An Indian Civilizational Perspective

India at 60: by VK

India is at a cross-roads today. It has experimented with democracy as well as socialism however flawed it might have been. It has a significant and growing portion of its people living with a decent standard of living, even though that is a minority of the population and not comparable with the developed world. It has increased life expectancy from about 32 to 68 years and birth rate per woman has declined some in recent years (a positive indicator vis-a-vis population).
India is the pharmacy of the developed world and a software-services power.

From here, India can go the slow tortuous way of Russia/Brazil or it can go the path leading to a pre-eminent developed nation like it was a few centuries past. When we think about we we want to be, it is worth thinking about some benchmarks to help us check if we are heading on the right path and how far we are. The ultimate metric for India’s success has to be the metric that has always drawn people to any developed nation : the quality of life enjoyed by an average or middle class citizen. This metric was true 1400 years ago when Chinese traveler Hien Tsang visited India and was wowed – and this is true today when Indian travelers visit the USA for the first time.

This metric is important because countries like China even though fast developing – have demonstrably fared poorly on this metric. Not surprisingly, no one wants to move to China even though it is justifiably “the factory of the world”.

Also read:  Audacity of Plunder and Rape of India and its Citizenry

So what are the constituents of this quality-of-life metric? Clean drinking water, a safe (non-health damaging) environment, nutrition, education, health care and housing would be the most pertinent factors. In my opinion, these constituent factors have roughly been listed above in the order that their lack would most threaten our progress as a society.

Without going into each of these factors let us focus on one of the big threats which has caused entire civilizations in the past to collapse – the Mayans of Central America for example. Clean drinking water is a serious crisis in modern India exacerbated by population growth, poor planning and poor use of resources. Like trapping rainwater/runoff for eaxmple. The areas of India most often flooded are the ones in dire need of clean water for most of the year. Even in a capital city like Delhi, there is not a reliable and adequate supply of municipal water. In smaller towns and cities, water borne diseases run rampant due to water sources that are untreated or unsafe due to pollution by industrial waste.

The enablers of the quality of life metric are growth in business, productivity and good use of natural resources. All of these require a tremendous investment in education and basic infrastructure. That is of course, well known. What is important though is that all the investment and resources that is required by the country is already in the country but is trapped or discouraged by a poor protection of rights : property rights – physical, financial and intellectual, and judicial rights. The super-catalytic effect these protections can have on the growth of a country or the lack thereof is explained and documented by the acclaimed economist Hernando de Soto in his book “Why Capitalism triumphs in the West and fails everywhere else”.

This requires a two pronged approach :
– participation of well-educated Indians from the middle class in people’s movements, media and politics to rebuild and reclaim decrepit institutions

– heavy investment in education so that people recognize what is important and can be great contributors. The poster child for this is Ireland which changed from a sender of hordes of immigrants to the USA for over 150 years, to a “European Tiger” within the course of the last 15 years.

Once we have established these protections and invested enough to make quality education accessible even to the poor, it will open the floodgates for progress towards our quality-of-life metric.

The other thing that is missing in India is respect for other Indians and Indian-ness. I am convinced that this (self-respect) is the biggest strength of the United States and this has to be the biggest strength of any country that wants to pick itself up from its bootstraps. Once we have that in addition, I’m willing to bet my lifesavings that India will leapfrog China and Europe and be restored to the glory that Hien Tsang saw. Citizens of the world would see India as a model, much as it was seen for several millenia.

(VK is an IT professional who also writes on Tech Notes, Snippets, Trends and Business

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4 Comments
  1. Jeshi says

    In India the age of retirement age in the Govt job is 60 years,implying that your are past your prime and its time to rest on your laurals.But India as fas a nation is concerned,it is a young nation.amazed.yes though the age expentency has increased from 31+ to 68+ it as a nation is thinking young.What i write is not mere patriotism but quite a pragmatic view.Yes indians are vowed by the US or Europe but then Europe and the US are also vowed by India,though the areas of interest may vary.India has arrived on the world stage in all speres be it economy,entertainment(bollywood,hollywood and Madame Tussad’s),beauty peagants,cultural heritage,software,outsourcing etc.The nomination of the Taj is not a mere nomination of a monument but it is the acceptance for what it stands and also what ever it is connected with.a Recent article in the newspaper states that chinese papers have extensively covered the debate in India politics with respect to the Indian nuclear deal with the US and the growing proximity of India with the US.China which loses no opportunity of asserting itself in Tibet(post 1962) and considering Arunachal Pradesh a part of it recognises the growth of India & REGARDS IT A competition in population and economic growth.For 60 years Indian Democracy has vowed the world with its strength in the secular and social base.USSR and the Eastern blocks have vanished from the globe but India with more than a 1600 spoken languages,a 100 festivals,8 major religions of the world(of which 4 originated in India) ,27 states,18 official languages has withstood the test of Time.To compere India with nations would be futile ,for parameters for such a comparison would have to be defined explicitly.The living standards have increased as the MNCs are recognizing the potential of India in terms of a market for products , services, Quality and drive required for any venture which they are contemplating to set up.Even when Huen Tsang came in the times of Harsha Vardhan he was vowed by the nation called India/Bharat.Reality Chreck would state that India is growing and growing young.60 is too young .Mera Bharat Mahan

  2. Jeshi says

    In India the age of retirement age in the Govt job is 60 years,implying that your are past your prime and its time to rest on your laurals.But India as fas a nation is concerned,it is a young nation.amazed.yes though the age expentency has increased from 31+ to 68+ it as a nation is thinking young.What i write is not mere patriotism but quite a pragmatic view.Yes indians are vowed by the US or Europe but then Europe and the US are also vowed by India,though the areas of interest may vary.India has arrived on the world stage in all speres be it economy,entertainment(bollywood,hollywood and Madame Tussad’s),beauty peagants,cultural heritage,software,outsourcing etc.The nomination of the Taj is not a mere nomination of a monument but it is the acceptance for what it stands and also what ever it is connected with.a Recent article in the newspaper states that chinese papers have extensively covered the debate in India politics with respect to the Indian nuclear deal with the US and the growing proximity of India with the US.China which loses no opportunity of asserting itself in Tibet(post 1962) and considering Arunachal Pradesh a part of it recognises the growth of India & REGARDS IT A competition in population and economic growth.For 60 years Indian Democracy has vowed the world with its strength in the secular and social base.USSR and the Eastern blocks have vanished from the globe but India with more than a 1600 spoken languages,a 100 festivals,8 major religions of the world(of which 4 originated in India) ,27 states,18 official languages has withstood the test of Time.To compere India with nations would be futile ,for parameters for such a comparison would have to be defined explicitly.The living standards have increased as the MNCs are recognizing the potential of India in terms of a market for products , services, Quality and drive required for any venture which they are contemplating to set up.Even when Huen Tsang came in the times of Harsha Vardhan he was vowed by the nation called India/Bharat.Reality Chreck would state that India is growing and growing young.60 is too young .Mera Bharat Mahan

  3. Vishwajit says

    Jeshi wrote:

    >Europe and the US are also vowed by India,though the areas of interest may vary

    That is a misconception perhaps perpetuated by the Indian media. As a small example of the lack of interest or respect of India in the west: The last visit by the Indian Prime Minister did not even figure in the National News on TV in the USA; by contrast the visit by George Bush to India was a media circus in India. India does not have enough – in ideas or prosperity – to show for, as far as Europe and USA are concerned. The US press to date has not even bothered to report that there is a flood in India, leave alone the fact that 28 million Indians are homeless, starving or driven from homes due to it. I’m sure by contrast the middle class in India knows that there are 6 miners trapped in a US coal mine.

    >To compere India with nations would be futile ,for parameters for such a >comparison would have to be defined explicitly

    Even today, most of the experienced and sharpest engineers in India’s top companies like Infosys and Wipro want to move from Bangalore to US after a few years of working in a decent job with a decent pay (more than Rs 10 lakh a year before tax). I know some of these recent migrants personally. This is one reason Indians must compare their country with the rest of the world rather than sit content thinking “mera bharat is mahan”. It actually is not ‘mahan’ yet, if you see the way we Indians behave. We still steal toiletries in international flights. Our reverence of foreigners and disregard for our own kind is evident in the firangi mannequins that hang in our malls and when you go shopping with a white-skinned foreigner in India; you suddenly become invisible to all the shopkeepers :-). At one mall (Pacific?) in Ghaziabad I noticed that the only mannequins and pictures of models on the walls in the entire mall (not just one shop) were of firangi people. Perhaps the next generation of desi girls will want white husbands too; what is the name of that Australian cricketer who sang with Asha Bhonsle?

    The other reason Indians need to compare themselves with the rest of the world is to realize how far they have to go. We end up only comparing ourselves with Pakistan and stay smug in our “mera bharat mahan” world.

  4. Vishwajit says

    Jeshi wrote:

    >Europe and the US are also vowed by India,though the areas of interest may vary

    That is a misconception perhaps perpetuated by the Indian media. As a small example of the lack of interest or respect of India in the west: The last visit by the Indian Prime Minister did not even figure in the National News on TV in the USA; by contrast the visit by George Bush to India was a media circus in India. India does not have enough – in ideas or prosperity – to show for, as far as Europe and USA are concerned. The US press to date has not even bothered to report that there is a flood in India, leave alone the fact that 28 million Indians are homeless, starving or driven from homes due to it. I’m sure by contrast the middle class in India knows that there are 6 miners trapped in a US coal mine.

    >To compere India with nations would be futile ,for parameters for such a >comparison would have to be defined explicitly

    Even today, most of the experienced and sharpest engineers in India’s top companies like Infosys and Wipro want to move from Bangalore to US after a few years of working in a decent job with a decent pay (more than Rs 10 lakh a year before tax). I know some of these recent migrants personally. This is one reason Indians must compare their country with the rest of the world rather than sit content thinking “mera bharat is mahan”. It actually is not ‘mahan’ yet, if you see the way we Indians behave. We still steal toiletries in international flights. Our reverence of foreigners and disregard for our own kind is evident in the firangi mannequins that hang in our malls and when you go shopping with a white-skinned foreigner in India; you suddenly become invisible to all the shopkeepers :-). At one mall (Pacific?) in Ghaziabad I noticed that the only mannequins and pictures of models on the walls in the entire mall (not just one shop) were of firangi people. Perhaps the next generation of desi girls will want white husbands too; what is the name of that Australian cricketer who sang with Asha Bhonsle?

    The other reason Indians need to compare themselves with the rest of the world is to realize how far they have to go. We end up only comparing ourselves with Pakistan and stay smug in our “mera bharat mahan” world.

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