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A Topic for Discussion

Our value system and the future of India

What is needed is society’s commitment to all spheres of creative activity so that a balanced future for the country is assured.

IN THE last few years, I have noticed a tendency in the media, in the Government, and in society to give undue importance and much publicity to commercial successes, foreign investment, sensex, profits in the IT sector, new billionaires, and such matters, like nowhere else in the world. Great recognition is given to salaries being offered to IIM graduates. There are frequent competitions in the media to pick the most popular personality in the country or in any given city. The choices given are so skewed, that only sports personalities, cine stars, and business leaders hit the spotlight. Nowhere in the world do sportsmen earn as much as in India through sponsorship. The heroes of today therefore appear to be those who have made big money or have been successful in commercial ventures. Nobody can be jealous or critical of these things, but it is a matter of concern that repeated recognitions of this sort have affected our value system seriously and changed it into one that is mercenary and commercial. This situation does not augur well for the future of the country.

With all the difficulties that we have had in the last few decades, India has continued to progress as one country, by and large because of our Indianness. Indianness involves aspects other than money and commercial successes. Furthermore, if we want India of the future to be a country that is advanced in all spheres, we have to take greater pride in intellectual and creative accomplishments. It is therefore important that our leaders, politicians, intellectuals, teachers, and others should talk about these matters in public and highlight our innovations in science, arts and literature, theatre, and other aspects related to human creativity.

One is not asking for monetary support here, but moral support, and a commitment of society to all spheres of creative activity so that a balanced future for the country is assured. As a country with great traditions as well as cultural and philosophical content, we cannot forget this aspect. When we see what has happened in the last few years to cities such as Bangalore, my worries become real. Bangalore is slowly losing its soul. We see large numbers of young people busily moving around, making money from BPO, IT, and other service sectors, but there is hardly any concern about other matters. There is still a chance for us to develop a country of a different kind.

I am, by no means, downgrading or undermining the importance of economic development and industrial growth, but if our primary concern is only FDI, commercial benefits, and the number of millionaires in the country, it will distort our development as a society and the values of young people. Young people should be encouraged to take up studies of their liking, get involved in creative endeavours in whatever sphere they like most, since we do need extraordinary people in all spheres, for a great India of the future. It is not enough if we routinely create professionals and managers.

It would be good to see a great scientist talking to Parliament once a year; a literary personality or a theatre personality should do the same. It would be nice to hear the Prime Minister and other important persons talking about our efforts and accomplishments in various creative directions and about the vision of a great India, in speeches on Independence Day and other occasions. It is not enough if we say that India will be an international centre for producing machines and materials or for a specific service sector. It is not enough if we take pride in the export of certain goods from India. In these days of economic boom, we should think equally about export of ideas and philosophical thoughts from India, if we have to be a major global player in a future knowledge-powered world.

Let us not forget that the countries in past history that we admire most are not necessarily the economically prosperous ones, but those that made major contributions to our cultural heritage. Our aim should be to make India a country that is recognised throughout the world and throughout history as a country that has significantly advanced the progress of science, art, and literature.

Our rulers and planners should therefore come out with an enlightened policy that provides the environment necessary for scientific discoveries and creative successes. While government funds generally imply greater control and less freedom, we need to create a general atmosphere where there is the realisation that good accounting, while necessary, does not lead to good science, art or poetry.

(The writer is National Research Professor & Linus Pauling Research Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore. E-mail: [email protected])

Courtesy of news: The Hindu Nov 27, 2006

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