At the crossroads

We Indians are different, as organic individuals, even as fruits from the same tree.

It is tempting to mark the end of a calendar year with virtuous resolutions for the New Year. But we know the futility of making grandiose resolves which we cannot keep when we lack the will, energy, funding and efficiency to fulfill even half our expectations for improvement and reform in various fields. India does not lack mentors, both native and foreign. But we are fully aware of our limitations and deficiencies which frustrate our aims and objectives year after year.

I listened intently to a brilliant presentation by the NRI-American scholar-journalist, Fareed Zakaria, entitled “India at the Crossroads” on CNN -- his year-end review on the ‘Global Public Square’. He deserves the Padma Bhushan awarded to him in January, 2010. He judiciously raised the question whether India had some lessons for other states to learn, by its adherence to democratic pluralism and steady growth towards economic prosperity along with lessening inequality and good governance. He took due note of China’s historic advance as a global power with military and scientific self-reliance, rivaling that of the US in status as a rich country. China has been lending huge amount of dollars to the United States to lessen the latter’s budget deficit. At the same time, he explained the adverse factors in China’s astonishing achievement: its high level of corruption, (here again outperforming India?) its inequality of wealth and influence, and the increasing resentment of the people, who are fed up with censorship, gross inequalities, the lack of public space for dissent, the psychosis of controls.

The latest relaxing of the notorious Chinese limit of only one child for a family is a sign that it is sensitive to the need for demographic correction as well as world opinion. Is there a curious paradox at work, with India and China trying to copy each other’s values and priorities, perhaps meeting half-way? Zakaria rightly began by highlighting our next election as a global event of signal importance, with nearly 700 milliion citizens eligible to vote for candidates and parties of their choice and hopes. The disenchantment with corrupt governance and the constantly widening class conflicts, in addition to caste politics will persist, because India is beset with deficits in fuels, water, quality coal, iron ore and exports in high demand which will cramp its rise to great power pretentions.

The recent rise of the Aam Aadmi party led by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi indicates a general feeling of disaffection, but may not be a portent of a rapid transformation of Bharata Varsha into Rama Rajya or Utopia, or even a Xerox-China. Zakaria dwelt on the regions of India which have developed in the last two decades with remarkable growth rates, and cities like Surat. His focus on Narendra Modi and the AAP betrayed no partiality, but brought out success stories latent in many parts of the country.

Of course, we Indians are different, as organic individuals, even as fruits from the same tree. It is to our credit that we can think for ourselves. We do lack an all-India bond of collective action for the common benefit, but that can change, if we cooperate and achieve our objectives in graduated steps, with courage and confidence. Let our resolutions flow from such diverse imaginings.

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