I am relieved to ring out 2008. I have witnessed the assassination of my nation at the hands of terrorists. For me, the attack on Mumbai was the worst. Then there has been financial meltdown, costing jobs in thousands and the business ruination in crores. In both cases, the government's complacency is visible without doubt. Intelligence agencies failed at Mumbai and the ministries dealing with fiscal matters were not vigilant enough. And there has been a report by the government-backed commission that 77 percent of the people in India live on $2 or even less a day. All this is despondent and my eyes are fixed on the New Year. Yet, I ring in 2009 hesitatingly because I do not see the sloth that has penetrated every segment of our life lessening. Is it because we are a soft state, as Gunnar Myrdal described us in his book, Asian Drama? His thesis rests largely on the argument that Western theories, models and concepts have distorted the study of economic development in South Asia - he mentioned particularly India - by separating economic theories from the radically different environment in attitudes, cultures and institutions. He is as much right today as he was in 1969 when he brought out the book. By opening the economy and effecting fiscal reforms, India has given all the advantage to the developed, not allowing domestic producer even a level-playing field. In an effort to attract foreign capital, the Manmohan Singh government has not taken into account the small man who has limited resources to withstand the competition. Now even the growth rate has gone down. What will the government throw at the common man to assuage his anger? Even the growth rate does not tell the full story - how the millions have been pushed down for a few thousand to go up. I do not see any effort towards de-linking ourselves from the US and the UK which are sinking rapidly. Manmohan Singh's report South-South is relevant today but, alas, the author has distanced himself from it. He has taken steps which help the North. The strategy at this time should be for the government to spend more. As I ring in the New Year, I am tormented by the government's thinking that stricter laws are required to combat terrorism. The legislation enables government to take action, but it cannot be a substitute for action. There are enough laws. What is needed is their implementation. The police are contaminated. One inquiry commission after another has said so. Giving them more power is playing with fire. In fact, they need to be trained differently and disciplined closely. They have to be held accountable. I do not deny their bravery but I also want them to be reformed, something which politicians have stalled. Politics, indeed, will be the biggest challenge in 2009. It has got so interlinked with power that the stable cannot be cleansed with the parties and the people we have in the forefront. There is need to rejuvenate the society and rekindle values in a system which has turned corrupt and cruel in the last few decades. Despite our disappointments with the rulers and would-be rulers every person - whether a public functionary or private citizen - would have to display a degree of vigilance and willingness to sacrifice. Without the awareness of what is right and a desire to act according to what is right, there may be no realisation of what is wrong. The Lok Sabha election 2009 is important in the nation's history because the parties we elect will decide the path the country chooses. We embarked on our journey after independence towards converting political freedom into economic freedom. Mahatma Gandhi said that in new India, there would be no tears on anybody's cheeks. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said that they made a tryst with destiny and "now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge." Will the new Parliament redeem that pledge and rededicate itself to the service of India? I do not see those types of members coming. A set of power-hungry people will replace with another set, with the same ambitions. In the present two houses, roughly 20 percent members are tainted, some carrying criminal charges. New Parliament may not look any different. Yet the democratic system, with all its limitations, is best suited to a country where diversity is visible after every 50 kilometres. The pluralism is our strength. I hope despite all the challenges from terrorists and communalists, we shall stick to it. In the same way, I hope that the new Parliament will lower the upper half and bring lower half up. Over the decades, the lower half has gone still lower. The New Year should see the process in reverse. The writer is a former member of the Indian Parliament and senior journalist E-mail: knayar@nation.com.pk