Independence, Freedom, Democracy
No, India continues to fumble its future
The usual suspects made the usual speeches on August 15, 2007, mouthing the usual pure cant. But the sad fact remains that 60 years after the departure of the thieving imperialists, India has comprehensively under-achieved on all fronts; all that has changed is the skin-color of the looters.
Freedom is very different from mere independence. And there is no freedom for the common man in India: not freedom from want, nor freedom of expression or thought, nor freedom to aspire to greatness, nor freedom from the ravages of endemic corruption.
Indians are shackled, and the blunders of the past 60 years conspire to create a state of permanent slavery for the nation. That is the biggest disappointment of all: Indians aspire to mediocrity. Indians simply cannot imagine that they can recapture their historical primacy as the greatest innovators, the most prosperous nation on earth.
The facts exist: for instance, economic historian Angus Maddison’s World Economy: A Millenial Perspective, an official European Union publication, shows that during practically the entire period 0-1700 C.E. India was the world’s richest nation. India is on the way to economic superpower-dom, as forecast in the dramatic Goldman Sachs reports (Dreaming with BRICs and India’s Rising Growth Potential). And indeed, in the last few years, the world has recognized that India will be an engine of the Asian century, hyphenated with China (much, incidentally, to the latter’s chagrin).
But it is only foreigners who acknowledge India’s potential. Indians themselves are still colonized. Having destroyed indigenous education, the colonialists put in place a system designed to suppress creativity and produce drones who would toil for Empire. It drums into the minds of children the idea that everything native to India is worthless. It was wildly successful in creating a nation of the mentally enslaved. Exhibits A and B: India’s Finance Minister opined recently that India was always a poor country; some time ago, the Prime Minister complimented imperialists on the good they did for India.
Accordingly, Indians aspire to be second-best. Only Indians go to the Olympics to be sporting losers, not to win. Indians seek to play second fiddle to somebody, be it Americans, Chinese, Arabs, anybody.
Yes, there is formal independence, but there is no freedom. Nor is there democracy, other than some strange beast that has the paraphernalia but not the substance of rule of, by, and for the people.
There is little to cheer about 60 years after power has been grabbed by brown sahibs: almost every one of them is a crook seeking to sell the national interest down the river. They have perpetrated a crime against humanity by preventing 400 million Indians from climbing out of poverty and by creating a personality-cult-ridden, corrupt State.
Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from Chennai, India.
Yes, India has made significant strides
To determine the significance of India’s progress since 1947, we need to discuss what constitutes “progress.”
The myriad perspectives on “progress” are best mirrored in the dialogue between the World Bank and representatives of the Bhutanese Government in the 1980s. As part of encouraging Bhutan to adapt World Bank approved practices and “come up to speed,” the delegation held forth about how dismal the local economy was and buttressed their arguments with a steady stream of statistics, starting with the GNP (Gross National Product) and GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
“A low GDP and GNP—yes,” replied Bhutan’s representative “But have you noticed how high our GHP (Gross Happiness Product) is? Our people may have little money but pride themselves on their ability to see beyond materialism. It is spiritual progress that we concentrate on, making our GHP one of the world’s highest.”
Progress is not a function of the economy alone. Notwithstanding the economy’s stuttering and sputtering, India has made gigantic strides in every sphere from democratic governance to defense. It is one of the few Asian countries that has successfully trudged the thorny trails of democracy—the country has had no coups. The significance of this achievement is best underscored through a contrast with its immediate neighbors, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Both countries dated democracy before unceremoniously dumping it twice over since 1971, thanks to army-sponsored coups. China’s democracy is all theory and no practice, while the Arabian Peninsula has a morphed into what may be described as the Wild East—a richer version of the lawless Wild West.
India’s success with democracy has been recognized by many Fortune 500 companies; indeed, the relative political stability has been cited as one of the reasons for their increasing investment in India.
Notwithstanding technological and ideological barriers, India has successfully become a nuclear power, a definite asset in a tough neighborhood prone to displays of inexplicable aggressiveness. India’s defense capabilities are certainly respected, if not feared by its neighbors—a volte-face considering that some were ready to carve India up into bits and pieces after the drubbing of the 1962 Indo-Chinese war.
And yes, India has made significant economic progress since the early 1990s with the introduction of the economic reforms—the socialist rate of growth (a euphemism for little or no progress) is now a memory as the sizzling economy grows by leaps and bounds.
A country in which the age of 60 symbolizes sunset is looking forward to many luminous, sunshine-filled years. The country may have fumbled, but it has not tumbled, much less been humbled. India is the Japan of the 21st century—formerly a by-word for shoddy products, now a world leader in every sphere of endeavor.
S. Gopikrishna writes from Toronto on issues relevant to India and Indians.