Looking Ahead: Cultivating Work Ethic and Civic Sense

By Akrita Reyar | Last Updated: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 - 10:29

Akrita Reyar

When Dalai Lama was asked what he felt was the main difference between the Chinese and the Indians, he quipped that people here are lazy and need to learn from their oriental neighbour.

I agree 100% and have no qualms in admitting that we are a lazy nation. During a trip to Macau, a colleague and I went to an Italian restaurant where we were served by a woman who was in a late stage of pregnancy. I thought she worked with more alacrity than young, full bodied men of our country; leave alone contrasting her with a pregnant woman here, who would refuse to get off her chair. A lot of how we approach work is in our minds.

In the Indian context, just about anything is a good enough excuse not to come to work or be spared the tough grind.

Work should be done for the sake of it and not because it is a compulsion. We, in India, are ready to drop work at the smallest excuse.

Look at the number of strikes we have… besides the recent Jat blockade, we had in the preceding months a nationwide CITU bandh, strike by Jodhpur doctors, Safdarjung medicos, pilots’ stir, teachers’ strike, taxis off the streets, to name a few. At a time when dengue had claimed nearly 1500 lives and was threatening to jeopardize the Commonwealth Games, believe it not, there was a strike by Domestic Mosquito Breeding Checkers!

There is a Chinese saying that ‘a man stands for long time with mouth open before roast duck flies in’. It basically implies that you have to work to earn a living. And of what I saw, the Chinese have immense respect for work.

Even the sentries standing at guard of Chinese government building stood stiff and straight all through the duty hours without flinching or slumping or even stretching. No sitting on chairs or even leaning on guns. No cups of teas or idle chat.

From shops to train stations to hotels to airports and offices, the Chinese were on their feet and at their jobs.

The result. Contrast the Beijing Olympics and Delhi Commonwealth Games and the answer will be easy enough.

Jyoti Basu had once confessed: “The Chinese say ‘learn from the truth’. We too must make alterations.”

Considering the labour unrest in West Bengal, he prescribed close conversations between the management and labourers, wherein terms and conditions of recompense could be set and assurances for peaceful strike-free five years given as quid pro quo.

If the staff still goes on strike after the deal, they should be suspended or made to pay financial penalties through cuts in salaries.

More than that, Indians in large numbers have no basic etiquettes. Just as we were made to read a book on moral science in primary school classes, I think we need to introduce an elementary book on dos and don’ts on etiquette including how to behave in public. Things like not to spit on streets, or stare at people without as much a spot of embarrassment.

We need to be taught to respect our heritage and not litter or scratch names on monuments. Cultivating a sense of ownership could be a way. The people need to actively participate in affairs of the area and have a sense of ownership towards public property.

During the period of Imperial Guptas, the golden age of ancient India, there was immense decentralisation and governance was done by an innovative method of political and administrative representation and people’s participation. The municipal board, responsible for the cleanliness and development of an area, comprised not just government employees but prominent members of that region – like the guild president, chief artisan, chief trader, chief farmer, and, hold your breath, chief journalist!

Look at the way Japan has reacted to a catastrophe of such enormous scale caused by deadly combo of quake and tsunami which has affected their nuclear facilities.

Watch hour after hour of footage and you will see that while the human loss has been enormous, what to say of annihilation of property, but there is no wailing, screaming, or beating of chests. Just a stoic and organized response to a very terrible tragedy.

Best of all, no loot of relief material even in places where humanitarian crisis of the worst kind has unfolded. And definitely no hoarding of supplies by black marketeers.

India is a country of vast resources, high level of human intelligence and a stellar of a history. We could do definitely with a better work ethic and character.

(This piece on Work Ethic and Civic Sense is part of the Looking Ahead series.)



First Published: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 16:17

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