Answers to questions a resurgent India seeks!

by Dave

- Corporate Dossier-Features-The Economic Times

Indian youth have a huge amount of dissatisfaction, hopefully a divine discontent , and they can change things around. They have three strengths: first, persistence, second, innovation, and third, happiness. These are distinctive and are rooted in our history and genes.

PERSISTENT INDIA

Two anecdotes exemplify this:

Ramesh, a tea boy in Shahjehanpur, UP, once insisted on conversing in English. “I want to practice with you and pass TOEFL, so that I can go to America. 500 English words are enough to pass TOEFL,” he said with a ‘can-do’ look on his face.

In Mithapur, Gujarat, I asked Arvind Chudasama, a micro-entrepreneur , supported by a Tata Chemicals outreach activity, about the state of his ice cream business. Bad, he replied. Power cuts. So what about his loan? “I took a second loan to buy a chakda (like a jugad, intervillage transport contraption). I make enough to repay the loan and to invest in a battery to power the ice cream machine ,” he said, full of confidence.

Living in India is like running an obstacle race. One is overcoming obstacles , every day and all the time – poor schools, crowded cities, corrupt officials , unhelpful agents of governance. Indians have the freedom of democracy but not the liberty that is supposed to accompany democracy.

Only when common people can get ordinary, day-to-day things done without a hassle can we say that Indians have the liberty of democracy. “In India, democracy is flourishing, liberty is not,” to borrow from Fareed Zakaria’s comment (The Future of Freedom ). But let us not despair, these things take time. 80 years after the Declaration of Independence, the US was fighting a civil war. Our democracy is maturing. In the meanwhile, the never-say-die and can-do spirit of Indians like Ramesh and Arvind Chudasama holds great hope for the future. Persistent India.

INNOVATIVE INDIA

Indians solve problems. Indians are entrepreneurial in their genes and through their history. They are restless, constantly seeking new ways of doing things. They can be almost exasperating in this respect.

Dharnidhar Mahato (Balakdih, Bengal ) developed a Rs. 500/- cycle pedal paddy thrasher, which costs one-fifth and produced twice the output of a regular thrasher. Arindam Chattopadhyay (Bankura, Bengal) developed a single finger pen so that the handicapped could write (Ref: Honey Bee, National Innovation Foundation, March 2008).

The message is that India can innovate big-time like the Param and Eka supercomputers , the Nano car and the offshore software delivery model. Indians have also democratised innovations like the cycle pedal paddy thrasher and single finger pen.

For innovation to be valuable, there has to be ambition. The ambition of young Indians has increased, so the innovative spirit is poised to deliver big time. Innovative India.

HAPPY INDIA

JRD Tata once said, “I do not want India to be an economic super-power . I want India to be happy.”
The MTV Networks International published a well-being index, according to which ”young Indians are the happiest people on the planet” . Among people in the age group of 16-34 , Indians reported 60% happiness, at about the top end along with Argentina which was 70%. Guess who was miserable at the lower end? Japan at 8% and America at 30%.

Kelly Services, a Fortune 500 staffing leader company found that Indians ranked first in Asia-Pacific in employee satisfaction and seventh out of 28 countries globally, with Denmark, Mexico and Sweden at the top and, Hungary, Russia and Turkey at the bottom.

The Vedanta says that instead of searching for happiness outside of oneself, one should look for infinite joy and peace within oneself.

Here is the story of a happy Indian from modern times.

A young man, who was working in the Indian Army, could not find meaning in his life. So he decided to commit suicide. He chanced on an inspiring book by Swami Vivekananda. He took premature retirement from the army, collected Rs 65,000, and returned to his village in Maharashtra. He used the money to repair the village well, to close down liquor outlets and to mobilise the villagers to work for their own development . In a few years, his village was proclaimed a model village and he found a new meaning in life.

The name of the village is Ralegaon Siddhi, and the man who put it on the national map is Anna Hazare, who was decorated with a Padma Bhushan for his pioneering work. He found happiness within himself. The sheer adventure and scale of India’s economic growth, with social justice and entrepreneurship as its pillars, is staggering. There are beauty spots in this model and there are warts and moles, too.

This much is beyond doubt: no experiment of balancing growth, entrepreneurship and social justice has been undertaken in human history by any country on such a large canvas. Over the coming decades, India has the real chance of reclaiming its place at the top table in the League of Nations, a position she held for centuries but lost in the last few hundred years.

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