Why do we need a National Debate?


A new millennium is dawning. Will it bring change for India?

Everyone feels something is seriously wrong with India

Indians everywhere agree that something is seriously wrong with India. Those who have traveled outside India and know the success stories of the West, East Asia, and Europe, through personal experience, know the extent of the multi-faceted maladies of India.

Yet all of us cannot be right

We all have our own views on why India is in such a state today, and there are many of us who have spent lifetimes studying these problems. While most of us would balk at making prescriptions for a very sick patient, we all are quite sure about what India needs. All of us, individually, believe that we know the solution to India's problem. Obviously that cannot be quite true, and that is why we need to hone our own ideas through a contest with other ideas, till finally we know what is the most plausible answer to our questions. The consensus so arrived at can act as the starting point for change in India. Some possibilities of organizing the change are explored separately, here.

How do we work on a consensus?

In the world today when people are getting more and more busy, a tendency is developing for our coffee-table discussions to go waste. We have neither the time nor the energy to collect our thoughts together and to write them down coherently. Thus a great opportunity is wasted. For from these 'common' discussions could have arisen a valuable starting point for formal debate.

There was this great need to capture the thoughts of an entire generation of educated Indians who have personally skipped politics, but feel that there is something that they have to offer to India from their collective experience and knowledge.

The internet is the medium that allows us to even contemplate this exercise of recording the collective wisdom of Indians everwhere. Using the internet, we shall not let an entire generation waste away its time over coffee. We need to only put down our thoughts in e-mail messages criss-crossing the big wide world, and use the latest technology of the internet to create, at very low cost to us, a real document. A document that can then be printed and presented to the people of India as a first draft, for further debate and consensus-building.

This is therefore a purposive discussion list, with the objective of creating a document, and hammering out a consensus.

How do we frame our discussions to prevent wastage of effort?

Let us imagine that it were possible to have an ideal political party in India. What would that party's manifesto and agenda look like? What would we like that party to guarantee us in terms of quality of governance services? That is our specific problem.

There is no political party associated with this list. However, there is nothing like a specific task to focus the mind and to sift the more important from the less important.

The hope is that at the end of the process, at least some of the ideas might be of immediate use to policy-makers. If the educated youth of India find it worth their while to spend time to create an actual political group seeking to implement these ideas directly, that would be even better.

Invitation to join the list

India_Policy was established on the 8th of April, 1998 to provide this platform and to create this document which we all recognize that India desperately needs. None of the political groups today is going in the right direction. If you feel so, too, then please test the strength of your ideas in the competition for the best ideas, in this discussion group.

This list has been set up courtesy of Suresh Rajagopalan, who has provided his resources at Cinenet Communications for furthering the competition for the best ideas. The list has started out very small, with only about 30 participants subscribing within the first three weeks. That is actually quite a good number given that only about a hundred personal friends, etc., were invited to join, initially. By the end of January, 1999, 150 members were actively debating, and we have another 8 or so advisors who are not actively involved in the debate.

As time passes, people would read this public invitation to join, and hop on to the list. That is the goal and the hope. If you are an Indian, and are literate, then you must challenge the group with your ideas, and be challenged in turn, with the ideas of others. Keeping your ideas to yourself won't solve India's problems.

The level of discussion has generally been rather high, given the time constraints of the discussants. The finicky amongst us could lodge a complaint about sloppy typing (grammatical errors and others) from most discussants, but that is in the nature of e-mail: a form of address similar to conversation but for the fact that it can hardly ever be expected to be syntactically perfect, being always sent out in the first draft.

Leaving aside the grammar and spellings, the debates have so far been generally sharp and crisp, and the points that have come out (see the Preamble, Manifesto and Agenda) represent a democratic consensus among at least some of the active discussants.

Web archive

This discussion list is archived and all mail sent out is accessible to the "world" though the web. It is essential that the discussions be always very courteous, and well-researched. Those who participate take on the responsibility of making this the highest quality discussion list on Indian policy, so that we can attract the best Indian brains from across the world to contribute to the debate.

Without such a high-quality public debate we shall be left to the mercies of anyone who is capable of fighting through the battle of politics in India with money, or the gun, to set our agenda. These people are not interested in such a debate. None of the political parties of India or others, for example, have organized such forums where people can question and challenge the ideas that are permeating Indian 'systems.' The democratic method of operation of this list is a challenge to all groups - political and non-political, in India to debate their ideas openly in front of the entire world.

Administrative

Being a completely voluntary list, you have the option - at all times - of subscribing or unsubscribing yourself from the list [see administrative instructions].  We would urge you to subscribe to this list and try it for a while. If, at the end of the period, you do not like it, please go ahead and unsubscribe. Apart from joining the list yourself, please forward this link to any other friend of yours whom you feel to be appropriate for participating in these discussions. If you do not wish to participate in any discussion, you might be better off simply book-marking the URL of the web archive of the list. However, you cannot send messages to the list unless you have subscribed. The basic idea is to prevent spamming.

Are you ready to stand up for what you believe in,

and even more important: Are you ready to put up your ideas to a challenge with everyone else, in front of the entire world?

If you are, then:

Click here to Subscribe!

Thanks, and hope to hear your views and get your help in making this The Best Action-Oriented List in India, and in helping bring about the necessary change that India sorely needs.

Dated: the 31st of January, 1999.