to rapidly industrialise so as to emerge a great nation and a world power. Here, the politicians' and bureaucrats failure to usher in rule of equality made them extract their pound of flesh from the industrialists too. Last year, courtesy Radia tapes, the unholy nexus between the politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and media was exposed. The fall-out of this nexus is that despite economic liberalisation ushered in by Manmohan Singh, rampant corruption and inefficiency have kept the average Indian mired in poverty.

The wily Indian politician, in a bid to exploit the emotional value of the poverty of the people (just as he exploits the emotional quotient of the caste and the religion) coined a phrase called 'pro-poor policies'. Hence, whilst he has no real palns to get the people out of the morass of extreme indigence, he politicises pro-poor stance to garner votes and vote banks. Hence, he motivates the masses to extract the maximum from the industrialists; painting them as the culprits of keeping people poor whilst he himself is the real villain.

Take the case of West Bengal's eviction of Tata's Nano car factory from Singur. Tata's promised One Lakh Rupees Nano car was to roll out of their factory in Singur, Hoogly District, West Bengal in the year 2008. The state government, even though a communist government, facilitated acquisition and transfer of about 1000 acres of land for the factory. But, the opposition, under Mamata Banerjee (the present Chief Minister) started the "Save Farmland" movement and drove Tatas' project out of West Bengal and into the state of Gujarat. Surprisingly, whilst Didi, as Mamata is affectionately called by her supporters, did it for political purposes (as soon as she came to power in West Bengal she wanted Tatas to return), there were many Bengali intellectuals (Sens and Mitras) who supported her movement.

One of such activists that the communists in the country has nurtured is Arundhati Roy. She won the 1997 Booker Prize for her novel God of Small Things. She doesn't mind being anti-national, seditious, and anti-Indian, in speech at least, as long as the fires of her idealism are fanned and bring in crowds and cheap popularity. Not having been satisfied with her strident support to Medha Patkar, another activist who spearheaded Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA for short; a people's movement against the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the river Narmada in Gujarat), because of which the Indian Supreme Court issued her a Contempt of Court notice; she visualised the shock value of her support for the independence of Kashmir fetching her fame and popularity as an intellectual.

With such movies and intellectual support, the poor in India got convinced that modernisation and industrialisation in the country are tools to subdue them. Upon independence, we had movies and songs on the socialist theme showing all rich people as tyrants and shameless exploiters and manipulators. In the 1962 movie Aarti, Meena Kumari sang thus:

"Bane ho ek khaak se to door kya kareeb kya,
Lahu ka rang ek hai, ameer kya gareeb kya?
Gareeb hai vo isliye ke tum ameer ho gaye,
Ke ek baadshah hua to sau fakeer ho gaye;
Khata hai ye samaaj ki, bhala bura naseeb kya?"

(All are made of same clay, who is far, who is near
Blood of same colour flows in everyone, both rich and poor.
Poor is so because you became rich,
When a king was crowned, hundreds became paupers,
It is a social evil, it is not in destiny to be Good or Evil.)

Such 'socialism', pro-poor policies only in name, and political activism have extracted a heavy price from our economy. It has promoted indiscipline to the extent that starting an industry in India is now fraught with not only warming the pockets of the netas and the babus but also to make peace with people, largely supported by the politicians (with their vested interests) extracting as much as they can from the rich industrialists; our own version of Robinhood.

On an offshore rig on the Andhra coast, recently, the fishermen felt that they were deprived of their traditional fishing ground and launched a demonstration to extract the maximum welfare money from the GSPC (Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation) rig. Just how the fish can be restricted to a few hundred square metres of area in the vast Bay of Bengal is not for anyone to guess. They boarded the rig with knives in a bid to extort the desired money. And who do you think spearheaded this lawlessness? The elected representatives in that are; two members of the legislative assembly.

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi during a visit to GSPC Rig (pic courtesy:
The case of Mumbai is a fine case of this unfinished Naya Daur. The slum-dwellers are the vote-banks of the politicians who vie to make them as indisciplined as possible. In every slum-colony, there are large hoardings of the politicians as a reminded to the people that they are pro-poor and hence their guardians in everything that they do; never mind the law, rules and regulations. Therefore, every now and then the encroachments are regularised. Every now and then new promises are made. The poor do not realise that the policies of these rogues are the ones keeping them poor. But, the Indian society - at least the lower strata - has come to accept the doles that are dished out to them before elections rather than enjoying the fruits of a true democracy.

pic courtesy:
How long will the 'Naya Daur' take to materialise under these conditions?


  1. Pro-poor policies are meant to keep the poor where they are!

    We have to contemplate a lot , as citizens, before the country can become successful. No country can succeed if they do not take every citizen along.

  2. Indians celebrate regressiveness. We take pride in everything that can put a reverse gear on the wheels of development, as is evident in the case of Tata Motors and Andhra coast. As Vikram Sir said, thought provoking post...I hope when we say Mumbai should be Shanghai, we give it a thought on what goes into it...

    1. Agree. A country with our type of human and natural resources should have, by now, emerged as a great power. We are still struggling thanks to our version of "democratic form of government".


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