Atanu Dey On India's Development

In Defense of Village Idiots

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If the people of the village, in the best traditions of the hallowed democratic process, elect the village idiot as the King and Supreme Ruler of the village, I cannot for the life of me bring myself to find fault with the village idiot. It’s not the idiot’s fault that nature dealt him or her a lousy hand in the random genetic draw of life. He’s a congenital idiot and makes no demands on being recognized as a paragon of wisdom and insight. Based on that principle, I indicted the American voter for electing — not once but twice — Mr George W Bush. I can see no reason for not applying that principle to India.

Rahul Gandhi, aka Rahul baba, is a decent enough chap. He didn’t choose to be born to the Gandhi family any more than he sat around selecting his genes from the human gene pool. It was a random draw. He cannot be held responsible for the actions of a fairly large segment of the Indian population who would in all likelihood have him as the ruler of India’s destiny in a short few years. India is a democracy, don’t you know, and the will of the people (admittedly a minority in all known cases) prevails.

India is a country of over 1.2 billion people, about 800 million of whom are desperately poor. None of us can even comprehend how they live their lives — on less than US$ 2 equivalent a day; children malnourished and no prospects of their ever realizing their potential; no access to clean drinking water or sanitation; no chance of getting a decent education; never eating good food or enjoying any of the marvelous goodies that modern society has to offer. Nearly the same number — around 700 million — is not reasonably educated and around 500 million of them are actually illiterate even in the 21st century of the CE.

For nearly all of its existence as an independent political entity, India has been ruled by the Congress party. The Congress party made all the rules that govern the economy. Ultimately rules are what matter and dictate the destiny of states. Economic policies, a subset of the set of rules, determine whether the country is desperately poor (such as India) or reasonably rich (such as Taiwan.) Social policy determine whether there is social peace (such as in many developed Western European countries) or there is internal discord (as in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and most tragically India.)

It seems hard for me to avoid the conclusion that India’s present dire straits must be the doing of the Congress party. But then another thought arises. It was not some heavenly diktat or supernatural force that made the Congress to have such destructive power on India. In India they take democracy seriously, as we are tirelessly reminded to the point of tedium. The Congress party ruled and rules because the people find them worthy.

The Americans have a saying, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” The people could be forgiven for raising Nehru on a pedestal and worshiping him for a few years following the political independence of India. But to keep electing his entire set of incompetent descendants whose policies have deepened poverty, divided the country on caste and religious lines, and generally made life hell for nearly all Indians, is the height of folly. Being fooled repeatedly by the same party should be a matter of extreme shame for the being so stupid and gullible. Indians should collectively do what the Hindi saying advices — chullu bhar pani mein doob maro.

I have spoken to people who have had the opportunity to observe first hand who Rahul Gandhi is. One person spent three days with him during the last general elections. That person said to me, “He’s really a nice guy. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. As a matter of fact, I don’t think he could hold down the job of a head waiter at a road-side restaurant. Doesn’t have the intellectual horsepower to manage the complexities of head-waitering. But he will get to follow the footsteps of his father, his grandmother, and this great grandfather. Really a pity for India but that’s god’s honest truth.”

For years I have been saying that the character of Indian leadership should make us weep and keep us awake at night. Not so much because the leaders are incompetent, lying, myopic, immoral cretins — which evidently they are — but because the character of the Indian leaders is a sure indication of the character of the Indian voters. If one believed in the theory that one’s past lives’ karma dictate one’s fortune in the current life, one would have to conclude that in their past lives, Indians must have accumulated pretty horrendous bad karma. I don’t believe in the past life thing but I do believe in the theory that we produce our own karma in this very life — and then we or our children pay for our misdeeds.

It is all karma, neh?

[This post was inspired by a Tavleen Singh column in the Indian Express titled "A Tutorial for Rahul baba."]

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  • http://www.polltalk.blogspot.com Ashwin Kumaraswamy

    Firstly Atanu let me congratulate you on a nice blog post which i bet would appeal to the arm chair intellegentia!!!

    At the heart of the blog post you are blaming Congress party for all the economic failures and then inferring that likes of Rahul Gandhi because of his lineage would still get elected because of “Idiots in Indian Villages”

    Usage of “Village idiots” shouwcases your un willingness to undestand the Rurual India’s social, economic and ideological mind set.

    I agree with you and I am sure the entire country agrees that Congress party is responsible for the non progress of the Indian economy. What every commentator by and large have failed is to understand that the real India is still by and large the rural India. There is always a comparison to China, USA and rest of Europe for economic progress, but there is no comparassion on the scale and diuversity of the problems independent india faced.

    Without getting into specifics on vast range of economic policies, by just getting into the bare basics of understanding the problems Independent india faced ,, in my view it is not as bad as it is made out by wester thinkers after 60 odd yrs of independence.

    Teh Village idiots, who were blind with loyalty, had to think where theire rotis would come next day and other social practices which no one talks about… have come a long way this 60 odd yrs in terms of their understanding on their rights and also to be pragmatic. I would rather say village idiots have been more pragmatic and optimistic than any other indian and have largely contributed to whatever positives we are seeing in Indian Polity.

    Thus when we equate Congress party for all wrong things, also do give credit to Congress for what ever small good things have happend in the last 60 odd yrs of independent india.

    Comming to the issue of Rahul Gandhi, he in my view is on a discovery of India, which every indian should do who aspires to contribute to the society before taking policy stands and criticising Rahul gandhi or for that matter any politician.

    One can only make effecrtive decisions when the individual concerned has and un biased understanding of the real issues affecting India.

    Would anyone blame those who taught management anf risk modelling aspectgs to Lehmann Brothers … the investment bank whcih as the grapeview suggests has 18layers of risk modelling and due to which the CEO failied to make the right moves and did not see the eventaul dooms day?
    Are you saying the management came from B schools who did not impart the right methodology? No In the same context dont blame either Congress, Rahul Gandhi, Village Idiots …rather look at the optimistic side of the last 60yrs, but hold the governments of the day be accountable for their actions.

    I am not sayign asking difficutl questions is wrong, but making up opinions without understanding the real soci, economic and ideological issues one should not be ruthless in their judgements.

    • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

      Mr Kumaraswamy:

      You write:

      At the heart of the blog post you are blaming Congress party for all the economic failures and then inferring that likes of Rahul Gandhi because of his lineage would still get elected because of “Idiots in Indian Villages”

      Umm, no. If you care to read the post carefully, the operative phrase is “the village idiot” — and in the context of a large number of villages, the plural form is “village idiots.” The term is used as a put down such as “hey, you, some village is missing its idiot.”

      The rest of your comment is perhaps interesting if I had claimed that people of rural India (many of whom live in villages) are idiots. But as I have made no such claim, I fail to fully appreciate your comment.

      Kind regards,
      Atanu

  • http://inaya-arattai.blogspot.com Karthi Sivaraman

    @Ashwin

    I have to take exception to one of the points you made, while offering a different perspective on another.

    First the differing perspective: “villagers (sic) have been more pragmatic … than any other” ..

    They have been hopeful; not pragmatic. One only has to look at 2012 UP election results to understand this. They wanted a change, that is all – they didn’t think through what change they wanted. Change for the sake of change will only usher in a new devil (a la SP). The real issue that one must blame the Congress for is the lack of will power to educate its dominion – so to speak. Education in India is virtually non-existent in many many places, and where available, is of low quality and incomplete. The politicians seems to like Indians that way; it is easy to whip up sentimentalism and parochialism when people of un / under-educated.

    Second, the difference of opinion: “Thus when we equate Congress party for all wrong things, also do give credit to Congress for what ever small good things have happend in the last 60 odd yrs of independent India.”

    In India, we still celebrate individual achievement, and not much institutional achievement. Our best educational institutes are acting as feeder systems for US universities. Our medical education produces substandard doctors, and the few good doctors leave the shore for greener pastures. We always applaud Indian students / engineers / doctors / scientists who do well for themselves in the USA. Why don’t we have such achievers here? Hell, in 70 years our defense research organisation (DRDO) is yet to produce one weapon system that is not antediluvian. The biggest brain drain in India occurred before 1991, the period of an almost uninterrupted reign of the Congress. All good things in India during Congress rule happened despite the government, and not because of it. And this includes even basic things like water and roads and electricity.

    One can go on and on on this, but in essence, before praising congress for anything ‘good’ – one has to critically ask, what good has come of this party in India? There have been sparks of individual will that came through – for instance the nuclear weapons program. We lost ground on the external relations front (PanchSheel and Non-aligned movement). We lost on the military front – China Wars (Pakistan wars are a different sad story because we conceded ground despite winning the wars). Our record on tackling terrorism sucks, our minority appeasement is blatant (shah-bano case, kashmir pandit issue), our education system is still in tatters (we scored amongst the last in PISA international student tests), our poverty is world famous (we still have farmers committing suicide in even Congress ruled states), and we take pride in having the world’s largest slum.

    It incites so much frustration that almost every Indian we look up to in science / technology area have been groomed to become that outside India. And yet, you say “congress have to be given credit for the good”. Pray, what good did it do?

    Even when I concede credit for sustained efforts like Space program (really commendable), the bad Congress has wrought in India far outweighs the good it has brought. In Tamil, there is a verse which is roughly translated into “identify the good, identify the bad, and then judge based on what is in excess”. By that criteria, one can easily say that Congress has been bad for the country.

    Warm regards,
    Karthi Sivaraman

  • http://rexzilla.livejournal.com Rex

    @Karthi, great reply but 2 and a half years late..so I’d be surprised if the original poster responded.

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