Now that our collective euphoria over winning six medals (one by default) in the Olympics is over, it is time to figure out why we do not grow as a nation in any walk of life, and sports particularly.
The known factor is that we are poor managers of anything and the system discourages and pulls down the few visionaries we have. Among good managers and visionaries who are entrusted with game-changing jobs, there is only one left today Nandan Nilekani (what happened to Sam Pitroda?). But already two very major attempts have been made to scuttle the Aadhaar scheme. How long Nilekani will survive we do not know.
Among political leaders there is only one I have watched from close quarters: Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi, who is an astute administrator and builder and has transformed New Delhi into a modern city which should in the near future become a world class city. The rest are stories of dead cities gone well beyond any management and surviving (Mumbai) — like a man hanging from the ledge of a cliff with one hand.
The other reason is that we are an insular race. While we love to go and settle abroad and become prime ministers of other countries, we do not like people of “foreign origin” to have any role in any matter concerning our country. This has been India’s biggest loss. While the US and the UK have open, free, liberal multi-ethnic societies which invite and groom people from all over the world, we drive them out to proclaim our racial and ethnic superiority. This way we actually announce our dread of talent and intellectual superiority. This is the real story of a nation in decline.
The US, despite being the most powerful and well governed country in the world, still has a visa for people of exceptional talent (writers, film-makers , sportsmen) who can apply and get green cards. Look at the humility of that country which has invented almost all the new technology over the last 30 years. And has pocketed a lion’s share of Nobel Prizes.
Sports is the best way to illustrate the Indian fear of “the other”. Twenty-four of the 65 medals that Great Britain won at the Olympics this year were by immigrants, some of whom became British citizen less than five years ago. Sixteen medal winners have family links to Nigeria. Mohammad Mo Farah, who won both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, was born in war-torn Somalia and then moved from Djibouti to London. Instead, if he or his family had tried to come to India, would he have got even a multi-entry visa?
Why do we keep others away? The subliminal concept that propagates such policy is the timid conviction that this is land of purity and “outsiders” will dirty and dilute this so-called pure, unfunctioning monolith that we have put up. The insular nature is well-ensconced in this larger pan-Indian mindset, that sees India as a bastion of some mighty unseen moral force. Hence, all others, being vulnerable to various evils, should be driven out. It is an extension of this belief that we see “pure ghee” and “pure vegetarian” written everywhere in north India and also the reason why Sushil Kumar is being gifted with 100 kg of pure ghee (as different from impure ghee, which you can buy from, say, London). Thus, we seek to vacuum-wrap his pure Indianness and place him inside a cocoon of our own ignorance and banality.
Now look at what Sunder Katwala (possibly of Indian origin), a director of British Future, the agency which tracks the country’s progress, says: “The record-breaking achievements of Team GB athletes have reflected an inclusive and authentic pride in the shared multi-ethnic society that we are today. It is a different Olympic team from the last London Games of 1948. Then, the popular sprinter McDonald Bailey from Trinidad stood out of the team photo as the only black athlete in a sea of white faces,” he told The Telegraph.
Now, will any official or minister in India make any such statement in the near future? We carry this ethnic purity or ‘Indianness’ to such a ridiculous extent that we even ejected Prakash Amritraj, son of Vijay Amritraj, out of the Indian team even though he had a PIO card. (This was MS Gill’s biggest contribution to Indian sport.) We sent the son of one of India’s proudest sons to oblivion, ending his bright career just because he had a US green card. All this while the US itself encourages people, Including Indians of high calibre, to go there and realise their dreams. Our elite know more about US universities than they know about India and from an early age are trained to talk about Brown, Yale and Columbia!
For many years talented footballers from Africa and Brazil have been playing league football in India. Not once was an attempt made to draw them into the deplorable Indian soccer team by offering them Indian passports. We prefer to be at the bottom of the world standings rather than let a Brazilian or a Nigerian play under the Indian flag.
This is why we hate Bangladeshis, calling them illegal immigrants, though over the years we have specialised in illegal immigration to other countries, especially US and UK. Only last week, a US university, a front for Indian illegal immigration to the US, was shut down. In fact, today Bangladesh is far better off than either Assam or Bengal (jobs, microcredit, rising exports) and who would want to cross the border?
Bangladesh has grown at 6 percent over the last decade and an April report in The New York Times says it will be in the “7 percent club,” which includes only China, Cambodia, India, Mozambique and Uganda. For which Bangladeshi is Assam or Bengal an El Dorado now? “We are poor,” Mamata Banerjee proudly told TV cameras on 24 August outside Parliament as if it was a matter of pride. Like this chief minister, we love to wallow in our dismal human development record. The same proud Bengal, about which once it was rightly said, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”. Also our illogical hatred of Bangladesh (once part of our big country) has resulted in trade being only five percent of what it should be. Bridges are now being built, but the damage has been done.
Our hatred and fear of China has resulted in many big projects with Chinese help in India being scuttled. All our neighbours, including Sri Lanka, have welcomed Chinese investment and building prowess while we shout “security threat”.
We have embraced our long-standing position of being lowlies. We love being mediocre as long as we are ‘pure’. Six medals will do as long as we eat only “pure ghee”.