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Sriram Balasubramanian
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 16 : 19

India in 2012 and America in1900s


The past week has been a tumultuous time for anyone who has been viewing the public discourse on both print and television. On one end you have had the outrageous continuous rapes in Haryana and the sheer insensitivity towards it. On the other hand, you have the anti corruption activists upping their ante by labeling a slew of allegations to confront graft in a society that is mired in coordinated self interest at various levels of public service. In essence, we have a society which is growing with enormous inequality, rising activism and growing yearn for accountability at all levels.

There was a similar situation in America almost a century or so ago. It coincided with an era that rapid growth yet significant corruption in the public and private sector. America had a large number of activists who had helped usurp the cancer of corruption which was prevalent at that time. It included the like of Jacob Riis, Upton Sinclair, Ida Tarbell, and Helen Hunt Jackson. This was the catalyst for its resurgence in the global economic and geo political sphere beyond the 1940s and led them being the most dominant country in the world till date.

Now, fast forwarding back to 2012, a similar trend is catching up with the world's largest democracy. The youth are restless with abundant energy; they want opportunity and they want to succeed. In front of them lies a system that is steeped in buearocratic maze and is still an inheritance of the colonial establishment. In front of them lies a system that is trudging its way through as the youth evolve at a rapid pace with technology being the bedrock of their existence. The socialist era of India is playing catch up to the capitalist era that the youth are steeped in; the latter has no other choice but to catch up since the youngsters since they are the pulse of society. More than anything else, this is a time where transparency is the mantra and systems are trying to be redefined to instill more accountability.

Much like the initial era of American developmental history, activists are playing a greater role in enhancing the role of accountability in the system (though I don't agree with all that they do). A prominent example is the RTI act, which in my view, is one of the most important steps undertaken in enhancing the transparency of the system. Though it has its own shortcomings, it has provided an avenue for the common man to know what the government is doing on anything. The Anna Hazare phenomenon has triggered a sense of need to question the way society runs, right from the top to the mundane panchayat levels. This might be predominantly an urban phenomenon driven by 24 *7 televisions yet it has created a beginning somewhere. One aspect that has multiplied the effect of this in the 21st century, unlike the movements in the 19th century, is the power of technology.

In the 20th century, the pace was slow. It took years from the late 1800s to the early 1900s in America to have a considerable impact on the society. In today's world, technology is a razor weapon for change. Mediums such as social media and the Internet have created change in an instant manner. We had bypassed the fixed telephonic era and entered directly into mobile phones in the 21st century; look at the number of mobile phones in the country today. The Aadhar initiative, despite concerns regards to privacy could be still the massive game changer. The Prime Minister inaugurated recently the cash transfers via Aadhar in a specialized ATM near villages. In fact, this process has already begun in some areas, thus enabling the potential of bypassing the middlemen who are at the heart of corruption in rural India. This enables cash to go directly to the needy. Another small instance of the power of technology is the traffic cops using technology to give fine receipts to people who violate traffic laws. This significantly eliminates the petty corruption that is so synonymous with the cops at the grassroots levels. Technology is indeed playing a starring role in expediting the processes so that it can reach to a wide canvass of people.

I am not here telling you that everything is rosy in this country. I don't deny that there is a massive inequality, there are massive issues with shortage of food, significant corruption and there are concerns with regards to nutrition among the children. Things are shaky but one thing that is changing is the acceptance and the 'chalta hai' attitude with this rot. The socially conscious classes who are educated are not accepting the status quo, they are coming out to ask questions and that is a healthy sign for progress in the longer term. In such a diverse country like India, this process is bound to be chaotic and one has to bulldoze our way through.

Amidst all the concerns, the India story is far but over, this is the beginning of a chaotic transformation that is likely to bulldoze its way through to create a vibrant and combative democracy.

Much like the American struggle, history might remember this era as the trigger for India's dominance in the years to come.

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More about Sriram Balasubramanian

Sriram Balasubramanian is a Journalist, voracious reader, avid Blogger, social enthusiast and a believer in excellence not mediocrity. With an inherent passion towards journalism and writing, he believes in playing the "Straight Drive" all the time. Besides this, he has a MS in Engineering Management and has played Chess for Singapore.



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