Dreams for sale

Dreams for sale
When after a long time out of the government, the BJP came to power, Nitin Gadkari, former Minister and President of Maharashtra wing of the party, gave a TV interview in which he was questioned why do parties make impractical promises before being elected.

Imran Yaqub khan


In a rare display of openness, Gadkari said that the BJP did not think it would win, therefore when someone advised them that they should make as many tall claims as they could, the party decided to do so. Laughing, Gadkari said that now those very promises contributed to bringing them to power and making Narendra Modi the Prime Minister. The interviewer persisted. “What happens when people ask you about your promises?” Gadkari simply said, “We smile and move on.”

Continuing in the sub-continent’s tradition of selling an encyclopedia of impossible dreams to the poor, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also decided to give the general public a litany of impossibilities. Ten million jobs, five million homes, promises that the economic situation would become better in a matter of a few short days.

And when time came to turn those dreams into reality, the PTI, instead of creating jobs, opened soup kitchens. Instead of homes, the poor got shelter houses.

It is not our purpose to criticize either the soup kitchens or the shelter homes. But there is no denying the fact that these are, in fact, temporary measures. What are the practical steps that the federal government has taken to eradicate poverty? Do they have a master plan for fulfilling the promises they made? Asking these questions makes one a prime target for abuse from PTI supporters. They aren’t much at fault, to be honest. They are still dreaming, and the desire to watch the dream come to fruition is too great to risk waking up for.

Prime Minister Imran Khan departed for China, right after the opening of the first soup kitchen. Let us hope that his fondness for emulating President Xi Jinping’s penchant for incarcerations also helps nurture a desire for emulating China’s poverty eradication model.

There is an old saying in China….do not give a man a fish; teach him how to fish. For four decades, China acted on this belief, and today, it is a short distance away from largely eradicating poverty. Continuing the program started by his predecessor, Xi Jinping decided that beginning in 2017, China would achieve the triple goal of eradicating poverty, reducing risks and controlling population rates.

The main goal is to bring ten million people out of poverty by 2020. The process involves progress for local manufacturing, making health and education better, and eradicating poverty. In the past five years, China has lifted 68 million of its rural population above the poverty line. In other words, every day, China was lifting 37,000 people out of abject poverty. From 10.2%, the poverty rate fell to 3.1%.

In 40 years, 730 million Chinese have been freed from the bounds of poverty. Now, to reach its goal, China has to lift one million people above the poverty line every month; 20 people every minute.

In 2018, Chinese peasants were given significant government aid to buy cattle. E-commerce was also used in the battle against poverty. A compulsory education program was initiated, which led to school drop-out rates hitting rock bottom. Another initiative was started to treat serious medical conditions and diseases free of cost. In the past six years, rural areas saw growth rate increase by an astounding 12.1%.

93.2% of China’s rural population now has access to community health facilities. 89.8% of its villagers now have access to an elementary school. The population is not just no longer poor, it is determined to never become poor again.

Other than its internal programs, China is helping the United Nations reach its Millennium Development Goals. In the past seven decades, China has given around 400 billion yuan to 170 countries in aid. Five thousand projects were started in these countries and 600,000 Chinese travelled around the globe to given technical training to 12 million people. All this was done while simultaneously running human history’s biggest and most successful poverty eradication program.

Another astonishing figure is that of all the Asians who were lifted out of poverty from 1990 till date, more than half are Chinese nationals. None of this would have been possible without making poverty eradication a priority, from the top of the chain to the grass root level.

If we have to make China our ideal, then why not take advantage of its experiences in becoming more prosperous? After all, China’s Poverty Eradication model is, in reality, a Prosperity and Progress Model.

Those that promised that Pakistan’s fortunes will be turned around in days, followed Nitin Gadkari’s example and landed in power. But now they are faced with immense difficulties because they had neither a plan nor vision. All they had was expertise in the trade of dreams. Now that they are ruling, smiling and moving on ahead is just not an option. 

If the future involves just more promises and no practical steps, then even those that eat from these soup kitchens will not give their vote when the next elections take place. More significantly, history will remember them in the worst words possible. 

This article first appeared in Urdu in Daily Dunya.