To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child , a garden patch, or a redeemed condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, June 10, 2011

The culture of 'Jugaarh'

A recent article in New York Times described how entrepreneurs in the city of Gurgaon, near the Indian capital city of Delhi, had risen to the challenges faced due to the utter lack of basic infrastructural facilities.

While presenting a balanced and realistic picture, one interesting aspect in the article was that it seemed to eulogize and romanticize, in tune with the growing tendency across India and the World, something called jugaarh, the ability of people in India to rise above their circumstances using any means available. This is lately becoming a subject of case studies across campuses, here and abroad! 

What this romanticization may be doing (among other effects) is: (
a) Absolve/let off the Government of its primary duty to provide and maintain essential services like roads, water, power, minimum nutrition and law & order; and (more damagingly perhaps) (b) encourage an unhealthy lack of respect for law, the manifestations of which we can see in everyday life in the form of traffic mess (nobody seems to minds the traffic policemen, many of them prone to bribes), infractions of laws & regulations (see the massive 2G telecom spectrum scam still unraveling), people taking the law in their own hands (look at the 'khaap panchayats' - village-level kangaroo courts), and myriad other things. 

Publicly, we all like to criticize these things.  But at pesonal level, we indulge in the same unhealthy practices whenever faced with the slightest bit of discomfort - paying bribes when required, throwing our garbage outside in the open, taking a 'wrong side short cut' (against oncoming traffic!) when faced with traffic jams. 

As a first step, for India to reach the 'tipping point' of graduating into a 'wholesome' democracy, it first has to put in order its delivery of the minimum basic infrastructure and services to all citizens.  Without this, the differences between the haves and have-nots (both in terms of facilities & wealth, and the means to break the law with impunity!) may only get accentuated, reflecting in the rising tide of more of the types of 'class clashes' and individual crimes we're witnessing today.

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