Not necessary to be the First

It is perfectly OK to be competitive.

It is fine to want to be the best and the first in the world. No question about that ambition.

India wants to become the world’s third largest economy in a short span of 9 years from now, by 2020. There is no problem.

But are we going to achieve that by trampling over each other, pushing our way up by shooting people ahead ? Definitely not.

Indians must learn to work together as a team to achieve the country’s ambition and vision to become a top player in the world, not just in terms of economic muscle, but in terms of political weight at the high tables of international diplomacy. The U.S. and China have that kind of power. Do we have ?

Long way to go. There is more internal fights and scandals in the government and outside, which are being witnessed on a daily basis. Even in something as mundane as sports, there are fights between the government minister and sports bodies. In fact, these days the newspapers and TV channels have become more of scandal mongers than true disseminators of news and news analyses.

When there are fights and internal differences which cannot be bridged, then you start to see cracks in the manner in which we approach problems and resolve the same. There will be long delays with attendant loss of business and growth. There will be weakening of the fabric of civil society. There will be dogmatic fights between political parties. And, so on and so forth.

At the end of the day, the achievements will speak for themselves. And these achievements will not happen if we fight.

One can see how the people push and climb over each other in simple queues even when there is no trouble, and that push is symptomatic of what happens in other avenues. For long, India has been a “shortage” economy, crippled by shortages of key consumption items. The tendency to push and climb over others arises from that mentality.

But we have now arrived at some better stage – we are one of the top 10 economies in the world. We do have poverty which is still widespread. We have a government which defines poverty line as something below INR 25 earnings per day, which is nothing short of ridiculous – the limit should have been at least INR 100 in today’s highly inflationary economy. But whatever are the numbers, India is far better today than it was in 1990.

But culturally, are we moving ahead towards a refined society ? We don’t have to be first always, we don’t have to beat the Chinese, we should realize that we are still admired all over the world for various accomplishments not the least of which is the strength of our democracy, et al.

As Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore once said – I do not have the exact quote, but he said something to the effect that Singapore would find the true character of its citizens when a famine strikes the country – then we would know how the multi-racial, multi-ethnic society survives by helping each other. The same thing applies even more strongly in the Indian context, wherein we have a great many number of races, religions, cultures, etc., It is important to take cognizance of this fact of working together in nation-building for the long-term instead of rushing past and lose one’s character.

Some rambling this is, but nevertheless I have written what has been on my mind for some time,


Vijay Srinivasan
24th Sept 2011


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