How will history judge the ongoing struggle for a stronger Lokpal? As a moment in history that started the process of challenging corruption? Or a time when young people breathed new hope and fire in building India? Anna has catalyzed this movement by backing his demands in August with the ultimate conviction – his life. He moved the nation. Parliament rose, people sang, youth marched and the mood even in urban ‘care me not’ localities was one of a rare moral triumph. He blew the first bugle of the second freedom struggle.
But the true call of a second freedom struggle has to be more positive. Freedoms are won in a democracy by building, not just by bringing down. Anna’s life shows this building bias in Ralegaon Siddhi, his village where he worked tirelessly for over two decades. That experience created by an ex-subedar of the army has given the country a village development model that has been emulated by other builders. From Panchayat leader R. Elango near Chennai, to Joe Madiath of Gram Vikas in far off Orrisa takes inspiration from his work, and they in turn are inspiring young nation builders through their own efforts. We will visit many of these nation builders to hear first hand from them the joys and travails of building an enterprise. This message is more difficult, it is more long term, but that is precisely why it is the unfinished agenda that young India should now turn its attention to.
When our nation was born in 1947 our founding fathers were exercised by a key question that the world was asking them – will India maintain its territorial integrity? As a new born democracy, wrested from a colonial power, pockmarked by princely states, could India remain intact? The Mahatma took a view that thousands of villages that comprised more than 80% of the new born Indian republic would form the basis of local governance, innovation and creation. Unfortunately Gandhi’s early demise put paid to this argument. Our founding fathers, initiated the compromise India needed at that time - to keep the nation intact, government had to rule over citizens and it would do it through central planning. Maintaining the political integrity of our nation and involving citizens in development at the same moment was declared difficult.
Nearing 65 years of independence, as the first generation retires; a new generation of young citizens is taking to the battlefield through other means. The iron framework of the government, designed in the days of the Raj to keep citizens in check is being scrutinized both for integrity and performance. Mobile phones, SMS, twitter and facebook are the new weaponry in this encounter. TV camera’s project this theater of confrontation to billions of others. The question of integrity and character, long festering among our citizens gets ignited by candle lit marches. However, in this drum roll of a new battle, we have to remind ourselves that young citizens have to focus on ‘building’ as much as ‘bringing down’.
For the second freedom struggle to be successful, young India has to connect with a more fundamental human urge - to build. This was in evidence in 1997, when we visited Ralegaon Siddhi with 200 young Indians in the first Yatra. We were travelling the country to meet change makers as part of the 50th anniversary of India’s independence, and this was the penultimate stop. Anna had transformed this sleepy, alcohol prone and largely destitute village into a model of prosperity. He was determined to pay a debt he owned the almighty, for having spared his life when his army battalion was wiped out and he was the sole survivor. In the short time we stayed with him, we got a glimpse of his formidable staying power. Anna rose at 5 am and worked till late at night, meeting people, solving problems, mentoring people and building a new village development model by enlisting enterprising young Indians. That quiet dignity, underpinned by deep resolve has also been on show lately and has influenced a number of young Indians.
Only if we give such a purpose driven message to young India will the true task of the second freedom struggle be accomplished. This is not just about turfing out corruption, it is also building stronger institutions, getting development in every district, getting citizens to take part in that development, asking citizens to be involved in the process of building through enterprise. This our founding fathers left for later, left for us, now a generation later. This is a process that Jagriti has vowed to take on through its vision of building India through Enterprise.
This message of citizen led development has to focus on the smaller towns and villages of India where the 8% growth economy has failed to penetrate. Here too modern tools of technology like mobile phone, SMS can be used gainfully to build. Then technology will be used in a manner that is purposeful, long term and constructive. The same tools that can bring a government to enact legislation can be used to solve the numerous problems India faces in its hinterland, particularly if these solutions are de-centralized and people driven. Then youth engagement will move beyond slacktivism, and engage in a purpose driven method to build India.
This agenda of Enterprise Led Development or Udyam Janit Vikas has the power to unleash the creative and ‘building’ gene of young India. It can provide purpose to millions of young Indians who will enter the workforce over the coming two decades. It will convert them from job seekers to job creators, particularly in the smaller towns and villages of the country where unemployment and underemployment is endemic. The candle lights will search for integrity, while lighting up the fires of hope, purpose and long term development. Only then will we build a country of substance.
Anna’s message of integrity has a complementary message of lifelong service to rural development and enterprise. In 1997, during the first Yatra in Ralegaon Siddhi, Anna had echoed the soil he so dearly loved. He said ‘one grain has to bury itself alive to give birth to a field of crops. By burying itself, the grain does not die. India today needs people like that grain’. This is Anna’s true message for those young Indians touched by his spirit. As young Yatris you will be like seeds scattered across India, giving birth to our second republic. Only then will India’s unfinished agenda be complete.
The author Shashank Mani is the Chairman of Jagriti Sewa Sansthan. He was the original architect of the 1997 Yatra, helping conceive and execute it. Shashank works for an IT - Services company, and is recognized as an industry expert in finance and accounting outsourcing. Shashank has written about the 1997 Yatra in his book 'India: Journey through a healing civilisation'. Shashank has a B. Tech from IIT - Delhi and an MBA (Hons) from IMD, Lausanne.