Happy Birthday India! As India turns 70, should Mr. India (or Bharat mata?) feel jaded and old? Majority of Indians wouldn’t think so. After all, India is ageing but Indians are getting younger. A massive 41 per cent of India’s population is under the age of 20 years.
So, are the young Indians feeling trapped in an old India?
We can’t deny that millions of young Indians (especially those not in the creamy layer) do frustratingly encounter the old India every day. The old India offers dilapidated schools and poor healthcare facilities to the youth, and even after securing 99% marks, they can’t get into good colleges. Most young Indians get age-old police force and a broken public transport that their grandparents used. No doubt, India looks fresh and young in patches – at the newly built airports, highways and malls – but the sight of old India doesn’t leave us.
In a way, India is battling a generation gap within. Millions of youth struggle to tackle the old India as they stumble upon the same old systems, archaic institutions, obsolete infrastructure and old-fashioned attitudes. The young Indians many a times don’t get the opportunities they deserve to receive from the old India. At 70, India hasn’t yet given her youth an environment where they can become world’s greatest scientists, astronauts, thinkers, historians or innovators. To get the best education and careers, the youth often go abroad and settle there to take up more fulfilling jobs and enjoy better quality of life. Indeed, these migrating youth prove that young Indians are capable & hard-working and hence successful abroad – they are CEOs of multinational companies, Deans of best universities, highly specialized surgeons and investors in new ventures. If only India hadn’t failed them, these young Indians would have stayed back and made India proud. Frequent rallies conducted by thousands of youth demanding reservations in education and jobs are a sign of India’s failure in creating opportunities for her young Indians.
So what do we do so that India doesn’t just grow old but actually progresses and transforms with passing years? How do we create a new India?
Firstly, the voters, media and political leadership need to drop their obsession with religion and caste issues and focus on improving healthcare, bettering education and creating opportunities. When over a dozen farmers commit suicide every day and dozens of children die daily due to poor healthcare, we can’t afford to waste precious time by endlessly debating about cow, caste, beef or religion.
Secondly, our political system and civil society need to strongly instil rule-based functioning & culture of discipline, and shed informality & casualness in our professional pursuits. Our tendency to resort to short-cuts, jugaad and chalta hai is our serious shortcoming and its consequences are grossly underestimated.
Finally, the young Indians too need to play a more proactive and positive role in transforming the old India. They need to persevere harder to transform the old systems, attitudes, work culture and avoid gradually becoming ‘part of the old system’ or turning pessimists. Indians like A P J Abdul Kalam, Narayan Murthy, Khashaba Jadhav, Dhirubhai Ambani did overcome the resistance of old India to achieve excellence in their fields and make a difference.
The battle between young Indians and an old India is on, and the young India will prevail. The question is, how soon?
The article is written by Alpesh Patel. He is an author, management consultant and a mentor to start-ups with 20 years of corporate experience. As a consultant with Big4 Advisory firms, Alpesh guided corporates & government in formulating strategy, mergers & acquisitions and undertaking large transformations. He has advised Banks and companies in Insurance, Payments and Micro-finance sectors and was instrumental in setting up a Payments Bank. He has been a part of many new ventures setup in India during the last two decades. He was one of the co-applicants to RBI for setting up a payments bank in India.
Alpesh published his first book, a science fiction titled ‘Future of the Past’ in 2008. His just finished writing his second book “Is India a Chalta hai nation?”, which is expected to be published later this year. Alpesh pursued his Engineering and did his MBA before beginning his career as a management consultant.