Monday, March 28, 2005

With changing times, the needs change : India does not need any more NGO/NPO, but sustainable development

There are several ways to tackle the current unfortunate situation(s)
prevailing in India. The need of the hour is a fast, visible change. Such a change is possible via (1) increased participation of common people in the nation-building/reforming process; (2) making conditions amenable so that the right people (bureaucrats, IAS officers, etc.) are in the right place; and (3) improving the economic scenario of people, esp. in the rural areas where still 70 percent of our population resides.

All the above three action programs will be most effective when they are implemented either in a parallel fashion or in quick succession. Needless to say, within each action agenda, there can be various ways to go about implementing them. A few possible ways are outlined below which calls for reader's attention.

Interestingly, NRIs can play a direct or indirect yet influential roles in all the above three areas.

1. National Level Seminar or Lecture Series : People's Participation

Hope, ideas, passion sustain life and its encompassing progress. With the current level despair prevailing in the country, the first thing that can help us see the light at the end of the tortuous tunnel is HOPE.

To generate this HOPE, a national level seminar/lecture series in all 530 districts on a national basis by scores of speakers aggresively for an year (and at a slower pace thereafter) is proposed. The details of which are outlined below :

- Identify and have big personalities, the stalwarts like Arun Shourie,
Kiran Bedi, Girish Karnad, Nani Palkhiwala, Ratan Tata, Sam Pitroda, Parmeshwar Rao, ManMohan Singh, T N Seshan etc. to speak at various key locations. These are the people that have seen the system, had stood for their beliefs, most importantly survived, and in turn brought subtle yet perceptible changes in the system.

[Money will be needed to pay for all the expenses + presentation facilities ]

- the speakers choose the topics they want to speak (of course topics need to be non-controversial, development and society-related and thought provoking). Let these speakers address the issues that they think is important with a good dose of motivation mixed in their speeches.

- through dialogues and participatory speeches these speakers give the
audience a local (or national ?) vision and there is one-to-one
interaction between the two.

- Each motivated individual will come up with her own set of ideas and
action programs based on his thought process and societal background.
Thus, these motivated people, which may range from just one to hundreds, will be provided with sufficient information (on hard copy) about NGOs, ideas, local activists, willing and helpful business people whom they can contact for pursuing and transforming their newly found hopes/ideas into action.

This chain action-reaction in individuals will hopefully bring the light at the far end of the tunnel appear closer and even brighter. Each motivated individual will act like a "small" lighthouse to himself and a few around him.

2. Catalysing/Lobbying to get the right bureaucrats quickly in an
administrative place where they can make drastic changes affecting the
population at large.

If you see why people are so much aware of elections, election commission, voting, candidates, spending in elections etc. - it is mainly because of one person T N Seshan. Why we have STD facilities in every nook and corner of India - because of Sam Pitroda. Why Surat is so clean, has footpaths, wide roads, and people are more socially aware of their duties in Surat - it is mainly attributed to S R Rao. Why Bangalore is changing is so rapidly
and it will be a world-class city like London, New York - because of its new commissioner. The list of examples can go on.

But the point is that on a daily basis, no where in the world do the
politicians actually run the country - it is a handful of bureaucrats
because of whom the system works or does not work. The point here is not that if T N Seshan is a great person or S R Rao is a wonderful guy or one of these should be made the Prime Minister of India. The point is that we really just need a few bureaucratic positions filled with right, honest, motivated, go-getter IAS officers.

The politicians always listen to the NRI community because of their
(misplaced, superficial, wealth, whatever) aura. Now if this influence can be used to lobby to get the right candidates quickly into positions where they can make the change without being jerked around, the country will change at a much faster, visible rate. In other words, we need some key people at central govt. bureaucracy and some bureaucrats at state levels. A big task but not humungous, difficult but not impossible.

The Plan of Action :

- Identify the honest, go-getter IAS officers involved in various sections of the day-to-day governance in India. This is to be done via individual contacts and media reports.

- Identify the people (Ministers, Senior IAS officers) who influence the transfer/promotion of IAS officers i.e. find the influential people in the system (note : these may or may not be corrupt)

- Use NRI power (economic influence, contacts, money) to influence these 'influential people' and get the honest IAS offices higher and higher up in the bureaucratic ladder. The NRI power can come from big shot NRIs like CEOs, economists, etc. as well as collective voice of support from average, concerned NRIs - common individuals like you and me.

3. The Indians across the globe should start on their own, fund new ventures, or partner with their friends/relatives in India; to start several labour intensive businesses/industries in villages, towns, cities. A small company employing even 10-100 people can do as good as a few NGOs together and more importantly, it brings in sustainable
development and creates real wealth within the country.

When you are employing a person, you are supporting an entire family (on average 5 persons). In Indian context you go much beyond that because if you are supporting a family you are supporting the brothers/sisters of the person whom you are employing and his/her spouse's brothers/sisters and their families. You will understand this more clearly if you just think of your own family and how the entire web of brothers/sisters etc. is helped/supported by each other in India. So just giving one salary, you are fending for their education, health, food, living, children, brothers, sisters, their families, clothes etc. So just one company does a sustainable development for 250 individuals. Out of these 250 individuals on an average one can expect 2 individuals to donate, volunteer, join an NGO, start a business, be a successful enough bureaucrat to influence the society for good or be a school teacher etc.

Again, a business needs a lot of things and so in turn support at least 10 other business/industries by purchasing services/goods from them, each of whom in turn support on an average 250 persons each just as your company.

If we go on like this, this domino effect is endless and is the most sustainable.

This company/business/industry can be as simple as a grocery store, electrical or plumbing shop, petrol station, courier franchise etc or as no profit enterprise as school, college, library etc or as complex as food processing plant, airplane manufacturing facility, corporate orchards, gardens, farming etc. depending on the level of investment available, how involved you want to be, etc.

For the above you do not have to go back to India for good, you just have to identify among your friends, relatives, contacts or just any person whom you can trust enough to work on a long distance business relationship. It does not have to be a business where the services/goods are sold in some other country.

When people have their basic needs taken care of, they do not go into anti-social activities, they are more aware and try to remain in the legal system.

If NRIs world over even start one business per NRI, we will change the entire country for good. But again, to expect every one to do is impractical, so we just need a handful of NRIs to do large # of such businesses in different fields in different geographical areas across the country.

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