India spends more on programs for the poor than most developing countries, but it has failed to eradicate poverty because of widespread corruption and faulty government administration. India is not getting the ‘bang for the rupee’ that its significant expenditure would there is need for a radical overhaul of India’s social programs. Marginal changes alone may not deliver the kind of safety net which a changing India needs for its poor and for its economy. The program’s apparent failure has haunted social scientists and policy makers, making poverty seem all the more intractable.
What we need today are innovative solutions that can take into account the peculiarities of the people at the bottom of the pyramid. We need to use your natural powers-of persistence, concentration, insight, and sensitivity to do work, think deeply, and solve problems. Social innovation is taking place at multiple levels, driven by passion to make a difference. But as with most trumpeted development initiatives the present programmes are also struggling to turn rhetoric into tangible success. A lot of good programs got their start when one individual looked at a familiar landscape in a fresh way. But several of these programmes were difficult to scale up. We increasingly have the tools to combat it. We know what to do if we just can summon the political will.
My passion and commitment to rural and tribal India has been sustained all through my life by my innate faith in the indomitable spirit of its people –particularly women whose grit, tenacity and creativity in the face of so many odds and challenges is just remarkable. The pursuit of excellence requires you to unleash your passion. When you put your passion into everything you do, it gives you the power to become a potent pioneer. You will blaze paths few would go down, and see them all the way through to the end. Your passionate pursuit of converting your idea into a reality will open new doors to endless possibilities. During my entire professional life in which I have connected with a vast spectrum of rural stakeholders, I found they have both the instinct and determination to bring about a change in their own communities. All they need is opportunity. Everyone is born equally capable but lacks equal opportunity. They inspire us, and they serve as good examples of how millions of brave and industrious people are working their way up the economic ladder, with dignity and pride. I have seen how microfinance has unlocked their creative energies which they have harnessed to usher in so many minirevolutions.
My experience has taught me that personality and personal qualities-idealism, interpersonal skills, perseverance, energy and enthusiasm-play a crucial role in the success of any programme. The importance of the contributions of various levels of programs staff-their ability, their commitment, their creativity and their devoted hard work can hardly be overlooked. There is much innovation and even heroism and sacrifice by staff that is known only to villagers and other staff. Rural banking no longer remained a column in the reporting metrics. It had to stand on its own feet; it had to sprint I also learned through years of driving to seminars, participating in meetings, and actually working on the project hands-on. I sometimes feel that the reason why most of the younger managers are now loath to rural assignment is that they have not been properly mentored. Something has gone askance somewhere in the alchemy and we have not been able to build a new generation of committed rural bankers. Since micro-finance was an almost totally new area for us, I tried to learn about it from its practitioners. Whenever I got access to the subject material, I lived it, breathed it and always thought about it. An intensive exposure to rural India mad me a more rounded person
In the introduction to their book Super Freakonomics, Levitt and Dubner wrote, ‘If you had the option of being born anywhere in the world today, India might not be the wisest choice. Despite its vaunted progress as a major player in the global economy, the country as a whole remains excruciatingly poor. Life expectancy and literacy rates are low; pollution and corruption are high. In the rural areas where more than two-thirds of Indians live, barely half of the households have electricity and only one in four homes has a toilet” I cannot contest this statement factually. However, being an Indian, I can say if I had a choice to be reborn, I would choose India as my place of birth. Not because I have had a wonderful existence in the country, but because of the different challenges it exposed me to that made my life richer.
No one wants to reset his perceptions of rural India which are so old and outmoded. There is no sense in giving insane advices from the comfort of your office to a colleague who is sweating it out in the field.
Every corporate leader acknowledges the overwhelming importance of empathy-not a form of empathy that comes from superiority, but one born from a profound humility.
Empathy remains an emotional foundation — it’s the prime attribute of successful leaders. Leaders must become more engaged by rolling-up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty, rather than expecting others to always do it for them. Leaders need to become more mindful of how they are leading others and how they are being perceived as they sit in the corner office
A village assignment is however a unique experience despite the inconveniences that one has to put with. You can change lives and can turn a shriveled, stricken economy into a vibrant community where children go to school, health and nutrition improve, and poverty-driven horrors like starvation and prostitution are memories, not the future. Your vision and perspective of human development will be incomplete unless you have engaged with a village –it is the microcosm of the other and more exciting and creative India. It gives remarkable insight into the soul of real India –an India that cannot be ignored. If we want to ignore we can do so only at our peril.
In his book The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy writes: “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
We should really applaud and honour ordinary men and women, who have nobody to back them, yet are working doggedly to keep projects rolling. Nobody can fathom the mental and physical suffering they and their families are undergoing. I doubt whether outsiders like me, protected by status, high profile network, passport, police and the state, can be justified in urging others to risk their livelihoods, their families’ well-being, or their lives. To take risks for oneself is one thing. To encourage others to do so is quite another. As Adlai Stevenson has so pithily commented: “It is easier to fight for principles than to live up to them”.
Moin Qazi is the author of Village Diary of a Heretic Banker .He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades .He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org