Atanu Dey On India's Development

Make No Little Plans — Revisited

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One of the consistent themes of this blog has been that India should think big. My favorite quote in this context is from Daniel Burnham, the fabled Chicago architect who said that we should think big:

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.


That quote has appeared before on this blog. Two years ago in April 2007, I wrote in the context of India’s urbanization that India should “Make no little Plans.” Nearly four years ago in July 2005, the same quote appeared in the post where I revisited the “Integrated Rail Transport System (IRTS)” proposal that I promote. India needs a modern — efficient and fast — rail transportation system. I concluded that post with

. . . India always uses outdated ancient technology. For once, India should aim to use the best. And using the best — even if initially imported — will help us learn how to make the best. We need to have the humility to say that we need to import stuff that we can’t make today. We need to have the pride which makes us want to take the imported stuff and improve upon it so that others will look to us when it comes to the technology. We need to have the courage to make big plans.

We need to move beyond the myopia of the politicians and the idiocy of the generals wanting to arm themselves with nuclear subs and missiles and the greed of the peddlers weapons of mass destruction.

We need vision more than we need resources.

What brought this to mind is a recent editorial in the Indian Express titled — surprise, surprise — “Make No Little Plans” (Hat tip: Pranav Vasistha.) It talks about the US plan to spend $13 billion on a set of high-speed rail links. The US was never in the business of making little plans, anyway. But the US has not displayed the most exemplary of visions when it comes to rail transportation. Thankfully, reality is creeping up on them and they will figure it out eventually. Better late than never, I say. Now the high and mighty are quoting Burnham and saying “make no little plans” about rail transportation.

India should wake up and instead of making little plans must think big. Then I will stop having to say, “I told you so.”