Published On : Tue, Mar 24th, 2015

India unlike Singapore or China- it is not a nation at all first, Singapore PM used to say. Passes away at age 91

sm lee press conferenceAs any Indian visitor to Singapore would agree, this country is modern, progressive and developed. It managed to achieve these goals in a comparitively short time after independence and many observors credit Singapore’s first PM, Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away yesterday of being the Architect of Singapore.

At SARC meetings and many such forums he was asked if he were to be ‘guide’ India’s progress, what would he do?

This was his reply -‘No single person can change India. You speak 320 different languages,’ he said. ‘India is a creation of the British Raj and the railway system it built, and therefore it has its limitations.’

Explaining his views further on India and the impediments to its progress he said:

“First, no single person can change India. You speak 320 different languages. Manmohan Singh [who was the Prime Minister then] can speak Hindi – I am not sure if he speaks Punjabi, I think he can, but at any one time you would only have only about 200 million people out of a total of 1.2 billion people understanding him, so that is a structural problem which cannot be overcome.

If you compare that with China where over 90 per cent speak one language, and when the President of China or a leader in China speaks, 90 per cent understand it. So, it’s a much easier country to lead than India.

Secondly, as I have explained, India consists of many different dialects and nation-groups. There is no connection between the history and development of the Tamil language or the Telugu language and [say] Punjabi. So, India is a creation of the British Raj and the railway system it built, and therefore it has its limitations.”

When Kew was asked what were the three main pre requisites for a country’s progress he had named – lack of corruption; favouring meritocracy ( the best man for the job) and equal opportunity for all.

He also said that since Singapore is a small country, it was easier to mould it. Doing so would be very difficult in India, because ” Delhi may decide one thing, but Banglore will think very differently about it”.