An Alternative Growth Strategy
Driving between Delhi and Dehra Dun during daylight is hell. A journey of 240-odd kilometres can take anything up to eight hours. Ghaziabad, Modinagar, Khatauli — these are names carved in Hades.
Not so at night. If you succeed in turning a deaf ear to concerns for safety, dacoity, truck drivers and the like, you can leave Delhi around midnight and toodle in to Dehra Dun by 4.30 in the morning. The car remains cool, as does your temper. And there is nothing like a steaming hot glass of dhaba chai to take the tiredness away.
I recently did the drive at night, and made it to Dehra Dun in less than five hours. The truck drivers were, as always, very accommodating. Only two things slowed us down. The first are the nearly invisible speed breakers and rumblers, which you see only when the car is 50 metres away, and which decorate both ends of every village located by the highway. The other are the police check-posts, which I stopped counting after the twenty-fifth. But I’m grateful to these check-posts, for they gave me an insight to how one can increase the wealth and income of this great land of ours.
As a rule, private cars have no problems at these check-posts. You slow down; an unshaven cop with a large paunch and a relic of a rifle will flash a torchlight in your face and then wave you on. The more conscientious chap will ask, “Kahan ja rahen hain?” “Dehra Dun”. “Accha…”, and let you go. The problem starts if you are driving a licensed cab or, heavens forbid, a truck. Then you’ve had it.
Your cab or truck will be asked to be parked on the side, the papers will be meticulously examined, transactional fees will be asked for and given, and so on. It would take at least 20 minutes before the cabbie or trucker can move on… until the next check-post 15 kilometres up the highway. That set me thinking.
Now that we have had three new states — Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh — why don’t we do better and think of making every district a state? Okay, I’m kidding. Let’s make every major district a state. The advantages can be are phenomenal.
First, each state will need a new Legislative Assembly building and the newly sworn in ministers will surely require better housing than the ancient and dilapidated PWD bungalows that dot any district headquarter. That’s going to create demand for contract labour, cement, steel and bricks. Great stuff — but this is just the beginning.
Second, each new state will have to faithfully replicate the bureaucracy of the mother state — from the Chief Secretary to the peon. That will create even more buildings and much needed employment for the educated unemployed. Think of the spin-offs. Every vehicle in the state will need to have new license plates — a good income opportunity for the small scale sector. Every form will have to replicated, which will increase the demand for paper. Every new state will have its state electricity board and an independent electricity regulatory authority. The list is huge.
Third, since these states will be bankrupt, they will have to issue new state bonds backed by state guarantees — which will increase the fees for my merchant banking friends.
Fourth, in these days of liberalisation, every new chief minister will want to travel abroad with his full team to “attract foreign investment”. So, Air India will have no problems in filling its first and business class seats.
But that’s not all. Revenues will certainly go up. Why? Because in addition to what the district contributed anyway, it will earn a lot more by the way of entry tax. This is where the police check-posts come in. The borders of each new state will have entry tax posts, where every truck and cab will have to pay a tax. And the cops will now have a legal basis to re-calibrate their bribes.
Let’s hesitate no further. Let’s truly create diversity in unity. Let a hundred states bloom. And, by doing so, let’s rapidly march on to double digit growth. That’s a lot of economics generated out police check-posts!
Published: Business World