NEW DELHI: The ‘acche din’ anthem ushered in 2015. The soundtrack to the end of the year, however, is a tinge more somber.

In 2015, we saw the promise of development -- that brought the BJP government to power in the centre in 2014 -- play out in the form of bullet trains that make no difference to the lives of the common people, crores spent on Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan with no tangible improvement in sanitation, and a huge surge in inequality accompanying India’s rise in wealth.

As far as bullet trains go, the government’s explanation in gunning for the mode of transport is that India will enter an elite club of nations with the technology. Last I checked, bullet trains are not rocket science, and shouldn’t policy decisions be governed by the difference they make to the lives of the common Indian as opposed to narcissistic PR exercise? Further, the infrastructure needed for high speed railroads is obscenely expensive and hard to put in place in a densely populated country. The pricing of these rail networks will also have to be heavily subsidized since our purchasing power has not yet approached Japanese or German levels. And how will it work? Will the government subsidise this expense while it cries itself hoarse over the subsidies accorded to LPG, petrol and diesel -- you know, things that actually matter to the people of this country?

As another writer, Ashish Kashyap, wrote in The Citizen: “Why wouldn’t you instead focus on reducing the load on the existing rail network by having more frequent, cleaner and faster trains connecting all major hubs of the country? How about connecting India to that place in the East that I forget, what’s it called, the North-East? A train to Shillong or Imphal would be a tourism hit! Instead of focusing on reforms that would affect millions of people, like redesigning the abysmally slow IRCTC website (which is the butt of several jokes), enabling easier Tatkal reservations, better customer service and food quality in trains, world-class safety norms, why is the government bent on shoving a bullet train down our collective national throat? Perhaps Mr. Modi wants his signature moment, his pet big project.”

And it’s not just bullet trains, take the PM’s other pet project -- Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. The Swachh Bharat mission hopes to increase the UPA’s Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan targets tenfold, building 11 crore toilets in five years, at the rate of one toilet every second.

This is great, except for the fact that with it comes no initiative in educating people about sanitation. A 2013 study of toilet usage conducted by the Delhi-based RICE institute across five north Indian states found that over 40 per cent of households with a functional latrine had at least one person defecating in the open.

Because of this reality, the thousands and thousands of new toilets being built are just looking pretty on paper -- with no one even using them! To make matters worse, local people are not being consulted in building these toilets, so what the people who are meant to use them think of their location, design or operation is not factored in. As a result, most of the toilets are unused - some turned to store rooms for grain and fertilizer.

Add to that the fact that India is shining in the form of rising wealth accompanied by rising inequality, and the whole development dream crashed for me in 2015. This year a report released by Credit Suisse revealed that the richest 1 percent Indians owned 53 percent of the country’s wealth, while the share of the top 10 percent was 76.30 percent. That is, 90 percent of Indians own less than a quarter of the country’s wealth. Worse, reports across the board indicate that this inequality is only growing!

For me, 2015 saw the development dream bubble burst, as I came to realise that measures being promised by the government were pretty on paper and little else. Take the whole Digital India exercise, that had all of us changing our Facebook profile photos in support. At the time I wrote an article titled, “Welcome To India: Where Cows Matter More Than Humans (But There Is Wifi In Railway Stations).”

This is linked to the third D that defines 2015, Dadri. The shocking incident of a fifty year old man being savagely beaten to death by a mob for allegedly eating beef in UP’s Dadri made me think of the other two Ds that had dominated my narrative of 2015: Digital India and Development.

Mohammad Akhlaq, was beaten to death and his 22-year-old son severely injured as residents of Balsara village surrounded their home and accused them of eating cow meat. They then dragged the two men out of the house and beat them with bricks. The senior Akhlaq succumbed to his injuries soon after. Other cow related deaths followed, including an attack on truck driver who was killed over rumours that three cows had been slaughtered in the area. The cows in question, it turned out, died due to food poisoning, with the truck driver, Kashmiri Zahid Ahmad having nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Yet, somehow, we Indians are cheering our way in 2016. Cheering Development, Digital India, the signing of Defence Deals…

2015 for me wasn’t a year for cheer. It’s a year to recognise the challenges presented by the 3Ds, and resolve to be a better India in 2016. Jai Hind!