Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jugaad is overrated. In fact, Jugaad is the problem..

Something about this entire Anna Hazare tamasha made me very uncomfortable. I didn't know quite what it was, and definitely didn't want to support something without quite reading what it is that I was supporting. Many of you were nice enough to provide links to the various bills being proposed and I actually had a longish post ready for posting on why the bill for which Mr. Hazare risked his life was actually not really worth the food that he was missing out on, etc. But I didn't go for it, for the simple reason that something about the whole thing was a bit off.

Call it the "daal-mein-kuchh-kaala-hai" concept.

Something which told me that corruption in India is less to do with politicians, and more to do with us. The politicians are mere mirrors of where we are as a society.

The way we pay cash to our carpenters to avoid 6% service taxes

The way we pay 100 bucks to the policeman once in 3 weeks and continue to run traffic lights with impunity

The way we provide false rent receipts and the petrol bills of relatives for reimbursements

Something about us.

But something that I couldn't quite call as the reason for my discomfort

And then I read this letter in The New York Times from Mr. Manu Joseph. For those who don't know, Mr. Joseph is the editor of the Open magazine, a really good read online during the coffee breaks.

Money quote:

 
At the heart of this condition is an important Indian character — the uncompromising practicality of the individual, an untamed form of great personal freedom and informality. Every person, irrespective of his level of education or social background, will do what is most convenient to him in the short term. All rules and systems are subordinate to the sheer force of practicality.
 
Mr. Joseph postulates at some point that it may have something to do with our liberalization and subsequent economic growth happening so fast that we've lost the concept of values.

I'm not that smart. I think it goes much beyond that.

Here's my theory:

India as a country and as a people never existed till the British were here and the British were the single reason that India exists as a united country today.  If not for the cruel Lord Clive (and Sardar Patel, I know), we'd have Narendra Modi and Ashok Gehlot have standing armies guarding their borders. Prithviraj Chavan would probably be the leader of a country of the size of Germany and the GDP of Japan.

Karunanidhi would probably still be trying to secure a truce between Stalin and Azhagiri.

But the British came, and for the ease of their administration called it one country. They gave us rules that we could live by.
Because that's what rulers do. Make rules.

However, the people of this new common country had always been so used to being ruled and being told what they can, (and most crucially, cannot) do that once the British went, is when India as a country was actually born. Compared to the west, we're just teenagers . 

Liberalization just added more money to the entire equation.

So we're teenagers who've discovered money
We've never realized that we are the rulers of this country. 
And rulers also have to live by the rules.
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