February 4, 2007

India will overcome, says who?


Says Edward Luce, who has been India correspondent of The Financial Times, London. He writes about “the strange rise of modern India” in his book, titled, In Spite of the Gods. It won’t be enjoyed, reckons The New York Times review, by Indian diplomats, academics, Hindu nationalists and makers of cow-dung anti-dandruff shampoo. “Most others, I suspect, will relish”, says the reviewer Ben Macintyre.

Nicely put, Ben. My suspicion is that many of the academics and diplomats who read this sentence would want to read the book, if only to repudiate it; and the others would be inclined to buy it to see what is there in it that would not please Hindu nationalists. And I would want to figure out why Ben, the book reviewer, has excluded the shampoo makers.

The author of this book cautions that the expectation of success has infected India’s privileged classes with “a premature spirit of triumphalism” that could prove self-defeating, a case of counting chickens before they are eggs. “India is not on an autopilot to greatness”, says NYT review quoting the author, “it would take an incompetent pilot to crash the plane”.

The Edward Luce prescription:Improve education, strengthen liberal democracy, develop a coherent energy strategy and radically revise the transport system before the country’s car population swells from 40 million today to an expected 200 million by 2030 and brings the entire country to a chocking standstill.

My question: Can we accomplish all this? Sure, all it takes would be a miracle mindset-change in our people and policy-makers alike.

4 comments:

sanjay said...

It is easy enough to deduce where Luce stands - the title is a dead giveaway, as is the prescription to "strengthen liberal democracy". By their own admission, liberal democrats are incurably eurocentric & it comes as no surprise that Luce believes that India's future lies in adopting western liberal democratic values.

In Luce's european world, China can be explained, not India. No self- respecting european chauvinist would want to admit that a democracy, and one as large and visible as India, can become successful without needing to embrace european liberal democracy.

Anonymous said...

"The Edward Luce prescription:Improve education, strengthen liberal democracy, develop a coherent energy strategy and radically revise the transport system before the country’s car population swells from 40 million today to an expected 200 million by 2030 and brings the entire country to a chocking standstill"

While agreeing with Luce, I would also add, improve education so that it nurtures meritocracy, improve literacy among the poor and neglected, discourage communities forcing to classify themselves as 'backward' (it is only in India, there is clamour for backwardness) etc..

I am puzzled by the criticism of 'liberal democracy'. I know what is not a liberal democracy, when a strong member of an opposition party in a constituency is bribed to withdraw his/her nomination so that the ruling party's candidate ( a sitting CM, a potential CM, son of a CM you name it)can be declared as 'unopposed'. I know what is not a liberal democracy when as a presiding officer in a KG Koppal contiyuency in a national election in 1960s, I witnessed how the Congress (I) Candidate there managed (through strong arm tactics)to force the entire community to vote for him. No volunteer from any opposition party
was allowed near the polling station. Even before the polling finished , the candidate looked at me and declared himself as the victor! Sure, every ballet counted had a cross against his name!! When I tried to draw this to the attention of the Divisional Commissioner who was my boss on the polling day, he whispered ' young man I know, if you value your life and I my career, both of us should keep our respective mouths shut!' Call it 'Eastern style democracy' or ' Indian democracy for masses' or 'Indian democracy for strong-arm tacticians'?

Ranga said...

"In Luce's european world, China can be explained, not India. No self- respecting european chauvinist would want to admit that a democracy, and one as large and visible as India, can become successful without needing to embrace european liberal democracy"

China which is expected to be the second superpower with a permanent seat in the UN, a capacity to get its own way in international politics ofcourse can be explained. The old adage 'might is right' applies here. Unfortunately, India with its myriad corrupt politicians sans vision and swimming in their scheming cess pool can only stand at the side sniping at Luce.

Anonymous said...

"The author of this book cautions that the expectation of success has infected India’s privileged classes with “a premature spirit of triumphalism” that could prove self-defeating..."

The above is a revealing observation as far as IT outsourcing in India is concerned. Speaking as an IT practitioner, throwing a posse of 'program coders' ('metal bashers' in the manufacturing jargon) at a task when the West would brandish just one for the money in the kitty, and the privileged class of CEOs of IT codeshops in Mysore and Bangalore going ga ga is indeed
"a premature spirit of triumphalism”. Just look at Shangai of today with its magnetically levitated train whizzing people away in a flash and compare it with the deep frozen plan of double tracking Bangalore -Mysore line, one can figure out why China can be explained. If one looked at the officials and their families outnumbering Indian athletes at the last Olympic games in Athens, and when Indian atheltes went home with a few medals of baser metals, the Chinese athletes departing with a sack full of gold medals, one understands without rant why China can be explained. When higher education in India is fast driven into a cul de sac of IT training, China merrily expanding its base of scientific education for tomorrow, while Hindi is confined to Bollywood, Mandarin is fast catching up with English as the language of the commercial world, one knows why China can be explained.