Atanu Dey On India's Development

Comparing India and China

Rajesh’s blog has an item on Amartya Sen on India and China. Of late Indians have been forced to accept unfavorable comparisons between India and China. And with good reason. But Indians find some grounds — often flimsy — to tilt the comparison in India’s favor. Sen writes:

While India has much to learn from China about economic policy and also about health care, India’s experience with public communication and democracy could still be instructive for China…With stunning success, China has become a leader of the world economy, and from this India—like many other countries—has been learning a great deal, particularly in recent years. But the achievements of democratic participation in India, including Kerala, suggest that China, for its part, may also have something to learn from India.

Let me first address the point about public communications. India does have freedom of press. You can print and publish all sorts of things, including criticism of the government and its policies. What good that freedom does in a nation of illiterates is open to debate. If only 10 percent of the population has access to books, magazines and newspapers, freedom of the press is a good idea in theory but has little practical implications. What would have had practical implications is the freedom of radio and (later on) the freedom of TV. Even illiterates can comprehend the spoken word and see video content. In the Indian context, free public communications implies freedom not just of the press but also of radio and TV. But with cynical aforethought, the Indian government did not allow the population that freedom.

I say cynical aforethought because I believe that the move was calculated to keep the population uninformed and therefore under control. Given that the population was severely handicapped informationally, the much celebrated “democracy” amounted to a sham because if one does not know what the government was up to, a vote does not amount to much. Bihar has had democracy for over 57 years. The result of that “democracy” is a government by crooks and incompetents. The outcome is not surprising given that literacy in Bihar is extremely low.

I put forth the hypothesis that India will continue to neglect making the population 100 percent literate because it will empower the population sufficiently and bring an end to the sham democracy. Those who are in power today fear 100 percent literacy because they fear losing their immunity.

What the Chinese have demonstrated is the simple fact that economic policies matter. Before 1978, China operated on a different set and was as poor — if not poorer — as India. Around ’78, they came to their senses and changed many of their policies. Twenty-five years later, they are a giant that cannot be messed around with. India’s economic policies — mostly attributable to Nehru and his progenies — have doomed India to what it is today. A balance of payment crisis forced India to change some of the policies but in general it was too little (and I pray that it is not too late.) Indian policy makers appear to be particularly impervious to reason. The two most important challenges that India faces are not being addressed. They are: the population and broad-based primary and secondary education.

  • http://jyote.blogspot.com Jyoti Iyer

    Very pertinent observations. Nicely sums up the situation.

  • http://tarunsblog.blogspot.com TTG

    I feel that you are being overly harsh about your own country, and using an awful counter-example. What do you really know about China? Just what the mostly western media feeds you. Do you know that Westerners are not allowed into the heart of China? They are limited to the coastline. All the “progress” that china has made – it is limited to the coastline. The fact that they forcefully remove a woman’s ovaries for population control – this is a sign of civilisation? Of Progress? It is a violation of a human being’s fundamental rights. I would not want anybody touching my wife, my mother my sister or my daughter’s body without her express consent. Our country is open – more open than China – the Indian government attempts to repress, but these attempts are feeble compared to what China can accomplish – keeping the population in the dark? You think people in China can think freely? Do you think they can put a website up like yours, and say what you say? China did not operate under a different set – China has the ability to kill anybody who doesn’t think like its leaders. This is something to respect? Our democracy is anything but a sham. It DOES represent our people. But when most of the country has a semi-decent education, you expect them to elect visionaries? That is the cost of democracy, but eventually, we will win. Our country is a mere 50 years old, yes 50. The idea of India has been around forever, but the country has not. China has never been under the domination of a foreign power for more than 40/50 years. Within the space of 10 years, we are considered a future world power, and this is when we haven’t even displayed more than 4%/5% of our potential. There is a lot more that I would like to say, but I will simply say that China is not the country to compare India against. If I had a choice between no power cuts, or the ability to call my prime minister an Idiot, I would choose the second option every single time, for without the second option, I have no say in fixing the first option.

  • shilpa

    I am a student and this article is a eyeopener for me.i think intermingling of
    ideas of mr.Rajesh and mr.jyoti iyer is better.Because growth of china cannot
    be denied and also its drawbacks(as jyoti iyer) mentioned.thanks for the article
    shilpa

  • kunal gautam

    IN MY VIEW CHINA IS PROGREESSING AT AN MUCH FASTER RATE THAN INDIA AND TRUE INDIA HAS YO CROSS MANY HURDELES TO MAKE IT ONE TO A COUNTRY LIKE CHINA BUT WE SHOULD NOT FORGET THAT CHINA IS A COMMUNIST AN DINDIA IS A DEMOCRATIC HERE TO DO EVEN A SIMPLE TASK YOU NEED TO ASK IT AND GET IT PAST THROUGH VARIOUS STAGES IT IS NOT POSSIBLE IN ONE GO NOR YOU CAN IMPPOSE ANY REGULATION ON THE POPULATION CONTROL BECAUSE OF PRESENCE OF PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT RELIGION WHO MAY THINK IT AS AGAINST THE PREACHING OF THEIR MESENGERS EXAMPLE ISLAM FOR EVERY THING HERE YOU HAVE TO MAKE OUT A MIDDLE WAY THEIR IS NO QUESTION OF FOLLOWING THE EXTREME PATHS . EVEN IF YOU ARE BUILDING A DAM AND PEOPLE SUFFER EVERYONE MAKE IT SUCHA BIG ISSUE AND IN CHINA MORE THAN MILLION OF PEOPLE ARE BEING ARE DISPLACED BECAUSE OF BUILDING OF DAM ON YANZTE KIANG AND NOT EVEN A SINGLE NEWS ABOUT PEOPLE PROTESTING BECAUSE THEY CAN’T SO BEING AN DEMOCRAT WE ARE DEVELOPING AT A GOOD PACE YES STILL WE CAN MAKE IT MORE FASTER BUT PROBLEM SUCH AS CORRUPTION AND OTHER THINGS ARE IN OUR WAY BUT SLOWLY AND STEADILY WE WILL BECOME IF NOT THE WORLD BEST BUT AT LEAST THE COUNTRY WHERE EVERYBODY CAN LIVE FREELY AND HAVING A SENSE OF LOVE FOR THEIR COUNTRY