Have we lost our way?

The need to prioritize India's fundamental development

The Indian Express

Every common thoughtful Indian aspires for: a healthy, safe, and contented family life; personal freedom without disturbing the social order; freedom to privately practice one’s religion; work for the progress of oneself and the family; have a truly functional democracy; be an enlightened citizen following Manav Dharma; have growingly comfortable life due to the progress in science and technology; social and political environment that encourages and nurtures skills and expertise of the people; guarding the natural environment that blossoms the country; high-quality workmanship in whatever one does; have flourishing agricultural plenty with happy farmers; winning many medals in international sports events like the Olympics - and one day, peacefully depart from the world, leaving behind a stamp of our personality. 

If these are our objectives in life, then the course of national development that we have chosen so far is incorrect. We seem to have lost our way. Our social, religious, and political leaders and the government have chosen the wrong route. They are misleading us, as well as, themselves. Instead of resolving problems, they are complicating them.

Since the British granted us independence, we are ruled by the so-called majority governments of the Congress Party. The last one from 2004 to 2013 had the backing of less than one-third of our population. There certainly was some progress but the beneficiaries were a small minority of their friends who have amassed wealth by misusing the power. Now we have the BJP government, which is struggling to improve the country and get rid of the corruption, but it has had very limited success.

Had we intended to build a powerful nation of happy people, those who are governing us during the last 77 years would have been proactive in four basic developmental areas: 

  1. Enforce family planning to control population growth. 
  2. Concentrate to achieve 100% literacy as was done by China. 
  3. Use administration to inculcate, and even enforce, social discipline. 
  4. Focus on developing science and technology prowess. 

Had we concentrated on these four primary programs, we would have been a fast progressing independent nation. 

Frankly, one can see no difference in the current administration, and that of the British. That’s why, while agitating, our people still burn buses and damage public property as if they are fighting a foreign power. People probably do not yet know their responsibilities as a citizen of an independent country and are not told so repeatedly. 

Due to the non-implementation of the four action plans stated above, our people do not have a sense of ownership of the public infrastructure. The result is seen in the way people use public toilets and the way one cleans it.

We have continued to govern the country like the British. White bosses are replaced with brown ones. We merely changed the names; from ICS to IAS. The behavior and attitude of the administrators are the same but with much less discipline and accountability. They still rule over the people. If you are poor, you had it. People too still behave like captives, not the citizens of an independent country. In addition to having the administrators with a pre-independence mindset, there now is local political mafia who also demands undeserving respect and obedience.

A captain of a ship on high seas uses his compass to keep his vessel on its right course to the destination. In contrast, look at our elected governments and even the political opposition. They keep pulling and pushing the country in all directions, and as result, keep the nation from moving forward. The opposition points fingers at the government but never offers an alternative! It seems like we have lost our compass. We still don’t see a disciplined population moving forward in the right direction. A Group of undisciplined followers are not sainiks; they are just a crowd.   

When we stepped into the 21st century, the world leaders told us that it’s the dawn of the Knowledge Age. Many thought that wisdom will follow the knowledge. That was indeed a wrong prospect. Wisdom still seems to be evading. The arrival of a new century did not change anything besides the calendar. Politicians in power, and those out of power, merely engage in mudslinging. Our media bosses love this slinging match as it becomes good fodder for entertainment and garnering TRPs. Our social, religious, and political leaders criticize others to hide their shortcomings. 

At such a time, it is convenient to have an enemy emerging – we have China now. Hate is a mighty strong emotion. This mental venom can pollute your spirit and poison your soul. It never enthuses to get stronger, remove our shortcomings, and be ready if there is an encounter. Luckily, we have strengthened our army to guard the borders very effectively. However, we must remember that anyone who has found themselves wrapped up in the arms of hate hurts oneself more than the one hated. Hate is mind-consuming. To avoid being challenged, one has to work towards getting stronger and being alert. Nation has to knowledgeably unite in our responses.

Having an enemy is also the best option for any government to hide its shortcomings and lack of progress. All accomplished political and religious leaders indulge in this game of diversion from the main issue of development and progress.

Our leaders find our glorious history a very useful tool to gather people around. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his amazing faultless rule is a matter of pride for the entire nation. But he is hijacked for petty political gains. When they cannot show progress, they invoke Maharaj to shield themselves. In the bleak future that they are unveiling, they hide behind the past glory. They use castes to garner support and use hate as a tool to engage the followers. In the process, they divide society and disturb social congeniality.

Efforts should be to bring people of all castes and religions together to create an environment of goodwill, geniality, and affability. The nation is rarely the focus of our leaders. They seem to lack the wisdom necessary to create a united India, regardless of its diversity, and even use our diversity to build strength. Diversity has the power of Multiple Points of View. Diversity is good for innovation since it pushes everyone to look at things from different perspectives. Diversity will also ensure that the country is creating and attracting top talents.

We have very few national leaders whose followers are spread nationwide. I used to tell Rajiv Gandhi that it is his strength. He belonged to no state, and almost had no religion. Now, Shri Narendrabhai Modi has evolved as the national leader who says what he thinks of the entire nation. Hope his followers realize that India is secular with equal rights and responsibilities for all, irrespective of their religion. Unfortunately, we do not have national leaders except him.

All are regional leaders representing a state or a religion. In them, pan-India thoughts are missing. Even when they are a part of the central government, they still live in their regional shell where their following is. When I was with Rajiv, none of the leaders from Maharashtra had any followers from other states. They lived under the umbrella of their party.

Most of these leaders cannot deliver a bright future so they hide behind the historical glory of their region and past heroes. They use the glorious past to hide the hideous presence. They use inter-caste rivalries for garnering support. They know, that because of their failure, the future is not very bright so they fan the rivalries and use it to push their followers on streets to indulge in violence and destroying public and private properties as if they are still fighting the British. No one tells them that the busses they burn and the public property they destroy is theirs; it is owned by them.

I always remember what Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore said about India. His mantra for Indian politicians on good governance was integrity, absence of corruption, and meritocracy; the best people for the best job, and a fair level playing field for everybody. During the Congress rule, for over 67 years since independence, we have lost precious time in building a strong nation. Under the rule of an Empress with roots in Italy, corruption took the toll of India’s future.   

Had the governments thus far had worked on the above four key action plans, we would have progressed tremendously. These four are the primary tasks we need to undertake to build a strong nation. Had we worked on these in the early years when our population was less than one-third of today, India would be a very different country today. Many other nations have almost no population growth. With family planning, we could have been still less than half of today.

More importantly, a lot can be done by social and religious leaders to improve a lot of their people. Let us first consider our Muslim Community and see how their leaders have blocked the way of Muslims towards progress. In the 2001 Census, 13.3 crores or about 13% of the population comprised Muslims. In the 2011 census, they were 17.8 crores, that’s just below 15% of the total population. That means, during the decade, more than 4.5 crore babies were born, mostly in poor Muslim families.

Did the community leaders worry about these new-borns and their future? Muslims in Malaysia, Turkey, and other countries widely promote and practice family planning. Religion does not prevent them from family planning. Why these leaders are not advising their followers to plan a family and save the unborn from the curse of poverty? It would have helped their community immensely. Poor and uneducated Hindu families are no different. Education makes a big difference. 

Since independence, primary education and female education is free for all. Why these leaders did not ensure that their families send their children to school? About 15% of our population is of Muslims, but not 1% of them are amongst our doctors, engineers, accountants, or bureaucrats. Had they promoted education, there would have been Muslim professionals rubbing shoulders with those from other religions! Many Muslims, that I know, are great craftsmen, masons, carpenters, and artists. Muslims who worked for me were so good that some became my favorites. If they had a chance, they would have excelled in academic studies. If Muslim leaders cared for their brothers, the picture would have been different. Look at Christians in comparison. Why are they not making efforts to bring their people out of poverty? Lack of education is pushing them into crime. 

No man or woman, irrespective of their religion and faith, has any right to have a child unless they can groom them, send them to school, and give them moral education. Education is free now! Social crime is rising since these children lack the moral and cultural education that parents give. Parents are responsible for the street crimes committed by such children. Paradoxically, today the rich have two or three children and the poor have plenty. But on one hand, the poor fail to take care of their children and on the other, the rich children suffer from over care. They pressure their children to perform well and compete. When done beyond a limit, it becomes counterproductive.

Now, look at our Hindu leadership. Swami Vivekananda had repeatedly warned them. Most of these orange-clad leaders are bitter and spread hatred against Muslims. Present Muslims are indeed not responsible for the atrocities and the loot of the Muslim invaders. Most people live in history. However, they forget that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is known to have many trusted Muslims by his side in his war against Muslim invaders. Both - poor Hindus and poor Muslims, have the same problem of making the two ends meet. Poverty is a menace.

Then there is another class of people claiming themselves as intellectuals. During the Congress regime, they enjoyed many state favors. Electronic media hosts these intellectuals daily to criticize and try to corner those in power. It is occasionally entertaining but mostly it’s predictable crap. Their anti-Hindu rhetoric indeed succeeds in clouding the political and social environment. They are experts in fault finding but offer no solutions.      

Then there is a huge cultured society consisting of people from all religions. They are silent patriots who engage in social service of their choice and make efforts to bring about a change. They search for solutions, implement them, and often research to find the effectiveness of their work. Many of them form NGOs. These are models for a nation involved in development. Our electronic media generally ignores them since it does not help in increasing the TRP rating.

During the Moghul rule in Maharashtra in the 12th to 15th century, we had a sant parampara, a string of renowned sages like Dnyandeo, Muktabai, Eknath, Ramdas, Tukaram who preached the virtue of service, sacrifice, generosity, equality, and brotherhood. They created in the minds of people the feeling that all men are equal and no one is high or low. None of them spoke a word about the ruling Muslims, they ignored the harassment by the Brahmins sans wisdom and instead focussed on the universe. They professed a larger goal of Bhakti for self-emancipation. Their language was soft and their thoughts were fundamental. They had immense moral strength. Especially the poor in Maharashtra today worship them like Gods.

Then we have a big crop of Hindus who aim to make India a Hindu Rashtra. It is! Our nation is Hindustan. Every Muslim nation calls us Hindustan. For 18% of Muslims, Hindustan is their motherland and they love it as much as Hindus. They fight Pakistani invaders with as much zeal as a Hindu soldier. For several centuries, they have lived here. So, we better treat them as equals and inseparable natives of India. Media has made Delhi intellectuals and some retired bureaucrats cleverly to add the fuel to the fire. All is a theatre for garnering more media viewership. 

Regardless of the governments in India, the country progresses as its people want to progress and this happens all the time. India is getting stronger by the day. Opportunities are growing and tools for growth in the form of technological advances are increasing the speed of development. The pace needs to be faster.

- P. S. Deodhar

(The author is an entrepreneur and former Chairman of Electronics Commission, Government of India. He has earlier been the Technology Advisor to PM Rajiv Gandhi. He is also the author of the book 'Cinasthana Today: Viewing China from India'.)

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The simple answer to all this is – YES, we have lost a way to progress as a secular nation. As usual, the article elaborates the glorious past of India but does not address the present real issues. This article is more suitable to be published in ‘Pachajanya’ rather than “Kartavya Sadhana’.

Bharat Deglurkar

It was amusing to read that Mr.Rahul Gandhi would have been the best prime minister today!

Subhash Athale

I fully agree that we as nation have failed to progress in all the four areas of development. But why have we failed? I think it was our failure to elect the best people to run our government. That failure was due to our FPTP electoral system. This system is very expensive, both for political parties and for the candidates. It allows only the crorepati criminals to contest the elections. It , in effect bans the ethical and moral values from politics. Political parties feel a compulsion to give tickets to criminals for their ability to win elections. A change in electoral system to Party list proportional representation will correct many of these defects and pave way for alround development.

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