Is this development or demolition?

Ever since I left India, I visited my Ahmadabad every other year. Last 10 years it has been exciting to watch the progress of Ahmadabad during my visits. I was always amazed with a pace of every time but nothing comes close to what I have been seeing this time. I have seen several rise and fall in front of my eyes, for example construction of 1Billion $ fab in Korea during early 1995 in front of my eyes within 3 months, silicon valley’s rise (and fall) during dot com time. But nothing comes close to current dizzying pace build out in so called vibrant Gujarat. During my teenage days, I always used to say that I can go to any corner of Ahmadabad in 15 mins. However, this time I couldn’t figure out a development called Vastrapur just less than km from my house!

In this suddenly massive town, do people even care about me! Not even as NRG (Yes, it is a known fact that NRG as a commodity is traded low now) but as a human being!! I just visited Surat right after and all I see is series of unstoppable malls for several kilometers with incredibly priced high rise buildings and bungalows. Just within few days several mother complained that their daughter do not have playmate in the neighborhood and they have to frequently bus them to individual friends home. Is this India!! People return 2 India so that their kids can have unlimited access to neighbor, like I used to. Yes, as a young and popular boy called Tinu, I can rightfully enter any neighbor’s house without permission, play there and return back home late when mom shouted late evening only after being fed by neighbor of my choice. Yes, I was cute, cuddly and well likable that no one would resist saying no! I always thought that in India, you always get a good neighbor. You don’t worry about kids, they just get absorbed! Suddenly, I see the same infectious disease here too!

Incidentally, I just returned from one corner of development another development. This place is remote village of Jhagadia between Bharuch and Ankleshwar, just an hour from Surat and few hours from Ahmadabad. However, this contrast is extremely worrisome with new rise of development policy of India. Contrast is disheartening when you compare 3 crore rupees regular bungalows of Ahmadabad to a farmer family living on 50 rupees a day during monsoon period. We all know that Indian society is full of disproportionate extremes and patchworks. Race, religion, cast and even highly controversial Guajarati CM have their own extremes. In spite of all these India has done well in last decade. Many even compare if hyper inflationary environment and current mutil-lakh crore corruption series can even give to Egypt like revolution. I will let pundits answer this. Neither am I interested in starting another class warfare theory like one started by Arundhati Roy. I am neither pessimistic nor optimistic about India. Daily I am meeting very bright individuals from the entrepreneurship, management, policy makers and grass root NGO workers. It has been fascinating to follow their passion towards development and against. I look at this way — Train has already left a station in progressive states with an emphasis on market forces. In fact it has clearly lifted certain quality of life for most at the bottom of pyramid in the state like Gujarat such as water, electricity and roads. However, it has severely bruised them especially in the area more critical to life them out of poverty: income and agriculture education. Until these two issues are fulfilled two quality of life issue health and sanitation will continue to haunt 600 million rural poor.

My recent visit to SEWA-Rural gives me a hope that small number of good people make many people well. I have personally witnessed how 10 doctors have changed life of 2 lakh villagers in 185 villages. This is a charity focus for 30 years and with tangible results.

My personal quest is to understand how international aid or development agencies can effectively align their mission to effectively support international development?

As development train has left it has worked fine for upper and middle class… Creating still tremendous void rural poor still a majority. In the age of self-finance school and mico-insurance for middle class, how can a family earning 50 Rs a day earn their income, education and health?

How should void be filled by Indian development agencies?

Can NGOs like SEWA-Rural fill the void?

Can pro-development Govt like Gujarat let NGOs like SEWA and SEWA-Rural succeed?

Is social enterprise an answer?

Can social enterprise become scalable at all to fill the void?

I talked several leading entrepreneurs both social and business, management gurus, and grass root workers. I got fairly good understanding about role of international agencies but needless to say that answer was fairly complex answer for later.
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