“Give me 100 energetic young men and I shall transform India”
— Swami Vivekananda
One of the dispiriting features of the modern development model is that despite oceans of research and studies, there has not been a substantive transformative impact on under-privileged communities. Much of the outcome has been purely academic and today we need more dedicated, courageous and purpose-driven champions who can creatively apply their competence and knowledge to enhance people’s well-being. Similarly, we need to design tools and techniques that can help translate these insights into effective public policies and professional practices that can sustainably deliver quality outcome.
A major cause for this skewed priority is the lopsided education system which deprioritizes the social sector. Most boys and girls in Higher Secondary Schools want to be either doctors or engineers. We need more talented young people in the field of development, asmost of India’s pressing problems are the result of a weak social sector, abysmal healthcare, wobbly education system, etc. Addressing the social sector challenges won’t be possible with “business as-usual” attitudes; sowe need first rate talents to engage with these challenges.
We are now seeing brilliant achievers in the field of medicine, technology and engineering pursuing careers in civil services, police and public administration. It is a happy augury that some of our bright boys and girls realize this importance, and consider social service a noble calling. One of those who have decided to onboard this brigade is Nagpur-born Chaitanya Iyer who has topped Maharashtra State in the Std 12 Higher Secondary Board Examination, this year, scoring 99.23%. In fact, for 17-year-old Chaitanya (born on 18 February 2003) scoring high is nothing new. He had bagged 97.8% in his SSC (Std X) in the 2018 Board Examination.
Unlike most of his peers, Chaitanya is not looking to go for IIT or into the medical field. “I want to be an economist, but with an engineering degree,” said Chaitanya. He has no plans for going abroad either for studies or work. “I love my country and want to serve it,” muses Chaitanya. To de-stress, Chaitanya loves to play the keyboard. “I love listening to A.R. Rahman’s music, and playing a mix of classical and modern music on my keyboard,” adds Chaitanya.
Though he has all along been a brilliant student, scoring very high in all subjects, Chaitanya certainly did not have in mind a career in science. He wanted to pursue something that had to do with finance, mathematics and economics. Having a nebulous idea of what such a career would entail, he believed he would go on to become a chartered accountant. But he has now matured and when it came to making a final choice, he decided to become an economist so that he could be part of the nationwide revolution in planning and development.
Chaitanya is a hard fighter, and followed his studies through a stormy time in the family. His father underwent surgery for hip joint replacement and his maternal grandfather passed away during this period. This had a huge impact but Chaitanya’s parents made sure that these did not distract his study. Above all, it was Chaitanya’s grit and tenacity that helped them steer his studies and notch the top slot.
Chaitanya’s strategy for the examination was simple and logical: consistent and comprehensive focus on every subject. This ensured that he had the best combined score. He has decided to enroll in an integrated dual degree programme in economics and engineering from BITS Pilani. He would then like to join the Indian Economic Service (IES).
Chaitanya belongs to the new breed of committed individuals who are making real, equitable and inclusive progress possible. It is this selfless spirit of service that is protecting the purity of the traditional Indian development ethos, and is helping to translate development policies into tangible ground action. Many such bright individuals are using their talents to fight poverty, hunger and disease and provide opportunities for the next generation. The world is a better place because of what they are doing and aspiring to do.
Moin Qazi holds PhDs in Development Economics and English. He worked for three decades at State Bank of India in various developmental roles. He served as Chancellor’s nominee in Nagpur University and as a Member of National Committee on Financial Inclusion at NITI Aayog. He is the recipient of the UNESCO World Politics Essay Gold Medal, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Gold Medal from Dalit Sahitya Academy and Rotary International’s Vocational Excellence Award.