Low hanging fruits in Indian Economy
‘I’ll be there in 20 minutes.’ If someone in India says this, in my head, I know that the person would not reach before 30–40 minutes. Similarly, when asked a transporter that how much time would it take to transport goods from one corner of the country to another; he would say around 5–7 days. There is always a range attached to the concept of time in India. It is not a well defined and an exact unit for us.
Some people would say that this is part of Indian DNA. One usually does not expect an event or a meeting to start on time in this country. A delay of 15–20 minutes is quite acceptable. Well, I also used time as a range in my last sentence. Does this casual attitude towards time come inherently to us? Is this our habit to attach vagueness to time? It is essential to ponder over these questions as there can be something much more fundamental than just our flawed DNA. From Delhi to Mumbai, a truck carrying goods has to pass through 21 checkpoints. One doesn’t know that how many times would the so-called guardians of law would stop these truck drivers and for how long. Then, a four-lane highway expands into a six-lane highway for a small stretch, and again contracts to as low as two lanes, resulting in traffic jams. The conditions of the roads are also nothing to swear-by further adding uncertainty to time. With all these constraints, not attaching any definiteness to time is inevitable.
In my office, I have often observed that certain employees who have to change their city take 5–7 days just to settle in. They have to apply for a gas connection, take care of their rent agreements, look into the water connection etc. All this requires engagement with government offices and one cannot be sure that how long would it take for the work to get completed. In certain cases, one has to visit the same office twice due to varied reasons like the concerned officer is on leave or the server is down or some document is missing. Sometimes, I think an employee should be given separate ‘resettling’ leave in their agreement.
The judicial system of our country is the biggest example of disrespecting time in India. We are all aware that it is usual for a case to take 15–20 years to get settled. We have accepted this and now don’t even feel odd about it.
During winters in North India, if someone is traveling by train, the person plans his trip in such a way that he/she has one day extra, as trains are bound to get delayed by several hours due to fog. Again, it is common for people in Mumbai to take leave during rains as they are unable to step out of their house due to massive water clogging. During one of my personal social projects, I thought of setting up a sewing machine center in my home village to provide livelihood to the women of that village. In the initial phase, my team and I thought of starting with 20 electric machines. However, after talking to the villagers we realized that our project would fail massively as the village receives electricity for just a couple of hours in a week. Thus, we had to settle for the relatively inefficient mechanical machines.
All that I have mentioned above is nothing new. We are all aware of it. We have internalized these deficits and drawbacks and, accepted them. All this has made us lose respect for time, so much so, that it has become our habit to reach late for our appointments. Everyday, so many man-hours of work are lost in just overcoming these constraints making the workforce of our country highly inefficient.
There are so many low hanging fruits in the Indian Economy that we don’t have to do anything phenomenal to achieve success. Delhi metro is the first and maybe only example in this regard. Initially, it surprised the people of Delhi when the display board on the platform showed that the train would arrive at 6.53 p.m. It was hard to believe when the train actually arrived at such precise time. Further, people could now precisely tell that in how much ‘time’ they would reach their destination as Delhi metro is highly time bound. Thus, just working on our basics would set us on the path of becoming a global superpower in real time, rather than some articles and journalistic pieces saying this that are far removed from reality.
What do you think?
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