Not-to-miss message in the laudable act by Dipa Karmakar

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and CNS Columnist
Because of the fantastic performance in Gymnastics in the Rio Olympics in 2016 Dipa Karmakar was chosen along with P.V. Sindhu and Sakshi Malik, the two medal winners, by the Hyderabad Badminton Association to be awarded a BMW car which was presented by Sachin Tendulkar. Dipa has now returned the car saying the roads of Tripura where she lives are not broad enough for this car and there is no BMW service centre there. She has decided to buy a less expensive car which is suitable for the conditions where she lives.

She requested V. Chamundeshwaranath, the President of HBA, who actually sponsored the cars, to either compensate her with the amount of the car or give her whatever amount he thinks appropriate.

Dipa’s honesty is commendable. When she took a decision to return the car it was not certain that she will get its value back. She had no expectations from the sponsor of the car. In contrast when Sachin Tendulkar was given a Ferari by Fiat company upon equalling the record of 29 centuries of Don Bradman in test cricket he tried to get the Rs. 1.13 crores tax waived, which was ultimately paid by the company, and then sold the car to a Surat businessman. Dipa too could have sold her car. But probably her conscience didn’t allow her. She put the entire matter before V. Chamundeshwaranath in a manner which would not hurt him. Dipa Karmakar has set new moral standard for professionals. This act of her is many times superior to her Olympics performance.

There is a message in this act of Dipa Karmakar for the country. We should not blindly imitate the west for our development. Some of its ideas may not be suitable for our country. Nobody would have returned a BMW in the west. We should keep the conditions of our country in mind when making a choice. The technology which is not appropriate for people should not be forced upon them. It will result in wastage of resources. For example, maintenance would have cost Dipa Karmakar a lot if she had decided to keep the BMW.

Demonetisation was implemented in this country without adequate preparation. Midway through the process in which people were returning old notes the government came up with the idea of cashless economy. The government wants people to use mobile phone apps, cards and computers to carry out transactions. Narendra Modi has appealed to educated people to teach the uneducated how to operate the mobile apps. Maybe Narendra Modi should have asked the educated to first make the uneducated literate.

India claims a literacy rate of 74% although the quality of government schools makes this figure a suspect. We can safely assume that roughly the same number of people as are uneducated also do not keep mobile phones and do not have bank accounts. This implies that one-fourth to one third of population either is illiterate, doesn’t have a bank account or doesn’t keep a mobile. Only one out of the three situations or two out of three may apply on some people but most among these would fulfil all three conditions. Now, how is an uneducated poor who doesn’t have a mobile going to become part of cashless economy? Out of the about 22 crores Jan Dhan accounts which were opened, for 33% it was not their only account and there was no activity in 28% accounts. For an uneducated poor a bank account is akin to BMW for Dipa Karmakar. A poor probably spends all of what he earns everyday. He is not comfortable dealing with bank. Maybe he needs cash to buy material do to business next day. The time when he earns is also the bank opening hours. Standing in bank queues would mean an income loss for him. In any case, after 8 November, 2016, you need to spend more time at banks even for simple transactions.

The rulers must realise that only systems suitable to poor should be implemented. The country doesn’t belong to a miniscule number of rich. Poor would be uncomfortable with most arrangements for the rich. In addition to mobile phone apps like pay-tm, various kinds of cards, computers, a good example are water fountains on air ports which have been copied from the US. Tomorrow they could be installed at other public places. You’ve to drink from a stream coming up from the opening.

People used to drinking water from taps where it comes down by gravity may find it inconvenient to drink from a stream coming up into their mouth. At least they may not be able to drink to their heart’s content. People used to defecating by sitting on ground find the chair type seats uncomfortable. Now at some places there is no option of ground level seats. In sleeper class coaches railways has followed a practice of providing only one out of 4 chair type seat toilet. In this country people are used to eating by keeping their plate on ground or on some platform. In many modern set ups now you’re expected to eat in standing posture. The expressways connecting cities are being built only for 4 wheeler fast moving motorised vehicles whereas most people in this country use other means of transport. At many public places announcements are being made in English where people can’t understand it.

We should learn from Dipa Karmakar that country should develop only according to its needs, habits and other local realities.

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and CNS Columnist
8 January 2016
(Dr Sandeep Pandey is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and national Vice President of Socialist Party (India). He is currently teaching engineering in IIT-Gandhinagar and has earlier taught at IIT-K and IIT-BHU | Email | Twitter)