Friday, July 07, 2006

India shining or not

...not is what an op-ed in NYT (link from Abi) by Pankaj Mishra (yes, the person behind this) says. It is also what some sitting in airconditioned rooms with unlimited broadband sitting in this half of the world writing about the other half peering through tinted glass windows would like to have us believe. Titled "The Myth of the New India", here are some excerps...

There is, however, no denying many Indians their conviction that the 21st century will be the Indian Century just as the 20th was American. The exuberant self-confidence of a tiny Indian elite now increasingly infects the news media and foreign policy establishment in the United States.

Well, the confidence is justifiable. In terms of the technology outsourcing work, we are doing pretty well. Facts and figures from the Nasscom site:

  • The total direct employment in the Indian IT-ITES sector is estimated to have grown by over a million, from 284,000 in FY 1999-2000 to a projected 1,287,000 in the current fiscal (2005-06)
  • In addition to the nearly 1.3 million-strong workforce employed directly in the industry, Indian IT-ITES is estimated to have helped create an additional 3 million job opportunities through indirect and induced employment. Indirect employment includes expenditure on vendors including telecom, power, construction, facility management, IT, transportation, catering and other services. Induced employment is driven by consumption expenditure of employees on food, clothing, utilities, recreation, health and other services.
Just taking these figures at face value, thats 4 million (40 lakh) jobs created, which did not exist before.

It was not so long ago that India appeared in the American press as a poor, backward and often violent nation, saddled with an inefficient bureaucracy and, though officially nonaligned, friendly to the Soviet Union. Suddenly the country seems to be not only a "roaring capitalist success story" but also, according to Foreign Affairs, an "emerging strategic partner of the United States." To what extent is this wishful thinking rather than an accurate estimate of India's strengths?

Suddenly? The change has taken us about 15 years and we are getting there, though slowly. Strategic partner of the US notwithstanding, today, we as a nation are far more self sufficient, industrially better off than we ever were. We have progressed, though there is lot more we need to do. We have one of the fastest growing mobile phone markets, one of the largest pool of engineers and work is steadily flowing into India.

Yes, there are farmers who commit suicide, children who are malnourished in our country - these problems have to be addressed, it wont happen if the country does not progress. After all we have to clear the muck left over after almost 50 years of failed socialism, a hundred odd years of British occupation. There are also a bunch of beyond-expiry-date politicians who are trying their best to turn the clock back. We also have leftists, corruption, communists and terrorists (verbal and others) who are trying their best in their own way to see to it that India remains retarded, ignorant and illiterate.

Progress is about where you look. In India you can see the gutter as much as you can see telephone towers. If you chose to see the gutter like Pankaj Mishra does, you will find muck. But if you see the telephone towers and see how many in the gutter are trying to get out (and are getting out), you could choose to be optimistic and confident...


abscondingsoul said...

i do agree with your observations.
but what i believe is that India needs an
inspired leadership. India runs on its bureaucracy . as long as we don't have motivated people eager to join the civil services, we will not see results at the grassroots .

ankan said...

I think Pankaj Mishra also has a point. There is real progress, but it IS concentrated in only a few pockets. It is not advisable to brush the muck under the carpet and shout at the top of voice that India is shining.

India needs to put its head down and work its ass off for at least a decade, without any of the stupidies of people such as Arjun Singh, before we can talk about the shining thing.