Thursday, 19 June 2008

Its all in the family

On a number of occasions my non-Indian friends have expressed their appreciation towards the Indian family system and respect imparted to elders in Indian society. Moments such as these make me swell with pride. Our culture does impart humility to one’s personality and the close knit families provide a vital support system. It helps us value human relationships. Our traditions and history have caused us to evolve into warm, welcoming and affectionate civilization. And this in my opinion is the biggest differentiating factor of the Indian diaspora.

However, on recent occasions I felt that we have taken our way of life to a different level altogether. Not only do we extend to families for moral support, they fairly effortlessly migrate into all other parts of our lives as well. Take the Indian corporate world for starters. Most Indian businesses are family owned. While family ownership has its own benefits in aligning major shareholders’ interests with interests of the company, it has bred complacency in some of the second generation business leaders (if they can be called leaders at all). Close monitoring of the organisation should have increased prudence and efficiency but in a number of organisations it has given rise to serious corporate governance issues. Professionals have not had much say in important decision making processes. This led to job dis-satisfaction and hence migration of qualified individuals to MNCs. The entire cycle curtailed growth of India Inc with a few exceptions like Infosys and Larsen & Toubro standing out. Indian businesses are slowly realising they need to change and some are making more of an effort to embrace global best practices faster than the others. Overseas Indians or NRIs are finding their way back home with some of these “promoter owned” companies with satisfactory compensation and autonomy packages. With Malvinder Singh selling his stake in Ranbaxy, maybe India will witness an increase in the number of professionally managed corporations.

While the situation for India Inc is changing, Indian political scenario is still languishing. Since independence, India has been governed for most part by the Nehru-Gandhi family (directly or indirectly). With one extreme being family led Congress, we have another extreme in the BJP, which is devoid of any strong leader and of any upcoming younger potential. Then we have the regional parties starting with Shiv Sena being the franchise of the Thackrey family, the Biju Janta Dal being the legacy of Biju Patnaik to hand over to the next generation, the Rashtriya Janta Dal which in a democracy is Lalu Prasad Yadav’s way to dictatorship and the Telegu Desam which actually split over a feud on who was the rightful heir after NTR’s demise. The list does not end here but goes on. Once again there are exceptions to this norm, however, none which are strong on a national level and none with a clean charter. There is a severe dearth of educated, dedicated and motivated young politicians wanting to improve the political, judicial and financial state of the country.

The one strong emerging silver line in the cloud of Indian politics is the Lok Paritran, a party founded by engineering graduates from the most reputed institute on Indian shores – IIT (Indian Institute of Technology). The leaders of this organisation are well educated, travelled and well aware. They focus on raising core issues that matter to an average man’s daily life and impact the working of the nation. They seems to have good intentions and have been prudent in their approach – targeting smaller electoral regions where money power might not obscure them, have refrained from shouting from roof tops and most importantly have established local groups to reach out to the masses. Lok Paritran could fill the gap in Indian politics but it will be a time consuming and arduous journey. One can only hope that the party succeeds in what it has set out to achieve.

We Indians pride ourselves on our entrepreneurial spirit and ability to overcome obstacles. Then why can we not be industrial and stand on our feet on our own merit? Why do we depend on the toils of our fathers and forefathers to determine our future? As a young nation on the brink of a new beginning, let us open our eyes, cherish our values and cultures and alter our traditions where they need change. Today’s India came into existence because of a blend of varied cultures and religions. Let us create tomorrow’s India with a mix of the best of east and west. Let us truly carry our heritage forward into the next decade.

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