“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.