Atanu Dey On India's Development

The Long View of the Big Picture

| 18 Comments

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

  • AG

    Yes

    We live to fight another day — the dream may have been eclipsed for now, but it endures.

  • wanderer

    The shock of 2004 was evidently not enough. The BJP needed this wake-up call. But the future holds promise.

  • Srini

    Thanks Atanu, for a consoling post at a despairing moment.

  • anup

    As a spiritual philosophy, the Vedas say ‘to each his own’ as per his capability of understanding the Truth. So, this verdict is the Truth as per the common man. Nevermind the fact that the Truth as per them hurts themselves more than anyone else.

    I will be first one to admit this shifting goalpost regarding critiquing vs. accepting the explicit choice by the Indian voters ; but nonetheless, this is the tyranny of majority!!!

  • http://honestlynagpur.blogspot.com kaunteya

    i am so not proud to be indian today.
    disguting!

  • pankaj

    what elections? only overall 40 % of electorate exercised their voting rights.India is a bogus democracy one american on tv had said that, he had told that other than elections there are no others things india has to show about democracy.

  • Asheesh

    Atanu,

    I salute your optimism. I am however not so sure about the fundamentals especially of our democracy -

    1. Democracy – half of our voters a dis-enfranchised, the candidates are crooks who are imposed upon the voters by self-serving cretins.

    2. Judiciary – Broken. Average citizen has no means of getting justice against powerful corporations or the Govt. of India

    3. Media – Completely biased, with no initiative to investigate important issues other than probably Indian Express

    I sincerely hope I am wrong and your view holds true.

  • prankois.gultier

    Atanu,

    I read this article several times already..

    Still, I am pessimistic about our future.. As your friend said a country gets the government it deserves.

    What about us? What about our kids who I feel deserve a better country and better rulers?

    Now I am a father and a bleak future stares at my baby..

    5 more years of (possible) mis-governance.. :-(

    I used to argue with the likes of Asheesh above. Now I have to agree with them..

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  • pankaj

    Again In all fairness it would be wrong to think that NDA or third front would have given us better governance.Ultimately the good old proverb people get the govt they deserve in democracy holds true.

  • rohit_indian

    Somewhat related but still tangent thought. Should we be not coming under one hood and then fight for our rights with government ? When in school , during history lessons I used to get so much upset after reading stories about 1857 fights. Savarkar called it First Freedom fight. But we lost it. What makes me think more is if we could have win that battle against British we would have won 90 years earlier !!!. That’s such a long time.. And one of the major reasons of defeat was it was not well organized at national level. We have many small fights with British but it was by no mean combined effort not the co-ordinated one. So we lost it. All the public awareness and other social NGO programmes seem to be failing at this aspect in my opinion. They all fight with Government but the effort is not co-ordinated and I am afraid its going to be much like 1857. And It would take us very long time to have combined effort. What do yo guys think that we can do to concentrate the efforts and fight all at once ?

  • viveksh

    I didn’t understand how Congress won all seats in Mumbai?

    Wasn’t there clear disgust (rightly so) on the incompetence of both state and national governments with regard to the Mumbai attacks?

  • pankaj

    vivesh congress won only because of MNS party if u see the figures of shiv sena and mns then both added up would have defeated congress but that was not the case,hence the results.btw the biggest loser in maharastra was NCP.

  • Asheesh

    @ Pankaj

    In the short run it may not seem that NDA would have given us better govt., but for the long run to move the country into the right direction it is necessary that the long chain of Congress mis-rule is broken. Only if the strangle hold of Congress is broken is there any hope for the country’s future.

  • http://lostparadise.co.in lostparadise

    Atanu,

    I share your optimism. India has endured attacks/invasion that affected her geographical borders, intellectual/philosophical, social life. I am sure that this time too she will.

    What hurts me the most is that every person/institution that has the maximum damage to our nation has went unpunished. Many of them actually are portrayed as deities.

    That is how our kids learn in school that Mughal’s made this country rich. We owe our independence to congress and Nehru.

  • http://www.worldisgreen.com worldisgreen

    Atanu:

    I admire your long view but it is a disappointing election.

    None of the major issues mattered. Even terrorism like what happened in Bombay did not stop the congress.

    Even in my state of AP, congress is back. Another round of 10,000 crore corruption from YSR.

    Suhit

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