Till the Cows Come Home

October 1, 2023by Rajeev Hora0


A recent high profile domestic speech focussed around an aspiration to soon become the third largest economy in the world. And why not?

 We have recently bought a new car since the previous one became due for extinction. Ever since, I love my morning half an hour drive to work. The traffic is low and the music through my CarPlay is heavenly. Sounds even better after I got the sound-damping done on the doors.

While I do relish the change, I truly despise the government’s 15 years scrapping policy as our earlier family darling was still sparkling new. We had logged less than 40K on the beauty with a freak engine which boasted of better pollution figures than that of a newly born.

I am given to understand that the economy gets quite a boost from the car-manufacturing sector if the vehicles are phased out early and periodically. But given the inadequacies of our recycling abilities, look at the colossal waste of natural resources which happens every time a car is crushed. Crushes my ‘natural’ instincts for sure!

When it comes to scrapping cars, at least some process is in place. However, it is not so for the majority of the marketed items and supporting acts of an economic system which is threatening to cause an existential crisis. For every garment that we wear and every morsel that we eat, probably ten more are either in the oncoming inventory or in the bin. In fact, for every conceivable thing that we buy, the residue and packing bags constitute an associated anathematic curse.

All these and much more land up in the garbage bins because we have no more storage left in our dwellings. Recycling in our country is in its absolute nascent stages. It costs money and the returns on investment are not visible. So all the extra stuff lands up in ubiquitous  garbage corners which have become the bane of our country. The very occasional efforts by municipal corporations to relocate the pile from one end of the city to another are just reserved for visits of the G-20 type.

We are a free country and thereupon we cherish our freedom to spit anywhere we feel like. Perhaps we are the only country in the world which also has total freedom for cows and buffaloes to wander freely on roads. The odd accident every other day because of our transgressions into their walk zone is not worth mentioning.

More significantly and admittedly cynically, I can’t help admire the out-of-the-box thinking of our country. Using ‘dry cows’, the ones which have stopped giving milk, as recycling agents for plastic. Don’t get it? Looking at the way, we allow them to munch in our garbage heaps, it certainly seems so.

We are becoming a manufacturing hub for many multi-nationals. Use our natural resources, sell it in our markets and let the associated waste fly around in our streets or flow in our rivers. For every piece of litter on the street, there is a price to be paid in the future. Simply put, our cost of manufacturing is low today because we are not accounting for the cost towards waste management efforts. It will come to bite us one day, albeit a super-slow bite.

Everyone has probably heard about the Alang Ship breaking shipyard in Gujarat. It should actually be termed the graveyard of ships.  Can’t believe that we actually allow the world shipping  to come and dump their retiring ships full of toxic materials on our beaches. Someway of creating employment. Alarming and ridiculous to say the least!

Talking about resources, our human resource pool is probably the biggest in the world. Unqualified, untapped and unemployed it may be, but the numbers speak for themselves. But sometimes I get the impression that we are using our human resources to just boost our economy. Millions of people from guards to cleaners, employed in the 10k-12k range jobs. Earning just enough to sustain themselves and their dear ones back home.

I take a pause to get my head around. I wonder whether the economy is supposed to support these folks and their quality of life or vice versa? Either way, when survival is at stake, quality of life takes a backseat. And so does the rule of the law.

No better way to experience the rule of the law or rather the lack of it than being on an Indian road. Given the way we drive on our roads, barring the odd exception, every guy today would fail a driving test in a developed country. Our roads and the kind of traffic they bear are a true embodiment of what our country is today. No standardization, no respect for rules, no safety consciousness and no consideration for fellow humans. Only brinkmanship and the drive to move ahead at any cost.

Economic considerations dominate political discourses nowadays. A recent high profile domestic speech focussed around an aspiration to soon become the third largest economy in the world. And why not? We are endowed with natural resources and a population which will soon be one fifth of the world. Given all that volume, we may even surpass that milestone. But then I sometimes wonder whether we have a choice in this matter, if our burgeoning numbers have to just survive, if not necessarily thrive.

Per capita GDP and tweaked Human development indices are often used as measures for winning countless and unending debates on the idiot box. So when we do this kind of chest thumping, what does it really mean? All it signifies is the quantum of money that must circulate to sustain the largest chunk of the world’s population. Although we love to make that co-relation, it has no reflection on the way we live, exist and behave.

According to the UN statistics division, the designations ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ are intended for statistical convenience and do not necessarily express a judgement about the stage reached by a particular country or area in the development process. Even without a formal definition, we all understand the ones in the former category and where we stand.

No we are not looking at fancy cars and branded goods to be classified as ‘developed’. All that we want is potable water, a nationwide sewage system, a garbage free country and sufficient opportunities for education and work, so that no one goes to bed hungry. And of course, regulated traffic and pothole free roads, minus the cows. Not forgetting a judiciary which works speedily. Come to think of it, all this is not even rocket science, which we are pretty good at incidentally.

Gazing through the path we are progressing on today, I zoom into the future. And I dare say with the deepest of conviction that:

Even if we become the No 1 economy in the world, we will never become a developed nation in the classical sense. At best, we will always remain a work in progress.

 Desperately wanting to be proven wrong!

 Waiting for the cows to come home,
Horax (Casper)

 First published on seekmediation.com on 30/09/23
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