India may have a 5000 year old culture, deep religious understanding and a depth of philosophical breath that may make many countries and cultures around the world feel highly superficial in emotional and cultural terms, but India continues to be a country with significant poverty and all the related health, wealth, mental and social issues that come with poverty. Given that the Indian economy has taken off over the last 10 years and that liberalization has been in place since 1991, this further confounds the paradox; since significant strides should have already been made.
Economists and governments have tried to address it from several angles and in many ways – socially, distribution wise, financially, subsidies, better policies, loans, grants, schemes etc. you name it and we have tried it. But in my eyes most of these measures miss the mark. The reason is deeper and psychological. It stems from an inherent subconscious manner of functioning most Indians have. And that is a framework of thinking that they can get away with either fooling the system, or fooling people (their own and others) or fooling themselves. In the long run, none of these work. And as the old adage says “cheaters, simply do not prosper”.
Most Indians DO NOT see the interconnectedness of things (in spite of their great spiritual heritage) – weather it be financial, economic or spiritual. As a result the single reason India continues to remain a poor nation is because most Indians are POOR AT HEART – weather rich or poor – Indians carry around a “poverty mentality” in their own minds. They feel “there is not enough” to go around and even if they are sitting on millions, feel the need to hoard, or if they are penniless, feel the need to cheat. Most Indians believe in not sharing, do not give to charity, and are more often than not looking for a free ride (rich and poor), India probably has the highest number of bounced cheques in the world and is now world renowned for an inherent mindset, that they can con people and get away way it. Of course I am looking at India, but the same could be said of China; but at least in China, there is a strong central system, which is working even harder than their Chinese con men and ensuring the overall central planned economy is delivering; the same cannot be said of India. And in India, we con our own people, and thus create a cesspool of poverty….in China, they only try that with foreign investors ( -:) said in a lighthearted manner).
Lets put some facts and figures here. In the 2010 Gallup World Giving Index, India stood 134 out of 150 countries. I think in the 2011 survey we fared even worse. In the same neighborhood, Sri Lanka stood 8th in the same survey in 2010. And on every human index parameter Sri Lanka, outclasses India; in spite of having had a 20-year-old civil war. Most Indians should be hanging their heads in shame – but then in order to have heads, one needs a conscience and that is of short supply in this market. The desire to cut short the system, con people, get work done and not pay for it, have no time for volunteering, not caring for the larger consequences of your actions are today taking a real life toll on India and Indians, perpetuating the circle of poverty. And the rich, middle class and poor are to blame. In fact the disease is endemic and cuts through economic and class systems. All hoard, all con, all want a free ride.
I know most Indians will agree with me on this. Ask any Indian doing business with Indian and foreign partners. Ask them, who pays punctually and on time – the answer will invariably be the foreign partner; ask them the story about the Indian client and there will come out a retinue of long excuses that were made, not to pay or not to deliver or not to complete work. The saddest part is, when those who have the opportunity in society, who have the resources; cannot respond to their higher being, but perpetuate the same mentality (I have known MD’s of large BSE listed companies who have written fake cheques for work done), you know there are deep moral issues the country and its leaders have to work on, if it is ever to become a nation of consequence IN ITS OWN EYES.