That Yawning Chasm between India and Innovation

Published on CHOWK, by Suraj Sharma, July 31, 2010.

The bourgeoisie in India is under severe attack from all fronts. Social, Cultural, Economical, spiritual, you name it. Transition is the culprit attacking it – this transition is ever elusive and perpetually conclusive. As the clouds of an international economic crises loom above us, its seems as if at any moment it’ll tap on our shoulders to announce its formidable presence – and the worst thing is that few of us actually know how bad the real news is, we’re not that well-educated yet … // 

… That the industry has much to do with education has already been demonstrated wonderfully by the IT crowd. The key idea here is that they could use computers because they knew English, they were educated. Entrepreneurship today is not seen as it was seen 10 years ago, the era of manufacturing and other traditional forms of commerce associated with Indian market have all given way to the blue and white collared employees living in a very “flat world“. The fundamental problem of living in a flat world is the fear of falling off over either side of its surface. It is this fear that has gripped us and forced us into submission and rendered us docile enough to follow. Entrepreneurship needs innovation which needs courage and risk-taking abilities of a magnitude previously unheard of. Facilitation and encouragement of the said risk taking abilities should be the primary task of any government regardless of whether its “rowing” or “steering”. This can be done in at least two ways:

  • Firstly, put measures in place to check brain-drain. This could be achieved partly by following the ideas given above (more room to experiment, development of scientific temper) etc. and facilitate little revolutions of thought that actually encourage mind-muscle over body muscle…encourage thinking, start media campaigns that make research an interesting career choice. Even in some Indian states like Goa, freedom of “thought” is given preference and it reflects in the state’s adoption of weird, quirky, creative artists and boosts tourism by a certain level because it provides a spiritually free environment aside from the scenic beauty. Other states should adopt this model because, as one famous Punjab university professor (who eventually migrated to America) once put it, “Brain-drain is better than Brain-in-the-drain”
  • Secondly, there’s the issue of the Spiritual AIDS that we have contracted that needs to be resolved. This is something crucial if innovation is ever to become a way of life for us. This inability to innovate that we are facing right now is the sole symptom of a deeper, more profound problem with our society-in-transition. It reflects the workings of a capitalist ideology, which we received as a free gift when we started following the American way and dreaming the American dream and this ideology is the only thing that’s bad about American brand of capitalism. It stifles self-growth and encourages reliance and dependence, making our economic “immune” system totally dependent on the global economy. In such an equation of dependence any talk of self reliance and sustainability makes no sense and we have to resort to the old technique of spending more than we could on calming people down and blowing the deficit to bits and pieces. In trying to save the deficit, we end up ruining the employment or inflation statistics.

The spiritual crises stems from the hypocritical dichotomy of cultures where, in order to preserve our own heritage, we’re unable to fully adopt the means of cultural production from the west. This results in an ideological schizophrenia that’s debilitating and paralyzing and therefore leaves little room for innovation – entrepreneurial or otherwise. If innovation is the essence of all development, then it shouldn’t be dependent on anything else – not even education. This is the key to solve this dilemma that our generation currently faces. We cannot better the education standards unless we spend more on education but innovation isn’t the prowess of the rich and mighty alone. Therefore, there is an urgent need to separate the idea of innovation from the idea of better education for education teaches us to follow but innovation causes us to lead. Sustainable growth is a direct product of sustainable innovation and there are a lot of examples of east Asian countries innovating their socio-economic systems despite an evident lack of available funds.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that the single greatest source of innovation of any kind is ultimately leisure. As already pointed out, leisure does not mean a time to rest but instead a breakaway from the routine drudge of engagement in our daily lives where we blindly follow targets in hopes of achieving them before deadlines. This may sound a little radical at first but if investigated closely, we realize that all innovation ultimately happens when the mind is unburdened with the everyday tensions so that it can freely contemplate on the larger issues. Article 311 of the Indian constitution does exactly this by providing the Civil Servants of India a constitutional security of job because if they themselves are always worried and insecure about putting food on the table for their families- they can never provide a sense of security and complacency to the people they are in-charge of. Policy makers need to take heed of this fact and promote “Special Innovation Zones” where people can think and implement newer and more radical ideas after careful brainstorming. It is said in the Bible that if the blind lead the blind they both end up in a ditch and the clarity of vision amongst westerners has been continually an issue of doubt and suspicion -especially after this economic crisis which is a direct result of negligent policies. That we need to become independent in our mode of thought is an evident truth, but this shouldn’t mean that the urgency involved with innovation is foreboding in any sense. I mean the world isn’t coming to an end anytime soon, is it? (full text).

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