India@70: Stock Taking

The writer speaks of the contradictions that exists within India with the growing ‘smart cities’ on one side and the underdeveloped communities on the other

Auto dealer “Sitara Bajaj” had organised a Independence Day rally for all those who had bought Bajaj V15 Bike. This motorcycle is made from elements of INS Vikrant. The rally flagged off at 8.30 am and as we drove down Panaji with patriotic fervour, it was like a eye opener, I saw India@70  like a collage where several contradicting pictures co-existed but for sure it was not an ecosystem, I soon realised that  objective assessment of our country is difficult. Election manifesto speaks one language, paints another picture and post election the progress report speaks something else. National news channels broadcast one shade and private channels broadcast another shade both being equally true. For the first time I realised that opposite of truth is not a false or lie but it is another truth! A country that has made cost effective journeys to Mars and Moon is struggling to overcome its dismal infant mortality rates, abysmal social practices and petty politics.

It is similar to the story of our athletes who have potential and tons of will power to win Olympic medals but have to struggle all alone and devoid of even basic infrastructure resources, social support somehow reach the finals and then the entire country is on its toes to back them; but only with  high decibel slogans from our cozy drawing rooms, pubs and clubs, crores of financial rewards, jobs are announced as a transaction if they win medals, the athlete takes off but has a unfortunate hamstring pull! Our country is also not much different than this story. Inspite of being gifted with nature’s bounties, high potential human resources, as a nation we are always locked in border squabbles, inability to tackle basic healthcare, sanitation, education and employment. One of the reasons for superficial understanding or getting swayed directionless is that we are allergic to researching, sharing or understanding statistical data and patterns. We lack predictive analytics orientation.

Countries like South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia who had much lower metrics during their independence have not only improved but raced ahead in global economic sweep stakes, but we are still in warm up phase.

We enjoy unexpected and random success; and once we get this, we spend time in self gratification and glorification – we boast that we are self sufficient in food but the fact is we still remain a low yield agricultural society, our market and distribution systems have done irreparable transmission losses but we over pride in GST systems! Annual road deaths are in lakhs, qualifying for genocide certification, just look at our major cities… forget beautification, heritage preservation or modernization – they are still struggling for garbage disposal and management, decent roads, traffic management. We are miles away from being listed as top 10 tourist destinations globally.

If you look around we have rich network of resources in the form of educational institutes, industrial networks, NGOs, professional institutes, management associations but what the missing aspect is working together for a larger cause due to a isolated political will and a fractured social will

But we have a brighter side as well – we are sky high on hope and optimism but the flip side is our conditioning to sit tight accepting failure as our “Karma” (destiny) is precisely where industry and business houses can come in and stage a turn around through CSR and their legacy of management skills, turnaround strategies as business and industry face uncertainty day in and day out.

It is time to go beyond 2% CSR funding to adopting 2% of India (villages, towns, cities) by each industry. It is time to move away from rhetoric CSR as event management or 1 day competitions to actually owning up growth and development of India as a organization wide KRA. It is not at all a difficult proposition because we are all embedded in the same social ecosystem.

If you look around, we have rich network of resources in the form of educational institutes, industrial networks, NGOs, professional institutes, management associations – but the missing aspect is working together for a larger cause due to isolated  political will and a fractured social will.

We are conditioned to believe that all solutions are with the government, but if one would study the complexity of bureaucracy and the short term political agenda, social turn around will never happen; or even if it happens, we will always be lagging behind. We may even have to wait for revolution which will be nothing short of civil war.

The continuous drum beats that we have ‘demographic dividend’ is slowly becoming a demographic liability which for sure will cascade into either into yet another brain drain or brain drainage!

Our story, time and again, remains that of an unrealised potential because we tend to unite only in times of crisis or wait for a larger than life leader to guide us. This is an irony to me because all of us combat uncertainty, take high stake decisions in our personal lives without being guided by any boss or government policies; but we are assumed to be suddenly stupid the moment we enter organizations or think about socio-economic development.

A good intent is just not enough. What we need is a stable will power; long term consistency; focus and energy for day to day activities; contributions – and that is where we fail miserably. We start with gusto and then quickly abandon our projects. Then when crisis hits us, we gear up again. We need to break this pattern; and to do that we need to move away from lectures and ‘knowledge series’ and get into ‘action series’ – because that is the ultimate test of knowledge. Our mantra has to be “Learning by doing” and “Learning by sharing.”

A good intent is just not enough. What we need is a stable will power; long term consistency; focus and energy for day to day activities; contributions – and that is where we fail miserably. We start with gusto and then quickly abandon our projects

It is a difficult proposition; but it is organic. It will have roots which will hold the social fabric, it will have shoots which will give us shade and it will bear fruits which will give us the RoI. We have just crossed the first step of legislating the reforms but relying totally on Government for execution will be fatal.

The industries associations have to come forward and start adopting villages, towns and cities to architect solutions for education, sanitation, health care, and entrepreneurship – thus bringing back the lost word from our social development dictionary – Quality. The Government and political parties should see this as a welcome initiative rather than be sceptic or feel insecure. It is time to be the change we want to see. We cannot afford to turn grey to give back to the society. Most of us have achieved enough and we are also in a way saturated so the only space left which can for sure rejuvenate us is contributing to the social sector and that does not mean one has to renounce the worldly pleasures or personal life. We all need to be aware that we have yet another border conflict brewing up between the haves and have nots, who are just separated by a width of 100 feet of tar road. What I mean to say is the way our so called “smart cities” are evolving we will see skyrise structures on one side of the road and slums and underdeveloped communities on the other side of the road, who are also our service providers – the tension is clearly mounting; and the infliction point is not too far when the patience to hold will give up .

India simply does not belong to the ruling party or opposition – it belongs to all of us. It has rightfully given us “Aadhar Card” which also means support. We have to install “purposeful urgency” to architect solutions which can be easily attained through a Networked CSR that focuses on regional imbalance, socio economic transformation and ecosystem for job creators to supply the world which should be now our market place. We have 30 years for our centennial independence celebration. Which India would you like to see there?

 

 

Kishore M.Shah

The writer is an organisational development and talent analytics consultant. He is also the founder sponsor of Goa CSR Awards. He is the recipient of Limca Book of Records and Business Goa Award. He can be contacted at shahkishorem@gmail.com

 

 

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