Feb 1, 2013

Blueprint for redeeming India

India is going to the dogs. The stray and rabid variety.
The sooner you accept this, the sooner we can move on with this discussion. There is no point talking about how good we are, compared to certain other neighbours or third world countries. We were supposed to be a nation on the rise. We should have been aiming for the stars, not crawling in the mud as we are presently.

If you could choose 5 key flaws in the system and try to correct them so that India would move back towards being a 'nation we are proud of', what would you choose ? These are the five arrows in my quiver.



1. Bring back the role of education.
Flaw : As a doctor who spent a decade studying, I can honestly say I will never allow my children to join this field. Not that a child of mine would be that stupid, I hope. While I studied through my teens and twenties, balancing distinctions and failures, blood and bones, I come out of the operation theatre after twilight today to read more stories of uneducated '5th standard-pass goons - turned MLAs - turned MPs' cribbing about the hard earned 1000 crores in their account. 

That's what India is today - a nation where the educated work hard to break though the middle class barrier into the higher class, while those who chose a life of violence after spurning education get chosen for the 'power' they garner via bloodshed and end up as ministers who decide my future. 
While the young guns pass out of college and jump onto the corporate ladder, you have a bunch of rowdies with criminal sheets longer than their rifles and no educational background all turning into successful entrepreneurs after joining politics. Now tell me, why would my generation want their kids to suffer through geometry and organic chemistry when they can stop studying after learning the basic languages and become crorepatis for free ? 

Solution : Education is the key. There is no other alternative to moving a country forward. The present bunch of politicians and their posse may have amassed in billions but they have done it at the expense of moving the nation forward. We were considered a very viable sixth superpower as the century began. Today, we are mocked at every level for our scams : from Olympic associations to mobile networks, religious intolerance to safeguarding our own soldiers and people - in every aspect, we are failing. We need to take a step back to move forward. Focus on education at the basic level. Education at a minimal cost till 12th standard for all is not impossible, not for a country which pays an actress Rs 1.4 crores to dance for eight minutes at a state sponsored show. Knowledge should be available and unbiased, focusing on individual aptitude instead of decimal point percentages. 
Moreover, choose an apt leader based on his qualifications. Debar politicians with scandals and heinous criminal records... these people decide your fate once they sit on the chair. But till that moment when the chair is theirs, they depend on you. Vote for able educated leaders to govern you, not puppets and monsters.


2. Res ipsa loquitor 
Flaw : They say you shouldn't hold a trial by media. Of course it's right but sometimes you have to stop questioning just for the sake of questioning. If the ball has sailed into the top tier of the stand, the umpire doesn't need to call up the third umpire to ask if it was a four or a six. It's obvious to everyone who has seen it. 
That, in a nutshell, is 'Res ipsa Loquitor - The thing speaks for itself'.
These last few years, so many incidents - from the gross overcharging of items at the taxpayers expense during the Commonwealth Games to the obvious inciting of communal hatred by certain youth political leaders and obvious accumulation of wealth disproportionate to income ( where do I even begin ?! Son-in-laws, Party presidents... ) - have been obvious cases of crimes and illegal activities. Yet, the biggest leaders of the country stood behind the corrupt even in the presence of evidence. It didn't matter that they were guilty, it was just imperative to subvert justice and free them for the party's sake. IPS officers and news channels which tried to unravel the webs of deceit were coolly coerced, bribed or humiliated while we as a nation stood silently and watched.


Solution : Make people accountable for their crimes. Fast track cases of relevance and ensure justice befitting the crime. Postponing cases, tampering with evidence or trying to subvert justice should be dealt with severely. The law and it's suave younger brother, the CBI, cannot belong to a political party in power. They are for the nation. The present generation knows they can't turn to the law for justice because money and power talk more clearly than silly facts. That is the point where the iron must strike the anvil. Restore faith in the system. Show that you are not afraid to prosecute the influential. Let the people of India know that in this country, given the choice between two young girls asking a simple question on Facebook and ministers inciting riots, it REALLY IS the latter who will be behind bars and not the former.    



3. Grow up.
Flaw : Vishwaroopam. Salman Rushdie. M F Hussain. Mangalore. Guwahati. New Delhi. Kolkata. 
I'm tired of every unsolicited goon jumping up to defend my culture and freedom by attacking fellow Indians. Intolerance is on the rise. The victim and simultaneous antagonist is apparently our culture. There are groups which name themselves after a few religious titles and therefore become authentic judges of evil. They protect us Indians every day... from couples kissing, from paintings and books we will never see or read in real life. They descend upon us in hordes - our saviours - and beat, molest and humiliate young impressionable minds for being in love or having a thought different from theirs. They are offended when Hrithik kissed Ash in a movie, when a movie title had the word 'Barber' in it and when King Akbar was wrongly represented because Akbar was our chaddi-dost, I guess. 

Solution : Do you really see a young couple kissing or giving Valentine's Day cards as a crime similar to 40 people molesting a girl ? Can anyone tell me (without the aid of Google ) the colour palette of the nude Goddess paintings that so offended your religion, the verses so vile that fatwas sprouted faster than chickpeas ? 

Stop living in the past and grow up. The world is changing. Moral culture wasn't supposed to be a bad word. Definitely we have a fair bit to learn from our past, but we were never perfect. I would much rather live in a world where there was a crime of too much love and affection than one where hatred, intolerence and violence predominated. 
For that the next generation has to stand up for their rights. You can't get cowed down because a set of 20 fanatics scream 'shame'. Fight for your rights. If the police side with them, go higher up. Force the issue. Because the law is on your side. A bunch of illiterates win because they aim to humiliate you. Once before, they got their just returns when a budding fanatic was sent thousands of pink chaddis ( including one specially sent from yours truly. ) That single act shut down his power struggle and rendered him inconsequential. 
Don't take your freedom lightly. Yesterday, it was somebody else on the streets. Tomorrow, it maybe you in your living room.


4. 'Health is wealth', not 'health requires wealth'.
Flaw : While I am actively against the demonisation of Indian doctors, I have always said that many do suffer a bad name for the sins of the few. I cannot pretend that patients don't get turned away from hospitals for want of cash. I cannot pretend that female foeticide does not occur. Medical malpractise. Others horrible sins. But at what level can change begin ?

Solution : We need a system of healthcare for all in India, akin to Obamacare. I know there are many flaws to it, but as a layperson you do not see what I and my colleagues see every day - poor, malnourished mothers with no food for themselves, begging us to somehow do something and procure the medicines for their children. It's not fair to us as Indians to have to watch fellow Indians die because they couldn't get saline (purified salt and water). The balance between hospitals needing to make a profit to survive and patients who lose the love of their lives because of a few fifty rupees ... it is one every hospital faces. 
Yet, never do I see any political party focus on healthcare for the nation. Everyone is too busy playing mosque-temple-mosque while people are dying. Demand that your local MLAs take a stern message to his higher-ups asking for 'standard yet economical' health care for you. As we saw in the tragic Delhi rape case, only when you stand up for your basic rights will the system bother to change. Your health is not just about eating apples and oranges... it is also about surviving accidents and unforeseen illness. With a feasible healthcare plan, patients don't have to be taxed by the exorbitant doc fees they fear and doctors don't have to worry about whether a patient will get the basic medication that can save them.


5. Learn to respect women.
Flaw :  One thing that the recent infamous Delhi case did was it brought out the aging weevils in the woodwork. From 'painted and dented' to 'call me Bhaiyya, I won't rape you', all manner of creatures found their way to the front of a microphone. The sad part ? It revealed the mindset not just of the individual, but of a large section of India. Everyone, in the end, wanted the caged woman, locked in their house away from others gazes while making rotis and fanning the husbands as they watched cricket matches. People used terms like 'Lakshman Rekha' to blame the girl. Inner conscience. Wear burqas. 

Solution : It isn't fair that we should ask women to defend themselves. This is a free democracy. When people say famous Indian women, it shouldn't be about Indira Gandhi and Rani of Jhansi anymore. It definitely shouldn't be about Sita and Draupadi. Move on. We had astronauts, CEOs, world champions in various athletic events, internationally acclaimed directors, authors and artistes. They brought respect to us. Being a woman in India isn't about being equated with Durga or Kali. 
Just because it means they can't be there to mollycoddle you or tell you constantly how awesome you are (the way your mommy used to) doesn't make them 'impure' or 'dented' as some idiots say. If anything, it makes them more awesome, because they are now handling more on their platter than the generation before them. It is frankly unbelievable and appalling that in 2013, we are still debating on issues like how women wearing jeans or chatting on mobile phones makes them less pure than a generation before them - you think illicit relationships, runaway brides and illegitimate children never used to occur before we were born ? Seriously ? Change your mindset. If the evil is in our mind, asking the girl to cover herself up in meters of saris or burqa isn't the solution. Changing our mentality of what the modern woman is and can be - that's where we win the battle.


I believe these 5 points ( Education. Justice. Sensibility. Health. Equality ) are key for India to move forward again from the purgatory we are in presently. Hopefully, someday I will get to see that India as well.