At first glance the title might seem to imply that we Indians are selfish. But that’s a very superficial understanding. Categorizing people into selfish and unselfish is neither appropriate nor what this article is about. What I’m here to talk about is a deep-seeded change in attitude that we Indians have experienced over a period of decades. And the blame for this is held by us as much as it is by the political establishment.
Some of the recent campaigns that have been promoted by the government are actually an indication of how we as a people have over a period of time placed our own interests above that of the nation. Let’s take the Swachh Bharat campaign.
Even after over 60 years of Independence we have to repeatedly be told by the Prime Minister to keep ourselves and our environment clean. To not litter and prevent others from littering the surroundings. The question that arises is why is there still a need for the government to initiate such an elaborate campaign about cleanliness? The simple answer is that we haven’t cared for the reputation and wellness of our country nor our fellow citizens. We consume a packed food item and throw the packet on the street. And our thought process is – What difference will my throwing one packet on the street make to the nation? Why should I make the extra effort to dispose it where it’s meant to be? And no one can refute this because everyone has littered and has had thought in this manner.
To save ourselves of a little effort, we have dirtied our country – slowly but to such a magnitude that it has ruined our reputation and not only that but it has had dire effects on the health of the poor. It’s also incredible how when we – the very people who have dirtied our country in every manner possible – visit a foreign country and look for dustbins with intent and dare not spit in a public place. What flexible people we are! We dirty when there’s no fear of a fine or punishment but change ourselves overnight to escape embarrassment in a foreign nation. And as if that’s not enough, we then go on to complain how our country is so much dirtier in comparison to the others!
I’ve seen polls and comments from people who say that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan is partial success. That the environment is as dirty as it used to be. This pretty much sounds like the Congress party saying corruption has destroyed the country. On a more serious note, we must realize that it’s actually WE who can truly keep our nation clean. Live as if there isn’t any authority to clean up after you litter, live as if you aren’t littering a public place that belongs to the government but a place that belongs equally to you because you spend a considerable amount of time in those very places. The government has been doing a great job of raising the cleanliness levels. We see that railways stations and tracks are much cleaner, 1.92 crore toilets have been built in rural areas to stop open defecation, and most importantly it has been able to revive a sense of cleanliness in the people as we have seen celebrities, companies, social organisations and random groups of people cleaning public places. But still lot’s to be done. As individuals we must first be conscious of not littering ourselves, and if we can do that, we have made our contribution to the nation.
We have heard about the ‘Give It Up’ campaign of the Prime Minister where he has encouraged well-to-do families to stop taking the gas subsidy. It has been a huge success as over one crore families have surrendered their subsidy. But the question that comes to mind is – Would this have happened had someone not motivated the people to do so? Now I’m not a cynic or in no way am I taking credit away from the families that have done so, but this example proves my point – we as a people need someone to motivate us to contribute to the nation and the reason for this is that we feel that only the government is responsible for the betterment of the nation and that we as individuals don’t have much responsibilities.
One of my friend told me a very interesting story.
He worked in the merchant navy. His ship was docked at a Japanese harbour. Some of the Japanese people working at the harbour had their work for the day start at 8 in the morning. But these people arrived at the harbour at 6:30. My relative inquired as to why they arrived an hour and a half early. To that one of the men replied – “For half an hour we exercise. Then we begin working at 7.” “But why do you work an extra hour when your duty begins at 8?” asked my relative. “The work we do from 8 is for ourselves because we get paid for it. The work we do in the hour before is dedicated to our country.”
Even though this is a very small example, it reflects the sentiment of the Japanese people. It’s also of no surprise that Japan as a nation has bounced back tremendously quickly from catastrophic events like the nuclear bombings and the 2011 Tsunami. I am not making any comparisons, but we as a people can definitely learn from the super powers of the world because one common ingredient to their success is the feeling of nationalism. As PM Modi so brilliantly articulated – “Aaj desh ke liye marne ki zarurat nahi, jeene ki zarurat hai.”
When the government raised the service tax and rail fare in one of its budgets, a lot of people announced that the budget was useless and didn’t benefit them without even giving a brief glance at what else was said in the budget. Similarly, people said that the first rail budget wasn’t good because no new trains were announced. We all want better public services but are not ready to pay for them. We are still deeply involved in Congress’ philosophy – ‘You don’t have to pay much and there’s no guarantee of the consistency and quality of the services.’ Our railways was in huge debt when Congress left because all they did was raise the number of new trains to please people no matter the quality of a train ride. It’s absolute common sense – ‘Nothing is free. The better the service or product, the more has to be paid.’
Although, I don’t blame the people for this mentality where they only pay attention to what directly affects them and let the rest slide-by no matter how game-changing it is. For decades governments in our country have offered freebies, promised to reduce electric bills and raise reservation, all this irrespective of what long-term consequences the decisions hold. As a result the government sector collapses under heavy debts and it becomes almost impossible to revive it. This brand of backward politics still thrives. All this has created a mentality and kept people hooked to look for short-term benefits that eventually spoil our economy and infrastructure rather than have a longer perspective to sustainable development
PM Modi has taken some tough decisions like removing people who’ve been living in government accommodations on taxpayer’s money even when they can afford living on their own means or have purposely exceeded the allotted time period of stay. This was a great decision as crores of taxpayer’s money was being wasted on people who had no need for it. But the ones at the receiving end went about creating and propagating a campaign against the government of ‘intolerance’ and began returning awards. This is another one of those examples where people literally are of the idea – ‘mera fayda hona chahiye, desh gaya bhad me.’
Our beloved Prime Minister Shashtriji had very famously appealed to the people of the country to skip a meal every week so that we could feed and save money for the soldiers during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. And the response was emphatic! Today PM Modi has appealed to the public to give up their gas subsidy and people have responded positively. There are poor people who are selling their goats to build toilets and women refusing to marry because of the absence of a toilet. These are remarkable changes that we are witnessing, and with a supremely inspiring and hardworking Prime Minister as ours, we must now take responsibility on our shoulders. As a people we are patriotic, and I guess if we want to be a superpower and want to speed-up the process of us achieving that goal then we as individuals need to place onus on ourselves and think before every activity of ours – Is my action going to benefit my nation or not?