Saturday, March 14, 2015

Covetous Economy - China ogling

 Strengths within

An article in @SwarajyaMag on economic roadmap for India that concludes that foreign Investment is the solution to our woes is the trigger for this post.

I read that article, first time superficially, as I only was seeing in it what I have read earlier but in new composition. There is nothing new to it except that it appears, this time, in a magazine that is perceived as one sympathetic to Right politics.  I could not take the article out of mind for over two days and none of the reasons was positive. I thought I will put my counterview here.

The article written by Jaithirth Rao, argues that allowing uninhibited foreign investment will solve all our economic problems, a-la-China. For this purpose the measure of success is marked as the achieving of economic parameters of China. It was so monochromatic an objective, as if nothing else matters to India.

In our school days, we read a story as part of curriculum, that I hardly hear nowadays. It goes like this. In a village there lived a farmer with three sons. His field was ripe to be harvested and in that field lived a mother Lark (vanambadi in Tamil) with her hatchlings.

One day when the mother had gone out in search of food for her hatchlings, the farmer arrives at the field with his sons and tells them that it is time for harvesting the field. He asks his sons to call their relatives to come the next day to help them harvest.

The hatchlings, hearing this, get very agitated and as soon as the mother came home, tell her that they have to leave immediately, narrating the farmer’s plan. Mother was nonchalant and assuages her children that there is nothing to fear.

Next day the farmer and sons arrive at the field and wait for the help to arrive to start harvesting, but no one turns up. As it became midday, the farmer tells his children to bring over the village men the next day this time.

Again when the mother comes home, the hatchlings scramble in fear, yet the mother tells it is not time to move yet. The next day the farmer again waits for people to arrive and none turn up. This time the farmer tells his sons that they can wait no more and the next day they will do the harvest by themselves, waiting for none.

When the mother heard this, she told her children that it is time to move now as surely the field will be harvested the next day.

This is a great RW story, if one gets the drift.

Hinduism and Buddhism are replete with texts that teach us that the solution to our problems lie within and not without. Indian minds, especially those from the Convent educated as well as the political class, are so enamoured with the rose plant in blooms across the fence that they never tire of telling us that uprooting that plant and bringing it over our side of the fence is the only way we can have those flowers. Growing and nurturing a rose plant does not seem to be an option at all. It is a state of mind that we seem to lack. We do seem to think that the flowers  bloom across the fence because it was borrowed from some other garden. ‘Up by the bootstraps’ is for those who we hold in awe. We are incapable of creating, as the colonial education has taught us. We only have many things to be ashamed of.

Amongst the new nations that became global power, Israel stands out as one. Though it took help from others it never sold itself lock stock and barrel. It looked inside, found in its strength in own culture, language and ethos. Today, Israel has one of the best Universities, has built wealth of knowledge in own language and technology that is home grown. Even simple solutions such as drip irrigation were one that addressed a local problem with home grown and ground breaking solution.

Imitation is not the solution to success but definitely to join the ‘also ran’ club. Most educated and political class of India only think as much. To them, imitation is the highest form of knowledge they can acquire and the reason why they think so is not difficult to understand.

And Marx was not entirely wrong when he said that Capital is the surplus labour either. Those who clamour for foreign capital are also those who have a share in that economy and from the crony Capitalism of yesterdays.  

Our political classes as well as our Economic leaders have always preached these kinds of covetous ideologies, desiring to introduce, from Capitalism to communism to socialism to vassal economy on to a large nation with history running to thousands of years that have shaped intractable values in each one of us. What grows in cold and frozen lands during brief outbursts of sunshine may not thrive in all around sunny weather of India, figuratively.

China, for many reasons, is not our role model. The impending change in demography in China is a huge risk to its character as a nation. Demography trumps politics and politics trumps economics. The west has corroded into the Chinese culture through evangelism, a carrier of Western capital, its surplus labour.

The nation was built by force and not on consensus and the impact of that is inestimable from where we stand in history. The mindless pursuit of economic power has left China an environmental disaster waiting to happen. It has limited Freedom of Expression, the power house that impels a successful economy to thriving civilization, to growth, success, and leadership. Again, a mere 20 years is a blip in history. Not to fall head over heels on momentary, as least as of now, of economic success.

On an objective level, the educated and political classes in India have failed to do a proper analysis of our strengths and weaknesses and build on the reality of our nation. There is an element of ‘predatory capitalism’ in this pursuit of external solutions. As the West sucked out the juices of their colonies either through colonialism or through corporatism, the Indian counterparts do see an opportunity to pick up crumbs and emulate.  The agents for foreign capital do so due to their lack of appetite for risk. By turning agents to foreign capital, while Individual risk is low, the gain can be enormous, perpetuating their crony capitalist status in India. The indigenous innovation can be whipped into obliteration and submission with brute force of money.

The US after decimating the inhabiting Indians for economic gains, did invest in pursuit of knowledge. The country invested in education, research, and scientific pursuits. The reason the US is an economic leader today is partly due to chance and partly due to its long term investments in knowledge. US also have a culture of Freedom, the contribution of which to its growth is often understated.

The role of Indian economic leaders in our current state of abysmal economy is another story. The Tatas, Birlas and the later day Ambanis, Narayana Murthys and the other IT body-sellers who masqueraded as knowledge bank have actively contributed in keeping India a follower state.  What is their contribution to building nation viz a viz their own wealth? When these IT Czars pontificate, merely on the strength of their dollar gotten affluence, not because of their contribution to breaking new grounds in Science and Technology but due to the favourable chance event that benefited India, hiring out bodies, one has to be careful not to mistake them for intellectuals. These are people who would invest in real estates, low risk assets and Technologies that will allow them to sell more bodies. I recall Modi ji speaking in an enclave that he wants India not to be a skill pool but a knowledge pool. Not a provider of work force but a nation of knowledge that will create opportunities for itself. How did these economic leaders contribute to that call?  

What have they done to spawn research that breaks new grounds? Zilch.

I do admit that this is a mere criticism without offering an alternative. But it does not mean such ideas do not exist. Another time, another place.

As a conclusion, Indian revival is not mere GDP numbers. It is about building a nation; discovering the internal strength that had this great civilization going for millennium; discovering solutions that spring out of the problems.

It is not about adapting models that worked elsewhere. It is not about transplant of simplified, imitative ideas. We need imaginative political leadership, educated class of people and economic leaders. We are there in political leadership but the economic leadership has failed India as it does not try to rise above a petty brokering role.


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