Be the change you want to see in others

Winner Of CSC April 2020 Essay Competition : PankajYadav

Everyone’s contribution is needed to create a better world

“The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.” -Paulo Coelho

We all have a different version of the world we live in, further almost every one of us is not satisfied with the present and want a change in some way or the other. It could be the daily bus that you take to the office but never find a seat on the same and many a times it gets stuck in traffic and you reach late. It could be the pollution levels in the city you live in, where the air has become toxic. It could be the garbage thrown here and there in your neighbourhood. It could be the unaffordable education for your children. It could be the increasing levels of religious intolerance and killings in the name of God, who is supposedly our saviour. There are tons of things that we want to be changed in our lives but how can we do that?

First, we need to identify and then prioritize the changes that we want in our lives. The change could be in political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal dimensions of the issue though mostly they will be overlapping. These changes can be brought about faster by authorities that we have created in our society; however we should not wait for them and should start at our individual level. This is needed because due to some reason the authorities are already overlooking the issue or unable to bring the change or the pace is too slow, otherwise it would have been corrected.

For example, air pollution in Delhi is severely high and is primarily attributed to high vehicular pollution. Authorities have been able to show some progress by taking multiple initiative like odd-even scheme for vehicles, closing of thermal power plants near Delhi but air pollution is still a big challenge and far from being resolved. This needs a bigger change from the society. We need people of Delhi to travel primarily in public transport and make personal vehicle usage an exception. People should hold authorities accountable for not strengthening public transportation as well as demand public officials including CM and ministers to travel by public transport as seen in developed countries like Sweden. This will in turn require authorities to make public transport to be safer. This shift to public transport which needs to be triggered by every individual of our society can trigger a lot of changes namely affordable transportation, clean air, reduction in oil bill and thereby reduction in current account deficit (CAD), women safety, less burden on roads, less traffic congestion etc.

Thus a virtuous cycle of progress and transformation can start with every small initiative but instead of waiting for someone else to do it, everyone of us needs to take this step which in above example is shifting to public transportation. In other cases, it could be limiting use of single use plastic, saving water and electricity, responsibly sharing content on social media etc. We should not consider ourselves to be just a drop in the ocean and think that our actions will bring no change. Instead every drop should rise and contribute in making the monsoon rains a success, which will in turn bear many more fruits of progress.

We see the most glorious example of ‘be the change you want to see in the world’, in our father of nation, Mahatma Gandhi, to whom even this quote is attributed. In his very first public address after coming from South Africa, to people at Benaras Hindu University, he said our salvation can only come from the masses of this country. Every man should stand for his rights especially the weak and not just the elite. He did not want that a privileged few win independence for the masses instead he wanted each man to fight through means of satyagraha and non-violence. Otherwise one oppressor will be replaced by another, which is even the case in present day India even though better than pre-Independence days. We still have 30% of our people below poverty line, and our public distribution system has leakages of about 40%. We need everyone to demand our public institutions to provide us quality services which include education and healthcare.

Additionally, most of the social ills cannot be just removed by legislation or authority but the change has to come from individuals. Gandhi was against untouchability and wanted every man to take his own step forward. Casteism is still far from over in our society even though laws have been present for more than 70 years. Women are the most down trodden section of our society. They are oppressed each day in our cities, villages and even at homes. We are pathetically low at 112 in gender gap index and it will take about 250 years for women to be at par with men. We need to bring these changes and at a faster rate. It can only be made possible when it becomes a people’s movement and every individual questions this wrong practice.

Everyone being a medium to bring about change is a very effective tool and can be compared to the Japanese technique of Kaizen. It means continuous improvement, where instead of change coming only from top each member of the organisation brings change at his individual level because he knows it best. Kaizen is considered to be among the key techniques which brought about the success in Japanese industrialisation and is now an accepted norm in industries across the world.

We can see its application in successful government initiatives as well. For example, the government of India ran the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) for open defecation free (ODF) India as ‘Jan Bhagidari’ i.e. a people driven initiative. Even though there had been earlier initiatives to achieve the same but the progress has been incremental whereas in this case it was exponential, sanitation coverage increased from 38% to more than 90% within 5 years. It was all made possible due to participation of masses in this mission. Next phase of this mission aims to solve the problem of solid waste management, which is growing day by day. It can be achieved only if every individual puts his effort to limiting waste and segregating the same, otherwise it will be a limited success like many other initiatives to manage waste in the past.

Thus we can say that taking steps towards whatever change you want to see in the world is a very effective tool and a proven mechanism with different names in various cultures. A virtuous cycle of growth and prosperity can start, when everyone works at individual capacities to create a better world. Every one of us needs to contribute to create the world of our dreams, something similar was also envisaged thousands of years ago in Brihadarankya Upanishad, a world where there is only happiness and no suffering.

Om sarvebhavantusukhinah, sarvesantuniramayah|

(May all being be happy and healthy)

sarvebhadranipasyantu ma kascidduhkhabhagbhaveta||

(May all beings never face any suffering)