September 05, 2011

On What India needs..

Somewhere close to our 64th Independence day, I'd floated a tweet with the message that what  India really needs going forward is good education and good healthcare and that with these two taken care of most everything else would naturally follow.

There were a few sharp reactions to this tweet-o-mine, as might be naturally expected when you solve a centuries old problem in the space of 140 characters. The one reaction that I remember came from a dear old friend of mine Prabhu Narasimhan.His take on this was that education & healthcare are fine but what India really needs is a mature and clean Polity first and foremost.Now this chap, has and remains, in my short life, the most difficult person to win an argument against , and therefore I was pretty happy at his reaction because  on this I feel I have a winnable argument.

To state my case:

Is an honest  and mature Polity likely to solve all of India's problems ? That's too loaded a statement to merit a serious answer, because while clearly  there can only be an affirmative answer to this question, it automatically begs the question -how do we put in place a mature and honest Polity?

My bet is that  an honest and mature polity can never really come about as a result of  a lone crusade led by a JP or an Anna Hazare. It comes about gradually :-
  • When Government after successive Government does serious work on cleaning up our rather corrupt system.
  • When Generation after succeeding Generation feels that corruption is less prevalent around them than it was in the past, and as an extended corollary feels it is less acceptable than  it was in the past.
  • When IAS official after succeeding IAS official realizes that lining his pockets doesn't help him as much as getting caught would damage his career, reputation and standing in society.
  • When Minister after succeeding minister is forced to understand that corruption ,indolence and lack of initiative will result in two things , (a) him not getting elected ever again and (b) the wrath of the same constituency that had idolized him (or her, for that matter) and voted him into power.
All of this takes time, and more importantly, it takes an educated electorate to react consistently over a period of time to bunglers, cheats and lazy bureaucrats/politicians. It's only after these bunglers/cheats/indolents realize that the electorate won't reward them any further for shabby and slipshod work willl they be prodded to change themselves, And this is why I feel that without a redoubled effort to educate our masses on their civil responsibilities and duties; on the rights conferred  to them by our constitution; we can never (not in the distant future , not decades from now, not in a rosy scenario a few years down the line, but NEVER!) arrive at  a day when we have an honest and Mature Polity in place.

That's my education angle.

The healthcare angle is something I feel even more strongly about. India can never catapult itself into its glory days without addressing its severe lack of effort in the healthcare space. Having  stayed for more than three years in Sub-Saharan Africa , I feel entitled to my opinion that Indians deserve better healthcare than they have access to today. I feel this way because we have access to better doctors than sub-Saharan Africans have access to, and yet, our average healthcare facilities are at best at par with facilities there and in most cases - shame on us - worse than theirs. Oh yes, the best healthcare facilities we Indians have access to is definitely slightly better than the best facilities sub-Saharan Africans have access to , but that isn't much to be proud of !
Also, in a couple of years from now, given our tendency to gloat when we shouldn't, I wouldn't even bet on this last scenario being true anymore.

That's my healhtcare angle.

Let's just get these two things right, because frankly no one has even bothered to do anything on these issues till date.