By Dr Navin Chandra Joshi
FEW leaders in history faced a more ambitious task or one whose outcome was more uncertain than the present youth leadership of India. The youth want to act as the primary agent of change in Indian society despite the fact that a large number of people within the country still resist. The youth leadership wants to bring about social and economic transformation, not because of ideology but due to necessity. The youth feels that ancient traditions have been rendered tragically inadequate by the passage of time and they need to be thrown overboard.
The historic transformation in the thinking of the youth is the real revolution of rising expectations. While the traditional expectations of people are as strong as the new aspirations of the youth for a better and a newer life, the tragedy is that the impact of modern science and technology has made traditional ways obsolete, without as yet providing a tolerable alternative.
The historic transformation in the thinking of the youth is the real revolution of rising expectations. While the traditional expectations of the people are as strong as the new aspirations of the youth for a better and a newer life, the tragedy is that the impact of modern science and technology has made traditional ways obsolete, without as yet providing a tolerable alternative.
What is more, the recent progress in economic growth has done much more to raise the aspirations of the youth. Now they want opportunities to be provided for a creative life. Today, in the developing countries, there is no more explosive political material than the doctor who knows what modern medicine can do but does not have the facilities to put his knowledge to work; or the teacher who must teach, if at all, without text-books; or the engineer without access to capital equipment; or the businessman without a place for business; or the politician without the following that understands what he or she is talking about. Therefore, the youth leadership has a peculiar problem of informing and educating the people, apart from improving the quality of life through economic transformation.
During the industrial revolution, countries did not need to take many development initiatives. The rate of economic growth was determined largely by the rate at which man could push ahead the frontiers of technology. But now the knowledge about what it takes for a society to grow rich already exists. The rate of growth, therefore, depends on how quickly the society adapts itself to use this knowledge.
Today'senlightened leadership is driven to try to leap over the many contradictions in the process of economic development, to try to settle once and for all the inevitable conflicts between growth and justice, national power and economic equality. No leader in the early stage of development in the West had anything like the range and complexity of choices, which are faced by the new leaders of the developing world today. It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of India'snew youth leadership. Their actions will largely determine not only the future course that India will adopt, but will also increasingly shape international policies as well.
Poor countries have essentially to make sacrifices to escape poverty. Often they start from such a low point on the economic scale that the experience of the affluent West seems quite inappropriate to them. India has been making efforts to prove that poverty can be removed and economic progress made without making people live under regimentation or fear. This indeed has also been the motive force behind the present-day progress on all fronts of India'seconomy. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre can genuinely take credit for India'sshining.
To conclude, the revolution of rising expectation poses itself as a challenge to the Western civilisation. It is not so much a question as to whether or not these poor countries develop. More economic development surely offers a great hope of escape from the problems which economic development itself creates. As such, the important question is: Can a poor country escape its poverty without, in the process, generating extravagant forms of political injustice and cruelty? At stake is not so much the balance of political or economic power. Rather, it is the balance of hope.
(The writer is former Colombo Plan professor and has retired from Delhi University.)