Only recently we celebrated the 57th anniversary of our Independence. Just as the national flag was raised on August 15, 1947 with those striking and emotional words of then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in his world famous Tryst with destiny speech, the multitudes that had gathered all over the country to watch this thrilling experience of the entire nation had great expectations. There was breathtaking roar of cheering, shouting, singing and crying as Indians hailed this grand emotional experience of grandeur.
Have we fulfilled the dreams and aspirations of the freedom fighters?
Dynamic political democracy, a vast pool of highly qualified scientific and technological personnel, a large industrial and manufacturing sector, globally innovative and competitive managers, self-reliant and modern agriculture, an expanding services sector: these are no doubt good reasons to describe the eminence of India in the comity of nations.
However, this joy and pride is disturbed with the continuing existence of poverty, disease, illiteracy, poor infrastructure, religious intolerance and social tensions between classes. While our higher education system has blossomed with institutions of excellence, it cannot be said that we have excelled in the field of mass education especially in some states.
Persistent malnutrition, very poor education infrastructure and litigation in the administration of educational institutions mar the success story of India's education system. The recent fire accident in Kumbakonam school is a grim reminder of how education is administratively neglected and how much more we have to do to improve the quality of education infrastructure.
Similarly, the number of cases in various high courts and Supreme Court regarding admissions to professional educational institutions is another indication of poor quality of governance in the education sector in spite of so many years of self rule and a large reservoir of trained managerial personnel.
It would be worthwhile to remember George Orwell's statement -- 'If you control the present you control the future and if you control the past you control the present.' Well, unfortunately most of us realise the wisdom of such statements only when we are at the evening of our life.
As mentioned in the story of Alice in Wonderland, how we shape our future depends upon which direction we choose. The first step to getting the things we want out of life is to decide what we want. This brings us to the options that we have today in India to decide what we want.
India is a remarkably wonderful country with a rich past, challenging present and glorious future. When we finished college, the opportunities we had were very limited. It was mainly the government which was providing employment except in some cities where industry provided job opportunities. Today on the other hand, there are enormous opportunities not only in India but all over the world. Indians have distinguished themselves in the fields of science, technology, administration, industry and agriculture all over. There is no need to be despondent or pessimistic any longer about the future.
Normally it is the expectation of those who have had good education to look for a successful career. There should be no objection to that. But life is not as simple as everyone would like it to be. Swami Vivekananda's words come to my mind, 'If education is identical with information, the libraries are the greatest sages in the world and encyclopaedias are rishis.' Adequate knowledge in a chosen field has to be harmonised with values if education has to be meaningful and fruitful.
In the end, education is fundamentally a human process in order to create a humane and just society. The question therefore, is whether your knowledge is adequate to successfully face the challenges ahead.
No doubt success means freedom from worries, fears, frustrations and failure. Success means self-respect and happiness. It is often said that faith can move mountains. Belief in great results is the driving force in every activity. Belief in success is the most important ingredient behind every successful career or business. In this connection, I would like to quote from The Magic Of Thinking Big by David J Schwartz:
'Over the years I've talked with many people who have failed in business ventures and in various careers. I've heard a lot of reasons and excuses for failure. Something especially significant unfolds as conversations with failures develop. In a casual sort of way the failure drops a remark like "To tell the truth, I didn't think it would work" or "I had my misgivings before I even started out" or "Actually, I wasn't too surprised that it didn't work out.'
The 'Okay-I'll-give-it-a-try-but-I-don't-think-it-will-work' attitude produces failures.
Disbelief is negative power. When the mind disbelieves or doubts, the mind attracts 'reasons' to support the disbelief. Doubt, disbelief, the subconscious will to fail, the not really wanting to succeed, is responsible for most failures".
Belief is, therefore, the thermostat that regulates the active life of any human being. If one believes he is worth little, he receives little. If he believes he can't do big things, he doesn't. On the other hand, a person who has faith and confidence in himself, receives much. To quote David J Schwartz again:
'Production in your thought factory is under the charge of two foremen, one of whom we will call Mr Triumph and the other Mr Defeat. Mr Triumph is in charge of manufacturing positive thoughts. He specialises in producing reasons why you can, why you're qualified, why you will.
The other foreman, Mr Defeat, produces negative, depreciating thoughts. He is your expert in developing reasons why you can't, why you're weak, why you're inadequate. His speciality is the "why-you-will-fail" chain of thoughts.
Both Mr Triumph and Mr Defeat are intensely obedient. They snap to attention immediately. All you need do to signal either foreman is to give the slightest mental beck-and-call. If the signal is positive, Mr Triumph will step forward and go to work. Likewise, a negative signal brings Mr Defeat forward.'
To acquire and strengthen the power of belief, one ought to impress upon the mind that successful people are just ordinary human beings who had developed faith in themselves and their ability to perform all the time. One has to think success before starting any activity. Remind oneself regularly that you are better than what you think of yourselves. In this effort, always think big.
The rate of success is indeed proportionate to the size of your belief. Positive attitude with self belief is the key to leadership. Ralph J Cordiner, chairman of the Board of the General Electric Company, said this to a leadership conference:
'We need from every man who aspires to leadership -- for himself and his company -- a determination to undertake a personal program of self-development. Nobody is going to order a man to develop Whether a man lags behind or moves ahead in his speciality is a matter of his own personal application. This is something which takes time, work, and sacrifice. Nobody can do it for you.'
Is self development therefore a function of oneself?
In a nutshell, you have to get yourself very intense all the time in achieving your goal.
The role of the individual towards the country and community as self-development is going to have an impact on the future of this country.
We Indians are fond of criticising others, as if no fault is on ourselves. We find it easy to find fault with the government, laws, rules, neighbours and so on.
It is not that we cannot find fault but it is necessary first to know whether we have faults, which need to be corrected. Similarly, our political parties are more personality oriented than policy oriented. They are very fond of launching personal attacks than worrying about community welfare. When in power they find it politically irresistible to abandon fiscal conservatism and sound economic policies for short term gains in order to please powerful lobbies.
Again, political parties seem to be formed mainly to cater to the caste/creed requirements than general welfare. They have scant regard for the rule of law. When Indians go abroad, they are successful. They obey the rules and regulations without any murmur. They don't throw cigarette butts or waste paper on the roads. They would not speed on the roads and violate traffic regulations. Can you spit paan on the streets in foreign countries? You don't flaunt your designations and authority to jump queues when you visit these countries.
When it comes to burning social issues like those related to women, dowry, female education, we make loud noises in public but continue to do the reverse at home. When problems present in quick succession, we blame the system. When corruption looms large, we don't realise that every bribe-giver is as much at fault as the receiver. Indian businessmen often complain against the government without realising that majority of them don't observe even the elementary requirements of corporate governance.
If we do not realise these obvious facts, we will continue to be lagging behind, be it Human Development Index or Corruption Index.
If we do not work hard with dedication and self esteem and take pride in ourselves and our country, we will continue to take a back seat whether in the Olympics or international tournaments in cricket or hockey. We as a nation have to perform better.
Let us face obvious facts with courage now. India enjoys a good record of democracy though not necessarily a disciplined one. It has a vibrant media though not many a times self regulated and positive. It has an independent judiciary though not often quick in deciding cases. It still has respect for the rule of law though not free from loopholes. It has remarkable and successful entrepreneurs though some of them do not respect basic rules of corporate governance.
We have brilliant brains and excellent educational institutions though education has not reached millions of downtrodden. Our labour is highly skilled and intelligent though not always disciplined in their work culture. Our bureaucracy is well organised but not necessarily responsive and responsible.
We as a nation have to realise in this changing hyper-competitive global economy that everything has a price. Leisure and holiday culture cannot make us a global giant.
We will be a global pygmy if we do not take prompt remedial action. The remedial action lies in positive attitude with hard work and discipline whether for individual or nation. It is not easy. It is not difficult either.
All that we need to do is to change. The sooner we change our approach with national pride, the better it is.
Can we do it?
Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy delivered this convocation address at the Sri Sringeri Sharada Institute of Management in New Delhi. This is an edited version of the CEC's speech.