The #RightToLive

There is a topic trending these days on Twitter – the #RightToBreathe. I was pouring over the opinion of the Twitteratti – it is about different takes on who is responsible for this and how this should be handled. For a moment let me divert from this topic to something little different.

In a corporate environment we are taught about how to bring efficiency. How we go about handling certain tasks that are on priority and move some of them to the bottom of the list? I am talking about the “Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle” where we place the tasks to the four quadrants depending upon their urgency and importance. I had been asked many times – how does it help … which quadrant should we focus upon. My answer has always been “picking up the tasks that are important but not urgent”. The reason is if we procastinate on these Important but Not Urgent tasks there is the likelihood that they will move to the quadrant belonging to Urgent and Important category very soon. This quadrant is the most dangerous one, as these tasks will eventually drain our precious resources and energy.

Now let me go back to my original topic. The situation at hand at New Delhi is resultant of poor planning. Pretty bad situation indeed.

The #RightToBreathe is a situation that rightly fits into that quadrant that is so urgent and important. It is bothering everybody now. Who is to blame? Is it the poor governance or is it that the citizens of independent India are not sensitive enough and doing all things that are not correct for the Environment or the Mother Nature?

It is the culmination of all, everyone should take the blame for this situation and not just the folks at the Raisina Hill.

So where have we failed exactly? In my opinion it is not just one particular area but all possible things that can go wrong have gone so from bad to worse. Why am I saying bad? This had been our state of affairs even when the British left India. The early years post Independence period had been quite a struggle for all. There were challenges galore. The country had been plundered and looted by our erstwhile rulers for decades. The policies that were adopted during pre Independence period were terribly biased towards protecting their own interests. Our forefathers were forced to use the essential commodities – all but made in Great Britain. Our home-grown Steel Industry, Textiles Industry were all left for wanting. Our farmers were not aware of modern ways of cultivation. The green revolution and the industrial revolution could never reach the shores of the Indian subcontinent owing to the apathy shown by our colonial masters. Our farmers weren’t aware of the nuances of cultivation two times per season. The result was that the country faced severe shortage of essential food grains during those days. We needed to import the simplest of the simplest things. The vast majority of the population remained lower middle class.

The political leadership post Independence period was the most confused lot. The policy decisions that were made since then by the successive governments were definitely not to address the long term common good but mostly to protect their seats of power for as long as they could. Our political leadership kept experimenting with Socialistic form of governance assuming that this will reap rich dividend for the country.

Just take a look at the challenges faced by our forefathers during their time – whether it was the ever growing population, or the failing education system, the poverty all around, poor fiscal status of our national treasury, or the lack of integrity in our attitude and last but not the least the looming threat of war with our immediate neighbors. Not much has changed in these seventy years. We are all challenged with bad roads, population that is growing exponentially year after year putting pressure on our natural resources, the ever crumbling infrastructure, the public servants all but eager to extort from the common class at the drop of a hat, an education system that is not producing the best of the talents … too bad. The lucky few who gain entry to the top institutions such as the IITs, IIMs that gets funding from the common public money … a majority of these individuals never really end up serving the country instead preferring greener pastures outside India.

Well, one good thing that has happened is that a large percentage of our population now has suddenly realized that we need to talk more often than before thereby making the cell phone as an essential national commodity these days. Right from that friendly neighborhood vegetable vendor, the known rickshawwalla or that household support staff or even the mason … everyone needs one of these wonder toys.

The Indian Railways is giving free Wi-Fi at major railway stations across India. The last that I heard that Patna junction witnessing the largest internet traffic ever since. If you thought that passengers transiting through this station are doing some serious business with this privilege, then you are wrong. It is about large scale download of porn material.

Well, this has been the state of affairs with us. The general attitude is to make hay when the sun shines, even if it is not morally correct. We take advantage of the loopholes of the systems that are in place such as making money but not pay the taxes, not follow the rules when no one is watching … and the list is endless. So that is about the general attitude of our countrymen, is it so better with our policy makers. As soon as they win the election they consider themselves nothing less that Kings and keep harping for more and more facilities and privileges. Unfortunately they never consider themselves that they are servants of the very general public who had sent these dolts to the temple of democracy. It doesn’t matter which political ideology they belong to, the core attitude remains nearly identical across all political class. We don’t get to see meaningful debates within the policy makers on crucial issues. The opposition opposes each and every policy decision taken by the government making it a constant struggle for the ruling class to conduct business in the house.

The issues that should be accorded “Important but not so Urgent” tag always get pushed to the bottom of the list and thus we see how things change from “bad to worse”. It is fire fighting every time in our nation and our struggle continues.

Right now we are talking about the alarming pollution levels in our nation’s capital New Delhi. It is the Haze everywhere … isn’t it synonymous with the state of affairs of each and every sphere of our life. It is all hazy all around.

I do not intend to finish this write up on too much negative tone. Plenty of good progress also has happened over the last decades. How can we forget the opening up of the country’s economy that lacked the much needed investment? We get to see the very best of the companies eyeing for that pie of the Indian market. Companies like Jaguar Land Rover and Corus getting acquired by Indian business houses is good news for India. India is reckoned as one of the hottest and happening investment destinations. The economy is growing at the pace of 6 to 7 percent and particularly at a time when there is a slump globally. So that is very good indeed. The “Make in India” initiative from the current government seems the right thing and will definitely help develop the domestic industry in a big way. Our space program had been super successful and the space launch industry seems to be growing very well. How can we forget the successful launch of Mangalyaan and India becoming one among the four countries that could put a satellite into Mars’ orbit on its very first attempt? The Light Combat Aircraft is another good example that has been developed with indigenous efforts and those who have seen it say it is world class.

Indian athletes are faring better in International tournaments and making their country proud, is indeed a silver lining for us. However not many parents prefer to risk their children these days taking sports as full time profession – and we are not talking about Cricket alone. So something needs to be done here seriously.

Well, its miles to go … and I am ever optimistic. I dream of a day when our youth need not travel far away from their home states in pursuit of higher education or employment. Be it the farthest corner of the North East or the westernmost corner of Gujarat, from the tip of Jammu and Kashmir or the southernmost point of Kerala – our countrymen deserve to have their fundamental needs fulfilled. No one should be seen as wanting for food, shelter, medical help or basic education.

If not now, then never – we need to shed our old ways of functioning and bring about a change. We owe it to our next generation.

The #RightToLive is our birthright.

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