Rohit Mishra

Thoughts which don’t fit in 140 characters.

The Indian Love for Jugaad

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Anna Hazare has taken India by storm with his quest for the Jan Lokpal Bill - a bill that will establish a central and state authority to investigate into the charges of corruption in public offices. To put it subtly, the entire country has shown tremendous support to Anna Hazare’s movement. Anna is topping Twitter trends and Facebook is full of stories on this subject. Many have decided to fast and participate in candle-light marches to show their support to Anna Hazare. I strongly encourage everyone to keep displaying their support for this great man, who has given this country a voice against corruption. Although it may seem trivial, a simple tweet or a Facebook update has a lot of value. Look at what happened to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, for example. But, I do believe that there is an inner devil that we are ignoring in this fight against corruption - our love for the wrong kind of _Jugaad. _

Jugaad literally means an arrangement or a work around, which has to be used because of lack of resources. It is from this meaning that Jugaad is associated with frugal-engineering and low-cost innovation like the locally made motor vehicles used in rural India. The super-innovative Tata Nano and the unique approach of Indian mobile networks are other examples for Jugaad. But, there is another meaning of Jugaad which refers to solutions that bend the rules. It is this Jugaad that is at the root of India’s corruption.

At any Indian queue, you will find someone trying to join the queue in middle or getting his work done before his chance comes. He may pay a bribe to get what he wants denying that resource to someone who is trying to get it fairly.  Instead of being considered as a mistake, this kind of jugaad is hailed as an ability.  There are historical reasons behind it. Until 1991, India was under License Raj, where everyone needed tons of permits from lousy and corrupt bureaucrats and politicians to do his work.  Dhirubhai Ambani, the charismatic founder of Reliance Industries, was famous for his jugaad, where he exploited the corrupt system in India to take Reliance ahead. Dhirubhai needed to do it to cut through the red-tape. Unfortunately, a person breaking a queue to get a train ticket wrongly justifies his actions by attributing it to his jugaad. The same person will board the train and argue about the politician-corporate nexus which leads to things such as the 2G spectrum scam.  He does not know, that even in the 2G scam, the mobile networks are also doing the same thing as a common man does - get his opportunity before his turn. The common man and the mobile network operator are equally guilty.

Jugaad, of the right kind, benefits everyone, not an individual. In our race to inclusive prosperity, we need jugaad. Lets bring jugaad to innovation in our research, our business ideas and not to find loop-holes in the law. There is a very thin line that separates good jugaad from bad jugaad. The 2007 Mani Ratnam movie, Guru), has a great scene where Abhishek Bachchan who plays Guru Kant Desai (modeled on the late Dhirubhai Ambani) explains his actions.

This jugaad, of the wrong variety, is prevalent everywhere from a college cafeteria to a traffic checkpoint to the corridors of power in Delhi. Anna Hazare is taking on the problem in Delhi. Let us take on this problem inside us.