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The Malaysian Indian curse

July 24, 2013

FMT LETTER: From Natesan Visnu, via e-mail

The Indian leadership in Malaysia has always been a subject of criticism. The Indian leadership has not seen a leader with capability to steer the community for socio-economic growth. To date Malaysian Indians are still plagued with fundamental issues of identity card issues, job opportunities, Tamil schools, poverty, displaced estate workers,university seats, alcoholism, gangsterism, etc.

The resolution for most of the issues are political in nature and merely window dressing. The outcomes are usually temporary and the issues continues to haunt Indians. In a nutshell, the Indian leadership in Malaysia has failed to resolve the issues plaguing the community for years.

The MIC) has been the forerunner championing Indian issues for years. MIC has launched various programmes and initiatives to uplift the community with National Land Finance Cooperative Society (NLFCS), MIC Education Fund, Maju Institute of Education Development (MIED), Special secretariat for Empowerment of  Indian Entrepreneurs (SEED), Yayasan Strategik Social (YSS), AIMST University, TAFE College, Yayasan Pemulihan Sosial (YPS), Putera MIC, Puteri MIC, Pemuda MIC and Wanita MIC.

These MIC arms have failed to achieve the objectives to uplift the Indian community. MIC leaders have been under heavy criticism and the failure of MIC has paved way for new political parties and activists to champion for Indian rights. Hindraf, HRP, IPF, PPP, etc. are result of MIC’s leadership failure.

Indians have not forgotten the debacle by MIC during the Telecom share scandals. Traditional MIC supporters lost their life saving investing with MAIKA. The political will and greed of MIC members caused MAIKA to fail as an entity that was supposed to uplift the Indians. If MAIKA was managed by professionals, it would have been a social business entity that could have shaped the direction of community 25 years ago. The MIC leadership has failed the Indian community in MAIKA’s case.

The reality is the Indian community is ‘cursed’ with bad leadership and that has crippled the growth of the community. The Indian leadership mentality in this country needs to be reshaped and the current leaders needs to be ‘educated’ with leadership lessons or forced to resign in order to allow the new breed of leaders to take the helm.

The root cause for the disparity among the Indians are the caste (jati) system inherited from India. The recent fiasco over MIC presidential elections is surrounded by the caste support for the top post. The Mukkulathors and Kounders are the dominant caste and the current president is aligning the candidates with the respective caste. Despite their education, the leaders are still playing the caste sentiments in politics. In this context, whom shall we blame for the backwardness of community? The leaders for campaigning based on caste or the community for practicing the caste system till today without regards to human values?

The social stratification of the community has hampered the progress of the Indians and we are the root cause for our downfall because of the choice to practice caste system. Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar, Periyar, EV Ramasamy spent their lives fighting for the eradication of the caste system. Their achievements helped uplift the Dalits (untouchables) in India. In Malaysian context, the caste system is the root cause for our political and economy failure and the Indian community in should take responsibility for the society’s collapse.

The leadership should abandon the caste system and embark on reconciliation programmes among the jatis. The focus should be on electing the leaders based on their education background, contributions, leadership qualities, etc. not jati. The ancient Hindu texts suggested that the caste system is flexible not rigid. The flexibility has allowed a lower caste sage Valmiki to compose the epic Ramayana. That implicates that anyone who works hard could liberate their life from the clutches of the mundane caste system and poverty.

New strategies are required for the downtrodden  community. In the informative age, the best practices from various sectors should be studied further for implementation. The flexibility in Hinduism for social change could be implemented through ‘sanskritisation’. Sanskiritisation means a process whereby “a low or middle Hindu caste, or tribal or other group, changes its customs, ritual ideology, and way of life in the direction of a high and frequently twice-born caste. Generally such changes are followed by a claim to a higher position in the caste hierarchy than that traditionally conceded to the claimant class by the local community …”

Translating to modern context of sanskirisation, the Malaysian Indian community should be empowered through socio-economics and education. Adapting Prof Muhammad Yunus’ social business framework, Indian leaders should study the framework and implement the strategies for Malaysian Indians. Yunus’s idea has been widely accepted and proven to be a success in Bangladesh, a country poorer than Malaysia. The programme such as Grameen Danone has created small entrepreneurs who could earn a decent living with simple business ideas.

For education, approximately 10,000 Indian students finish their SPM yearly. The issues of higher education could be resolved easily if AIMST adapts the social business practices instead of being a profit maximising organisation. The political leaders could easily build a university similar to Taylors’ Lakeside Campus on 20 acres land for a cost less than half a billion. Two universities for Indians could resolve the issues of higher education seats. The universities could be managed using the social business frameworks for sustainability and business growth.

To summarise the issues above, the failure of Indian leadership and practice of caste system in Malaysia has clearly contributed the backwardness of the Indian community. The Indian leadership should consider the issues plaguing the community and formulate strategies that will benefit the Indian people. MIC, Hindraf, HRP, PPP, etc., should initiate the social reform programme before the community loses faith in their leaders.

The curse on Indian community continues and a massive movement – from political and NGO leaders – to implement various programmes with proven track record could assist to liberate the poverty stricken  community. The ball is in the politicians’ court and it’s their turn to return the favour.


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