Thursday, July 17, 2008

Unlocking India's potential

Unlocking India's potential
11 Jul, 2008, 0543 hrs IST, ET Bureau

In India, we have always been competitive as individuals, primarily because we live with the reality of too many people chasing too few resources. This competitiveness has helped us make a mark in the global business scene; but it has also led to the over-exploitation of common goods, be it in business, government or society, leading to our systems being corrupt and clogged. We refuse to understand that our mentalities are supposed to grow along with the growth of our nation. That we are supposed to graduate from individual players focusing on personal gains to team players focusing on growth and sustenance of the entire system.

So, how do we make sure that our pure selfish individual attitudes are not standing in the way of our development ? The most common solution is regulation by a leadership authority with an iron hand, where legal coercion, in the form of penalties or punishments, is imposed so that people give up their immediate individual benefits to comply with social rules. Most developed nations have done this during the initial stages of their development itself, through a benevolent dictator who gradually gives way to a democratic environment.

However , in the case of India, since this democratic machinery is already in operation, this would be almost impossible to pull off. Privatisation is another solution where governmental regulations limit the amount of a common good available for use by any individual. One example is the reduction in corruption, once license raj came to an end in India . But this route might not work or could prove to be costly in cases like traffic or environmental protection.

There is a third way, which is probably the best way, where each one of us owns up responsibility to co-operate and improve the system, though no outside agency is enforcing this. This is indeed true leadership, where each citizen realises that the next level of growth for our nation depends on each one of us behaving responsibly towards each other and towards the system. Where leaders lead responsibly by putting people at the centre of the system, where people don’t shirk r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s though no one is directly monitoring and where citizens behave responsibly towards the environment and traffic.

Some of us who are open to this idea might think, what is the use of just me co-operating in the system ? I would still lose out thoroughly , if everyone else refused to collaborate. As leaders, as responsible citizens , let the change start with us. Once a few of us start behaving responsibly, others will follow suit, some of them out of their own responsibility, and some out of coercion. Let the unlocking of India’s potential start from each one of us.

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