At the very onset let me make it clear that my question is not targeted at a particular political party, community or profession. I am talking to anyone who genuinely identifies himself as an Indian. And I doubt that such people are in minority. This is because most of us have started identifying ourselves on the basis of our religion, ethnicity, language, profession or income group. The last thing that comes to our mind is the entity known as India.
But isn’t that very natural, you would ask. Do all Americans always think of themselves as Americans and not as Whites or as Afro Americans and so on? Or the Chinese for that matter. And still they have set standards of achievement that have led and inspired the world.
Although most of us identify ourselves as true patriots I doubt whether we really understand what patriotism is. But lecturing on patriotism is not the goal here.
What I aim to outline here is that one of the reasons we have not been able to realise the true potential of this wonderful land called India is lack of collective ownership. I believe it this sense of collective ownership that has worked wonders in the ascent of so many civilizations and also of nation states like the US, Japan, Germany, and China.
In fact our achievement of attaining independence also can be ascribed to this sense of collective ownership across the narrow divides. This may be probably because this sense often arises as a response to hugely negative experiences like a foreign onslaught. In the times of relative security and prosperity the true character of a people is tested. It is here that we don’t match up to the Japanese and the Chinese.
This is not to say that we are grossly disadvantaged as compared to these countries. In fact even as a nation state albeit under the British influence we were able to build a system based on the modern principles of democracy and equality and to a great extent have been able to by and large respect most of these principles.
Where we have lacked is that post liberalisation, during the relative boom and relative rise in prosperity, most of the people failed to focus beyond ensuring that they do not miss out on the benefits of the boom. And this failure, if we may call it so, is collective as entrepreneurs, farmers, professionals have all been party to it. In this rush for being a beneficiary of a socio-economic phenomenon, most of us have remained oblivious to our ownership of our nation.
We are living here as one lives in a rented house i.e with a sense of limited responsibility. Our responsibility begins by paying taxes and ends at criticizing the government.
Criticizing the government has assumed emotive proportions vastly due to advent and rise of the social media. It is justified to an extent but it should not be the only way to express our love for our country.
Let us understand the challenges of the government. Government is an entity created by the constitutional governance system. It derives its power from the compliance of over 1 billion people in the constitution and so it is tremendously powerful. This power gets multiplied in the times of economic prosperity as the government erroneously and often deliberately assumes itself to be main reason and the force behind the phenomenon and also aggressively projects itself to be so.
As an outcome of a wrong assumption of being the main cause behind the boom, the government becomes oblivious to the possibility of the fact that it might be reaping the fruits of a previous government or a number of favourable global factors and also to the certainty of facing the consequences of its own short sighted decisions which are sometimes victims of hubris. What makes matters worse is that the moment government senses trouble, it suddenly goes risk averse and even more myopic as it doesn’t want to be blamed for any future trouble. This leads to an unimaginative and sapped policy formulation. The opposition becomes merely an excuse to justify the suspended policy scenario.
There are two points where I might seem counter-intuitive.
First, I am not including greed as a flaw of governance because it is not the dividing factor between the government and the subjects. In fact both the government and the subjects are equally inflicted with greed of making hay while the boom lasts.
Second, I believe that most of us are not fundamentally evil. Most of us including the government, the opposition and the common man are patriotic enough to have positive intentions about our nation but not enough to take pains to ensure the safeguards.
Let me now to come to the point of collective ownership.
Firstly we need to realise that economic health of the nation is our collective responsibility and thus both the prevention and cure of economic problems lies in our collective hands. In absence of this strong realisation, status quo cannot be challenged. We must understand that collective ignorance has been crucial factor in the downfall of some EU countries like Greece.
Second, there should be massive campaign to increase among the educated class and the business class the understanding of the basics of economics and the significance of GDP. We all must understand that as a nation we as good or as bad as our GDP growth rate.
Third, we must all be driven by a common goal of doing our bit to ensure that the economy grows at decent rate. This includes not only increasing production but also controlling wastage of natural resources. Here it must also be understood that the gains of the economy will be collective gains too which in the short run will be neither equal nor pro rata.
Finally, we must demand the government a socio-legal space for the formation of non political but representative voluntary bodies of acting as economic watchdogs and pressure groups to provide both the possible growth horizons and the warning signs. Of course and there must be enough competent people willing to utilise this space even if it means extra effort on their part. These groups must be allowed make their suggestions and feedback public on their web sites. A separate ministry must be created to ensure these suggestions are passed on to the respective ministries and are responded promptly by either implantation or explanation for the otherwise.
I am keen to know whether my ideas find resonance!