Friday, August 14, 2009

A new tryst with destiny

This appeared in The South Asian Times on 15th August.

It's been exactly 62 years since Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India made his famous 'tryst with destiny' speech. I saw the speech on YouTube after ages today. The modest video with a strong unshakeable voice had the power to transport me into that world, even if it was for a minute. A world I can only piece together through historical books and movies and stories from my grandfather, if I tried hard. "At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom" brought a hint of wetness to my otherwise unfazed eyes, although I've heard it a million times. Yes it's been 62 years since we achieved independence. We've lived it long enough to believe it.

True independence however is not just freeing the country from the holds of foreign rulers. It is not a one time occurrence. Rather it's a continuous evolvement process, and we've gone through several phases of it already from getting rid of socialist-inspired policies, giving birth to private sector, being a big part of globalization and winning the coveted 'software mughals' epithet.

The popular opinion that prevails these days is that India is all set to be a superpower. Let's take a contrarian view on the subject on this important day before we get submerged into the routineness of the rest of the 364 days. How is the economic independence plan going for our country? It is just an approximation of where we hoped it would be? Sure we're making progress by leaps and bounds on some fronts but why then do we still notice the same cracks in our socio-economic structure?

Just a few things to ponder about:

- India has always been a price sensitive market owing to its large middle class. But unless we become quality conscience, the confidence in Indian products will not be instilled in the West. India is at the forefront of innovation but generally it is in the direction of making something cheaper, not better quality. If we can change this mindset, our products would be very welcome globally.
- The population explosion is as uncontrollable as it always was. We're at 1.1 billion now which leads to several resource issues that we've seen time and again. We’re all set surpass China’s population by 2030 unless each individual does something to prevent that.
- Corruption has become inseparable with our society. It's thought upon as a default action for any new venture in both public and private sector. Anywhere there's a demand-supply gap, corruption exists and no one even raises a brow anymore. We’ve unfortunately accepted it as a sad reality.
- I am ashamed to even include this one. Although India's national constitution of 1950 sought to abolish cast discrimination, Casteism still remains deeply entrenched in our culture. Six decades later, I believe it has gotten worse.
- If I can take the liberty of generalizing, the biggest difference between an Indian in India vs. abroad is his work dedication. It has been generally noted that the same individual seems to take his job and the law a lot more seriously overseas. Why the different treatment?
- If there's one thing our politicians are good at, it is creating a variety of yojnas. Anyone heard of those berozgar yojnas where a 100 odd crores are sanctioned for a pond to be built so workers can get employment? Anyone seen those ponds? Yes they exist, in the documents that the elected officials mandate.
- Much has been spoken and written about land acquisition in prime agricultural areas by companies that set up factories by uprooting lives of some 500 families who work there. The owners of that land sure benefit but the poor workers lose their livelihood. Industrialization is certainly the need of the hour but why utilize prime agricultural land for it?

There are several more issues that need more awareness and demand our attention. Needless to mention, we've had immense 'wins' which can't be overlooked by any means. Arihant - our first nuclear submarine, space endeavors, green revolution and individual talent, it's endless. I think the biggest win for us is that we as a country have been able to survive as a unified force despite the tremendous diversity. But we already know that and that's not what I wanted to highlight with this article. We are more than aware of all the 'thumbs-up' aspects and we're equally aware of the 'thumbs-down' aspects as well. The duration for those flips is what will lay the blueprint for India's hope as a superpower.

No nation is flawless but at least we can try. It's about time we schedule a little detox for the country and a little rehab for 'those' politicians, don't you agree?

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