India really needs to stop shooting itself in the foot. It has been barely 66 years since independence and the promised development is still a couple of miles away, beyond the horizon. Forever perhaps.
As a common Indian, a middle class guy if you’ll have it, it is really annoying a particular expletive out of me to see this country ruining itself like this. What is more frustrating is that, because I am a common citizen, I have ABSOLUTELY no power to change things here. Articles are all I can write (apart from grumbling) and I’m doing that. Probably at the risk of being accused of sedition, I might add, since my country happens to be one of those rather prudent types where anything can be counted as an offense.
The first problem I see, quite literally I might add, is the issue of overpopulation. So much for India’s (adopted) Victorian-era ideals and morals. We are multiplying like rabbits. I’ll spare the usual statistics about India being only a couple of digits behind China. What I want to talk about is what we’re doing as a country to try and tackle this—nothing. I don’t get it. At some point, everyone here must have surely realized that the place is really overcrowded. Look at our buses; our trains. Hell, look at our homes! I do not understand why we simply look away!
We are a country with more than three times the population of the United States (favorite country for comparison) living on an area that’s about one-third the size of that country. How is it realistically possible to become a “world superpower” when you have more mouths to feed than you can manage? There are some very subtle but telling pointers that the place is overcrowded. One is obviously the press of people you find in the country. The other is the crumbling infrastructure. Even quality work gets ruined fast. It gets ruined fast because there are too many people using it. The water and electricity problems are two other indicators that we’re almost maxed out. I am no expert on the carrying capacity of a geographical area but I think common sense does suggest that a smaller population would be beneficial for us in the long run.
Most of the Indian population, though of working age, is poor. Most of them have no jobs. Where from will we get them jobs? How can you create a domestic industry without demand for its products? And the demand is non-existent because the people are almost viciously poor with a vengeance. This is a cycle that needs to be broken. And it will not be broken with our current welfare-state model. You simply can’t uplift people by providing them with free things forever. But this is what the Indian government, bureaucracy and people seem to be doing. The mantra seems to be, “If it’s poor, chuck some welfare at it.” No. This is NOT. GOING. TO. WORK. It is not working! I mean, we’ve been attacking poverty from this angle ever since independence. Has it produced ANY results? Why not try a different method? Nope. No can do. We’re Indians and we’re rooted in stigma and a backward-looking culture that refuses to adopt change.
If India hopes of having a chance to survive the next century, it really needs to tackle overpopulation first. Voluntary family planning programs aren’t going to cut it. If all that bluster about national pride (hurray Indian jingoism) is true, then everyone, from now on, must stop having kids. As ridiculous as it sounds, it will taper the population in the next 50 years. If the current crop of 20-somethings doesn’t have kids, there isn’t going to be a next generation. There will be a real generation gap if a selected number of individuals alone procreate and have offspring. The ideal situation would be a country with a mostly ageing population with a much smaller number of young people. The logistics of implementing such a plan are going to be nightmarish of course. How do you select who gets to have kids? How do you convince everyone else to not have kids? Asking people to adopt orphans will help some but the issue of getting a huge fraction of the population in line with the idea of ‘sex but no progenies’ will be monumental. Monumental but not impossible.
The second issue with India is this problem of caste. I don’t get it. Is the objective of the Indian government and the populace to promote the caste system or to eradicate it? Almost everything I have seen points to the former and NOT to the latter, which happens to be the official line.
Right after independence, India chose to implement a system of reservation in order to help the lower caste people gain a foothold in the new social order. But then, this spiralled out of control and it has just become a tool to farm votes from large groups of people (read casteism). I am honestly surprised that nobody wants to review the status of the reservation system after half a century and more. Upliftment measures are supposed to have a planned time frame, concrete goals and a deadline. But here, in India, it appears that the issue of caste and reservation is becoming more central to politics and life each passing day. If this is going to be the trend, then pretty soon, all those upper castes will become minorities and the laggards. It is only logical. If you keep uplifting one group over another, AT SOME POINT, the other group is going to get left behind.
Plus, throwing in the propensity for the common Indian to seek the easiest and most bent way to a comfortable life and we have a situation where an overwhelmingly huge number of people identify themselves as persons from a disadvantaged caste. A well intended policy has been twisted into a bitter tool now. The saddest aspect of this issue is the fact that nobody has let go of the caste system. Politics is still largely about caste. Admissions to educational institutes are similar. People still marry within their own community. So much for One India.
The solution to the caste issue is to simply let it go. We’ve dragged it on for far too long. Yes, there is a rather bitter issue here in the fact that a lot of deserving people will be left in the lurch but there’s nothing we can do about it. For one thing, this measure will help a much bigger population and all our future generations to come. Secondly, it is not like the really disadvantaged people belong to any one caste are cared about or are actually much benefitted by the system (we all know why—bureaucracy and corruption). Thirdly, it’s not like these people don’t know hardships. We aren’t ditching them. We’re just taking the ill-gotten gains away from all those people who’ve been misusing the reservation system. There is an argument to be made about the relation between India’s apathy, corruption, inherent laziness and the caste-reservation nexus.
The third problem I want to talk about is the Indian government and politics. It is literally bent. To be blunt, I don’t count those people as my elected representatives. I don’t because I would never elect people like that to positions of responsibility. This is where the problem comes in. We should have never brought in caste, communal and linguistic divisions. What happened is that people capable of shouldering responsibility got sidelined and people lusting after power stepped in. The rest is history (and ongoing presently).
The Indian political system is in need of serious reform. Serious as in it needs to be thrown out lock, stock and leaking barrel and a new system be put in its place. Look at our constitution for example. It still has outdated laws from the 1800s making life a misery for many, many people. The governmental system itself has been reduced to something of a token gesture. It implements changes but they don’t count and don’t get implemented. They don’t count because the populace has lost all respect for the government and its arms. Take, for example, the classic issue of child labor. It is banned in India. Great. But has it been abolished? No. It’s a ‘no’ because people don’t care what the government says. They’ll keep doing what they do as long as the government doesn’t come chasing after them. And it’ll never come chasing after them because of, of course, corruption and, nepotism.
So if the government needs to be changed, there needs to be a change in the country’s collective mindset. We can’t ask this of the older people. They are simply too rigid. But the younger folks can. The first thing we need to get rid of is our collective misogyny. Really people! Women are not property! They have a brain, a beating heart, passions, ideals and as much right to live as they like as men do! For heaven’s sake, they make up half the world’s population! Stop saying inane stuff like “She deserved the rape because she dressed provocatively.” That doesn’t make sense. It takes two to tango. I mean, if you’re calling a woman a slut, then it IMPLIES that all the men who had sex with her are equally morally damnable too. How do you people live with such hypocrisy? There is no need to “empower women.” They aren’t weaklings. Stop treating them as such. Instead, give them space and give them their liberties. If you have a daughter, teach her self-defense and send her out. Send her out as much as you send out your beloved son. I simply don’t get it. What is the advantage in having a son? That he will take care of you in your old age? And you think the girl will simply abandon you because traditional custom demands it so? Do you think that any educated girl would do that? It doesn’t make sense. If everyone has only male progenies and all the girls get killed, how will the great Indian race survive? Has anyone ever stopped for a moment and thought about what the lack of women is doing to our male population? Has anyone tried to link the skewed sex ratio and the ridiculous restrictions (and also expectations) imposed on girls with all the rapes and violence against females?
The second thing is that we need to lose the idea that “all bad things must be taken care of by the government.” Why should they? The government is an extension of the collective soul of a nation. If you believe in stuff like that, then by rights, you’re a part of the government as much as your elected representatives are. Indians love to wash their hands of things. Especially when they’ve gotten them dirtied. No. Let’s be more responsible and let’s try and clean up our mess.
The third issue I take up is the problem with the education system. Without going into much detail, I will outline a few things. The system needs to move out of its British-colonial objectives and setup. The focus needs to shift towards helping people become self-reliant and socially stable, rather than preparing unfortunate kids for exams. And most importantly, LESS EDUCATION AND MORE LEARNING. I cannot stress the last point enough. Also, we really, really need to lose all the built up stigma. Good and bad aren’t laid out black and white. Most things moral are gray. We really need to learn to deal with them better.
Finally, India really needs to move forward as a society. We need to let go of our jingoism. Admit that we’re not doing things as well as we can. Tear ourselves away from our beloved thorn-bed of corruption. It isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to be simple. We’re getting plenty of warnings that we’re not only failing as a society but we’re failing as human beings. The power to change that, and more importantly, the responsibility, lies in our hands. Now. In our hands alone.
The author is a young writer from somewhere around the Indian subcontinent who is another face in the crowd.