It was good to see the government attempt to present a Budget that will spur economic growth but the purpose of this piece is not to analyse the Budget, but to talk about a mindset change we Indians will need to truly get into growth mode, apart from specific growth-oriented policies.
When I was little, a neighbour had a lock and key arrangement on her fridge, something common in the 80s. The lock was there to prevent the maid from stealing milk or eating up the butter when aunty was not around. The assumption was that if the fridge is not locked, the maid would definitely steal the milk and butter.
This troubled aunty at times when the maid reached before her, but couldn’t make tea or food without access to the fridge. The maid never seemed motivated to work there, given the lack of trust.
Contrast this with another example. A few years ago, I met Bill Gates at an event. I asked him how he ensured that the billions he gave away to charity were being used properly and not stolen. He smiled and said he knew some money was not being used right. But as long as most of the money was being used properly, he said, he was prepared to accept that some of it was lost and stolen. His charity has some checks and balances, but its focus is mostly on finding projects that change the world and growing the investment returns on the wealth pool.
What’s the difference between aunty and the man giving away his billions? Aunty has scarcity mentality; Bill Gates has abundance mentality. Aunty’s growth is stalled in life; Bill Gates and his charity will grow and make a bigger impact.
The problem is, most Indians have scarcity mentality. Whenever there are less resources, a massive scarcity mentality develops among people. We may have outgrown fridge locks, but we still find it difficult to leave this scarcity mentality. We don’t think we can grow and make more money. We think money and everything else is limited, so we must do our best to ensure people don’t steal it.
Hence, there is one policy after another to catch tax evaders. There are dozens of regulations in many industries, which need to be cleared before any business can begin. Some of those have hampered business to an extent that people are wary of investing in India.
Scarcity mentality also explains the recent attack on immigrants — believing that somehow they are the ‘trespassing termites’ that have drained India of its resources. That there is one pot of goodies and illegal immigrants are stealing it. We don’t believe that we can make more pots. No, in India, from competitive exams to getting a job — for you to win, someone else has to lose.
Even the resentment against the Muslim community in a section of Hindus is rooted in scarcity mentality. ‘But they had Pakistan, why are they here?’ is an argument suggesting that resources are limited, and they are being a drain on them. ‘But there was Muslim appeasement before, it is time to set things right now’ is another thought process suggesting that something was given to Muslims earlier that must be taken back so we have enough. That things have to be snatched back because new things cannot be created is classic scarcity mentality.
Some argue in return — but isn’t compliance important? Isn’t it good to do the ‘chowkidaari’ of these evil tax evaders and unscrupulous businessmen? Why shouldn’t we remove illegal immigrants? Or correct historical wrongs done to Hindus, by making Muslims pay for it?
I won’t go into the inherent bigotry of the above arguments. I would just say this — whether an individual or a country, to grow, you need abundance mentality. Businesses evade taxes. Business also create wealth. Immigrants enter illegally. Immigrants can also add value and add to GDP. Muslims were appeased. Muslims are also talented and can be a big part of India’s growth story. The first statement comes from scarcity mentality. The second one is abundance mentality. The first one will slow us down and keep us fighting. The second one will make India grow. Maybe we as a nation too should think less of what others have managed to steal and focus on how we can create more.
Maybe aunty could have allowed her a glass of milk and butter toast anyway. Instead of spending her energy in doing chowkidaari, she could have focused on better things in life like her comfort and spiritual growth. Maybe instead of being in constant monitoring stress she could have relaxed and said — there’s enough for everyone.
This Budget, let us agree to change our mindset to bring India back on the growth track. Let us all embrace abundance mentality. Let’s be less chowkidaar and more bhaagidaar, to make our country truly shaandaar.