This is exactly how The Economist puts it (See article). The significance of this is immense: First time a major international publication is writing off India and blaming it squarely, and rightly, on its leadership. The everyday despondence of the aspirational Indian middle class is now official.
Indian leaders, as The Economist puts it, continues to show 'Brezhnev grade' complacency. There is something in the Indian psyche, which always believes in eventual rise of India as a major world power. This is not about an Indian version of exceptionalism, but more of a manifest destiny, a deeply irrational expectation that this would happen regardless of any efforts as this is 'written'. Deep down, India's leaders seem to believe in this too, and they are blaming everyone else but themselves for the recent slow down.
However, a country's economic future, and indeed its global power, is crucially dependent on its leadership. Alan Beattie recounts the story of Argentina in his excellent False Economy. Indeed, in the 1950s and 1960s, the BRICs of the day were Brazil and Argentina, only to drop out of world's view on the back of bad governance. Despite the demography, India may follow that path. However, because of the demography, such a fall would be catastrophic.
I have recently read Jim O'neill's The Growth Map and have become reasonably familiar with the story of origination of the BRIC model, and its follow-up, the N-11, model. At the core of the economists' optimism lies a fairly simple belief that a country with lots of young people will, if it can manage to improve the productivity of its populace, do well. The simple equation of demographics and productivity lies at the heart of this model, and all the government needs to do is create the opportunity and facilitate the rise in productivity. As long as the governments can create the opportunity and facilitate the rise in productivity, the rise of big countries like India and China is a no-brainer. However, on the same token, if the government gets in the way, as the government in India is indeed being an obstacle, the demography becomes a problem: The sea of human resource turns into a multitude of disaffected revolutionaries. That point, the only thing the governments can do to save itself from violent retribution is to find a common enemy, as was the case of Jews and slavic people in Hitler's Germany. If we allow India's growth story to degenerate, it will not end up in just pessimistic newspaper stories; it will lead to violent social upheaval.
It is clear that India has a leadership problem. I watched with fascination a Q&A session by West Bengal's Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, supposedly one of the most influential politicians in the country. She stormed out of this session on Live TV (Watch it here), possibly a first for a leader of that pre-eminence, as she was unable to handle simple queries from college students about the conduct and performance of her government. I watched this with a god-help-India kind of feeling: One knew about Mamata's volatile nature, but the apparent onset of fascism - where any question is labelled to be anti-state - and the relative indifference of people to this alerted me of not just the economic problem, but also the political problem Indian democracy seemed to be facing. What makes this worse is that the apathy of Indian citizens in involving themselves in the political process: Most people want to think that the politicians do not matter and want to live life oblivious of what they are doing (and, some, like me, want to stay away and believe that the problems won't affect them). This is indeed the reason why the state is handed over to the incompetent, intolerant and dishonest politicians, such as Ms Banerjee, and this is precisely the reason we are where we are.
Is there a silver lining that we are missing? In the current global climate, the price for populism is going to be high. India indeed looks rudderless, and even the usual fascination with Nehru-Gandhi clan is also fading. India's democracy, and indeed its very survival as an unified state, seemed to be in existential danger. All of this seems indeed very negative.
The only positive trend, however feeble, is the emergence of some local politicians who are willing to be accountable to their people. They are still very marginal, and are often crowded out by the big and the connected. However, the democracy, in its chaotic form, is a strong, self-sustaining system, and at the very moment an existential danger is posed, it is developing itself a defence by bringing forth people's expectation and reconstructing the local politics, somewhat under the rudder of the bigger bosses. It is this trend which deserve all our support and all the media attention - of politics that is delivering rather than the circus that Ms Banerjee's lot runs - and this is what will, if India has to succeed, deliver it into prosperity. Let's keep hoping.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.