TODAY -

Do or Die India

Yashwanth Dhakshana *

"Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."



The quote above was said nearly 50 years ago in 1961 by former U.S. President John F. Kennedy during his inaugural speech when he was being sworn in as the next leader of the United States of America. Though Mr. Kennedy is long dead, assassinated while riding in a limo, his words couldn't be truer for a country like India especially when its 1.2 billion inhabitants and nearly 35 million expats abroad aspire for it to become not just a superpower but a developed country as well, devoid of poverty, corruption and filth on the streets.

And why can't India be like that? It's home to one of the most intuitive, influential and globally recognized people of all time. We deserve those things and more. Yet a walk on an Indian street can leave anyone from all walks of life with a feeling of hopelessness and despair, making them question just how a country like India can ever revert back to its natural state (the one before the Europeans invaded)? Well it is possible I tell you. India can become the number one economy on Earth and a first world country at the same time but it can only happen if we Indians make it happen instead of just sitting around blaming our government and bureaucracy for the country's endless inefficiencies.

When it comes to poverty is it so difficult for Indians who reside abroad or those who make up one of India's more then 250 million strong middle class population to sponsor a needy child and help put them through school? There are countless websites such as worldvision.org (the one I personally use), planindia.org and savethechildren.org that focus on bringing education, clean water and good food to children for a measly monthly donation; giveindia.org is another great site too.

These children are the future of our country. If they become educated and contribute to India as engineers, doctors, game designers, architects and even economists, our country will only prosper. GDP growth is what makes a country wealthier and high skilled jobs sky-rocket that growth immensely; the more smart labor a country has the better economically it will be off. Right now India is growing at 7% GDP growth and is the 3rd biggest economy in PPP and 10th biggest in GDP terms. If India's GDP grows to double-digits it can become the largest economy on Earth in PPP terms and the 2nd biggest in GDP terms by the middle of this century. But this can only happen if the Indians who are living well (both in India and abroad) help those who aren't living well in our own country right now.

This can also help improve India's image. Any Indian living abroad will know how poorly our country is looked upon by the rest of the world. So bad in fact that it can be nothing short of a nightmare to spend more then a few days outside the country's borders due to the endless bashing that it gets (most of which is targeted at the living conditions of our people); slums, beggars and starving children are the only images that they have of India. Thinking which could actually become a thing of the past if we Indians learn to take responsibility for our country's problems. Don't think of a child who's suffering from malnutrition, illiteracy and diarrhea as someone else's problem-but your own. These are our fellow countrymen and there's so many of us who have the capacity to help but shy away from our moral responsibility to our own people. Why is that? We live in democracy for God sake and often like to boast to the rest of the world that it's the biggest on the planet. But many Indians fail to realize that our form of government can only work to its full potential if the common man helps steer the country in the right direction instead of putting blind faith in a ballot box.

Why should India not be a clean country either? Most of India to be frank is dirty; trash is everywhere and the country's image and respect (once again) takes a beating whenever foreigners come for a visit. It doesn't have to be that way. Instead of tossing banana peels, empty Pepsi bottles and cigarette buds onto the ground why can't people put their rubbish into a trash bin? Or keep the leftovers with them until they can find a proper place to dispose it? Why not petition to the local government to hire people to clean India's streets and cover up open sewers which can spread disease and infectious bacteria? Doing this can also put more money in the pockets of Indians and create plenty of jobs as well. The World Bank estimates that India losses $54 billion per annum (or nearly 24,000 crores) from lack of hygiene and sanitation that scares away potential tourists. If India is a cleaner country then more tourists will come to visit who in turn will provide a source of revenue and jobs. By 2020 the country will have to provide jobs to more then a half a billion young people; increased tourism generated by a cleaner country can do that while giving Indians a sense of pride in their own homeland.

Corruption will probably be the most difficult hurdle to overcome but one that can nonetheless - be taken care of. For starters Indians need to learn to stop taking bribes instead of just complaining about having to give them. Think of the good of the nation before any one of you pester someone for a bribe so that you can connect electricity to their home, sign off on some official document or even to enroll their children in pre-school. We need only look to people like Suresh Kalmadi and M. K. Kanimozhi to see how badly the damages that self-interest can cause? The buildup to the Commonwealth Games and the 2G scam could have benefited the nation greatly had they never occurred in the first place.

But if someone does ask you for a bribe report them to the police and refuse to do business with them. Although one of the most effective and proven ways to combat corruption would be for the general public to demand that the government increase the salaries of the police. This has proven to work, especially in Singapore (which went from being one of the most country nations in Asia to being one of the least corrupt nations in the whole world). If corruption is stemmed, India's GDP growth can grow by an additional 1.5% a year which means more people can be taken out of poverty and the country's wealth increases too. Infrastructure can also improve dramatically, especially when it comes to building roads as 50% of the funds that go to this endeavor are siphoned off by corrupt people, which is leading to more then 30% - 50% of food rotting before it reaches market leaving India with roughly 230 million malnourished children.

India's future right now is literally in the hands of its own people. If we aspire for our homeland to become a superpower, a developed country and a nation that garners the respect of others (instead of just ridicule and mean jokes) then we ourselves must set out to solve the many problems that are holding this great nation of ours back. Time is running out for us as the world seems to be losing interest in India due to the rise of other powers and India's ever dwindling growth rate. Now is the time to act my fellow countrymen; it's time to do or die India.


* Yashwanth Dhakshana have written this article and contributed to e-pao.net for the first time. The writer may be contacted at dhakshanayashwanth[AT]yahoo[DOT]com
This article was posted on February 10, 2012



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