It was in early 1990’s, we students were attentively listening to the social studies teacher in a sultry classroom made with thatched roof. The teacher read through a sentence from the text book “India is a developing country”. She said that there are few developed countries in this world such as America and Great Britain, but we are still a developing country. We didn’t bother to know the definition of a developed country, but our little egos were hurt with that comparison. One of the fellow pupils quipped “why are we still a developing country and not developed like America yet?” The teacher replied that India has been developing from the last 45 years since independence from British in 1947, and it normally takes few more years to be completely developed. She further assured, perhaps not to disappoint us, that when we become adults we will live in a developed country. Our ego was replaced with aplomb.
Later, my parents confirmed the teacher’s claims on India’s development from the time of Independence. For example, they never saw electricity in their childhood but now there is electricity despite frequent power cuts. They used to walk long distances to fetch water from the well, but now there are bore pumps right across the streets that we can self-fetch water from. There is better employment despite continuous proliferation of radicals in the society. That’s a great development in 45 years indeed.
Now it’s been 25 years from that day in the class. The electricity cuts remained same; water shortage has worsened; the age old democratic vices such as corruption, reservations, money laundering, and tax evasions are prevalent; the GDP has improved owing to the globalization. To be fair, India is so diverse that every section/state/community has its own requirement and expectation from the country. This diversity is taken as advantage by many political parties for their vested interests.
It has become fashionable for the general public to discuss over these issues, but do nothing about it. There is no point in debating on corruption whilst participating in corruption erstwhile.
The rich continue to be rich. They have the knack of understanding the system well and grow up through the loop holes. Once on a train, during a pep talk, a fellow passenger spilled beans that he is carrying huge cash in a sack for a college seat. We were amused at the idea and wished him luck. We didn’t realize then that his selection into college impedes the selection of another merit student, and his stashed cash has an indirect cascading impact on the water tankers that we receive once a week, and on the mud roads in my street.
The middle class is too busy in their continuous struggle for survival. In their struggle, they don’t mind encouraging corruption and nepotism. They participate in caste/religion based politics. They prefer the likes of private chit funds that promise lucrative returns over regularised banks. They are too busy to feel moral responsibility for the nation, and I am as guilty as charged. Once in Singapore, our apartment security guard jumped out of the seat horrified when I offered him a dollar for allowing me to use his landline phone. His fear of corruption is of no comparison to that Indian officer who casually shrugged while stashing Rs.500 bribe offered to deliver my rightful certificate. My guilt while smiling at the easily acquired certificate is of no comparison to that I felt in front of the security guard.
The poor are helpless, and do not feel that they are part of the system. ‘Upliftment of poor’ has shamelessly been on the agenda of political parties over 70 years. The parties try to appease the poor by giving incentives than by working on the root cause of the poverty.
Unfortunately, our minds are conditioned with these practices that we don’t see them as issues any more. They have gone under skin, under the muscles, into the blood. The change in the mindset doesn’t come through baby steps. It needs dialysis. It needs chemotherapy. It needs revolution. A revolution similar to that makes us change our lifestyle overnight after being diagnosed with diabetes. A revolution similar to that makes an earthquake victim to look for houses with strong foundation thereafter. A revolution that makes every earning citizen to feel the moral responsibility to pay taxes and then question the government on how they spend every single penny.
Revolutions cause grave inconvenience to the public. If you abolish the reservation system, there will be blood on the streets. But once those blood stains are washed off, there will be a new beginning of development.
Revolutions make people stand on the roads. But it is on these roads, I hope, the rich will reflect on the age old ill practices and vow to think about nation’s development along with theirs.
It is on these roads, I hope, the middle class will imbibe strong love for nation and look for prosperity within the norms of economy.
It is on these roads, I hope, the poor will feel inclusive in this society as they look up at the sky and hope for a brighter India.