“Within weeks of the Prime Minister’s Office pitching for relaxation of iron ore exports, the Steel Ministry and the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council are trying to block it. They have argued that lowering of the 30 per cent duty on exports of the mineral would raise the cost of production for domestic steel companies currently battling a downturn and rising input costs. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had recently suggested relaxing the duty on iron ore exports as a key measure to contain the nation’s current account deficit.” This is an excerpt from Indian Express 25th August 2013 news item titled ‘NMCC, steel ministry try to block iron ore exports’. One man proposes, another disposes. Everybody is wise, everybody has a say, and everybody’s say counts. This has the sad story of the government in this country since the past many years. Have they been able to stop corruption and crime – no! Have they been able to show exemplary leadership – to some extent, maybe! Have they become fearful of taking decisions – yes! Have they managed to tie themselves up in knots – yes! Has this situation been brought about by greed, dishonest and unscrupulous handling of the affairs of the state – of course yes! Does every citizen today feel depressed and hopeless about the future of the country in the hands of such people – I think it is a yes! Definitely!
Three major events have marked the quality of government that we have seen under the present Prime Minister; the telecom fiasco, the mining fiasco and the retrospective amendment fiasco. Let us for a moment hypothetically assume that there was no corruption involved, there were no vested interests and the decision makers were honestly going about their duties in a mundane manner. The way in which these legislative processes were undertaken smacks of unprofessionalism and irresponsible conduct. The bureaucracy and the legislature have behaved as if they were new to the tasks and that making mistakes was a part of the game. On many occasions we have sadly seen one department obstructing another department, one minister arguing with another minister, to bring the development process to a standstill. That an entire nation is going to be affected by their one wrong step even if such a step is taken in ignorance never seem to cross their minds. That an angry and hungry opposition would pounce to make their lives miserable also does not cross their minds. Now, if one were told to break off the sweet assumptions of honesty, absence of corruption and vested interest in public life and view the whole thing along with such misdemeanors, then all that we ordinary citizens are left with are woeful cries of agony and frustration from the heart.
In fact every other fragment of the nations’ governance which include the Reserve Bank, the Central Investigators, the Auditor General and the News media have conducted themselves in a reactionary and short-sighted manner. All these organisations have never weighed the psychological influence of hyping of their actions over the citizens, which communicates that the hue and cry over loss of public funds, public assets and resources do not adversely disturb any individual in particular. The attitude they displayed is always that of trying to help the nation, to protect it from thieves. Thus we have had every group straining to hurt every other group through senseless acrimony, doing it simply with an intention of constructive condemnation and ultimately ending up destroying the economic wealth of the country which they presumed to enhance.
Do we deserve this? Oh yes! We as a nation certainly deserve our problems because it represents the common attitude and behavior of the people – the electors and the elected, the law creators, upholders and followers. Jointly as a nation we have failed; (a) to curb our reactionary tendencies to events which have made us drift along with the flow without a destination, (b) to ensure consensus amongst ourselves on sharing of land and mineral resources for our own consumption, (c) to recognise sacrifices made by certain sections of citizens in the march towards economic development whereby they got left behind, (d) to ensure a dignified living for every group of people as a compensation for their contribution towards the common goal, (e) to keep our political strategy aside from the nations’ economic strategy, (f) to appeal to reasons based on good arguments and convincing capability so as to talk all sections of people along, (g) to create a long term vision for the nation where everyone’s destiny is involved and of course (h) because we have come to accept corruption and dishonesty as an inevitable part of daily living.
Another way of looking at this chaos is that it is a part of the growing up process. We see many adult nations, many strong nations and also many weaker nations. We see our problems, we see choice of actions in front of us, we wish to tackle our problems in our own way, and we do not want to be heralded by anyone wiser than us, so we react, make mistakes, fall, get up, and thus grow. Unfortunately compared to many nations one could conclude that India is retarded because its growth is like two steps forward and then two steps back. From 4% growth we went upto 9% growth and then are back at 4% again within 20 years. In some way this chaos is good because everybody in the country is realizing the enormity of the task, the demands of various groups which are at cross purpose to each other, the mistakes being committed and the its accompanying pain, and the never ending search for solutions. So far the leadership of Mr. Manmohan Singh has been benevolent, trying to accommodate everyone, trying to resolve every problem with compassion and wisdom. One may choose to call it pitfalls of democracy but atleast every citizen feels that they are on board.
Certain valuable lessons that this mess reveals and needs to be observed and imbibed by one and all are:
Essential to Respect the Individual: The individual person is most important and each individual is a mixture of his abilities, talents, karmic strengths and obligations. Feeling of love and goodwill for each other is the best way to progress ahead together. An individual can be rich or poor on account of monetary wealth, health and physical strength, mental abilities, behavior as well as intuitive or judgmental powers all of which are factors under that individual’s control. The gap between such rich and poor would always continue and can never ever be breached but it should also be accepted that a rich man deserves as much respect as a poor man. The dignity of the rich is equal to that of the poor. Therefore discrimination of people through caste, colour, birth or any standards which is beyond their control, which becomes the basis for difference in treatment being meted out should be abandoned. Open display of discriminative manipulations creates heartburn and acrimony; it is sensed as an insult and seeks its own retribution. It is high time people of this country understand this. Secondly it is also the need of the hour to take all sections of the population together in the march towards progress. Everybody has to be given a hearing under Indian pluralistic environment and it is imperative that all decisions have to be for the common good. There may be a fierce debate held under amiable conditions rather than stalling any discussion which invariably would scuttle dissenting voices.
Addressing Fears will take its own Time: Every human wants to enjoy the fruits of development, wants a comfortable living. But they have their fears and sense of insecurity. When people are used to a certain way of life, it is impossible to immediately give it up and adopt another. For example, expecting Tribal’s or farmers to leave their land for growth of industry cannot be achieved overnight. We need a more compassionate approach. Sharing of land as well as the resources above and below it for the common good of everyone has to be explained, justified and solid proof in its favour has to be delivered. One has to appeal to reasons and this may take a pretty long time. There is no other substitute or short cut. Unless we assuage their feelings of insecurity, address and resolve it, they will not relent and chaos will continue. Once again respect for the individual is important here also.
Corruption has become the Convention: Everyone wants to become wealthy and powerful as soon as possible and is willing to adopt even unethical means to reach his goals. The vulnerability of people towards bribe culture has destroyed the ethos and morals of more than one generation today. Such a vulnerability flows due to our weak strength of character from wanting to protect our own people and our family member from adversities leading to accepting and giving bribes and nepotism. It is now a commonly accepted fact in India that generally people will accept as well as adopt corrupt ways to expect even ordinary tasks which in the past would have gone down as responsibility in the course of duty. Since principles are not valued anymore therefore governance also has to shift from the culture of principle based working to rule based working which makes it imperative for the enforcement of compliances through extended use of technology. It thus follows that people are obliged to become tech savvy.
Technology has become Crucial: The strength of the west is its education of fearlessly questioning the conventional wisdom while its folly is its arrogance. We Indians are exactly the opposite in our views. While the west has made remarkable progress in the field of new technologies, we Indians lack the appetite for hard core R and D. Modern living is entirely dependent on technical appliances which the west will sell costly because there aren’t too many sellers. In return they would buy our antique but basic goods but at a cheap price because there are too many sellers. Net result is out adverse foreign trade deficit which very badly impacts our ability to grow as a nation and be able to provide a better living for our people. We Indians have to shun this culture of instant gratification, this trap of consumption of western technology based life style products and focus on being able to produce such similar products with indigenous technology and slowly struggle to a position of strength.