Monday, June 22, 2009

Why India is transforming Bharat

I read an article in a newspaper that put the question - who says India is no more a golden bird? It further points thatIt is clearly evident that India has become the golden bird again. The sensex is going higher and higher and is about to touch the 15,000 point mark, GDP is growing at a rate of 7.5% against the estimate of 6.9%.

Another article says that there are 260 million Indians(193 million in rural areas and 67 million in urban areas) who are still living below the poverty line, according to India's first Social Development Report.

I am in a dilemma after reading these two articles. I do not whether I should rejoice for the development of my country or I should feel sad for the pathetic condition of my countrymen.

The great divide Between India and Bharat across four key sectors

Rural teledensity is just 1.67% as compared to 25.90% in urban India

Punjab shines with 99.87% of its rural homes wired but it is just 17.82% for Orissa

Out of 638,596 villages, 217,000 do not have access to safe drinking water

Only 55% of villages are connected by road
It's not an easy divide to bridge. The gap between the towering sky-rises of affluent India and the unglamorous one that goes to bed hungry can't be measured in mere kilometres. Much of the new India regards the other with less sympathy, more scorn, a burden on the country's glittering future. The India that has caught the world's imagination is the one that boasted the world's fastest growing population of dollar millionaires in 2008; the one that has supplied Silicon Valley with some of its brightest minds; the India that notched up an astounding growth rate.

But a new breed of do-gooder is set on blurring the boundaries between the two worlds. Senthil Gopalan, a 36-year-old mechanical engineer, has earned himself the epithet 'Enga Ooru Shivaji' (Shivaji of the village) after superstar Rajinikanth. The actor returned from the US to play reformer in the Kollywood blockbuster 'Sivaji The Boss'. Senthil, likewise, chucked a well-paid job in Detroit, and returned to a new career in Tamil Nadu - social work. Using all his savings - Rs 30 lakh - he set up Payir, a non-profit trust in Thennur near Trichy. Payir has already built a hospital in the village, which is in one of the state's most backward districts. Now, it will focus on education and employment "if we still have the money to keep going," says Senthil. Last month, his blog nearly carried an obit for Payir but "a friend pitched in with Rs 1 lakh and the work went on". In yet another part of Tamil Nadu, there is Rangaswamy Elango. He studied at IIT Chennai and gave up a promising career at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to do voluntary work in the village where he grew up.

Today, Koothambakkam, near Chennai, owes much of its transformation to its Dalit sarpanch. Roads, drains, toilets and 100% enrollment till Class IX - it's a model village. "I saw inequalities and injustices while growing up and I knew I wanted to do something about it," says Elango. His work has inspired 13 other MCAs and M.Techs to quit India for Bharat. "They are using my village as a laboratory so that they can take this experiment with development to other parts of the country."

So is corporate India serious about the business of doing good? The Azim Premji Foundation, funded by the head of Wipro and the Akshara Foundation and Arghyam Trust established by Rohini Nilekani, wife of Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, are proof that Indian tycoons are increasingly ready to invest in Bharat.

To some extent, Indian business isn't just about making money any more but also about being sharp enough to achieve social goals. But what of the fat pay cheque? "It's not so difficult to live without money," says Senthil who traded his flat and Volvo for a hut without electricity.

Many share his drive and dynamism, in what Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research a calls a "promising sign". She says, "India and Bharat are two different habitats living in contradiction. There is an urgent need to end disparities and bring them closer."

The kings of yore used to mingle with commoners incognito. Legend has it that Rana Pratap shared coarse millet-bread made by a Bhil woman while wandering Mewar. Akbar often went around his kingdom in disguise to find out the real state of his subjects. The difference today is that when modern India's political and corporate princelings visit Bharat, everybody knows. A sign of the times?

Adapted from Why India is meeting Bharat by
Neelam Raaj, TNN

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