People keep telling me how good things will happen to India if we stop complaining and start doing things. I agree. No amount of armchair philosophy and acerbic cribbing can beat direct action on the ground (italics inspired from The Direct Action Day).
NGO’s are doing their bit. Examples like Barefoot College, which do transform lives en masse are inspiring. But the question which bothers me is how viable it is as a career alternative? Can I work full-time for an NGO and sustain a normal family on that income? I doubt that. This has a two fold impact. Either people do it part time, while debugging Java code for their day jobs; or highly inspired people take it up no matter what, and don’t bother about better living conditions for themselves or their families. Why is working for a good cause not a viable career option? Why does primary school teaching pay so less? Why is the media coverage for these causes so restricted.
Let me elaborate on the media point a little (currently obsessed with this “manufacturing consent” phenomenon, apologies). We have seen India Today do their Person of the Year feature on someone who has made a real difference at the grass root level, we see coverage on some NGO’s now and then, we also have sites like Good News India which appreciate and publicize great work done by unselfish people. But if you compare the number of articles, features, headlines, cover stories, etc. covering the BPO/IT sector, covering their glamor, how-to-get-in-tips, going ga-ga over the global economy, etc. with the miniscule amount of coverage that NGO’s get, you know why people are not inspired that much. But the reason for this difference in media treatment need not be attributed to Chomskian filters, but can be easily attributed to the fact that NGO-type of work is still not a viable career option for a fresh graduate who is looking for a job.
Currently our manufacturing, government, political, transport, financial and other non-IT sectors are not as lucrative as the BPO sector. The consequences are obvious – we are just losing a huge chunk of educated quality work force, who instead of working on things which do matter to us, are selling long distance calling cards to someone who hates them in some godforsaken place. We have to see whether the money they are bringing in to India is comparable to the benefits that’d have accrued over a long term had they decided to put in their brains and energy into working for India directly. I think the latter would yield better results had it paid as much as the call centers. This is where some amount of Jingoism comes in. I beat my chest and scream that we should not be licking ass, and should be kicking it instead, and I hope that someone (including me) hears me and does something worthwhile.
But why are non-IT sectors not as lucrative as the IT sectors? I don’t know fully. Needs more academic study.
Of course, all of it is economics. The Brits looting like common robbers, the Americans doing it in the grab of neo-colonialism, the Elite taking horse riding lessons (couldn’t resist this dig S), the Media raving about movies like Page 3, and almost everything that results in anything is attributed to economics. So, if everything were economics, where does government policy come in? why can’t free markets rule the world? Why do we need countries, governments, organizations, unions, etc. taking care of people who cannot take care of themselves. I think that is what separates us from the free market loving animals of Masai Mara. We try to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves. And when that doesn’t happen, we cry foul. We cry foul because, according to us, exploitation of the not-so-intellectually-or-technologically equipped class of people is not fair. Not abiding by live-and-let-live is unfair. But, free markets do have their place. Aggressive economic thinking resulting in great profits is a great thing. People who can do it should be allowed to do it. But if that starts happening at the cost of an entire set of people, an entire culture, across centuries to alter the mind-set of generations, I have a problem with it.
I am a jingo alright.