Asked recently what was the reason
was still a developing country after nearly 72 years of independence and
obvious progress in some fields, an elderly gentleman, who had been a member of
an all-India service for all but the first two of the Indian republic's first
forty years, replied that our DNA was defective. Well, the fault does not lie
in our DNA but in the culture we have developed and have adopted over the last
couple of centuries. Barring for some honourable exceptions, it is a culture of
dishonesty, self-delusion, indiscipline, irresponsibility, and
under-performance. If India
is to really do justice to the talent of a billion plus Indians and the
opportunities they are having, the present negative culture will have to be
replaced by the culture of four positives - Honesty, Excellence,
Law-abidingness, and Responsibility. What follows is an explanation, in some
detail, of each of these four positives. India
Honesty here is an all-encompassing term for honesty of purpose, truthfulness, transparency, fairness, sense of justice, intellectual integrity, courage of conviction, pecuniary honesty, accuracy, walking the talk, delivery as per promise, and, above all, being honest to oneself. Why honesty is much more than an ethical and moral nicety and being of immense practical value is absolutely essential for nation-building can be seen in the following.
Research, including scientific, is basically a pursuit of truth and thrives in an atmosphere of honesty where results even if negating the very hypothesis originally sought to be proved are valued. That is how science progresses, inventions and innovations are made possible.
Trust is built on honesty and competence. For the same level of competence, higher honesty gives rise to higher trust; and in a high trust society, transaction costs are less, which results in faster economic progress.
If we are at point A and are honest about it, only then we can correctly chart out our journey to point B, the destination. Any self-delusion about the starting point or the destination will make the journey unsuccessful. Hence, the importance of honest measurements!
Excellence, which literally is excelling yourself in some desirable activity of mind or body, goes much beyond competence. In fact, our take on the excellence vs. competence debate is - While competence helps you keep your customers, excellence delights them. For the more mathematically inclined, competence is necessary for excellence but not sufficient. However, for our purpose, we will also commend excellence as a blanket term for punctuality (yes, that's how this all has to begin), high quality, willingness and capacity to keep on learning, continuous improvement, doing it right the first time (it goes by the counter-intuitive acronym DRIFT), challenging others and accepting challenges ourselves in pushing the envelope, using best practices as a launching pad for inventing next practices, and making success a habit and building upon it. Excellence is its own reward, it gives us a sense of real achievement, also that of pride which provides intrinsic motivation for striving for bigger successes, even for reaching out for the stars.
We all have spent many years in academic institutions as students and many of us, if we were fortunate, would have had some teachers who not only were very well-equipped academically but they also helped us discover and nourished our spirit of enquiry, our sense of wonderment, and launched us on a long journey of seeking knowledge. They were excellent teachers!
In a law-abiding society, one in which the rule of law prevails Lord Denning's immortal words "Be you ever so high, the law is above you" ring true. There, the perceived inconvenience or harshness of laws is not an acceptable plea for not obeying them; so long as they are there, they have to be obeyed. There is, however, a due process through which unnecessary or outdated laws can be amended or abrogated altogether.
The notion that the law puts fetters on us is clearly wrong. In fact, following the law in its letter and spirit liberates us. Most of the creative work in arts and sciences has been done in nations where people, by and large, abide by the law. Many of our young people who were considered mediocre in India start flourishing when they emigrate to the West or even Singapore, which are generally law-abiding societies.
Responsibility is going above and beyond the call of duty to do something for others on one's own initiative, not needing any supervision. A sense of virtual ownership gives rise to it. Since feeling responsible is voluntary, RESPONSIBILITY IS ONLY THEIRS WHO BELIEVE IT IS THEIRS. No one else can make you feel responsible, of course, they can hold you accountable for your acts of commission and omission.
Someone assuming responsibility of their friends will always help them in taking the right path, the one feeling responsible for the environment will help keep the surroundings clean, minimise air pollution, prevent and stop abuse and wastage of water, and propagate the philosophy of reduce, reuse, and recycle. An individual or a small group can assume the responsibility of the entire society or even nation.