Message from discussion Below Poverty Line, Line: Sid Harth
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Subject: Re: Below Poverty Line, Line: Sid Harth
Date: Fri, 21 Aug 2009 15:52:23 -0700 (PDT)
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Top Article: Creative Leadership Can Make All The Difference
GEETANJALI KIRLOSKAR22 August 2009, 12:00am IST
The recession has, thank God, stopped all of us crowing about how
India is rising and shining. Giving us time to reflect on it in terms
personal value systems and not "irrational exuberance".
But did the 'boom' pull everybody's quality of life up? Without doubt,
agriculture only 20 per cent of our GDP but supporting 60 per cent of
our population grew at a healthy clip.
The NREGS benefited 44 million families. The debt write-off made the
lives of 43 million farmers a little easier. But travelling
extensively around India, one cannot say that life for the poor and
even lower middle classes has changed substantially over the past
The tide is coming in and, if we grab the opportunity, every single
one of us 1.1 billion Indians can rise. If this tide is not harnessed,
it will result in social and economic conflicts leaving India worse
off than before. The India growth story is on razor's edge in almost
India's young have driven the growth story. Our educated, English-
speaking youth have made India the world's back office. But the back
office business can absorb only a fraction of our almost limitless
supply of the young which will continue to increase well into this
century's third decade.
India must ensure all its young have a shot at getting educated well.
The Right to Education Bill has been passed and i will be rooting for
it to achieve its objectives. To paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, we
cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our
youth for the future.
India must ensure its educated young have more avenues of productive
growth than just the IT-BPO industries. More sectors need to take off.
The central challenge is in promoting originality and innovation.
India cannot emulate its way to success.
We cannot do a US or a Japan. The US's population density is 30 times
lower than India's. The US had to do a lot less with a lot more
resources. But India has time on its side. We can find sustainable
growth models that harness modern technology provided we learn from
others' mistakes and innovate.
India has no dearth of grassroots innovation yielding world class
results in diverse fields. Consider the story of Ram Charan. He grew
up in a small town in UP.
In his early years he worked in his family's modest shoe shop. As he
saw his father juggle the shop's finances to meet the income rhythms
of mostly rural customers, he learnt the importance of carefully
managed cash flow.
Today he is a world-renowned consultant to global companies. In the
recession his practice, unlike that of some consulting giants, is
unaffected as he helps clients through turbulent times, adapting the
lessons he learnt in his father's little shop.
Consider India's private health care sector. Doctors have fearlessly
rejected new technologies like surgical robots and keyhole surgery
kits despite these being popular in the West as fanciful and not cost-
Instead they innovate, making breakthroughs like 'beating heart'
surgery which causes less pain, does not require general anesthesia,
has the patient faster on his feet and costs less! 'Beating heart'
surgery has medical tourists from across the world flocking to
Paul Yock, head of Stanford University's bio-design laboratory which
develops medical devices, thinks that amid growing concerns about
runaway health spending, the global industry can find inspiration in
India on how to serve need without being blind to cost.
The Indian as an individual has in every field across the world,
including business, demonstrated innovation and originality. But as a
society and as communities, India is among the world's least
In every social sector public education, public health, public
infrastructure, public morality India is abysmally below world class
standards, ranking below 100 in the comity of nations.
India has always been a land of contrast. But this contrasts between
the achievement of individuals and businesses and the continuing rot
of India as a society can destroy us all. India must and will find a
solution. Indian society needs a new kind of leadership.
While the most visible component of a society's leadership is the
people in the corridors of power, an equally if not more important
component is at the grassroots: the village sarpanch, the wise teacher
whose counsel many seek, the respected NGO worker, the journalist
respected for his perspective and his integrity, the spiritual or
religious leader who is his community's rallying point.
This ecosystem of leadership needs to shift from perpetuating the
status quo to being a catalyst of change. To me, the greatest sign of
hope is that this is beginning to happen.
The general election results were a symptom of this tectonic shift.
More important, the most potent political force to emerge from the
election is a quiet young man who continues to concentrate on building
a new apparatus of leadership at the grassroots. With creative
leadership, India will become innovative at the societal level.
Combine this with the innovative abilities of individuals and business
and India could reach a strategic inflection point that finally puts
it on a path that lifts millions to a life without lack.
The writer is chairperson, India Japan Initiative.
...and I am Sid Harth