The Entitlement Culture in India

R Jayaraman

Author: R Jayaraman

Date: Fri, 2017-12-15 22:50

The Maratha “maha” rally, which happened in Mumbai a few months back,  takes the cake. Lakhs of people were allowed to take a walk to the Mantralay, bringing everything in its way to a standstill. Many to most of these people did not have a genuine issue, they are well to do, ruled the country once (and well, too), people known for their hard work and industrious nature. Sad, that a group of people, from whom one had leadership expectations, has been reduced to beg the politicians for a role – to serve themselves! The walk was for gaining their “entitlements”, to ensure that they can have the easy  life and avoid the struggle which crores of their brothers and sisters go through everyday.

The mother of all entitlement rallies just ended. There are promises of more to come, making this a very preliminary trailer, seemingly. Unwittingly or otherwise, the Marathas have walked themselves into the Haryana Jat territory, by emulating them. It has served as another example in a long line of such entitlement-frenzy. How different would it have been, if the Marathas, as is expected of them, had instead marched, assuring that they will once again provide leadership to the nation in removing poverty, in removing injustice, in making India a better place to live in? Shivaji Maharaj, the Peshwas, the Sayajiraos, the Sarfojis, all great Marathas, are  exemplars of this mindset.

Where does one begin on a topic like this? Since the print and visual media have almost replaced word of mouth in urban India, and since urban India is the “India that decides”, these two enablers have a major influence on contemporary life in India. The picture that they paint, especially about the political polity in the country, is one of VVIP culture, to use a popular terminology. Which culture is characterised by self-service ( ie, service to oneself) , banality, might is right, I am entitled to what I want, and such a low level items list. From where did all these emerge? Some would say, from the feudal culture of India. Others may point to the legacy of the British Raj. Others may point to the caste system, that much maligned but much misunderstood system. Whichever the option, it still leaves the entitlement cultural practices unaffected. In fact, in the BJP raj, it appears to have become more virulent and more pervasive. Let's see some of the manifestations of the entitlement culture.

To begin with, the reservation systems put in place progressively, since independence. The logic was that the wilfully deprived should be given a chance to get rehabilitated. And the deprivers get a chance to remedy, do “praayashchittha” for all the wrongs done. The reservation hydra assumed a life of its own after political parties saw an opportunity to serve themselves into power by fanning the flames of entitlement. One by one, education, employment in government, legislative seats, have all been subject to varying degrees of this “neta culture” or the “VVIP culture”, the name change had occurred, as politicians of all hues, and government servants, had become “owners” and “guardians” of the entitlement era. The later additions to the VVIP culture had nothing to do with the original caste system, but catered to the new caste masters – mantris and politicians. No-checking-of-visa  travel,  first class domestic travel in all forms of transport, large convoys protecting the VVIPs blocking roads, preferential treatment in all institutions spawning a huge corruption ridden “corruption raj”, and many other variants.

All these developments have led to an India where many Indians have forgotten what is a “duty”. The origin of this development lies in the blind following of what developed countries do. After creating huge wealth, leading to “rich getting richer and poor getting poorer”, a way was found to restore equality, by the developed world. Enter, the “welfare state”. With all its entitlements.

However, India wanted to jump to this state, without the main pre-requisite- creation of wealth. As many have observed before, in India, we have been redistributing poverty ever since independence. We need to reach a level of living, for which people have sweated it out, so that we can then start taking care of those left behind. Only in such a case can poor people aspire and get to participate in the creation of prosperity and peace.

But Indian history, prior to independence, is replete with exploitation, and, after independence, democracy has made it a game of numbers, leaving considerations of wealth creation to the sidelines. In fact, in India, very much unlike the west, a culture of looking down and denigrating wealth creators has been overwhelming and myopic. One needs to sift the spurious from the genuine, and accept the fact that, as in other walks of life, business is not perfect. One should look for the best fit, rather than the best fit. The irony is that, successive governments, at the centre and the states, have all run with the hares and hunted with the hounds. Politicians of all parts, since independence,  have relied on businessmen for running their parties and elections, while denigrating them at the same time, and supporting them in all matters legal and illegal.

With the call for a “New India”, resembling the call by President Roosevelt’s New Deal in the US, the new PM Modi has given a clarion call for building a new country of prosperity and wealth.

Ancient India was the wealthiest place in the world, with architecture and cultural moorings of a first rate order, which has withstood the test of time and supported the country’s chequered progress under regressive foreign invaders and other attacks. It is about time that we Indians started to think for ourselves, to make our own roads, to a shining future. And, in that endeavour, the Marathas, and others like them need to step up and strengthen the resolve and the will to contribute and create rather than demand and deviate.

Jai Hind. 

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I really appreciate your write-up on the recent Maratha “maha” rally. It was rightly mentioned that Maratha's ruled the country once and were known for their hard works. But now most of them are economically way backward. I feel that the protest was not for gaining “entitlements”, or easy life but it was for their justice. Unlike Jat and patels, historically Marathas always known for their inclusive society. Even this time Marathas have opted nonviolent and silent mode of agitation. You rightly mentioned that reservation system create VIP culture and increased in corruption .Also appreciate your advise for Marathas and others to step up and contribute towards their own development as well the nation rather than raising such demand for reservation. However would like to convey that through the march, the Marathas have only demanded their basic rights to safeguard their survival.Would like to inform that only handful of Maratha are financially sound and the majority are still living with financial and social issues. Even doing reasonably well in their school education, they don’t get admission in government and other reputed colleges. Even if they get admission in private colleges, could not afford the high fees. Subsequently they do not get suitable jobs. Traditionally Marathas were dependent on agriculture sector but because of poor economic situation and burden of loans, Marathas lifestyle has been affected drastically and they are as bad as any other backward and marginalised societies in India . My observation is that they are not asking to remove reservation system or provide financial entitlement but are requesting to support through reservations in education and jobs to uplift their society as well the state.

Resounding thanks, Prof. Jayaraman for writing such a poignant read, that resonates with my thoughts, down to the iota. The hyper-inflated and conspicuous consumerism has taught us that money is the king; but, is it ever enough? More the richness a person acquires, the less empathetic they become. And this loss of empathy results not just in a loss of duty but also in predictable intensification in the sense of entitlement. In every other developed or developing nation, people strive hard to prove that they have a growing economy, or on a more micro level, they themselves have enough wealth to brag about. However, India is one country, where people rally, go on an indefinite strike just to prove what kind of a low-life they are leading in the country, once famous for its wealth and pride. Will this ever come to an end? No, a decisive no! This practice is not going to end till the time national parties continue to use caste as their vote-bank. Let’s visualize an India without caste-based reservation. Firstly, it’s arduous to do so. Secondly, even if the caste-systems were abolished, people will continue to demand reservation as a right on the basis of economic poverty – be it genuine or with the help of fake income certificates. Do the Marathas need it? Yes, they may. Not every Maratha is opulent. But so is the case with every Brahmin, every Rajput and every Marwari. Every community deserves what is owed to them and in this regard, the Maratha leaders have failed drastically. It’s disheartening to see the descendants of brave Shivaji fight neck and throat for the tag of Backward! Interestingly, giving them reservation would mean giving reservation to almost all unreserved categories of today, after a span of 50 odd years. The time has come to stop the general category of our times from becoming the reserved castes of tomorrow and take India back on the path of socially backwardness.

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