Chalta hai? Kyun chalta hai bhai?

Written by  //  January 20, 2011  //  National Politics  //  1 Comment

This is a guest post by Deeksha Sharma

Our public places such as railway stations and bus-stands come close to looking like garbage dumps and spittoons. Our governmental projects always take double the amount of time and we continue to lose our country’s precious resources to shoddy implementation. But our netas and babus continue to flourish and enrich the coming seven generations! We continue to stink of rampant corruption in our public affairs, when in the ‘India shining’ we should have seen swift and transparent governance. All this and much more are fine for us – in fact, just about anything is fine because of our ‘chalta hai’ attitude.

But what really do we mean by this ‘chalta hai’ attitude? Well, to begin with it is a convenient blanket term to cover all this behaviour that reflects resignation to mediocrity and a lackadaisical approach of Indians in conduct of public life. We all often face injustice and corruption at different points in life – from big to small. From a babu in a government office asking for Rs. 500 to move our files ahead to ignoring sheer wastage of our tax money that the pre – Commonwealth disasters revealed – we just give in by finding exotic lame reasons for doing so: I’d rather give Rs. 500 but not waste my time in rebelling for my right to get this work done without a bribe or I have so much work of my own that how do I even care what happens in a games village or a stadium – we indeed have a stack full of excuses.

These excuses are making us ironically indifferent to the conduct of our own country’s affairs to such an extent that we have comfortably resigned to the status quo of affairs in Indian public life. This is, in turn, robbing us of optimum utilisation of our potential as a nation. However, more than critical question that arises here is that what has really bred this chalta hai attitude to this extent in our country? Is it years of colonial dominance that has now made subjugation and resignation to a dominant state of affairs a key feature of our conduct in our national and public life? Or is it inherent in the caste and other division dominant society where your birth determines your place in society and therefore, essentially, how much you can do about the state of affairs therein? Or are the reasons more socio-economic in nature, where the economically weaker find it futile and beyond their reach to indulge in the supposedly ‘wasteful’ practices of questioning and concepts of change, when they have more immediate and pressing things to attend to like getting two square meals a day?

Assuming all the above reasons are correct, one class of people that does not come (or at least should not) come under their purview is the modern generation – that is US – the young and educated lot that has the power of information. Brought up in a process of reasoning (or at least presumably so) and having exposure to various forms of media volleying ideas of liberal ideas of democracy, equality, freedom and justice upon us, we can definitely not be the ones making arguments of either a colonial relic or caste distinctions as being our shaping influences. Even if they were, the power reasoning and the element of rationality that we are supposed to develop as a part of our ‘modern’ education should supposedly help us analyse that irrespective of caste, economic status or any other division, the chalta hai attitude is a chronic problem of Indian public life, which affects us all.

With this, the obvious question that crops up is how do we deal with this unceasing menace? The solution can possibly be two-fold. First, at an individual level we need to realize that it is chalta hai because we let it be so! The nature of this problem and its various manifestations in public life is such that it thrives because we become a part of it and let it flourish through us. Therefore if, as a matter of conscious discipline and at the cost of possible inconvenience, we begin to question such situations and refuse to give in then probably the first steps in checking it have already been taken. The starting from ourselves we could possibly take it to our micro level organizations, which we are a part of, such as our RWA’s, clubs, societies and Unions and let it transform into the power of a collective attitude.

Secondly, it needs to become a part of our policy and process in conduct of public affairs. The standard of accountability should not only be having the work completed. Rather, it should be having the work completed within the stipulated time (if not the shortest time), delivering the best quality and with the most efficient utilization of the available resources. This system can be stimulated with a reward and punishment approach. Offering incentives to those who match these brand new parameters of good performance and ensuring consequences from holiday cuts to pay cuts for those ‘just let it be’ will probably be a good measure of enforcing accountability. These are just few of the possible approaches that we can take to deal with our ‘chalta-hai’ attitude. But more importantly, the idea of this piece is to get us to think- that there is a looming problem, and if we do not take the responsibility of dealing with it in time, it may just be the start of multi-faced crisis for us as a nation.

Deeksha Sharma is a DPhil student in law at the University of Oxford and blogs at The Silent Noise.

One Comment on "Chalta hai? Kyun chalta hai bhai?"

  1. Siddhartha May 6, 2011 at 6:40 pm ·

    Most of the communities in India (such as Bengali), are succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty'(a theory introduced by an American anthropologist Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is at all ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold. Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour (values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting of those children those are born out of ignorance, real poverty. All of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in their own life/attitude, involve themselves in ‘Production of Space’(Henri Lefebvre), at least initiate a movement by heart, decent & dedicated Politics will definitely come up.
    – Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah-711101, India.

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