THE GENERATION THAT CHANGED INDIA
The future is not as dark as it seems; the silver lining in this black cloud is getting stronger each moment
The recent past has been very tumultuous for our India; the period since beginning of 2008, from the start of the stock market slide, has been unforgettable- with every week being witness to a new tragedy, a new scam, a new event and a new breaking story. This has been an unprecedented period in the history of our ancient civilization, and our young nation; one that has brought us to the brink of disaster, and has forced us to introspect deeply into what we have become as a nation, and what we want to build for ourselves. It has brought in its wake gut-wrenching change, and a deep sense of disquiet at what we have become as a nation. This recent past has forced us to look at our real selves in a mirror, and realize that the image is not a very healthy one.
From politics to bureaucracy, from corruption to negligence – every facet of non-deliverance has manifested itself. This is evident in the number – the mind-numbing number, scale and spread of scams that has ripped apart every facet of life in Modern India. This is also evident in the political scenario, the populist and at times even criminally self-indulgent policies, as well as the stasis on all important steps that need to be undertaken. This period has exposed the underbelly of our internal security as well, as is evident from a number of well-publicized instances. This is evident from the cruelly self-centered attitude of the populace, with normal citizens preferring to let people die than come to help, and other such incidents. This is evident in the series of headline-grabbing gang rape incidents that have brought a shocked and stunned nation to a standstill in outrage… truly, a period that will go down in the annals of Indian History as a momentous and horrifying period in every which way you prefer to look at it.
There has been good news too; aplenty. Our successes in the field of technology and science are well-known; India is now known as a nation with cutting edge technological capabilities in any number of fields, with our innovations and ventures placing us in a select band of countries, which can be counted on the fingers of one hand. This is the same period that gave us an unprecedented run of wins and successes in cricket. This is the same period that has given us stars in fields other than cricket. This is the same period which has seen the Mumbai Film Industry gain major inroads in international markets. This is the same period where The Supreme Court became the torch bearer of the clean brigade and activism through a series of landmark and laudable judgments in a stream of areas that impact the high and low, the powerful and the mundane in equal measure. And most critically, this is the period where the power of our people, of our democracy has been highlighted in front of the world, such that there can be no doubt anymore of India’s democratic tradition – its many weaknesses notwithstanding; and that we as a people, as a nationality, have the will and the ability to solve our own problems.
Put the 2 paragraphs above together, and a picture begins to emerge: one that is nowhere near as dark and mournful that we had at first imagined. We have problems, that is undeniable; and serious issues at that. These are issues that are in urgent need of priority attention, that is also a given. Nevertheless, failures notwithstanding, we can be sanguine, calm and confident about one fact: that our lot will improve, and improve dramatically, in the due course of time. And this is not because time changes everything; it is because we as a nation are now beginning to put everything together in a larger picture, and create something that is much better than was previously the case.
Instead of looking at the glass as half-empty, let us take a look at the glass from the perspective that it is half-full. And that is where the promise begins to emerge. Take the cases of corruption and scams that have torn into our reputation and image, as well as our potential and competitiveness. Most of these have tentacles that go back several years. The very fact that they are being exposed – and exposed in every facet of life in India, is a positive sign – not a negative one. It is a signal that more and more Indians are quitting the fold of tolerance towards corruption. It is also a sign of the vitality of our institutions – in particular, The Media, as well as the various agencies that have brought these scams to light. The exposure of these scams is a positive sign; one that, repeated often enough – is sure to instill a culture of intolerance towards corruption, and make corruption inacceptable in our society. Given the endemic nature of our problems, the fight is a long one – but a start has been made; a very strong start.
Whatever be the reasons for the Media and the agencies – promotion, disgust against corruption, upping sales of newspapers and channels etc – the fact remains that these are institutions that have worked and performed their tasks – be it the Media or the CAG office, or any other. And they are manned by Indians – people like you and me. The fact that scams are being exposed is not a negative; it is a very powerful positive – it is a signal of growing intolerance towards corruption, increasing effectiveness of some agencies and increasing power and innovativeness of the Media. The old habits, the moral degradation, the equality aspect of society have all come under unprecedented scrutiny – in terms of popular as well as Media activism; which will lead to a push for the start of change in this aspect as well.
The increasing use of technology in various ways like sting operations, as well as normal citizens in Social Media, is another sign of the change that is upon us, a change that is showing the increasing power of the normal man, facilitated by easy communication, and catalysed by a general disgust on the status quo. The coming together of Indians from every stream in various agitations – anti-rape, or corruption, or whatever – is a sign of the increasing awareness of people power. The increasing instances of bureaucrats who are coming out in open revolt on the status quo – that too in a peaceful fashion without breaking laws – is also another massive push for the society’s movement and change in the right direction. And all of these changes are being driven by normal Indians: be it the Supreme Court, The CAG, The Media, The CEC or the Activist Bureaucrats who are beginning to emerge, and take center stage.
There is also increasing pressure on the Government and the Public Representatives to be held accountable for their actions; every step is analysed threadbare, and every decision held up to ruthless scrutiny, and in full public glare. No longer can the people who run our country hope to get away with populist or ineffective measures, given these changes. Yes, such ineffective governance is still the norm – but that is beside the point. The key point, the key change is that, unlike even 5 – 10 years ago, there is a demand for clean, effective governance, and an increasing pressure on the Government of the day.
It is always darkest before the dawn – a statement that fits well into our current status. Bogged down as we are by an unprecedented set of problems in every sector of public life, all does seem rather dismal. The scale of challenges facing us in the Economy, Governance, Corruption, Social Equality and Poverty are grievously massive. And yet, perhaps for the first time in our Independent History, we can be truly confident that things will change eventually. It may take time, given the scale of the problems, but the set of circumstances outlined above – with rising awareness and intolerance among the people, adherence to peace and non-violence, increasing sensitivity in Bureaucracy, increasing use of technology in every way, active intervention of The Supreme Court and the common, felt and vocal demand for effective and clean governance – will eventually lead to change. Further, the confluence of activism, technology and awareness is set to bring in change, which in some ways, that change is already being felt
The momentum of these changes can only increase, with increasing awareness, penetration of technology, increasing education, and the attendant demand for a better quality of life. The people, who have started the power of passive activism, will only get more demanding, the various institutions, which have seen how their actions are both inciting action on the guilty, as well as how the people support them vocally and actively, will obviously become more effective and vigilant with time. These changes have now acquired critical mass; it is no longer possible to muzzle the activist Supreme Court, or Media; it is no longer possible to reign in the desires and dreams of the people.
The fun and exciting part of this is that this is being achieved in the time-honored Indian tradition of peace, slow but effective change and non-violence. This will aid in the establishment of a stable order; even the most cursory perusal of change the world over will reveal that the only stable change has, by and large, been slow, steady and methodical. We should all feel lucky to be a part of such a defining moment of our national history – our personal problems notwithstanding, when the old ways are being challenged, and new ways are being discovered. Along the path will lie some speed breakers and false starts, but the overall direction seems right.
And if all this does come about, if we do manage to complete what we have started, then the future is ours to take. The momentum built up in the past few years has given us a direction, and a new hope for a new India, an improved and confidant India. The choice is ours to make: continue on this admittedly tortuous and long path of change that has just been started – and realize the potential that we all know is present in the ancient Land of Aryavarta, the land that we now know as Modern India, or Bharat. And, when all of us are gone from this Earth – and we reside in Vaikunth, or Heaven, or Jannat, or are in another life – maybe, just maybe it will so transpire that we and our generation will be remembered as:
The Generation That Changed India…