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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Indian Enigma

India was never a unified nation. It was ruled by several Kings over hundreds of small provinces. Historically, the relationship between these provinces was far from cordial. Very often these Kings were engaged in war and hostility among themselves. India was invaded very early in her history by many foreign invaders. However, over two centuries of British rule in India had at least two good impacts on this country-- unification of the nation ushered in by anti-British sentiment created by some eloquent and dynamic leaders, and the access of the Indian elite class to the progressive western thoughts through learning of English language. Though, we cannot belittle the contribution of Indian leaders' pioneering leadership during the freedom struggle, yet we cannot also ignore the other side of the story behind India's freedom in 1947. After the World War II, the economy of England was in serious difficulty and the administration of a large colony like India was not economically viable any longer. Hence, Economic trouble of England coupled with the resurgence in India for freedom led to India's freedom on 15th August 1947. India was a great ancient civilization but was far away from the modern thinking of the twentieth century when she got her freedom. The society was ridden with superstitions; level of literacy was low and worst of all, the feudalistic mind set was very deeply ingrained in the social system. Unfortunately, this mind set is still strong in India. Because of this the politicians, bureaucrats and police thrive in India, despite being the personifications of corruption and inefficiency. Till date the greatest dream of a talented Indian youth is to get into Indian Civil Services owing to the demi-god like respect Civil Service officials enjoy in the society. India became free from foreign rule but fell into the evil trap of indigenous new rulers who are more self-seeking and unjust than their colonial counterparts. India adopted a parliamentary democratic system in the line of the British system. But with widespread illiteracy, poverty and a society more backward looking than embracing modern world thoughts and ideas, made a propitious ground for a handful of elites and educated to exploit the ordinary citizens at every counter. This commenced the culture of corruption in the country, and today it is so deep rooted and glaring everywhere that honesty has become synonymous with stupidity and lie. This vast nation today with a population of 1.24 billion appears to be no one's nation. There is a saying-- "in democracy you get a government that you deserve". This statement is very pertinent to Indian democracy. Due to poverty and large scale unemployment the democratic suffrage is largely influenced by money power. And due to sizable illiterate population the election of the representatives never gets the stamp of prudence based on national priorities. As a result, umpteen numbers of uneducated, criminal elements with the influence of money and muscle wield power at various levels of governance. What contribution can be expected of such unworthy representatives for social and economic growth? Their only motivation is to aggrandize their personal wealth and social status. Some good and upright people who venture into politics get disillusioned soon and their voices are silenced by the authoritarian party leadership or by the vested interest groups. I do not know what could be a better form of governance, but I am convinced that democracy in India has turned into mockery and is extraordinarily burdensome for a poor economy. India's burgeoning population is always seen as a negative factor for her economic growth. There are two reasons to this ever increasing population problem-- a) lack of proper education b) the underdeveloped rural parts of India is still stuck in time. India's investment in education is conspicuously low since her Independence. If I recollect properly, it is only 1.2% of her budgetary allocation in recent times, whereas China allocates 2.2% for education. Education is the most neglected sector in India and as a fall out, it attracts comparatively inferior talents into teaching profession. I do not discredit the talent of many brilliant people who have chosen teaching as their profession out of sheer love. But such people are sparsely visible and are mostly engaged at the higher level of education. The conditions of government managed schools in rural and semi-urban places are highly deplorable. It appears that the government loves statistics more than quality. Whatever little money, allocated to promote the so called literacy movement, is largely swindled away by the corrupt hierarchy at all levels. It is, therefore, very distressing to say that India's investment in social capital has been abysmally low for several decades now. The country cannot escape from paying heavy price for this negligence, in future. The population control which is directly related to education and modern outlook cannot be achieved without investment in social capital, which includes unflinching emphasis on education. India's pursuance of economic policy has always remained enigmatic. After independence the priority was on large public sectors, a half hearted experiment in the then Soviet model. The pubic sectors with their long gestation period and little focus on profitability created a culture of inefficiency and failed to generate wealth for the nation. Profit those days was a dirty word for some of our front line leaders. Over indulgence of government in business enterprises mired the growth of entrepreneurship in the society. India, however, woke up to realities in late 90s of the twentieth century initiating the process of economic liberalization and reforms. Though the process of reform is very often derailed and contradicted in past two decades and India still remains an investor's nightmare; nonetheless, some progress in the economy is perceptible during this period. For a country like India growth in GDP or statistical increase in per capita income do not vouch, any way, for reduction of poverty or enhancement of social welfare; because the disparity in distribution of wealth is so glaringly disproportionate that the improvement in the conditions of the poverty stricken people, in any recognizable future, will not be less than a miracle. Unless a vigorous change in national character is achieved by eradicating corruption and inefficiency from the society and by conscious investment in social capital India can hardly accelerate her economic and social growth; whatever the statistician may indicate.