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The one thing that NDA got right

There was a time, about 7-8 years back when traveling any distance larger than a 100 odd kilometers by road was considered akin to an army posting in Siachen. You wouldn't do it unless hell had frozen over and would rather subject yourself to the ignominy of traveling in an impossibly crammed train compartment, sandwiched between stinking, paan-chewing, ill-mannered, mostly ticketless co-passengers than travel by road.

If at all you were forced to do something as unthinkable, you would do so using your own, or atleast a borrowed, car. Buses would be left for the most unfortunate and naive souls on the planet and if you met anyone who had undertaken such an arduous task themselves, you would express sympathy, incredulity,admonishment and pity, all at the same time.

It is this impression about traveling on Indian highways that I had carried since childhood and hence when I reached Kozhikode railway station on 8th July 2004 so begin the first term of my 2 year PG Diploma in Management, I was in for a treat.

The IIM campus is located about 12 kms away from the railway station and to say that the entire stretch was pristine would be an understatement. It was so smooth that even the rather narrow span of the roads and the breakneck speeds with which the local bus drivers plied their trade, failed to dampen my enthusiasm for traveling in those areas.

As if this was not enough, over the course of my 2 year stay at Kozhikode, I traveled extensively all over Kerala and nearby areas and found all roads of uniformly superb quality. This was something entirely unexpected. I was beginning to question whether my aforementioned view of Indian roads in general and highways in particular needed to be amended significantly.

However, frequent discussions with my batchmates told me that this phenomenon was restricted to parts of South-western India and should not be taken as representative of the national firmament and hence I could rest easy about my long held beliefs about road travel.

It is in this context that I embarked on the first of 2 of my recent long distance journeys undertaken by road. The first of these was an overnight journey in a Volvo from Delhi to Jammu and second was a 5 hour early morning trip in a State Transport Corporation bus from Delhi to Jaipur.

On both occasions, not only were the buses themselves extremely comfortable, you would expect that of a Volvo of course, but a state govt bus? who would have thought of that? but the roads were so good all the way that I could sleep through almost the entire journey and not once was my sleep interrupted due to a pothole or rubble strip anywhere.

Add this to recent input recieved from my friend Alok about the drastically improved condition of the Delhi - Kanpur stretch of NH2 and I am beginning to suspect that this malaise has spread far wider than I had originally feared. Its not just South India which is enjoying better roads but large chunks of the entire country and one cant help but think of the Golden Quadrangle and other related road-improvement projects initiated by the NDA government.

Sadly, they are not in power to reap the benefits, which will surely be appropriated by the incumbent UPA buffoons, and herein lies one of the most cruel dichotomies that afflict Indian politics and government. Truly sustainable development will not come unless governments invest in infrastructure building and let market forces benefit from the same. But infrastructure building cannot be made to yield immediate results and will never compare well with populist yet regressive measures like distributing free foodgrain etc. And in a democracy like ours, it is votes, and not roads and bridges, that decide the fate of governments.

To really make the people healthy, wealthy and happy in the long term, you must think long term. But think long term and you wont be in power next term.

Terminal Illness is what this is.

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