Eka Dishecha Shodh - (A book in Marathi by Sundeep Waslekar published by Rajhans Publications)
Though written in Marathi, the book has important messages for audiences across India. It analyses challenges to India’s future, which are currently outside the discourse in the media, and explains several strategies for the advancement of society, particularly economically weak sections of population. The book is easy to read, non-academic, and draws from personal experiences and anecdotes.
The book draws from practical experiences around the world, particularly emerging economies like China, Malaysia, Turkey and Brazil as well as established economies in Western Europe and North America, to demonstrate how a positive change can be made possible in a short period of 8-10 years. The book is non-academic – it focuses on real life experiences and anecdotes rather than scholarly analysis and statistics. It is full of real stories of people who have made change possible around the world. It gives details of the author’s personal interactions with Heads of Governments, terrorists, industrialists, inventors, diplomats, and common people from all continents – and draws positive lessons from these interactions.
Some of the key challenges posed in the book are summarised below.
- The Fourth Industrial Revolution is near. It will be led by water, environmental technologies, genomics, nano-technology, robotics and space technology. India missed the first three industrial revolutions. India has good prospect of taking a lead role in the fourth industrial revolution. However, this will involve a new mindset that is focussed on creation rather than servicing big multinationals at the lower level in the value chain (which is what Indian software companies are doing), a new education system aimed at research and revenue generation through patents rather than capitation fee from undeserving students, a new set of social attitudes underpinned by genuine freedom and inclusiveness rather than blind imitation.
- Third World War is likely. As the world economy promotes growth in a manner that is insensitive to employment and aspirations of uneducated youth, there will be growing risk of terrorism. Also an economic model that pays only lip service to the sustainability of environment and water will result in devastating climate change – most significantly in the Himalayan region leading to crisis between India and China and also between other water stressed countries in the world. The combination of extremism and environmental degradation poses the risk of the rise of authoritarian leaders who may be willing to engage in a devastating world war. Is India aware of the spectre of such risks on its horizon? What is the state and society going to do prepare for them?
- The 800 million-conundrum has trapped India. In 2001 India’s population of 1000 million was divided between 170 millions in the market and 830 millions in the periphery. In 2011 the numbers will be 320 millions in the market and 880 millions in the periphery out of the total population of 1200 million. If India grows at 8%+ for the next 20 years, it will have a population of 1400 million around 2030, including 600 million in market and 800 million in the periphery. The 800 million-conundrum is one of the main reasons why Naxalism has grown from 60 districts prior before 2001 to over 160 districts in 2010 and the population in slums and chawls of Mumbai has grown from 50% two decades ago to 66% at present.
- A small hope is denied. Out of 630,000 villages in India, almost 500,000 villages do not have high schools. Children in these villages are deprived of the opportunity of completing their education. Besides, the national drop-out ratio is 70% even though the primary school enrolment ratio in most states is above 90%. In author’s interactions with children from villages in urban slums, he found out that all that these kids want is a small hope for their life – to obtain education and find employment. The author has demonstrated with concrete facts and experiences that the middle school system is the main instrument for perpetuating social and economic inequality in India. Is the elite willing to allow radical reforms in the education sector, which will benefit large number of poor families?
- The world is moving beyond success, sectarianism and sovereignty. The most progressive parts of the world, such as Europe, Japan, increasingly sections of population in Turkey, China, the United States, Singapore and several other countries are throwing away age old concepts of success, sectarianism and sovereignty. In many such societies life is measured by ‘right or wrong’ rather than ‘success or failure’. Many societies are transcending sectarian identity and sovereignty. Passports and Visas are being abolished. On the other hand, parts of the world are trapped in tribal, communal, ethnic conflicts as well as pursuit of materialism and territorial ambition. This phenomenon is most visible in Africa, the Middle East, parts of Latin America, and parts of decision-making elite in the United States and China. Which set of countries India should belong to?
- Superpower is a silly idea. The book reviews over 2500 years of history and demonstrates how every superpower has failed miserably when its life is characterised by the following symptoms. The elite are invited to corridors of power in the world. They are among the world’s super rich. At the same time more than half of the population lives without basic healthcare, means of livelihood and education. Terrorists comfortably attack such a society, in the early phases in the border area and later on at the centre of economic and political power. This is how Rome collapsed. This is how the French Empire under Louis XVI was liquidated. This is how the Ummayed Empire, Mughal Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and several other so called Great Powers ended. India needs to introspect: Do we want to be a Great Nation? Or do we want to be a Great Power and a nation that is small minded in dealing with 500,000 villages without schools, 50% of the country’s children without nutrition, thousands of farmers who commit suicide or kill others through Naxalism?
- Death can be conquered. The author presents actual experiences of situations when death was almost certain and then ‘almost’ could be challenged with innovation and determination to turn impossible into the possible. He proves that it is possible to overcome death while dealing with unprecedented medical challenges, bleak economic circumstances or even while dealing with dreaded terrorists. If it is possible for the human spirit to win in a battle with death, it should be possible to overcome any other obstacles in life, whether for an individual or the society. The author proves how it is not only possible to survive the most difficult times but also to transform adverse realities into a bright and desired future.
- Terrorists can be persuaded. The author illustrates experiences from direct interactions with terrorists about how they can be persuaded to give up guns forever. He provides detailed analysis of terrorism with deep historical as well as global perspectives and explains how it is essential and possible to defeat terrorism – much more important what a nation should do so that a terrorist organisation would not ever think of attacking it. He provides concrete strategies to enable India to deal with the menace of terrorism effectively drawing from his inside experience.
- Politicians can be made accountable. The author provides a large number of examples of how a few small steps can make politicians accountable, honest and efficient. He explains how in several countries politicians focus on policies without seeking personal gain or providing patronage to their clients and relatives. He provides many tips for common citizens and youth groups in India to make politicians accountable in easy and constructive ways, indeed in ways that politicians themselves would appreciate.
- Millions of high income, creative and ecologically sustainable rural jobs can be created in a short period of time. The author explains how the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be introduced in a systematic way to bring about economic and educational transformation. It does not require huge resources. It needs a new set of priorities and reallocation of currently available resources. There is a golden opportunity waiting for India’s young people.
- An individual can realise his or her potential. The author offers concrete evidence of how any young person, presently living in any chawl, slum, small town or village in India, having no financial resources or social contacts, wanting to follow an honest way of life can prosper in a short period of time in financial, educational, cultural terms, overcoming any obstacles on the way.