A country of thieves ?? Or a country for the ‘ Expedient’ ?


Deepak Shenoy makes a reasonable case on  ‘ India, A Country Of Thieves? ‘ .. I do feel there is an element of generalization but he’s largely correct about how we happily chose to call others names without a change to their own behaviors. India is a nation where the political system is a full of feudal lords and the bureaucracy is full of people indoctrinated with a miserable blend of western economic philosophy and colonial ‘please the ruler’ mindset. What you get in the name of progress is  ‘The Expedient’ – So, that’s India , the country of the ‘Expedient’ where neither values, nor philosophy, neither vision nor action matters;  The country of ‘ Jugaad’ /’Chalta Hai’/’Swalpa adjust maadi’ – The ‘Whatever can be done now but not necessarily everything that needs to be done’ country.

It all starts with scarcity -‘ percieved’  or ‘real’ . In the socialist days, scarcity led to fatalism and nepotism, In the new found capitalist fervor and self-help seminars, fatalism has been replaced with a brutal willingness to take by any means what we can get. With the new focus on consumption driven economics, you should expect more stealing – After all, people steal because they think scarcity will push prices and they’ll be able to make more money out of what they’ve stolen from someone else . Every thief starts stealing because he or she believes they have to – At some point, they progress from stealing out of necessity to stealing for greed. Stealing out of necessity may only be solved by religious/cultural restriction but stealing for greed can easily be solved through better designed regulation ( not necessarily more/less/no regulation). The reason everyone behaves crazy in the traffic jam is because that’s how anyone anywhere behaves in a traffic jam IF you don’t have multiple lanes, road dividers, cameras and an army of people waiting to collect fines. The problem in India is that we are good at analysing and waiting for someone else to figure out the solution. The limited few in political and bureaucratic domains that try to break the mold find themselves getting absolutely no support from the crony capitalists, the feudal lords and educated ‘ I distrust the politics and hate the government‘ middle class.  When things go wrong, there is always someone to blame -‘migrant laborers’, ‘minority appeasing/ majority rule’, ‘caste’ , ‘reservations’ and the umbrella term ‘ corruption’.

We are good at slogans like ‘ Start with reforming yourself’ .. The problem however needs a systemic solution that is beyond the means of a single individual or groups of single individuals. Our system breeds a form of Darwinist capitalism that is worse than the predominant oligarchy you see in the west. It is never easy to set direction for large swarms of people and it is tougher in societies like ours where there really are no public administration leaders.  Grassroots attempts at change need a combination of  a bold vision and a cohesive economic, social and political plans. For example, the ‘India against corruption‘ team started with a lot of steam on its social plans and vision – But without the economic and political legs needed to operate in , it hit a wall. I hope they have real plans and more than sentiment and vision to support phase two of their plans. For now, I think they are spending a lot of time writing lofty vision statements and finding faults with the current state.

So we end up being a nation where one half drinks the cool-aid of idealistic mantras and the other half pats itself on its back for being pragmatic and smart enough to know milk the opportunity for what it is. What’s the solution – We should not negate the value of critical mass and leaders in societies.The solution is in defining an alternate vision for India and backing that up with real practical initiatives. We should avoid rampant negativism that tends to color everything in shades of reverence or disgust. The solution is in stopping the blind imitation of western capitalism and looking for our own unique ways of getting problems resolved. It is in stopping the mad race to construct freeways and flyovers and instead focus on building better public transportation( bus corridors, high speed rail etc). It is in stopping the craze that leads to aluminium and glass clad buildings because we believe they look fancy. It is is buying less cars and taking the bus/cycling to work. It is in setting aside our earnings to help get better aids and salary for teachers ( And I mean those who don’t teach at ‘International’ schools). It means staying away from gated communities and letting your child experience the ‘real’ India. It is in using our democratic voice to push for laws that encourage use of renewable sources.If we forget that ours is a ‘Socialist’ country , we are doomed – We don’t have endless capital beyond the social capital of a uniquely bound tapestry. We cannot consume our way to prosperity , so we need a new generation of leaders who don’t blindly ape what they’ve learnt from Ivy League universities and are slaves to some economic philosophy sown in the heydays of industrialization and financial engineering .

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~ by exploreamaze on September 11, 2012.

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