Friends, India celebrates its 69th Independence Day today. The very first moments of its independence Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru struck an awesome aspirational note. Today, most remembrances and commemorations are busy evaluating India's progress or lack thereof. The aspirational element seems to be weakening. Don't get me wrong, there is an awful lot to be proud of and an equally awful lot to be worried. Despite all challenges India's democracy continues its march. The state of the Indian union is far from perfect but it's holding up. The most fervent desire of India's founding generation was to create a nation that belonged to every single citizen. And ciitzens felt a true sense of ownership. They wanted a nationalism that was not jingoistic but humanistic. They wanted India to become the greatest exponent of democracy. They were weary of majoritarianism, they were weary of identity-driven oppression, they were weary of unfair markets and they were weary of foreign intervention. Today, India has more or less embraced the market as its vehicle for economic evolution and has little fear of foreign intervention. India's sovereignty and confidence in the community of nations is unchallenged. But majoritarianism and identity-driven discrimination is still alive. Most worryingly, hyper-active in the political realm. It simply dominates there. This regressive nature of India's polity is eventually going to be the drag in its pursuit to fulfill the dream of its founders. Let's be clear that this drag is impacting millions of lives. Millions who if fully accepted, institutionally and socially, could dramatically enhance the nation's economic prospects through their ingenuity and productivity. A polity that pays lip service to diversity but contests elections on polarizing identity-based campaigns is self-defeating. The deafening chorus of creating a great India from this misguided polity is intellectually disingenuous. Perhaps because their very definition of India itself is incomplete. Sounds weird that 68 years later we are still seeking the definition of India's true nationalism. To some it's just territory plus traditions. To others it also includes people. The ordinary, toiling millions who are still surviving day to day. To me, it's all of the above. Any definition of India that excludes any group based on identity is an incomplete and thus, wrong definition. This isn't about competing nationalisms but about ensuring any nationalism that is prescribed meets a minimum threshold of humanism. And this isn't necessary just from a moral stand point. The Indian economy's vibrancy will completely depend on the vitality of its human capital. The more our polity shackles this human capital by chains of identity the less energy will be available for India to meet its true destiny. Diversity isn't just a feel good concept but it's a very real ingredient for success in a globalized and sophisticated world. I am still waiting for corporate India to throw up a critical mass of progressive leaders who drive home this point about diversity. That's one quarter from which we rarely hear much about the social conditions that are needed to create an innovative, creative and skilled workforce they badly need. If they continue to pander to political outfits that merely promise less regulation and nothing more then it is hard to see corporate India staying competitive. Its time to create that great confluence of progressive ideas that pull in currents not just from the intellectual class driven by an aspirational moral order but also from the entrepreneur and business class with whom now lies the economic well being of this 68 year young democracy of 1.2 billion people. Peace. Rohit.
Monday, August 17, 2015
India at 68 - Time to fully leverage diversity
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