Over the past few years, in the course of my travels across the country, I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with innumerable dedicated, brilliant and competent individuals who care deeply for the country. I am at once elated and depressed when I talk to them. I am delighted to see them willing to do something about our problems, but am depressed at their inability to overcome minor differences and work together for the cause of the nation.
Recently a colleague was narrating an incident: he was addressing a group of social activists from a major state who wanted to learn from our experiences in AP. When he suggested to them that it will be helpful if they could involve a few other prominent activists in their efforts and cited a few names - the immediate knee jerk response is - “NO, we will not have anything to do with them”!
There are many who are trying to make a difference in their own way. We need to institutionalize their successes and work with others to bring about a fundamental change in our governance. But such appeals immediately encounter skepticism and resistance, citing all kinds of differences between them and the rest.
We are a nation of brilliant individualists. But collectively we under perform. The much-talked about team spirit demands some willingness to grant good intentions, and capacity to give the benefit of doubt even to adversaries, let alone friends and potential collaborators who share our goals and vision. As persons of goodwill, deep concern for the future of this country, and stake-holders in improving our governance, we should learn to work together, respect each other and bring synergies.
I have seen over and again decent, reasonable and well-meaning citizens losing their perspective and consumed by minor tactical differences. There may agree on 90%, but exaggerate differences in perceptions and approaches in 10% arena. This desire to be seen to be unique, and to seek salience may be natural, but if we fail to bring out synergies in groups, our collective performance is less than the sum of the parts. A society divided against itself falls and fails. Bickering about trivia will only help perpetuate status quo. We also should learn to recognize that moral authority, intellectual integrity and ability to be inclusive instead of being divisive are the prerequisites of any claims to leadership.
We have many examples of great innovations, which made a significant impact in a limited area. Our greatest failure has been our inability to adapt and replicate successful models across the country; ex: what Dr. Arole has achieved in Jamkhed in health sector. In a sane society, his model should have been replicated long time back – but even 25 years after the rest of the world recognizing him with a Magasaysay award, we here in India haven’t even looked at him. There are many such unsung heroes in our midst.
Yes, we have many problems, but as a nation we are definitely in a better position compared to 50/100 years ago. By no means are our problems unique. Many other countries went through similar phases. But they learned to work together and promote common good.
As a society, we have the internal strength, resilience and capacity to overcome our problems and forge ahead. But, we need to develop trust, have a sense of equality and shared vision of a common fate. We owe it to ourselves to overcome our differences and help realize our full potential.