Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Nation of Mazdoors (Yet another random rant)

I recently saw a show on Discovery Channel which showed how Jakarta plans to build a massive tunnel under the city to counter floods. Yes, it was an amazing project; well worth a look for our good ol' Mumbai as well the moment we're done feeding the sarkari babus. But another thing crossed my attention. A major number of labourers in the project were Indians.

One would imagine that burly Australians/Americans/Africans would form the majority of the strength-intensive workforce. But that was not the case. It was the thin but firmly built Indians that did the "donkey work", quite literally. And I wondered to myself; we are excellent servants to everyone.

But then one instance does not prove such a general statement. So off we go, trying to fit this view of India into the people of India, the workers of India. And was it a dificult journey? No, not quite.

From the day we got independence to this day today, Indians all over the country have always wanted one thing; to go abroad. It does not matter where, they just want to go to "vilaayat" to earn money. What do we want to do to earn money? Doesn't matter. We'll be servants the in the West but whenever we come back to India we will be respected as "vilaayati babus".

The Patels and Singhs ran off to England and have little shops there. Their most notable acheivements there? Infiltrating friends and relatives in the country so that they too can start their little grocery store there. Similarly we dominate in the cabbie jobs in the US, we have colonized New Zealand and are doing the same now to Australia, not as anyone's masters but as workers.

But that is not what prompted me to write this. None of these people claim to be gifted in anything else other than what they have achieved. What prompted me is the Indian view of itself as an "IT Superpower".

We Indians have a thriving IT services business. Based on this business we claim to be the (emerging) IT Superpower of the world. But do we really master IT? Or are we simply slaves of the West?

The major projects handled by even the topmost Indian IT service companies are of maintenance/support nature. This means that the innovation is already done, now we have to troubleshoot and maintain systems. We have to handle angry calls from our Western (Eastern in case of the Japanese) masters and sometimes, bear racial slur as well. We do not answer back because we're decent Gandhians who will offer our other cheek when slapped. And yeah, we need the money to feed ourselves.

The rest of the projects are majorly standard systems on an enterprise scale, e.g. a Payroll system for a company. Wait lets call it an Employee Remuneration Resolution System. Wait, no, lets shorten it to ERRS. Now THAT sounds innovative doesn't it? It doesn't? Then how about Resource Approval and Payroll Enabler? Sounds heavy right? How about we shorten it to... oh wait...

Indian IT firms do not want to innovate in technology. Long story short, if they decide to innovate they would have to be a little bit more expensive to their Western masters and those masters will simply go to their competitors.

So the IT firms are to blame for not utilizing the "Brilliant IT Brains of India". Are they?

An average student passing out of BE/BTech/MSc/MCA does not know the basics of computer science. He/She has cleared his/her exams by cramming the words their teacher had dictated in class. They don't care if a Unix console looked black or a program is compiled or interpreted. They just want a high paying job; they'll do whatever it takes, even learn belly dancing while balancing a laptop on their chest.

We never think twice before we claim to be one of the most intelligent races on the face of this earth. What do we have to prove that? We have writings of sages, our culture, our arts and our vedic mathematics, science, astronomy, yoga, etc. In other words, everything that we are proud is more than a few thousand years old. So where are the current achievements that make us so invincibly intelligent?

Our IITs, RECs, Medical Schools, etc. are said to be overflowing with brilliant talent. But most of our IIT/REC brainiacs invariably decide to do a Management course and take up a white collar job. All engineers who can afford it will go abroad for higher studies and stay there. What's left for "innovation" are the "rest" while the "best" head westwards for the dollars/euros/pounds. So we serve; that's what the people left behind are good for in the end.

A post on Slashdot described India as a potential "worker pool". so thats what we are, a big pool of servants for the West. Are we?

Then again, I'll be joining this worker pool soon.

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