Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Two Indias

Many years ago, India was one and the same, an India that lived, ate, schooled, worked, enjoyed and died together. They travelled on the same buses, the same trains and lived in the same localities.

Today, there are atleast 2 Indias. Look around yourself, ye elite blogging crowd and it will be fairly evident. Especially in a place where the haves can have a salary of 25000 per month, whereas the havenots take an entire lifetime to earn that (or a year, depending on the position on the bell curve). Theres an India that uses public transport, travels sleeper class and eats where food is available. There is another India that uses their own transport except when it is absolutely necessary to use a bus (only airconditioned). They prefer a flight to the crowded cramminess of a sleeper class train and their own car or taxi for anything else. Food can be taken only at select establishments.

No this post is not about asking them to give up those comforts and step out into the open, nor is it about socialism. It is not about rolling back reforms or about how must give to help the have nots.

It is about how our reforms have touched only surface of society and how the political class is preventing everyone from enjoying the benefits of reforms. The problem is not in the reforms but that there isnt enough of reform. It is how our highly "educated" remarkably political class that is holding back the have nots because of shortsighted policies. If they built better roads, generated reliable electricity and dismantled some archaic labour laws we would be better off as a country.

If farmers could earn more through contract farming, they would be better off in their own areas and not find their way to the slums in the cities. If retail FDI were opened up for sourcing, many more would find employment in those sourcing agencies apart from creating many entrepreneurs who would otherwise end up pulling rickshaws. It would help handicraft artisans to create and sell their product to a greater, bigger, lucrative market. If our labour policies were easier on companies which want to downsize we would have a significant populace who would have jobs for atleast part of the year. (Now because of the policies on downsizing, companies refuse to hire. Like the rent control policies in Mumbai led to thousands of flats being locked up. Landlords would rather keep their flats locked than let them out in rent creating an artificial boom). If we let the companies access our mines or set up steel plants in remote areas, there would many more jobs.

The generation which is a have today is just a generation away from the have nots. Many of the "haves" parents scrimped and saved yesterday for a good education. Today, a generation later with offshoring, they are reaping the dividends. More reforms are needed so that we give the other India a chance to reap those benefits and this happens, by increasing opportunity and letting everybody move faster, rather than by choking opportunity or creating speed breakers.


AkaRound Peg said...

I agree that the reforms have not benefited everybody.

But there were always 2 Indias down the ages.

You had zamindars that owned hundreds of acres and the menial labourer that owned nothing. People that owned several kilos of gold in jewellery......

Purandaradasa was supposedly called 'Nava-Koti-Narayan' he had 9 crores in those days when a hundred rupees was a fortune.

Neelakantan said...

The argument here is to broaden the scope of reforms as much as possible!

AkaRound Peg said...

True, I agree the reforms have been lop-sided. Especially for the generation that bore the brunt of socialism post independence.

This generation had no housing loans, salaries were fixed by the Govt, cars, fridges, phones, AC's were deemed luxuries and they paid thru their noses for it.

Now inflation and dollar salaries coupled with falling interest rates have struck them real hard.

I wish IPO's would reserve a portion for these people - the country today is built on their sacrifice.