July 19, 2010

A Nation of Extremes

India- A nation which is proud of its culture, its people, its spirituality and its values. A nation where multiple religions co-exist peacefully (for the most part), and whose democracy as a system of governance is used as a case study, all over the world. However, India is also a nation which is painted in a canvas of extremes. The divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, the optimism of increasing growth rates and the pessimism of consumerism, all add to the starkness of this divide.

2009 has been a year of global economic turbulence, with recession triggering a domino effect, the results of which, were felt the world over. India too felt these tremors, and after a period of gloom, the clockwork started to whir towards growth, signifying cheer on Dalal Street. The dawn of 2010 and the Union Budget have further strengthened this resolve, with the markets nodding their approval on Pranab Da’s ‘aam aadmi’s Budget’. Thus, on paper and the Sensex, India looks firmly set on a path of unprecedented growth, with comparisons of the Indian Tiger vs. the China Dragon being rampant amongst economic circles.

However, this optimism is surely misplaced, as we are thinking of reaching level 10 without the first nine levels having been constructed. The problems that we as a nation face, our extremely basic in nature, and yet we continue to live with it, applauding our resilience, tenacity, and the ‘spirit’ of the undying patriotism of being Indian. Worse still, we choose to blind ourselves and ignore what is blatantly in our faces- basic need fulfillment, which is woefully inadequate.

Look around you, and look hard. Stop and think. Is this what a developing nation or an emerging economy looks like? Look at the garbage, the squalor, the pollution, the lack of infrastructure, the indifference, the lack of work ethics, discipline, education and respect for a fellow human being. Why are we as a nation ok with all of this? Why do we take the sheer amount of bull-shit meted out to us on an average day? Is it that we are ok with things the way they are, or is it that we just don’t care? Why can’t we say that we have had enough and things need to change?

I drive to work everyday, and apart from dodging the now normal amount of pedestrians, cows, auto rickshaws, hand carts & crazy taxi drivers, I am now contending with every route to office being dug up for one project or the other. At one point, Dr. E Moses Road (where my office is), was dug up for 3 different projects (the Mahalaxmi Sky Walk, BMC drain work, and Worli road concretization), making it all most impossible to traverse this 500 meter stretch in less than 20 minutes. Roads to Chembur (where I live), are part of another nightmare with the Mumbai Metro, Mono Rail, Flyovers, and more BMC digging partly blocking each of the 5 different routes that you could think of taking from Worli to Chembur. A journey that should not take more than 40 minutes (accounting for traffic signals which do not follow any TMS), this journey now takes 1.5 hours, one way. That is 3 hours of each day spent in traveling.
Walking on Mumbai roads should be added to the list of most dangerous activities in the world. With no pavements to walk on (since hawkers, beggars, squatters, more digging by BMC/ MMRDA), people have to walk on the roads and dodge an obstacle course with the bet being human life. Add to this the sheer piles of rubbish, excrement and spit that we throw on our roads, and the thought of walking on them will quail even the best of walking enthusiasts.

The levels of pollution in the city are another cause for concern. Air pollution and suspended particulate matter lead to bronchitis and chest congestion, water pollution leads to high levels of water borne diseases, Noise pollution in the form of emphatic honking, all make this one of the worst places to live in. No wonder then that the average rate of life in Mumbai is amongst the lowest in the country at 52.
Corruption and bureaucracy are eating away at our foundations with government projects not seeing the light of day. Delayed projects mean escalation in costs, with kickbacks going into the politicians’ coffers. We need to set a system of governance in place, where responsible parties are held accountable for the projects they undertake.

The apathy that is now synonymous with our people is most prevalent in the white collared corridors of corporate organizations. Long working hours without pay, indifferent, biased and incompetent bosses, hours spent in politics, back stabbing and taking credit for other people’s work, coupled with grossly underpaid and worse still de-motivated employees, is the true emerging picture of professional India. The stress levels in most Indian organizations would never be tolerated elsewhere in the world, and yet we are all ok with being treated like the scum of the earth.

Frankly, I am fed up. Fed up of having to fight for everything everyday. Fed up of wanting to have a decent work and life balance, clean & green transport, hygienic food which is not genetically modified, and fed up for not getting any appreciation for the work & hours I put in. The thought of going back to the basics and living like a farmer seems more and more attractive. I wonder whether life is coming full circle for all of humanity, and whether we shall revert to becoming cave men, having destroyed the planet with our greed and corruption, so that what will be left, will be to fulfill basic needs of food, water & shelter…

1 comment:

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