Indian politicians can learn a lot from the Bhutanese Prime Minister’s attitude toward people (June 11). Meeting and listening to people always help bridge the gap and fine-tune policies. It is a fact that not listening to the people is always cited as a major factor when one loses political power.
The article reminded me of an incident in 1989 when my wife and I met the Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, and Mrs. Hawke at a social gathering. Mrs. Hawke was charmed by my wife’s sari. When I kept addressing Mr. Hawke as “Sir,” he repeatedly said, “Call me Bob.” One must admire Bhutan for another reason. It is the only country to have successfully banned smoking and the use of tobacco-related products. How did they do it?
Gandhiji was known to be most accessible and his spontaneous interaction with the common people was possibly the main reason why he had such an unprecedented set of committed followers. I have also heard of former Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan spending his evenings at the Thekkinkad Maidan in Thrissur and mingling with people.
The Chief Minister of Puducherry, Mr. Rangaswamy, is known to travel on his motorcycle and spend time at his favourite teashop interacting with the aam aadmi.
As someone who had occasion to visit Bhutan a couple of years ago, it was interesting to read the article. While interacting with some schoolteachers there, I was told that children of the royal family attended state-run schools. If true, it said a lot about the commitment to the fraternal and egalitarian aspects of democracy on the part of even the royalty in that country. In India, leaders are treated more as a privileged lot.
I was touched, and then ashamed, after reading about the humility of the Bhutanese Prime Minister. Many of our political leaders view India from the comfort of their SUVs and do not think twice about inconveniencing people. The only time they remember us is during the election campaign. Bhutan might be a small country but it has a large heart and India has a lot to learn from it. One hopes that some of this humility will rub off on Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visits Bhutan.
There are numerous “small” things that Indian leaders need to learn from their counterparts from the “little” Himalayan kingdom. The simplicity, courtesy, frankness, approachability and humility that the Bhutanese Prime Minister and other Bhutanese luminaries exhibit are elusive in India. Political leaders in India often live in a cocoon of arrogance and elitism. During the ‘Melbourne Protests’, against racist attacks on Indian students in Australia, I remember the Police Commissioner meeting us face-to-face and trying to calm us. Political leaders met us too. Leaving out the election season, when was the last time Indian leaders and officers took time out to meet citizens? The blame lies on the public, who have continued to keep alive the colonial mindset which sees leaders as masters and not as representatives.
One always associates the Bhutanese leadership with the warm and affectionate body language it disseminates. India has much to learn from Bhutan. Indian leaders seem consumed by power and forget the common man. Rulers should see that the problems of the common people are addressed on priority basis before theirs are attended to. We often talk of fundamental rights. What about fundamental duties? Do our leaders think about this?
M. Mohammed Ashraf,