Atanu Dey On India's Development

India needs a New Set of Rules, not Rulers

| 11 Comments

“we should invite britishers again to manage our country step by step. first Bihar & UP last kerala. like they developed Hong kong.

That’s a direct quote of a comment from a reader, Jitendra, on a rediff.com article, “India’s ‘real’ Poverty“. Don’t bother reading that rather pointless article — it goes into details of how the poverty line should be defined and what the level of real poverty is in India — but let’s ponder that non sequitur quoted above.

Mr Jitendra is misinformed. The British did not manage India. They colonized India and did what it took to extract and exploit India’s resources. Colonizers do that and when they have extracted and exploited as much as they can, they leave. The British left. The British did not “develop” India because it was not worth the effort and moreover, developed populations don’t docilely accept their colonial overlords.

Whatever “development” the British did was to ensure that they could effectively exploit the country. They “built” railroads so that they could move stuff (cotton to the British mills, for example) and for administering the large population they built a rudimentary telecommunications system. They “built” an education system that was just about adequate to churn out clerks that were needed for office work. They needed mid-level management (there were only so many Englishmen for the job) and so they created the Indian Civil Services.

If I was the colonizer, I would do precisely what the British did. It is rational and sensible thing to do for a colonizer.

What the British also did — and very effectively at that — is to create an education system that churns out people who have no idea of how rapacious the British were. Mr Jitendra is not alone in his misapprehension that the British were some sort of a savior for India.

Actually, compared to the Islamic overlords of India, the British were a million times more civilized. I thank the gods for this slight improvement in India’s fortunes with the arrival of the British. Otherwise the entire Indian subcontinent would have been one huge happy Islamic republic with widespread global terrorism. Imagine adding India’s over one billion to the half a billion of the two Islamic republics, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and now imagine how much more potent the terrorism would have been. Doesn’t bear imagining.

There’s one more thing that distinguishes the British colonization of India from the Islamic invasion of India. India could learn a lot from the English, and more generally from the Anglosphere. Rule of law, how to manage a large economy, modern science and technologies, the importance of institutions, etc. There was nothing that India could have learned from its Islamic invaders because in practically all aspects, the invaders were primitive relative to Indians. The invaders destroyed whatever they could — especially thousands of temples — and whatever their primitive mentality could not comprehend. India, in the words of V S Naipaul, became a wounded civilization.

India could have learned a lot from the British and other developed countries of the world. But India didn’t. More accurately, the people who took over the economy from the British did not want to make any changes that would have put India on a path of development.

Let me go into that a bit. The British raj’s goal was not development but rather to efficiently extract resources, as I mentioned above. That requires almost total control of the economy. Development, contrariwise, requires freeing the economy. Controlling is good for the people who do the controlling but not good for the economy, and certainly not at all good for the population. People who control are able to extract what economists call rent but which we call loot. The people who took control over India on India’s political independence knew a good system when they saw one. They liked the British system of control because it allowed them to continue the loot of India. Hence the Nehruvian license control quota permit raj. That impoverished India further and now the descendants of Nehru have added another twist to the game: religion and caste based reservation.

The addition of religion and caste based reservation is the last nail recently hammered into India’s coffin which was already pretty secure with the Nehruvian license control quota permit nails. What India needs is a decent burial. I wonder what new schemes the ruling junta will come up with. No doubt they will think of some scheme, having so effectively choked the life out of the economy in the past 60-odd years.

Anyhow, let’s get back to the comment I started off with. Mr Jitendra needs to understand that it is not the color of the skin of the rulers nor their nationality that determines whether the economy prospers. What matters is not who the rulers are but what the rules are. Let me repeat that: the rules matter, not who is at the top. The British adopted an open, market friendly, liberal system for Hong Kong. HK is the freest market in the world.

Private enterprise is free in HK. The people are free to produce, trade and enjoy the fruits of their labor. It is what is called a liberal capitalist market system. Whatever it is called, it is a system that allows wealth to be generated and consequently the economy to thrive and the people to prosper. The people of HK enjoyed economic freedom, a freedom that was denied to Indians. India is not a free country. The population of India is ruled as ruthlessly as it can be ruled by the most rapacious of colonial governments. The brown-skinned rulers of India are no less than the Islamic invaders or the Britishers in their greed for power and loot.

It could have been otherwise.

India could also have adopted rules similar to HK — with changes appropriate for the specifics of India such as a large illiterate extremely poor population. India could have but the leaders of India did not. We need to understand why India did not more than we need to understand what the precise level of poverty is in India. But as you can see, Indian media are not interested in the former — I have yet to read a newspaper or magazine article, or watch a TV show, or listen to a radio broadcast which addresses the question of “Why is India so desperately poor?”

Why isn’t that question asked? I believe it is because if that question were to be seriously answered and the average Indian voter actually understood the answer, the present rulers would be kicked out of power (if not actually lynched.) Land of the holy cows, India’s biggest holy cow is the trinity of Nehru, Gandhi, and the pseudo-Gandhis. Criticism is not allowed and the reaction to criticism is swift and unhealthy for the critic.

But there is one more minor matter. I think even if that question — why is India so abysmally poor — were answered, I am afraid that given the educational system of India, the average Indian would not be able to understand the answer. Only about 50 percent of India is literate and I would not put the number of educated people to be anything more than 25 percent.

Which brings me to the conclusion that I cannot avoid. The reason why the government hangs on so tenaciously to the control of the Indian education system is simple. The educational system is designed to be maximally dysfunctional so that it is impossible for Indians to become educated. Indians who do go through the system become incapable of rational thought and inquiry. A vanishingly small percent is technically competent (but only technically) and the modest achievements of this minuscule minority is the basis for the building of huge imaginary edifice which is hailed as India, Inc.

Time for a reality check, India. The rulers are raping the land and you are fast asleep. What India needs is a new set of rules, not rulers or this or that skin color.

  • http://cs.ttu.edu/~savellan svellanki

    I have been a follower of your blog for long. I have to agree that our system is screwed up in many ways. Instead of just pointing out the mistakes, can you make a list of what changes need to be bought in to free up our economy? Could you point me if you already have it?

    Wisdom like yours should not just be left to lament, rather make people to think positively

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  • http://www.sundarmail.com Sundar

    Atanu,

    I am not sure if changing the set of rules alone is sufficient. I would give more importance to the ruler. If we have a great ruler, he will make meaningful rules.

    Need of the hour is a tall leader. Present leadership will not even think about changing any rule.

    Why is US declining despite having great rules: in my opinion it is due to lack of visionary presidents in the past few decades.

    PS: Could you pl. write your analysis on the state of retail food price raise in India by starting from agriculture, middlemen in the food supply chain, agriculture subsidies (free power, fertiliser) prices, role of Minister & Derivatives in price rigging.

  • munagapraveen

    I can’t say whether British had done good or bad to India, but if Hinduism (or Hindu religion) is still existed it is because of British. Before they came the Muslim emporers converted many Hindus.. (by trivial exorbitant taxes or some other way)., The Islam rulers ruined/damaged/demolished magnificent Indian Cities (humpi) & mutilated Hindu gods in famous temples (idol in sriranganpatnam is preserved in tirumala for some time due to muslim invasion).. Due the arrival Britishes (or dutches whoever they may be) and the decline of this muslim rule the hindu religion had survived upto now.. (For you info I didn’t have much chauvinistic obsession towards hindu religion).. See the fate of Afghanistan or Pakistan which are under muslim rulers.. The christians also started conversion but it is not as heavy as it is at now in their times.. I am not saying they had helped hindu religion but muslim ruling domination had been reduced with their arrival thereby giving life for Hindu religion

  • http://www.myndfcukd.com Sandeep Chillakuri

    Where will the new set of rules come from if not from a new set of rulers?

  • Manu

    I think boss you have like many other Indian have some big misunderstanding about India and British people. There is nothing wrong in us because our education system has teach us that way. If you really want to know what India is and what can be done to improve current condition of India. please listen to the Bharat Swabhiman lecture of Rajiv Dixt and then decide your self..that do you need to be part of the Bharat swabhiman movement or not.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g_XMDwU2LU
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wROuwU8oQys

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

      Manu,

      The man is an ignorant retard. You are trying to discredit all Indians by pointing to this man’s talk. Shame on you. You should at least point to the real idiocy that Indians are capable of, not this man. This man is a joker. The crap that jokers spew should not be held against Indians.

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