Our leaders must understand the young generations mood

Yes, the CPI (M) Politbureau that met in New Delhi recently saw the West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee clashing with his colleagues over the need for banning any strikes in the IT sector in the State. West Bengal under the now wise CM is trying to get out of a stagnant phase that was started by no less a veteran Communist than the venerable Jyoti Basu. Basu was also present along with the new boss, Prakash Karat, the more bourgeois type middle class urbane Communist.What was shocking is that these highly dedicated and also highly off-tract men had the gumption to say that IT is not an essential service!
It is what is the limit to go on strike. In Kerala, in Trivandrum, in front of the Secretariat, right in the face of the CM’s office, there is a permanent shelter where strikes, bandhs is a daily occurrence. We can see what Kerala and West Bengal had become economically backward. In Kolkatta too the daily parade of striking workers was once a routine. Not any more. Under the current CM there is a wide realisation the State had to move with the world. So, the IT industry is getting all sorts of preferred attention. The CPI (M) politibureau has some old hands like M.K. Pandhe, had the guts to speak for the need to organise IT workers elsewhere, notably in Bangalore. For which the IT industry body, NASSCOM, came out with a rebuttal saying IT workers are now what is called “knowledge workers” a term innovated by Peter Drucker, some 30 years ago and now the term had transformed into a new work culture for an entire generation. As it was said knowledge workers are not workers in the conventional sense, they are potential entrepreneurs in their own sense. Everyone of them is expecting to set up his or her own start-ups and this motivation is entirely new to the Indian environment. This is the generation when the youngsters who in their early twenties start with a very high salary their fathers would have got at the end of their entire long career in government or outside.

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Economic development yes, but not enough social development. Hopes lie in new technologies.

The UN Human Development Report 2005 puts India in the 127th rank out of some nearly 200 countries and credits India a success story in the globalising world. Poverty fallen to somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent from the early 36 per cent syndrome. The exact figures still disputed. The consensus is that in spite of our good economic performance our poverty decline is not yet a success story! The point for us here is that the UN Report says still in India, progress in child and infant mortality are slowing down! Yes, we have the IT revolution and our pride in being the Software Super.

This status is put to shame by the UN report by the stark fact that one in eleven Indian children dies in the first five years of life. Why? Because we don’t come up with any new low-technology, low-cost interventions. Malnutrition has bared improved over the past decade. About “one in 4 girls and more than one in 10 boys don’t attend primary school”. The Indian poverty belt is now in the Northern states of Bihar, MP, UP and W.Bengal.

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Are we optimists or pessimists?

The Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates, was in India for four days, his fourth visit to India and he spoke glowingly about India looking futuristic with enormous human skills. The last 10 years had been the best so far in Indian history. Microsoft will invest 1.7 billion dollars in the next few years, also the Gates Foundation has committed huge sums for combating India’s health problems.

Not long before the Intel chief was here and he too promised investments of a billion dollars. Both these world’s leading technology companies have big India operations,both have their operations side by side in Bangalore. I pass through their sites almost everyday! So, I am reminded everyday, the power of the globalisation process on in India!

India is at the very centre of the Globalisation process, India is creating lot of new wealth in IT. All Indians are now globalising Indians, right?

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What India should be doing?

A recent survey that puts the new Indian billionaires in India at 311 persons. I don’t know how this is figure is arrived at. But assuming this figure comprises the new IT and BT(biotech) billionaries like Narayanamurthy of Infosys, Azim Premji of Wipro and Ms.Kiron Majumdar of Biocon, the biotech industry’s new star. Then there are the old industry names like the Birlas and others. There are everyday news items and analyses about how the economic boom,as measured by the stock market indices rising and crossing the many new heights.A latest such report puts Wipro as the largest company in India, at Rs. 29,585 crores in terms of market capitalisation, the second company is Reliance(Rs.27,321 crores) and the third is Tatas (Rs.19,807 crores) and so on. Among the new companies to edge out the old big businesses, are the technological companies like Bharti telecom which is now in the top ten league among the Indian companies.

Anyway, the new number of billionaires’ collective net wealth is put at Rs.3.64 trillion. What is much more striking news is that this net wealth of the Indian billionaires is growing at the incredible rate of 71 per cent from last year! Last year it was a mere Rs.2.13 trillion. So, this new wealth club has added another 133 persons in just one year time! A year ago, they were mere millionaires. What this type of surveys routinely do or fail to do is the fact these rich are contrasted with the poor. There is a rising middle class ,16.4 million urban and15.6 million rural middle classes, that propel the rich and also contributes to much of the social transformation that impacts the poor, both the rural and urban poor for positive benefits, be it access to education, health and in employment opportunities. As a senior government official is quoted to have said(in Friedman’s book)”where people have hope you have the middlclass”. And also as rightly said by Friendman,” stable middle classes around the world is crucial to geopolitical stability, middle classes is a state of mind, not a state income”. The vast majority of Americans always describe themselves as middle class, even though their incomes often don’t tally with their claim for middle class status.

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Education is much more than IT skills, right?
Education is multi-functional and multi-dimensional
Education certainly can’t be but an economic and social reality

Corporates call for merit is unrealistic and very soon the broader reality would impact on this very selfish and very short-sighted and even a sort of egotistic hemonism! At any rate, the latest CII position is much more refreshing and gives hope for affirmative action. If the Americans think it is needed why not we in India with our own many traditional disabilities halting the country’s march towards a world-admiring democracy?

Now, we have four billion dollar IT majors: TCS, Infosys, Wipro and Satyam. There is a new bullishness in the outlook of our IT majors who employ a few lakh of highly skilled graduates. The outsourcing business is also growing steadily, this year the global outsourcing is put at 22 billion businesses.

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