For every election cycle that the Congress gets to govern India, India suffers a generation’s setback. The dozen or so elections since India’s political independence that the Congress has won the right to rule India have set back India’s development by around 200 years. In that period, hundreds of millions of Indians have lived lives of utter destitution. Today one of out every two children below five is malnourished — the implications of which are so staggering in terms of retarded mental and physical development that it makes one weep bitter tears for the utter and needless waste of human potential.
Contrast where India is now relative to where it could have been — a developed nation — and it is easy to argue that the Congress must be responsible for hundreds of millions of premature deaths and billions of human years of misery. The cycle of poverty and misery gets one more boost today, another generation worth of opportunity lost, another couple of hundred million lives forced into horrible misery whose only redeeming feature would be that thankfully they will be short.
That’s the big picture and as I argue below, a short-term big picture. But it is better to take the long-term view of the big picture and if we do that, the view is not that devastating.
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We must bear in mind that the process of development, and the state that process leads to, is the result of conscious and deliberate choice. Development does not arise out of random processes acting capriciously. Nor is it the result of wishful thinking. It is the result of a series of choices directed by a set of rules — economic policies — that have themselves been consciously and deliberately chosen. A good set of economic policies followed consistently over decades is an absolute necessity for development. Therefore, if India has not developed (unlike dozens of countries during the same period in history), the inescapable conclusion is that India did not get a set of policies — it did not follow a set of rules — that promote development.
India’s policies have been dictated by the Congress for over 50 years. It is demonstrably true that the Congress is totally and convincingly inept in getting the policies right. Evidence is all around to see. India languishes at the bottom of every dimension of human development. Corruption? Check. Criminals in high places? Check. Infant mortality? Check. Illiteracy? Check. Malnutrition? Check. Pervasive poverty? Check. Low productivity? Check. The list goes on.
It must be admitted that the Congress is not divinely thrust upon India to destroy India. All said and done, they are just a bunch of self-serving, myopic, communal, despicable, immoral cretins that you can find in any sufficiently large collection of humans. That this unspeakable bunch gets to rule and through its policies destroy India is only possible because they get chosen to do so by a sufficiently large number of people of India. These people of India are ultimately responsible for their miserable conditions. They are responsible for their own destitution. Nobody holds a gun to their heads and forces them to vote for the Congress — they do so willingly. Leadership is endogenous and therefore by extension policy — the rules of the game — is also endogenous. The people are the rulers and the buck stops at their doorstep.
Development is a choice. We the people choose. That is something we should never forget.
That’s the big picture and I am afraid that it ain’t pretty.
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But the big picture, I think, should be seen through long-range scopes. If you take the sufficiently long view, you notice a definite positive trend. Things get better with time. I grant you that it looks pretty bleak in the short run but I am convinced that that which is valuable and important never loses. The good prevails because that is the nature of the world. If it had been otherwise, humanity would not have arrived to where it is now. I merely assert it here without presenting the evidence that humanity is better off today than it was, say, a 100 years ago, or a 1,000 years ago, or 10,000 years ago — take your pick.
Sure there have been periods when it looked pretty hopeless. But those were short-lived relative to the long stretches of history where the trend is always upwards. Just as an analogy, consider the stock market. From time to time, it goes into a nose-dive and loses a significant part of its value. People lose their shirts. But give it a few years, and things are back to business as usual. As long as the fundamentals are sound, the stock market continues on its long-run trend. Now take that view of the Indian civilization as well.
India has been repeatedly invaded over thousands of years. Yet it persists. Parts of the Indian civilization have hacked off. The hacked off parts have made it their central goal to destroy India. India still persists. And my view is that it will prevail. It will prevail because the fundamentals are sound. The hacked off parts, in contrast, will inevitably go down into the dust because their fundamentals are rotten.
The present elections are yet another setback. The previous foreign invasions of India could do the (limited) harm they did not without some domestic help. This one too has domestic help — one of them wears a blue turban. India suffered through those previous attacks but endured. This too shall be endured and survived.
Although I despair looking at the big picture for the short run, I am totally optimistic about the long-run big picture. The good guys eventually win — always. For now, I take heart from the words of Lord Tennyson from his poem Ulysses:
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.