Sunday, January 06, 2013

2012...Tipping point for India

Everyone I talk to tells me that 2012 was not a good year. The never-ending scams, persistent high inflation, slowdown in industrial activity, lay-offs, impact of global events and towards the end, the savage rape of a young girl. The gravity is not lost on me, but I still hold a different view, I believe it’s was watershed year for India. It may have not have been a great year in economic sense, but probably the best in social sense. This year could be termed as the year of awakening of the average Indian powered by energy of the young. Citizens gave a titanic jolt to the ineffective political class by making its roar felt. I am certain that this year will serve as a tipping point in the modern history of this nation.

India has undergone colossal change over decades and obviously so have Indians. With urbanisation of India, the struggle and aspiration of an average Indian changed as well. A new social-strata called urban (middle) class was born. They transcended the primal caste boundaries and were united by their routine drudgery of day-to-day struggle. It was slogging hard to make ends meet and generate resources to secure its future in this cut-throat world. So much so that it would typically show up on work in the very next-hour of high-intensity disturbances because it couldn’t afford to and was euphemistically called as resilient class. A good majority also got exposed to the western world and saw themselves no-less smart and intelligent and therefore worked even harder to achieve satiate its craving.

This class stayed mute for reasons above but was seen as stoic. It never really engaged with Indian political tamasha, something which Indian politicians of each shade understood very well and exploited this silent majority. The worst part is that they kept increasing the degree of insult over years and absence of any reprisal, gave them confidence to try out increasingly bizzare stuff including complete disregard. The bureaucracy-police which should have held its ground, led itself degenerate into a master-servant relationship and went the same way. In-fact they scratched each-others back and this nexus prospered, forcing young India to take charge of their destiny.

The past decades also witnessed change in demographic profile. We now have a large educated young pool - energetic and restless. Two-third of India is now less than 35 years of age. They are willing to slog and earn their way to decent life and expect leaders to do the same and not live in the world of entitlements. While economic forces saw this as an opportunity – the sales pitches identified it ‘demographic dividend’, the impact it would have in social context was underestimated.

The problem was despite having similar thoughts, challenges and asks nothing connected them. It’s no surprise that internet-mobile devices provided the platform for the like-minded group to connect and share. The facebook-twitter networks started as a casual social network eventually metamorphosed into a potent force, a groundswell, a tsunami which no one could afford to ignore. This connect went beyond metros to all cities and villages. It is a bit surprising that while this played out loud-and-clear in the context of Arab spring, why the political elite failed to see this coming in our own country. It helped this new social class to connect and react to situation on real-time basis. For once ‘going-viral’ had a positive connotation. I have never been a bigger fan of this network.

And whenever this viral phenomenon hit through course of this year, it left the incompetent political-bureaucracy-police fumbling. This year, exposed the extent of ineptness. A sample bungled response to recent viral outpouring - lathi-charge and water-canons on students, Sec 144, shut-down metro, call young Indians as Maoists, urban women called as dented-and-painted, never-to-be-heard Maun-mohan Singh living up to his reputation and woken up from slumber after 7 days only to say ‘theek-hai’, top-rung women political leadership Sushma-Mamta-Sheila-Jaya-Maya making customary statements and finally so called young-connected political leadership of Gandhi-Pilot-Scindia-Deora not to be seen anywhere. Their why-should-I-go-to-you-you-come-to-me attitude smacks of entitlement mentality which this demographic-profile disapproves of.

Whether it was the Anna Hazare led protest against the corrupt-disgusting political class or impromptu getting together to express solidarity with the Delhi girl and demonstrating against sycophant-incapable bureaucracy-police, seeking justice, these events mark coming of age of this new social class. It’s no more willing to tolerate the taken-for-granted attitude and willing to hit the streets, flexing its muscles, demanding its rights and exercising its franchise.

The rot is deep enough, hence the diseased body will need multiple such protest-therapy sessions. 2012 saw just one dose of medicine. The youth led social-surgery stands a good chance to cure the patient. Yes - it will not be easy, Yes - it will painful, Yes – it will be long-drawn but YES – it will tip the nation to its greatness and glory. Yes, we are at a tipping point and part of that historical transformation!

The ‘Arab Spring’ could very well give way to ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Tahrir Square’ to the ‘India Gate’.

Time to welcome the new year...welcome 2013!