It is the season for pundits to pontificate on the decade that has gone by and appear suitably magisterial while predicting what lies in the decade looming over the horizon. I never wanted to be a pundit and will never be able to appear magisterial. So, I will restrict myself to suggesting some basic mindset changes in our country if we are to finally discard the Third World tag by the end of 2019.The mindset change that we need is to stop thinking of India as a former colony and a victim of global myriad conspiracies. We as a nation are becoming so prickly that it is oft en laughable. If George Bush signs a nuclear deal with India that is truly historic, we whine and crib and proclaim that America wants to colonise India. If China arm twists the World Bank into not giving a loan for a project in Arunanchal Pradesh, we see dark conspiracies and start revisiting 1962. Ditto for the Doha round of WTO, for the Copenhagen Round of climate control talks and permanent membership of the UN Security Council. As a nation, we must become less prickly and more practical in pursuit of national interests. And what is our long term national interest? Growing at 8% a year and finally eradicating poverty. For that, we need to reform ourselves; not blame America or China.
The second mindset change that we need urgently as a society is to become more generous and charitable. Sure, we have examples of generous individuals and institutions in India. But what they do is not even a patch on what greedy capitalists do in America. I humbly request each one of the 200 million middle class Indians to make a pledge that they will voluntarily contribute Rs.5,000 a year towards primary education of poor children. Believe me, if middle class individuals and corporate entities make and implement this pledge, India will eradicate illiteracy by 2019 – even if successive governments are inefficient and corrupt.
The third mindset change that we as a society and nation need to urgently implement is to raise our sense of civic pride and responsibility. I know it is a tired cliché, the one about the Indian keeping her home spotlessly clean while nonchalantly dumping garbage on the streets. Indians desperately need to learn more civic manners and work ethics. It is wonderful to gloat about the beauty of our chalta hai mindset, but we will never cross the threshold of Third World scorn unless we change our ways as citizens. And please don’t blame politicians for this; it is you and I who are squarely to blame.
The last and most urgent mindset change is related to our education system. Our education system is geared to mass manufacture unemployable morons who only know how to follow orders, rules or a set pattern of work. Innovation, free thinking and initiative are ruthlessly discouraged – by schools, by parents and by peers. India will always be condemned to be a Third World nation unless we change this.
Here is to fond hopes that at least half these mindset changes do happen in the next decade!