29/05/2015 8:29 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Modi Is Taking India Forward, But Can He Cure Our Colonial Hangover?

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014 file photo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses business leaders as he launches his "Make in India" initiative, prior to his scheduled departure to the U.S. in New Delhi, India. After months of criticism for not moving aggressively enough on promises of an economic overhaul, Modi, who led his Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide election win in May, announced a string of policies designed to kick-start Asia's third-largest economy. Over the past week, Modi has unveiled an overhaul of India's archaic labor laws, freed diesel prices from state control and signed an executive order promising to open India's coal industry to private companies. Modi, on promises that he would re-energize India's stumbling economy, faced a flurry of criticism after his July budget failed to provide new direction. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das, File)

One year on from the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there are signs that India is moving in the right direction. India's image on the international stage is brighter and stronger, and Mr Modi has rightly welcomed the development of India's relationship with the BRIC countries to build a strong economic bloc with the potential to compete with the West. However, with Brazil embroiled in a corruption scandal, sanctions hurting Russia's economic growth and China's output slowing down, India under Mr Modi has become the star performer and is an emerging market perfectly positioned for growth.

Of course, Mr Modi's economic record has also benefitted from the recent drop in global prices of oil and gold, which together making up 45% of India's imports, is driving down the country's debt. Nevertheless, the Modi administration has taken significant steps to reducing debt and must be praised for this. Notably, Mr Modi has been cutting diesel subsidies by 50 percent, increased taxes on diesel and petrol, and marketed its stakes in Coal India and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation - these actions will not only help drive efficiency through the energy sector but will also play a part in reducing India's large contribution to the world's carbon emissions.

Whilst Mr Modi has repealed a vast amount of bureaucratic laws, 'inspector Raj', which is a remnant of the old British colonial rule, remains a significant problem for Indian society and its business community.

In the next four years, the focus for Mr Modi should be on making government activities more transparent, which will improve relations between citizens and authorities whilst bringing greater efficiency to the government machine. For the two pending bills addressing corruption, the Prevention of Corruption Amendment Bill and the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials, common definitions of offences and powers for authorities must be in cohort to ensure the legal framework is clear and concise.

However, in my view, Mr Modi should reinforce the need to make the Indian ruling class and bureaucracy more in tune with the common man and do away with the VIP culture that India had inherited from the British. It must be remembered that when the British were ruling India there were only 4000 white British officers ruling 400 million Indians, and for them to maintain this grasp it was necessary to maintain a suitable distance from the "natives" by perpetuating a distinct culture of superiority. This division between the leadership and the public has no place in today's world and the Prime Minister would do well to send a message to the whole of India that in an Indian democracy all Indians are to be respected equally.

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