Not too long back, during the independence struggle, the leaders had the stature and commanded respect from their populace. Their character traits encompassed selfless, dedication and benevolent acts overarching all humanitarian pursuits, notwithstanding their religious, ethnic or regional affiliations. They had a collective vision and a dedication to drive towards that common shared common destiny. Masses respected, supported and followed these leaders. Remember, revolutions are borne out of the hungry stomach or incessant injustice. That hunger and or injustice was pervasive. Masses were looking for someone with those aforementioned qualities. These were not born, not charismatic, but they earned that respect through these traits.
Tienanmen were quashed because the economy and opportunities were booming. People have a certain level of tolerance (also called as resilience), to such inadequacies if they are busy with their lives. Over a period of time, social values degraded and that zest to lead fell to decadence. An element of that vacuum of dedicated leaders was filled in by leaders needing sycophants, because they were intrinsically weak, lacked that innate leadership quality and that organic connect with the masses. These leaders were intelligent though, and let me say, intelligence is not higher education. I have seen visionary leaders and able administrators who had a grasp of the state and benefited the masses.
Unfortunately, Rotten Apples are intelligent
Again, intelligence (and great analysis) is not leadership, that’s what we have in many leaders currently. We have intelligent and selfish folks who are self-serving, focused on themselves (with no ability to risk their popularity and voter outcome), less connected with the root cause rather than the rhetoric and who think the rules don’t apply to them. Why should a coterie or follower, follow them if it does not benefit? That last word is important, ‘Benefit’. Corrupt leaders know that that’s why they ignore corrupt folks under them. It thus forms an ecosystem where there is a hierarchy of corrupt, within a self-serving ecosystem. Thus a contagious bad apple effect percolates within the ecosystem they create.
This nurtures a system that becomes hollow and eroded inside. Gradually, it becomes a norm, culture, and way of life. We never realize how we landed in this state of despair. I am not very hopeful that any change of political party, banner or face will change anything. It is a system problem and they have to get aligned or be ejected, like an allergen or a thorn, out of the body. In a doctor’s parlance, incompatible organs get rejected. That’s what will happen if a different hue (party, banner or face) will try to do.
An often asked question – can intelligence or education make a difference? The answer is obvious. I definitely rue the state of Indian affairs. It’s Matrubhumi, a place for identity and despite, a place we, unfortunately, left behind, but our heartaches and it swells with pride when a rocket is launched or an extraordinary achievement is done.
I can write about the recent demonstrations against reservation (affirmative action), against aggravated nationalism, about religious intolerance, about the current generation as a legacy of our evolved culture. I find the current state in ruins but should we be hopeless? Definitely not and if you ask me, why? I don’t have a reason to justify (given the state of affairs) but I have a deep trust that India will rise. Time alone is an answer and that we are seeing events in time snapshot, like a frozen frame (in time). That trust within us and that faith in those founding principles laid by the moldings from Sanatan dharma will see it rising like a sphinx. Time alone is an answer, probably you and I won’t survive to see that, but that will happen, not with dreamy eyes but a reality and of course, I am not making a prophecy so that also means we have to make concerted efforts in that direction.
That ‘WE’ of Nationhood
That WE are important (that I am very is very dilapidated in front of that WE). That WE include this huge diversity – of regions, religions, ideologies, aspirations, ethnicities, etc.). Exclusion is formidable and incompatible to us as a nation. Inclusion is our ethos and when we walk together, we make that WE and a great nation. The path is long but achievable and we are making those strides.
Change is imminent and change is required. We have to dismantle old models, reinvent ourselves and make gargantuan huge machinery that works in unison, completely in sync. Change to ‘reservation (affirmative actions)’, ‘radical ‘religious right-wing’ movement, innovation in farming, creating locally dispersed opportunities (and consequently, labor) are few things that need prioritization.
We are simultaneously beset with several cultural blocks. We lack a concerted national vision, and unfortunately, we don’t realize that our very existence is under that nation. Religion, ethnic, family, regional and language ties come later, after that national vision. Right now, it is reverse, we care for our compatriot even if she/he is corrupt or inapt, we care for our ethnic or religious group despite knowing those are on flawed grounds, so also, we struggle to oppose kinship. However, we hate a specific ethnic group. We have biases and prejudices and prototypes, and we call them Marwadis or Gujjus, etc. That rhetoric has continued to build over the last 70 years. We have to end this schism. That’s just one prejudice.
Affirmative Action – a palpable ailment
We also have to remember, collectively as a society, we have exploited a class or strata and it is our collective responsibility to undo that injustice. If affirmative action was inscribed in the constitution, it was envisioned to bring this huge swath of populace into the emerging sense of nationality. Those who haven’t been the beneficiaries of this action, often insist that affirmative action was planned for only a decade. I often rue, is a decade enough to roll back the changes that have been inflicted for centuries now? I strongly feel, though the vision was carved into the constitution, it was only more a vision and those visionaries lacked creativity in rolling out a plan to understand the dynamics of how it would unfurl over decades amongst the diverse growing masses.
In 1985-86, during college elections, I saw casteism for the first time. Medical College Student elections were contested on caste affiliations, they would call it packing. Like packs of caste based groups aligned to vote as en lot. We were the first batch to start Non-Casteist Panel (NCP before Sharadrao coined that term 🤓). However, I was fortunate to be closer to one of the sons of a prominent leader from socially disadvantaged class. He and I had open discussions on caste based reservations. I proposed that’s 1985-86, I proposed below items for changing the reservation. I cited his own example.
The Four Point Proposal –
- One reservation for graduation, one for the job.
- If you get the job/education without reservation, that credit can be saved for that individual, which he can enjoy anytime.
- Once a family is elevated with reservation benefits, they exhaust the benefits for the next generation.
- The reservation percent would stay the same, not decrease so that other layers within their society get the benefit.
This four-point proposal was a long reflection of the underlying dynamics and frustrations, prevalent at that time. These came as a synthesis after long deliberation and evaluation of several backward communities not being benefited despite a robust reservation program. Now, after 34-35 years, we see that ‘akrosh’, that ‘udrek’ that resent growing intense. May be something should have been done long back, on lines similar to what I proposed in 1985-86.
Today, we see an all pervasive, festering frustration. Millennia of new generations are born from whom opportunities are not alone deprived but we are creating a schism and a divide with our rigid reservation system Where is this heading?
The answers are unlikely to be simple, so also they are unlikely to be acceptable to all. That does not mean we leave those alone, untouched because reworking would land us in controversy. Irrespective of the current ruling regime – Congress, BJP, or any combination thereof, all have decided not to open this Pandora box. They are afraid, the bees would bite most to those who are closer to the reworking the problem. However, as time stands today – no political entity or character has the creativity, ability, capacity or vision to solve this festering problem.
Two moot points of learning from this national affirmative action program –
- Good intention is not enough, a leader needs to be a visionary to unravel such a deeply impactful program will unfurl over a period of time. Articulate and dynamic leaders are required to unleash and embed a program of such national importance.
- Such initiatives should be time-bound and change to understand, include and assimilate the diverse needs of times.
Except for good intent, both these characters were lacking when these reservations were made. Time and events can’t be undone, however, it is still time to make decisive actions and roll out changes that are commensurate with the needs of the current time.
Updated on May 22, 2019
We are so incorrigible to the core that we hardly want to see a perspective beyond ours if in the process; we have to give away our benefits for the wider good. Such issues are not uncommon in advanced economies; however, they strive to find an innovative solution with a sincere intent to benefit those who are at the receiving end.
Citing a recent example from SAT, an exam conducted in the US for admission to colleges. Over a period, people have tried influencing and getting the best for their wards but the system has evolved and stopped those mutations.
You might have heard an example of how influential parents bribed their way into prestigious colleges. So also, those safeguarding and defining the system have modified it to provide a benefit to those students who struggle in adverse situations. This is similar to the picture I uploaded in my blog, wherein these new laws are implemented to create an equal playing field for those coming from an adverse situation.
They call it ‘Adversity Score’ and those students facing such disadvantage get additional scores to make these students stand on the same pedestals as those who are from an affluent background. This is worth reading.
Link below https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2019/05/17/students-need-more-than-an-sat-adversity-score-they-need-a-boost-in-wealth/?utm_campaign=Brookings%20Brief&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=72802588
While reservations have created another chasm in society by creating an artificial class of sufferers, such things can be mitigated by creating a mechanism similar to ‘Adversity Score’ for SAT. However, I am staying away from making any recommendation as it needs a thorough understanding of the root cause. It is upon those who strongly feel the need for a change of reservation system to evaluate and come up with an action plan.