When will we become a developed nation, is the top question in most peoples’ minds? Some of us believe as well as fret that India will, forever remain a developing nation and that it would never become developed. In theory, it is hard to believe that a mighty nation of 1.3 billion humans is doomed to remain a developing one! On the contrary, I am surprised why haven’t we become one already, in spite of having such a large human resource on our side. Have we fallen short of reaping the rich commensurate human dividend? Is this why people call it a double-edged sword. I don’t disbelieve or discredit the naysayers, but according to them the situation is so pessimistic that they have all together abandoned the idea that India will one day become a developed nation well within their lifetimes. They are not wrong in nurturing this thought as they have already been waiting for decades and now their hope is on the wane and about to extinguish. What is your idea of a developed nation? Does it only revolve around high-rise buildings, swanky and immaculate malls and palatial residences? Don’t we get a feeling of awe when we visit other nations like USA, UK, Australia, Canada etc?
Does a country have a functional and a vibrant democracy where the right of each and every citizen is upheld? Does it have a vibrant social structure and solid public institutions in whom public repose faith and trust? What is the position of human rights, where does the country stand on the human index front, heinous crimes against women and oppressed sections of society? Does the state do enough to improve the lives of its citizens by way of ease of living, doing business? Is justice being served equitably to all the sections of society? Is there a rule of law? These are some of the parameters that decide the direction in which a country is headed or the fate of its development.
If you deliberate enough, you might realise that we have been a developing nation ‘in the works’ and a developed nation ‘in waiting’ since the time we became independent in the year 1947, precisely 72 years have gone by. Isn’t that too long a wait by any standards? While other countries that won independence around the same time, as India did, have surpassed us and have achieved the coveted tag of a developed nation decades back. Did it ever prick you to deliberate upon the reasons why have we remained a developing nation even till now and what has robbed us of achieving the highly coveted tag?
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Have we been able to reap rich dividend out of the huge human capital that our country has been endowed with? What has stood in the way of achieving greatness? The primary cause of this has been lack of education and healthcare to most of the Indians. It is shocking to observe that even after approximately 70 years of independence, successive governments have not been able to eradicate abject poverty, mind you I am not referring of poverty, but abject poverty. Don’t you feel that all the fruits of government policy interventions have remained only on paper? No real benefits have trickled down to the grassroots to reach the ‘last man standing’. A large section of our population has remained outside the umbrella of benefits and hence no significant development has come about in their lives. The policies have at best scrapped just the surface while deep down has remained untouched by development. Most of our people are uneducated and lead life at subsistence level. This is the reason why many have no contribution in the GDP growth of the country. Only now, I have actually turned optimistic, that some serious government effort has started to fructify and take shape. The benefits of which will surely be seen sooner than later.
One part of the answer lies in the way we, the people of the nation, are. What kind of people are we? You must be wondering how can that have any bearing upon a nation’s status? Just bear with me for a few minutes and the answer will stare squarely in your face. Let me ask you, are we honest, incorruptible, environmentally sensitive, righteous, hard-working, quality conscious, educated, possessing scientific temperament embracing modern thoughts? We should now try to dissect a few of the traits mentioned here, one by one.
For all our miseries and banes that we are beset with, we have a habit of laying the blame on our government and municipal agencies. We always complain that these agencies are not doing their job of keeping the city immaculately ‘neat and clean’ since the cleaning staff often not report for work. Let me ask you a pertinent question. After the roads and streets have been cleaned once by the municipality staff, where from does the dirt and garbage reappear just the next day? Don’t we litter the streets and roads again and again, day after day throwing all the refuse on the streets? Don’t you feel that we, the dwellers of the city, too are to be blamed for this problem? It displays our apathy and insensitivity to adoption of clean habits. It seems that we are not ready to give up our habit of littering and by that logic we are not yet prepared or worthy to live in a developed country. Did we ever for once think that keeping the city clean is as much citizens’ responsibility as it is government’s? How do you think we will become a developed nation if we do not exhibit responsible behaviour and a vow to keep our cities clean?
We often allege that various public agencies and departments are mired in neck-deep corruption. When we find a well laid process just a bit cumbersome to comply, we curse the process and resort to bribery to override the queue and crash the timelines. Could we not wait for a few hours or days and get our job done cleanly without resorting to corrupt practices? Should we not raise our voice against corruption if we want this scourge to end? Each one of us has a responsibility to fight it so that the problem gets vanquished and uprooted. On the contrary, what we do is, we comfortably and conveniently turn a blind eye to the problem, get our job done by whatever means and leave it to others to fight the problem. In this scenario, how morally upright are we when we fret about the incidence of rampant corruption in public life? How do you think we will become a developed nation if we do not change our attitude towards corrupt practices?
Some of us continue to live in dilapidated buildings even while the municipal authorities have declared them unsafe. We do not seem to pay any heed to sane advice and continue to live in such dangerous buildings. And when they crumble like a pack of cards sucking out lives, we are quick to blame the authorities rather than ourselves. We continue to drive in the wrong lane and keep losing lives to road accidents. For each life thus lost, we blame everyone and everything except our own selves. The question that arises is, are we so unconscionable, unmindful and unaware of issues around our own safety and security? Who would have heard of a whole lot of people who imperil their own lives? What kind of people are we who do not care about their own lives? How justified are we in exhibiting this kind of behaviour? Only when we are careful and concerned about issues related to our own safety and security and do not throw away our lives to frivolous reasons, we would have ushered into the developed world.
Are we sensitive towards our environment? We continue to use plastic bags and don’t feel any need to carry a cloth or jute bag while stepping out of home for shopping. Not only this, each household continues to generate huge quantity of trash each day and pay no attention to using environmentally friendly material and articles. Wasting resources such as clean water and electricity does not bother us a wee bit. We discard most of our electronic items, CFLS, tube lights, batteries etc. irresponsibly in complete contravention to the extant rules for their safe disposal simply because either this idea does not enter our head or we are totally unaware of the existence of laws. Even worse, most of us do not appreciate why it is necessary to do so in the first place. Not only individuals, even the business establishments do not pay due attention to safe disposal of hazardous material as ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ or EPR is a term that exists only on paper. It is a reality that majority of us are not even aware what constitutes environmentally responsible behaviour. We continue to discharge highly toxic and poisonous untreated chemical waste into the rivers and we say that we revere our rivers and treat them as holy. Isn’t it a big irony? We continue to run old vehicles even beyond their useful lives and burn stubble on the fields that raise environmental pollution levels drastically. Most of us do not see any correlation between survival of humans on the planet and caring for our environment. The day we see this correlation, we might have made it into the list of developed nations of the world quite literally and comfortably.
Don’t we break the laws and keep meddling with them? Do we always respect traffic laws, laws relating to capital, investment, taxation and many more? Don’t we hide and evade incomes, taking surreptitious routes of tax havens etc? Why wealthy people escape the country after committing gross crimes and duping many? And when the agencies take a dig at them for all they have done, they run to lawyers to save their skin. Why did they not follow the laws from the start? We call ourselves God fearing but we don’t abide by the laws. Don’t we know when we commit a violation, the law will chase and catch us? Then why still we continue to commit such infractions, and later repent when law catches us. In all this imbroglio we lose our peace of mind, time and resources too. Isn’t our mindset clearly visible when we get behind the wheels on the roads. There are no limits to how unruly and rash we can get. So frequently we find people disrespecting traffic rules, children at the wheels (underage driving), youngsters driving in the wrong lanes, people breaking traffic signals with impunity. Don’t you think if we mend our ways, we would surely find our country emerging in the list of developed countries of the world?
There are certain kind of behaviours that are asymmetric, unscientific, illogical and irrational but we still follow them in the name of traditions and customs. In perfect contravention to the changed milieu, we do not want to let go the demons of the past and embrace new ways that usher the dawn of modern times. We are slaves to age old irrational practices and averse to adopting scientific and rational thoughts of the modern world. Some of these customs and traditions are superstitious in nature founded upon some vague logic. Don’t we pray incessantly for sweet results rather than working hard and strategizing to achieve success. Wearing bracelets, rings, amulets, threads to ward off bad incidents and phases in life. Calling people lucky or unlucky is one such superstition that undermines the self-worth of a person and belittles him or her. Isn’t it time to shun such and so many other unscientific practices to lay a strong foundation for our country to enter into the developed world boldly?
Our successive governments have been fighting the scourge of poverty since the time the country became independent and no doubt, they still do. The fight is far from over. How justified are our governments when they claim that the agenda is yet unfinished? When we have not been able to win the fight for 72 years, what makes our government confident in winning fight anytime soon. Government’s track record does not inspire much confidence and speaks volumes of apathy and infinite inertia they have acquired over the years. Can we see our governments getting serious in discharging their duties, sincerely and seriously? For when they do, we might well be on the verge of becoming a developed country.
How about talking about some of the human index parameters such as child mortality, malnourishment, illiteracy, child marriages, availability of best healthcare practices, provision of schooling to all children etc. Where do we as a country stand on the world stage on these parameters. Surely the situation is alarming. We are ranked nearer the bottom on most of these parameters in the list of world rankings. When all our children are healthy, admitted in schools and also making progress in learning outcomes we would believe some of the tall claims that our governments make. Only then would we be firmly set on the path to becoming a developed nation. Are we anywhere around?
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Now let us see what does a developed country looks like. In a developed country all citizens are educated, they respect laws and don’t break them, they are law abiding, conscious and cognizant of their as well as others rights, liberties and responsibilities, they are honest, hard-working, they do not hide and evade their incomes, they are patriotic, don’t cheat their neighbours, they do not indulge in cheating and embezzlement in everything they do, they do not indulge in corruption and adulteration of food items either. Are these not the qualities of people that make up a nation? Don’t you think, when we change our behaviour, mindset, outlook and develop a scientific temperament and approach in life, we would surely become a developed nation?
Does your idea of a developed country still revolve around high-rise buildings, swanky and immaculate malls and palatial residences? Do you need any more reasons to justify why we are as yet a developing and not a developed nation?