A person of Indian origin won the Fields medal, considered the Nobel Prize for Mathematics, for the first time this year. Those from the land of Srinivasa Ramanujan would ponder why there weren’t any till now, why there isn’t been a recipient from India.
Among many things in a National Vision Document prepared by CII (and Young Indians, or Yi) and BCG, for India@75, was that India needs to nurture talent to reap its demographic dividend. The document was inspired by what late management guru Prahalad articulated as his vision for India@75 at an India@60 celebration in New York.
Prahalad questioned in the document’s foreword: “Why can’t India have 10 Nobel Prize Winners?”
There’s no dearth of Indian achievers, and potential achievers. There’s no dearth of aspiration. There’s no dearth of brain drain either. But that can be addressed if drain of another kind is plugged - the drain of spirit. For the spirit of India to remain positive, this leak needs to be plugged. And therein is an opportunity for Mr Modi. It is the same opportunity that empowered the AAP to rule Delhi, albeit briefly. And it remains huge and omnipresent.
Even in 2008, at the core of everything people wanted to see abolished, according to the India@75 Vision arrived at after 18 months of research, was one ‘corroding influence’. As Prahalad put it:
“Corruption is seen as a major corroding influence. In all interviews and workshops, pervasive corruption was seen as a cancer eating away at the very vitality of India. This, participants overwhelmingly agreed, is the real impediment to what India can be. Corruption affects all; not just the people who want to win big government contracts. Getting a birth certificate, a license, and a land record, getting food from the government store, service from a public health clinic are all points of corruption.
“All contacts with the government remind people of the problem. Because it is so pervasive a whole generation of people have grown up thinking that that this is how ‘life is or can be’”.
Each of us can relate to this. Over 25 years ago, when my elder sibling picked a flower in the gardens of the Tirupati temple, an official was promptly at our side. My father ended up walking away with him. I remember the lesson. He had been offered the option of paying a lower ‘fine’, but he chose not to, and paid the fine at the TTD office. Each of us would have a story or two. Including some, where we have given in.
My jolt was delivered more recently. It seems like common knowledge that you can get your IT returns in two days, if you pay the right people 10 per cent of the value to be claimed. My father, of all people, told me that it has become the standard practice. He even encouraged me. The spirit I had admired had aged; it had been drained by the system. The system of intermediaries that facilitates these processes at every interface with the establishment needs weeding out.
A Tweet from #PMOIndia on 12 August provides hope. It reads: ‘Corruption is troubling us. People are angry. I assure that we will fight corruption and work with all those against corruption.”
It’s about time. Because the nation voted for change, and this is the change people are craving for. And, because we have come to accept corruption as a way of life, anyone delivering freedom from the malaise would have delivered the unexpected, achieved the impossible, and risen above all else in the eyes of the nation.
Gokul Krishnamoorthy, editor, Campaign India
(Published in the issue of Campaign India dated 22 August 2014.)