BACK TO THE FUTURE – A TWENTY POINT PROGRAMME FOR INDIA…

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If there is one lesson that the COVID 19 pandemic has re-taught the world, it is this – humans are irrelevant to the continuation of life on Planet Earth. So if anything catastrophic were to happen to the world in the future, only humans will perish; everything else will continue as usual. If we continue life as we were living it till date, we are only advancing the inevitable wipeout. It is an existential threat that must be remedied by the present generation of people in the age bracket of 25 to 60 who still have a significant period of their working lives ahead of them. In a sense, we must all become futurologists in the most positive way. Our aim should be to regenerate the earth and our lives and no effort should be too great in the achievement of this purpose. The changes have to be transformational and not evolutionary – we have jumped the evolutionary process with our greed and the only remedy is a reverse transformation. In short, we need a drastic reduction of the mindless human excesses of successive generations across the world.

I will talk about India for the moment – for two reasons. Firstly, charity must begin at home and so must everything we consider important for making this transformation. We are also home to more than one-sixth of humanity and whatever India does will resonate around the world – there is no question about it. Secondly, world governance through the United Nations has failed conclusively and miserably. It is nothing more than a mere discussion forum where even discussions are weighed against money power. If the United Nations must exist, its entire organisation must be revamped. The present system of money and clout of a handful of member nations cannot have such a free run of the world. This is, however, extremely difficult as difficult changes in any organisation are invariably opposed and killed by ‘incumbent resistance’. There is too much at stake and too much money being made – so expect no miracles there. I therefore advocate a concept of ‘enlightened nationalism’ which in time will become contagious and spread to the rest of the world. I know many will write this off as wishful idealism – but at this time in history, India needs a healthy dose of idealism as an antidote to the cynicism and negativity that has come to characterise our individual and collective behaviour.

Here is my 20 Point Programme for India. For several reasons, one of them being lack of specialist knowledge, I will not make detailed recommendations but only indicate areas that will need important policy changes and a fresh look at how they must be done…

#1.       Preserve environment and ensure sustainable consumption. Reduce garbage and waste. Become water surplus. Have time-bound plans for clean air, earth and water. Shut down polluting industries.

#2.       Move away from fossil fuels to non-conventional, clean and renewable energy.

#3.       Rethink investment priorities. Health, sanitation and education should be prioritised.

#4.       Freeze infrastructure development in metros and large cities. Any new infrastructure must be strictly regulated with commensurate demolitions. A cap on consumption of services should guide further infrastructure creation.

#5.       Create more urban areas so that migrant labour do not need to crowd metros. Take jobs to the people.

#6.       Formulate a new policy on the unorganised sector to provide them social security.

#7.       Make higher education in India easier. Stop being enamoured by foreign universities. A large majority of those who do not merit admissions in the Indian system go abroad. Let research organisations, government and corporates take ownership of educational institutions to give them cutting edge skills.

#8.       Rethink international relations. The pandemic has given us enough indication of who our friends are – and definitely who are not. Keep our intelligence mechanisms two steps ahead so that pro-active and pre-emptive measures are taken to counter any pre-meditated design to create instability.

#9.       Look inwards. Be Indian, Buy Indian, Travel within India, Stay in India, Work for India. We have given enough benefit of our creativity and knowledge to the world. It is time to strengthen ourselves internally. Create conditions for this to happen. Revisit traditional customs and practices rather than aping imported ideas.

#10.    Do not make India cheap by granting visas to one and all. We are no longer a pushover in the international arena. We must decide who comes in and who does not. We must also regulate which entities can and more importantly, cannot invest in India.

#11.    Reduce overcrowding. Overcrowding along with the need for social distancing creates a paradox in India. How we handle slums, public transport, market places, religious gatherings and political rallies will determine if we will be able to overcome the downsides of overcrowding.

#12.    Redefine the concept of minorities, their rights and privileges. If minority rights are considered important, introduce minority duties that are also mandatory.

#13.    Value people who man frontlines in times of crises. These are the people who will always pull our chestnuts out of the fire. Least of all, pay them more and give them social security.

#14.    Live in harmony with Nature. Ban the eating of certain animal species. Nature desires that humans do not interact with certain animal species. Respect that and let both man and animal live in peace. Can we even consider shutting down zoos?

#15.    Use technology to the benefit of humankind – not for the sake of technology or one-upmanship.

#16.    Reduce competition in every field – individual, team, corporate, federal and international. Focus on bettering ourselves, not on beating the competition.

#17.    Identify surge capacities in advance. Have contingency plans for every conceivable eventuality. Create robustness. Black Swan events will still hit us but we may have some ready answers.

#18.    Ease the pace of life. Institutionally promote life balance. The lockdown has shown us the extent to which we utilize our time and energy on the most unnecessary things. Recalibrate, breathe, smile, live, love.

#19.    Put humans and humanity at the centre of development. Not money and greed.

#20.    Provide a philosophical and idealistic framework for our actions. The world existed before we came into it and will continue to exist when we depart. Let us make it a better place for future generations.

In certain aspects, we may need to go ‘Back to the Future’ – and that may really be ‘The Way Ahead’.

 

12 Apr 20

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