By Somali K Chakrabarti
India has, for long, been an emerging economy. While most of the developed economies including the US, consider India as a strong prospect, the large and widening performance-potential gap in India leaves a lot to be desired.
A question that frequently pops up in a number of forums is ‘What can bring about the transition of India from a emerging to a developed nation?’
The importance of an environment that supports development, enforces law and order, promotes entrepreneurship and steers the country towards higher productivity cannot be stressed enough in this context. Most people would agree upon the need to do away with red tape, corruption and have policies in place to prop up the economic development and growth. Yet, in addition to the changes in the business environment, certain behavioral, cultural and value related changes are also needed in our society, to aid India’s transition to a developed nation. Unfortunately many of these softer aspects have been severely under rated by our society in the recent past.
As the saying goes ‘No nation can rise above the quality of its thoughts‘.
Progressive thinking is needed, if we have to evolve as a developed nation. To build a nation that makes the world sit up and notice, we need imaginative, inventive, responsible and determined people. We need motivated and responsible citizens who can bring about the changes in an inclusive and sustainable manner.
Systematic efforts to help people develop a broad outlook and inculcate a sense of responsibility towards the society can help to bring about India’s transformation to a developed nation in the truest sense. The basic DNA of our society must be molded to shape up a world class mindset.
We are yet to realize Rabindra Nath Tagore’s dream of the nation: ‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high’.
At this point, I would like to highlight 3 key issues that widely prevail in our society, impact our lives, impede development and that are likely to concern almost all thoughtful Indian citizens.
1. Safety of women and children:
Sexual assault – casual or otherwise – is a burning social problem in India that has been brought into focus following a number of brutal rapes that became notorious worldwide. The show Satyamev Jayate’s first episode fight against rape #FightingRape [[i] ] brought out the uncomfortable realities about the issue of rape in the country. Notwithstanding the widespread media coverage of the issue, the number of rapes and sexual assaults are increasing by the day. The frequent incidents of sexual assaults against Indian women and against foreigner women travelers to India severely tarnish the image of the country.[[ii] ] and present a regressive picture of India to the world.
To reduce the occurrence of such crimes strict laws and better enforcement of the laws are needed; but as a society too, we must take this issue a lot more seriously. As the father of a victim said ‘women in India won’t be safe until society changes its attitudes’.
A step towards changing the attitude is the need for creating awareness by training women, children and men to recognize the danger signals, take adequate precautions to safeguard themselves against violence and assault. Continuous reinforcement of the need to respect women, demonstrate responsible behavior, protect the safety of women and children and be sensitive to the survivors of sexual assault can be a step forward towards making the country a safe place for children and women.
2. Traffic collisions and Road Traffic accidents
The frequency of traffic collisions in India is highest, globally. In India, nearly 80,000 people get killed and 340,000 are injured every year in about 300,000 accidents on the road network of 22, 00,000 km — there is an accident every minute and death every eight minutes.[[iii]] The impact of Road Traffic accidents has been found to be most striking on the young, between the ages of 15 and 29 years.
This undeniably this calls for accident-prevention programs, extra supervision by traffic police, well lit roads, zebra crossings, but there is also a need to change the belief that accidents are, ‘accidental’ and not ‘preventable’ .[[iv] ]
The most common reference to injurious events, ‘accidents,’ evokes a feeling of chance, misfortune, and helplessness. We need a shift in focus from inevitability of the accidents to preventability of accidents and injury control. [[v]]
3. Lack of cultural sensitivity
The unfortunate death of the 19-year-old Nido Taniam in Delhi last month triggered massive public protests and sparked a debate on discrimination against Indians from the North East. It also brought out the cultural biases and elements of racism that are deeply ingrained in our psyche and occasionally manifest in form of horrific actions.
This draws attention for the need of conscious effort to promote cultural tolerance among each and every citizen in the country. It’s time we examined our own attitudes towards people from different parts of the country, other ethnicities or races.
All the above mentioned issues stress the need for an inclusive and scalable approach to deal with these challenges and create awareness about:
- Safety of women and children
- Safety on roads – preventing road injuries
- Cultural sensitivity
Taking cues from the success of the ‘Teach India’ movement, an initiative can be started with an objective to develop more responsible citizens of the country.
Like ‘Teach India’, ‘Responsible India’ initiative can be a CSR initiative undertaken by a Corporate / Media group, with activities coordinated by a NGO.
Housing societies, education institutes, corporates can register on website and nominate volunteers who would get trained and deliver the programs in their respective housing society premises or educational institutes. The programs will be delivered by volunteers in housing societies and educational institutes. Each session will be of 1 hr each and can be delivered on a Saturday. Three sessions can be delivered on say 3 Saturdays in a month.
The development of coursework can be entrusted to an organization which will develop the three modules , train volunteers who opt to deliver these programs. Initially 100 college/ university teachers / other volunteers can be trained to deliver these 3 programs .
The modules can be shared with educational institutions or corporates that are interested in conducting the program in their premises and opt for further training volunteer teachers or employees to deliver these programs.
The ResponsibleIndia NGOs would coordinate the activities through their website with housing societies, education institutes, corporates to organize and track trainings, ensure participation and take feedback.
This is a simple scalable model that can be started in one city and replicated in different cities across India. Perhaps it is too simple an idea but if executed well can bring in positive results. Depending on the success of trainings, more modules can be added at a later stage.
Social media can be used to engage people, increase participation, get feedback and track instances of practical application of the knowledge
These are some of my initial thoughts. Do you think the three identified areas are good to start with? What challenges do you see in this model?
Invite your comments on the same.
Including here some Comments on this post received on Twitter
[iii] Ministry of Home Affairs. Accidental deaths and suicides in India 2010 [Internet]. Ministry of Home Affairs Government of India. 2011. [Last cited on 2012 Jan 25]. Available from: http://www.ncrb.nic.in/ADSI2010/ADSI2010-full-report.pdf .
[iv] Profile of non-fatal injuries due to road traffic accidents from a industrial town in India
Pankaj Bayan, J. S. Bhawalkar, […], and Amitav Banerjee
[v] Peek-Asa C, Heiden EO. Injury Control: The Public Health Approach. In: Wallace RB, editor. Maxy – Rosenau – Last Public Health and Preventive Medicine. 15th ed. New York: McGraw Hill; 2008. pp. 1319–28.