Poverty is the enemy of smart-ness.
Pretty simple thing to say but its reality becomes profound in India. So many poor people and therefore, so many available for work that middle class and richer class does not want to do. Until you can earn enough to get someone else do your dirty work, while you handle the higher paying work, the chances are you won’t need to innovate the mundane work that the poor does.
You don’t wash dishes. You don’t even make food now. Someone else does while you work at a Multi-National company. So, no one cares is you have dish washer or if you have a way to make chappatis (Indian bread) faster. Plumbers are available for real cheap so if your shower goes bad – call him and since he is dirt cheap anyways, you don’t have to think much on what was the best type of shower you should have built in the first place. Make whatever works and someone will come and fix things for you!
India’s tragedy is not that we are not Intelligent. Our tragedy is even worse. We are NOT SMART! And that is because we can afford to not be smart!
If a working woman in India had to handle house chores including running to work and after full day of work pick kids and then come and make food and then do dishes and then once a week wash clothes and then fold them etc., she would have insisted on doing all that cheaper. But now she has an option. She gets a maid. Or two maids. And a driver. So, while the maids make food, wash dishes, wash and dry clothes – while the dhobi irons it, and a driver takes her to office, she just has to make sure she earns enough to pay them all.
Men are the same way. Since they do not have to mow lawns or fix stuff in their house or get the car serviced or wash dishes or do the laundry while they go for work; they can afford to not find ways to do all these things smartly or insist on the car servicing stations to be more user friendly, so they could do their office work while waiting for the car.
We keep doing what we do in India because we can afford to. We don’t improve things because we don’t need to.
Cities, even metropolis have sub standard sewage and drainage systems, because for every one person who has money and wants the best system, there are at least 10 who can’t pay enough and wouldn’t mind a sub standard system. And the rich guy who wants the best for himself couldn’t care less for the one who gets a sub standard public work system. For that sub standard place provides him with someone who can come and work for at cheap wages.
The reason India is poor is not because it cannot remove poverty, but because we love our poor. They make us comfortable. Americans love their machines and systems, we love the poor and their poverty. That is what provides our comforts and make the lives of middle class worth living and enjoying. When Middle Class can easily afford the lower class, then the need for Middle class to be smart becomes lesser and lesser. A country’s aggregate smart-ness is not due to smartness of the rich but that of the larger middle class.
In such a scenario, bad infrastructure and inadequate systems are a given. You cannot have world class infratructure throughout where everyone enjoys the same basic standard of living and still need to do things that are often demeaning. One would simply try to live for making their lives better and richer and not to survive. Survival living makes people work for cheaper than normal wages.
A maid can be available in Indian cities for Rs1500 a month (~ $35). In US that would be roughly $ 1500 a month. That’s a 42 times difference. A Manager in India may be paid Rs 50.000 a month ($1100); while a comparable in US maybe paid $ 3000 a month. That’s 2.7 times. So, its fairly obvious that the Managers (or basically the white collar workers) have a Global advantage over the maids (blue collar workers).
So, White Collar workers have an easier way compared to the Blue Collar workers. If the maids were getting the same Global differential as the Managers, then they would charge over Rs 30,000! When that is the amount of charges for the Blue collar, then White Collar workers will start doing things to hire least help. Only the very rich would hire such help.
Only when the Lower Blue Collar class is priced out of Middle Class’ pockets, then and only then, Middle class will start doing things smarter and demanding better services. Until then, the country will have to do with an intelligent but (Stupid) without smarts middle class and the society in general.