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Culture & Religion

Harvesting human capital

India’s rural poor are still waiting after over six decades of independence for their share of the pie. The way things look, this won’t happen anytime soon, and they will continue to scratch a meagre living from the soil unless some dramatic big idea thinking is done – and implemented.

THE BIG IDEA:  A couple of days ago an article in Times of India caught my eye: a certain minister is proposing to ‘catch them young’; specifically, identifying potential candidates at age 12, while they’re still in school, and streaming them into educational programs that will prepare them for the Indian Administrative Services, philosophically as well as practically.

Strangely, he seems to have picked up on an essentially simple idea I’ve been playing around with recently, that may sound too much like George Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World to be accepted easily or soon – but an idea whose time may have come, nonetheless.

It is this: just as a farmer seeds a crop, nurtures it and harvests it to sustain himself and his family, so too could a corporate entity adopt a village or even an entire district in India for the purpose of developing human capital.

It could ‘catch them young’ – select children with the greatest potential, educate them, train them to think within the corporate philosophy framework and when they’re ripe for the picking – both in terms of age and education – harvest them.

Of course, the children or their guardians would be required to sign an agreement that the child, once grown to adulthood, would work for the corporation for a fixed number of years in a pre-determined capacity, after which they would be free to pursue their own course in life.

And lest anyone think I’m advocating a system of bonded labor, let me hasten to add they would be paid a fair salary.

Then what’s in it for Corporates? For Indian corporates, possibly only the satisfaction of knowing they are participating in nation building with possible tax sops and knowing they were raising a new generation of perfectly suited employees; however, for foreign MNCs who will be experiencing growing shortages of qualified workers in the coming years, this would be manna from heaven.

And, think how the entire face of rural India could change!!!

What happens to those children who are not selected? Well, as in any area of human endeavour there is always a pecking order. The best pickings go to the strongest and most powerful – and then down the line, until everyone has been selected according to their qualities and potential. So there’s something for everyone – nothing is wasted, nothing lost.  This is how India’s huge population could become an asset instead of the liability it currently is. 

One can develop this idea further; for instance, the ministry for rural development could get into the act and maybe auction rural districts to corporations for the rights to develop and harvest human capital, using the money raised to develop those districts with the  social and physical infrastructure they’re in such dire need of, currently.  A public-private partnership in every way. 

Of course, it would have to be a completely transparent, public transaction, and would require the village panchayats (governing bodies) to give their consent before being auctioned. All villages would have the right to withhold consent. They could then sit on the side lines and watch as other villages flourish. I imagine they would very quickly see the light.


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