Indias moments of shameand lessons!

Written by Ganesh Natarajan | Updated: Jan 7 2013, 06:05am hrs
The last few months of 2012 saw a gradual and in some cases precipitous decline in many parameters that truly define a country. Apart from the most obvious ones, GDP and IIP, business confidence also became lower and but for a revival towards the fag end of the year, this would have been truly an annus horribilis for India. However what really seemed to be the last nail in the coffin of Indian sentiment was the brutal rape and murder of a young student in a bus that went careening through posh suburbs of the national capital city, even as the confidence and morality of an entire nation was brutalised beyond belief!

It is rather amazing that it took an incident of such horrific proportions to bring to focus the decline in morality, values and ethics that has been visible for many years in various parts of our country. From Guwahati in the East to Pune in the West, from Kochi in the South to Delhi and Srinagar in the North, the sad decline in respect for women, for diversity and inclusion in our country has been visible as episode upon episode rocked the nation, only to fade away as the next sensational news or an infrequent cricket win captured the publics fickle memory. Our education standards have declined, the acceptability of getting rich at any cost has seen many unscrupulous businessmen getting away with actions that would not be condoned in any decent civilisation and the weak law and order situation in the country has time and again let criminals go scot free, scoffing in the face of justice!

The immediate aftermath of the incident itself was the eruption of protests primarily in Delhi and in lesser measure across the country, which of course was quickly put down by the actions of the police. The death of the young woman has now brought up the expected moralistic voices on television and a return to the rhetoric that comes so naturally to most of us. Zero tolerance in future for rape is just one of the empty promises being made. A nation waits to see if the sacrifice of one young woman will create the much needed wave of actions that will make this nation safe for its citizens!

In the IT and business process management industry, there have been many best practices adopted to ensure reasonable levels of security for all the three million or so young associates that have built this $100 billion industry. After the incidents of rape that occurred in Bengaluru and Pune a few years ago, significant steps were taken in all firms to ensure that women were provided adequate safeguards and security when working in late shifts. The rise of women to the higher echelons of management in many companies have also ensured that young men treat women as equals and not as objects that could be a recipient of lewd comments or gestures. One of our senior industry leaders has spoken with eloquence about a zero tolerance policy towards even the suggestion of sexual harassment and in companies like Zensar, strong and proactive Women for Excellence movements have removed all elements of fear or apprehension from the minds of women across all levels of the organisation.

It could be argued that this is really the way forwardprovide women with adequate opportunities to shine as professionals and hold their own against men but any platitude like that would push the more urgent issues under the carpet. Strong deterrent action is required. The nations youth is justified in its claim for extreme punishment to be meted out to the perpetrators of this heinous crime and it is to be expected, as Soli Sorabjee suggested on television, that the law will move fast to ensure and make an example of these dastardly murderers. We must ensure that all such cowards will think not twice but ten times before stooping to such acts again!

However all these commitments and promises to ourselves and the nation will not rid any of us or our leaders of the guilt we must hold for letting one of our finest young daughters come to this horrific end. The real question we have to confront is whether we like Lady Macbeth in the Shakespeare play will be desperately trying to wash this fresh blood off our hands while sitting and pontificating or whether this desire for change will lead to real action.

There is no doubt that all right minded Indians have been stirred deeply by the occurrences at the end of this year and while we hope that 2013 will see a new beginning in human relationships, in values and in the overall political and economic environment of the country, for the time being, in the words of Mark Antony immortalised by the bard, my heart is in the coffin there, and I must pause till it comes back to me Rest in Peace, O brave child of India!

The writer is vice-chairman & CEO of Zensar and chairman of the National Knowledge Committee of the CII