Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Corruption is the engine for progress in India

Have been working with government at the highest level and can say this with certainty...corruption is the driver for 7.9 and 8 % growth in India. I do not condone or justify it, but surely when you read my arguments, you may end up agreeing with my assessment.

When one visits various major departments of the government, you will find officers, clerks and entire staff burning the proverbial midnight oil working diligently. What drives them? When you see newer projects - major ones like bridges, roads, airports, shipyards, SEZs - think what drives the quick approvals and encouragement? No one is interested in small incremental works - the large, big-ticket ones are what interests all. In my interaction with Ministers, politicians, bureaucrats and others in power - all are ready and willing to help for BIG projects. What drives them?

Take away corruption and the entire machinery of the government will become somnolent. The 8% will turn to less than a percent. The engine for growth in India is corruption.

When Chimanbhai Patel was the CM of Gujarat (called Chiman Chor by the Navnirman student movement), he was probably the most corrupt CM in India's history. The growth of Gujarat started during his time as he passed one major project after another and development and work became the watchword. He made a lot of money, and even started the system of a few lakh cash per month to each MLA, irrespective of party. Then when Keshubhai Patel, a true RSS honest man came to power - work stopped, Gujarat was in the throes of inertia, till Shankar Waghela came and the money mill started spinning.

One of the Civil Aviation Minister had been called one of the most efficient Ministers as he gave order for redevelopment of various airports, bought new planes and spent big time. He made crores and crores off the contracts and purchases. Its a different matter that he has brought AI close to bankruptsy, but the country has got some of the World's best Airports.I could go on and on to make a case for the title of this blog.

Maybe if one stopped flight of money from India and periodically gave opportunities to convert black money into white, by cancelling 1000 and 500 Rupee notes or changing design and pattern of Rs 1000 and 500 notes to make them compulsorily come out of the parallel economy...we could grow by 15% too. The influx of money from the black economy would invigorate the nation and start many more development projects and the corruption would oil the govt mechanism and lead to prosperity.

Unless the electoral system, which has an insatiable appetite for more and more black money, is altered, corruption will continue to be the engine for growth in India.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Indian psyche

When I encounter and observe the modern Indian, I see a brain dead person and wonder how our ancestors could have written the Bhagwada Gita, Vedas or the Upanishads, and where was the disconnect.

So, I analysed about what aspects about us, have made the country so bankrupt in ideas and economy. Most of the conclusions are simplistic, but there is an element of truth.

1. Indians are very emotional and react more with the heart and hence issues like the creation of a 7th Century temple in Ayodhya are taking center stage. All the actions are mostly symbolic. All our Gods and rituals are symbolic.

2. We are not good planners and our thought processes leave too many loose ends, they say in the chaos theory - that out of chaos comes order...well we are still waiting :-)

3. We are the most lazy( the urban Indians), suspicious and cowardly people. Afraid and suspicious of each and every one. Doubting integrities, branding people, nit picking, conspiracy generation, blowing own trumpet, throwing names, not knowing when to stop, a bloated ego and getting "hurt" at the smallest whiff of criticism and making wild allegations, but not having the stomach to take any. Making pre judgments and not having the intellectual honesty or courage of conviction to accept things in the right perspective. The privileged urban Indian, brought up with doting family, fawning servants and access to the facade of a western world view is completely arrogant and a bastardised mixture of the worst of a complex Indian mind and the dregs of a western one. Not for him the discipline and the work culture and structure of a western process, nor the principles of truth, non-violence, renunciation, the "we" unselfish thought process of an Indian one.

4. All our mindsets are based on generalities and divisive thought processes. There is a divisiveness between religions, castes, regions, languages, English and non English speaking, rural and urban, literate and illiterate, locals and outsiders etc etc. And we have pre conceived notions about each of these sections.

5. Even though, we have one of the finest minds - able to work in layered, nuanced, grey areas, as opposed to a structured black and white mind of a westerner, it is completely occupied in mundane and sly matters. We use our minds to subvert the system, to make money out of the system, to exploit people, to do things in a round about manner. We just dont think of doing things in a straight forward manner. That is why when Indians go abroad and where the systems are in place and things can be done in a relatively straight manner, we excel. We just cannot do anything in a normal manner including carry conversations. There are always hidden meanings that you are supposed to add and decipher. If, for example, one is told to sing a song in a party, he will say no and smile and make a joke about what an idiot he is and all that. If you actually override him and go to the next person,. he wont forgive you all his life.

6. We are extremely servile. While bitching about everything on earth, the moment we are confronted with officials and others in higher positions, we completely lose our spine and start touching feet and waiting for a smile from the person. When they made Indians, they forgot to put the spine in his body. The hundreds of years of caste based hierarchy could be the culprit. Very rarely would you find an Indian believing / operating on a 50: 50 relationship, he is either a bully or a spineless recipient of one. And this, in a world view which talks about "Vasudeva Kutumbikam" - we are all equal and connected.

7. There are just two stages of our perception of fellow Indians. One, that he is the scum of the earth. When all that he does is filled with selfish purposes and where he is not better than any garbage. The other type is when he is elevated to a stage of a demi god. They would defer to him, touch his feet, idolize him, but they will not understand him. No one will try and analyze why someone does what and why, but just either push him far below their own levels or idolize.

8. In a transactional analysis, we are still in the 'Child mode'. We sulk, feel hurt, react with anger and lash out on small, petty issues, have fragile , childlike egos, call names to people, run back to the safe confines of home and generally behave as dependent children. That is why you see difficulties of working in a adult frame reference in a democratic, equal basis - in work places, in homes, in citizen groups,in housing societies - every where. We would either be able to work as a child - taking orders and trying to please or giving orders and becoming a bully. That’s why when we have a modicum of discipline in all work places, because like driven sheep, we would be able to work, not because we have the integrity and the conscience to do full justice to our work, but for the fear of the man on top. That’s why government offices don’t work, there is no danda (fear of losing job) and private enterprises are successful, where there is a danda. Having been protected by the mother syndrome, when a man goes out in the world, he hasn’t learnt how to deal in an adult and unjust world and so he goes in the child mode - blaming, cheating, getting angry, bullying, screaming, manipulating till he reaches the safe confines of his home, where he would take it out on his poor wife.

9. Because we do not have the creative thought processes and have the mind of a child, we are totally numbed by the immensity of the problem facing our country. Instead of a Westerner who would sit and analyze and try for a solution, we thrust our head in the sand and get involved more in the family set up and a social setup which has clear lines like religious and caste based relationships. And all the frustrations that one feels when he sees and feels the pain of the nation, is vent out in negative bursts of energy like blaming politicians, talking about killing them, hanging them etc.

10. Most critically, Indians love the feel-good syndrome. Creating castles in the air, being surrounded by people who praise them, refusing to face reality, happy endings and closing the senses to the stench that surrounds. For example, a 8% growth on a $1000 GDP is something that we gloat about, little realising that it would be just 80$ additional per year as opposed to 1% growth of USA or Japan on a GDP of 35000$, or say $350, so the difference is not narrowing and the speed to get close to them is nowhere near the appropriate level. But thats unpleasant, so lets look at the optimistic scenario and stay happy.

The point , that I am making here is that under developed countries are poor and badly managed not just because of the politicians and people in power, but because of the people living in the country. So, changing mindsets and behavioral patterns is a very important exercise.