To ‘create wealth’, we must stop ‘making money’

The country has been reeling under the impact of a series of scams that have rocked the very foundations of the trust and confidence of citizens. It has also given rise to a new breed of Indians -- ‘fugitive millionaires’ -- who flee to other countries with their ill-gotten wealth, leaving Indian law enforcement struggling to bring them back. But the PNB scam with Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi have taken these scams to new dimensions of deception and deceit. It is time for some introspection.

Sometime back, Sudanshu Palsule, a Cambridge-based award-winning writer and special adviser to the UN, in an interesting interview with a journalist made a fine distinction between ‘making money’ and ‘creating wealth’. In clear terms, he stressed the importance of creating wealth above making money for India to scale new heights.

Making money and creating wealth are not the same thing. Generally, it is considered that a wealthy person is one who has assets worth billions, or at least hundreds of millions. Along with this goes a fleet of high-end luxury cars and a high-flying lifestyle.

Wealth is flaunted as a symbol of power. Going by the same measure, the wealth of a country is assessed by the strength of its economy and so GDP growth and the vagaries of the Sensex seem to be of prime importance to those building up their assets and to those in governance. Everything else recedes to the background in the mad rush to make more money at the expense of much more valuable and enduring assets.

Even from the point of view of semantics ‘making’ and ‘creating’ carry different connotations. To ‘make’ is to produce, to build, maybe sometimes to cause or even to foment. And so, there are people who make trouble; there are things which make you mad; so and so made a speech; laws are made to be obeyed…and so on.

On the other hand, to create is to originate, invent, devise or contrive something new. Therefore, you procreate when you produce something naturally or give birth to something original; you re-create when you fashion or fabricate something already existing into something more interesting. Creativity has to do with originality, imagination and inventiveness.

The crux of the matter is that when you make something, even if it is money, it sounds mundane and mechanical, lacking lustre and vibrancy. On the other hand, creating something is a challenging task requiring ingenuity and a focus on far-reaching goals.

Somewhere down the line, we Indians have lost track of our potential for creativity and allowed the tentacles of prosaic materialism to overcome us. In our country at present, making money through devious and corrupt ways seems to have become a national obsession, and no one seems exempt from it -- the politicians and bureaucrats entrusted with the just and efficient running of the country, businessmen and business houses, and even the banks, public and private, that should be custodians of the common man’s money. Even those in the noble professions of education and medicine don’t seem able to resist this evil.

The only answer to this malady is to develop a concept of creating wealth, which means harnessing resources for the growth and development not of individuals alone but of the country as a whole. It is an evolutionary process, involving many, and a product of collective effort.

The wealth of an individual lies in his innate integrity and his moral values. This alone will give one the power to keep under control the desire to make money that could corrupt the mind and desecrate the heart.

The moral force

The wealth of a nation lies in its resources. First of all, in its human resources -- men and women with strength of character who with a clear vision and a sense of mission will help build a stable and sound society based on valid traditional principles, as well as who are futuristic in their outlook. It is ironic that the West has been able to harness some of our best human resources better than us.

The wealth of a nation also lies in its natural resources, which is god’s gift to mankind. While we have the right to harness it and enjoy it, as all gifts are meant to be, we also have a moral obligation to protect and preserve this wealth.

The wealth of a nation also lies in the richness of its heritage. The greatness of India lies in its resilience and its spirit of tolerance, which are the mainsprings of its cultural wealth. With horror stories of mob violence and sexual offences against the weak and the vulnerable on the increase and no major action taken against the perpetrators, except for some television debates and journalistic outcries, while political parties play their blame games, the disturbing question that arises in everyone’s mind is, whether as a nation we lack integrity and have lost our conscience, allowing apathy and selfishness to set in. It is time sociologists, social psychologists, historians and others in the field started researching on the underlying causes of this overall decline in the value system of this country. After all, we are the ones who have given to the world the noble principles of ahimsa and satyagraha — the moral courage to individually and collectively stand up for what is right.

In these troubled times of doubt and conflict, as Indians, it is our duty to preserve and multiply this greatest of wealth that we have inherited. Khushwant Singh in his usual tongue-in-cheek humour once remarked, ’India is constipated with a lot of humbug’. Let us not lose track of our vision of creating wealth in a mindless pursuit of money.

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To ‘create wealth’, we must stop ‘making money’

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