I joined Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati in 2006. With an attire of khaadi kurta and pony-tail I soon got the name of “Rocky-sir” amongst students.
In 2007 August 15 I asked students to join us for a group discussion on the major problems in India and what “we” (i.e. you and me) can do towards it.
The squirrel from the Ramayana has always been one of my biggest inspirations. For those who may not know the story, in the epic Ramayana Lord Rama builds a bridge from Indian mainland to Sri Lanka. All the mighty animals from the jungle came to help the Lord.
Even a tiny squirrel did not let his size deter it and came to help. To have the maximum contribution it found a novel way. It would dip in ocean, then roll on sand and then shake off the sand on the bridge.
Pausing the story here I an just say that I have always believed that irrespective of our size we can contribute in our own ways. Few days after that group discussion one student came to meet me with a lot of his ideas.
We tried to work together on some of those which later gave rise to the Zero-Illiteracy-Zone (ZIZ) activities in the IIT where our students would teach the children from local schools over the weekends.
Long after that phase a few weeks back the same student asked me to discuss and muse over the problems of the nation and what can be done. And we had the first meeting over which we tried to discuss the major problems of the nation. And on this independence day blog I shall try to put down what I feel as the major issues in the nation right now.
One aspect we discussed was the range of welfare majors the government has been trying to take. Some tend to suggest that the government should not give anything for free. However, in a civilised society it is just inhumane to deny our own citizens the right to the bare minimum basic amenities like food and medical aid. However there are two major problems in these schemes. First of all many of these do not reach the intended sector because of corruption. And secondly many times those who get the benefit of things like free food choose not to work at all. Corruption is in lime light anyway. So we shall try to focus on the second problem of laziness. This comes when a person loses inspiration to improve his own lot.
The second biggest issue we found was “inequality” be it based on caste, religion or sex. Female foeticide and infanticide are still happening as we muse. Caste based politics and discrimination is still a big deterrent in many regions. That made me think of how things are different in South Africa and India. In SA they tend to think that the white minority is still successful because they have inherited lot of capital over generations. In India (and also in many cases in SA) the real inheritance is not money, rather heritage. Because my ancestors were of high caste, learned and respected I “believe I can do it as well”. So the actual problem we found (besides the usual age old stigma and the lack of education) was that we need to inspire people growing/living under oppressive environment that they can do it.
I do not want to tell that corruption or the lack of education is are not big problems. I just want to thrust that the real and the biggest challenge will be to “inspire” and make Indians “tryst with destiny”.