While speaking to freshers at a Management College the other day I was shocked when 70% students said they believed that they could not make a decent or successful living by honest and ethical ways. 70% is a large number. There is something drastically wrong here.
I always encountered some opposition on this contentious issue but it was always in the range of 10-15%. There are bound to be cynics, there is bound to be disillusionment but this recent experience stunned me into losing my composure. I stammered and stuttered, as I tried to find out what had happened to them that they are so cynical, how they expect to survive in a world that is overwhelmingly disillusioned with honesty and ethics and values.
What have we done to these 20 year olds that even before they set out into the world they have such strong beliefs that they cannot live honestly?
It is obvious where their disillusionment stems from. The business world has no clean businessmen that one can quote as examples with all the stalwarts falling - one by one. The political world is replete with corrupt stories. The sports world has its own (though thankfully the reigning heroes the Indian cricket team is clean). All around they see flagrant abuse of power, of illegal money, of corruption, debauchery. No wonder the kids have given up this war even before they started it. That is what shocked me more than anything else - the lack of hope.
Unfortunately, we never get to hear of the good stories. Where are the good stories from business, politics, government, sports, movies in India that can show both success and honesty and ethics? There is no doubt that there are many like the story of R. Anandakumar the Collector of Erode who joined his six year old daughter in the local Government School. But we need so many more. More frequently.
I hope the media brings on a policy of showing at least one positive story whenever it brings on a sensational story dealing with dishonesty, corruption, conspiracy. Something that shows hope, honesty, integrity as examples to live up to. You owe it to these youth guys, they are the ones who are fuelling the ads on your channels. Give them something to hold on to. Same goes for movie makers, music makers, celebrities, teachers.
As far as the education system is concerned, it has failed miserably. If it has not been able to convey to its youth (the very youth that is the basis on which India becomes such a force to reckon with in these times) that education is about learning the art of discretion, about using the power of knowledge with long serving values and ethics to form a fair, just and equitable society where everyone lives with equality, harmony and dignity, Mr. Sibal, it is time to stop worrying about Anna Hazare's team and make sweeping changes and quickly. These are bigger problems that the country will have to address in he next few decades. The system as it is currently has failed, just as the parents have failed if our children are thinking in these terms.
If basic life skills are not taught, if the youth are not exposed to the right role models, I fear that we may not be in a position to claim a leadership position in world affairs - something that we seem to take for granted by 2020. We have a neighbour who is far more purposeful and who also has a clear intent on how the power equation should turn out.