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Saturday, January 18, 2003

Recently, I had an opportunity to interact with a bright second generation Indian American, who is incidentally doing quite well professionally and is on a fast track career path. Most of these kids are born and bought up in the US or elsewhere and their only link to India is that it’s the land of their parents. You might think that therefore these kids don’t have as strong an emotional link to India as their parents – but I am pleasantly surprised to discover that there are quiet a few young bright professionals of Indian origin who are willing to do their bit for India.

This youngster was recounting how Indians who are visiting them in the US – ask them very casually – why don’t you do something in/for India? Many a time these kids don’t know if they were trying to be patronizing or serious? When they try to probe deeper and try to find out how they can contribute and in which areas – they get a blank face!

This youngster asked me some penetrating questions – the answers to which are applicable to all Indians:

1. When you are asking these youngsters to make a significant personal and financial sacrifice by asking them to work for the nation’s cause – what is it that you are offering them in return? Are they at least assured of a fair and reasonable chance of success?

2. What are the goals and objectives for this nation? They are humble enough to realize that they can’t set the agenda for this country – It is for India and Indians to set their own agenda – The pan Indian community and the Indian Diaspora can at best be facilitators for what India wants to achieve. They are very concerned about ambiguity of objectives and clarity of means.

To many youngsters of his generation, the size of India’s problems are precisely its attraction. The chance of creating a first class school system for millions of kids, the challenge of designing a world class primary health system to serve a billion people, an opportunity to set policies in agricultural and industrial sectors to facilitate creation of 10 million new jobs every year, – the challenges and opportunities are endless.

The question is do we here in India view these issues as challenges or problems? Are we open enough to recognize that there is talent and expertise available with us – here or abroad – which can facilitate transformation of India? Are we willing to offer ourselves at least a fair chance at succeeding?

The youngster also asked another penetrating question? What is India’s track record in treating reformers? Do we give them a fair chance or do we persecute them? Their generation understands that the government is a means to an end and needs to create an institutional framework to facilitate and encourage agents of transformation and change.

The world cannot and will not give up on a billion people either that easily or casually. There are many passionate Indians who are willing to labour for transforming ourselves into a modern thriving society. It is up to us to make the best use of this talent and fulfil our potential. If we fail to take good care of a milch cow, the cow will stop yielding milk; and we will be the losers. Talent and commitment to public good are qualities which need to be treasured and nurtured.

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