Why India needs a visionary today

Tags: Op-ed
Why India needs a visionary today
HIGH HOPES: A leader of Aam Aadmi Party during the swearing-in ceremony of party leaders in New Delhi. India needs a leader who has the foresight to recognise our limitations and find a solution to those boundaries
“The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It’s the age-old struggle: the roar of the crowd on the one side, and the voice of your conscience on the other.”

—Douglas Macarthur

In many ways, 2013 has been the year in which Indians found the voice of their conscience. State elections saw India rewarding governance and experimenting with change. Only time will tell whether the Aam Admi Party succeeds or not, but it has made urban Indians in particular feel that their voice is heard and that they have a role to play in shaping the politics of our country. The Indian middle class, both an initiator and a product of the economic growth process, is finding its voice to engage in public affairs. Organisations that began out of animated conversations at social events have now become forums for change.

Women found their voice — not just against the uneducated goons who commit crimes but educated ones at the workplace whose sense of morality is warped. Sense is finally dawning that a victim of sexual harassment has nothing to hide and that the shame lies with the perpetrator. Of course, it will take years to change mindsets and perceptions but this is a real beginning. People found their voices in social media where they had the freedom to articulate whatever they strongly felt for. A lot of debates on issues like corruption, Lokpal bill and sexual harassment were first constructed via social media.

Interestingly, while all the above are cases of Indians raising their voice against the establishment, India as a nation, also found its voice against the bullying tactics of the US. India found the courage to stand up and retaliate against the treatment meted out to one of its diplomats. The standoff is no closer to a resolution, but India has clearly spoken and demonstrated that it will no longer quietly accept insults against its citizens. It may be the beginning to end the entitlement culture where the US insists that its diplomats be treated differently abroad than it would treat foreign diplomats in the US.

“Turbulence is life force. It is opportunity. Let’s love turbulence and use it for change,” as Ramsey Clarke said. There is no doubt that 2014 will be a year of turbulence for India. But with turbulence, comes the opportunity to make positive changes. India, having found its voice in 2013, now needs to find sight. Over the years, our leaders and bureaucrats have lost their sight. People who rule India, whether at the centre or the state, have shut their eyes to what is going on around them and have lost their ability to see. They are blind to communal politics, anarchy, corruption, lack of infrastructure and the difficulty of doing business in India. Their ability to see is selective and limited to what serves their interests and purpose. How else do you explain the so-called study trip planned by Karnataka MLAs to holiday destinations in Peru, Argentina and Brazil, when parts of the state are troubled by drought? What are their priorities and where is their sense of propriety? I sincerely hope that the voices of the people of India would be loud enough in the coming year to ensure that the establishment is forced to open their eyes.

But having sight will not be enough. In the words of Helen Deller, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.” Action without vision is a nightmare. We need leaders who would create and articulate a vision for India. Let us look at the corporate world. Large multinational corporations exist in multiple geographies, operate in multiple languages and culture, yet manage to move in one direction keeping in mind both vision and values. Global companies that are successful not only have a clear articulated vision that people believe in, but also work very hard to ensure that the values they believe in transcend boundaries and travel across all levels in the company.

India’s future would only be secure if we are to have a leader who has a vision for the nation, whose vision addresses the hopes and aspirations of India, and ensures that India uses its resources and abilities to its full potential. We need a leader who has the foresight to recognise our limitations and find a solution to those boundaries. As a country, let us also identify the values that we hold dear and that must remain at the heart of every action. This vision cannot differ across the country; irrespective of differing political parties, the centre and the state have to be aligned. The centre needs to be empowered to ensure that the whole country is moving forward in a single direction.

My hope for 2014 is that the noise of turbulence would bring sight. That one or more people will rise like the phoenix to articulate a vision for India. If it feels like an impossibility, I urge you to consider these words by Robert F Kennedy — “Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills… Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man... 32-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal. ‘Give me a place to stand,’ said Archimedes, ‘and I will move the world.’ These men moved the world, and so can we all.”

(The writer is CEO of KPMG India)

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