Atanu Dey On India's Development

Tamil Translator’s Preface to “Transforming India”

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Mr S Krishnamoorthy translated “Transforming India” into Tamil. He wrote a translator’s preface to go with the translation. But of course that preface is in Tamil. Therefore, here is an English translation of the translator’s preface in Tamil of the Tamil translation of the English version of the book. For the record.

Transforming India
Translated by S Krishnamoorthy

Translator’s Preface

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I regularly heard about India becoming a “superpower” and surely will be one by 2000. But when 2000 neared, the target date was shifted to 2010 and now it is pushed to 2020. The word mirage comes to mind. A quarter century since I first started hearing about it, and even after reducing superpower expectations of the country by many notches, India is not even close to achieving what some proclaimed was an inevitability. But the rhetoric keeps getting louder and this raises certain questions. Is becoming a superpower a goal for India? If so, why has India failed? Leave alone superpower dreams, the most important question is “Why is India so desperately poor?”

It is in pursuit of an answer to this question that Atanu Dey wrote “Transforming India: Big ideas for a developed nation”. This book is not just about India’s poverty (a fact), but also describes a dream (a possibility) and the essential transformation (a process) to attain that dream. And here’s my opinion on these three and the book. Poverty is another word for an inability to produce enough. Are Indians incapable of producing enough? If so, what has stopped, and is stopping, us from producing enough?

Perhaps the government is implicated in India’s poverty. People in governments found that keeping people poor keeps them in power and that poverty sells. Being part of the government became a very profitable venture, and the governments, one after another, perfected the art of selling and maintaining poverty. There is cash for votes, free TVs, free stoves, free weddings and the list goes on. Falling for these gimmicks, we buy poverty first with our votes and then once more with taxes; a rare instance where we pay twice to buy the same thing.

Prolonged buying has another name, investing. So all the while, we have been investing in poverty and with predictable results: poverty has become the defining characteristic of India. In an era when many countries around the world are known for their development and advancements in science and technology, India stands out as the largest concentration of poor people. It is as if India specializes in manufacturing poverty. A cynical view would be that the Government of India is really an institution that is in the business of PPP – “Perpetually Planned Poverty,” as Atanu Dey labels it.

To sell something successfully needs good marketing or as some say, propaganda. This the governments did by controlling the education system to raise generations of subservient citizens who are enthralled by and dependent on the government. As a result, we ended up producing a political system with ruling parties and oppositions that are different versions of more or less the same economic ideologies.

Eulogizing poverty is an industry in India. In the guise of protecting the poor, most of the media and the so called intelligentsia go around demonizing free enterprise as an evil western concept, while conveniently brushing aside the fact that communism and socialism are also western concepts. To write about poverty, to create an aura about poverty are favorite themes for some of the celebrated authors. Conflating simplicity with poverty in the name of Gandhian economics is the most famous fallacy of our times. Like Thomas Paine says, after all, a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it an appearance of being right. But the facts are: poverty is not a way of life; poverty is not a fashionable thing; poverty is not a virtue; poverty is nothing to be extolled, and nothing to sing hymns about. Borrowing Thomas Hobbes’ words, a life spent in poverty is nasty, brutish and short.

Poverty, like prosperity, needs a conducive environment to flourish. In our country, democracy is the name of the game. Surprising, considering the fact that it has always been mostly dynastic rule at all meaningful levels. The set to whom we have given our consent to govern is almost always from a select set of families; sons, daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons and so on. Such a system used to be called a hereditary monarchy. Nevertheless, the claim loudly and proudly made is that India is the largest democracy in the world

There is another political factory: the entertainment industry. Take Tamil Nadu, for examples. It is notorious for its politicians who arise from its entertainment/film industry. It churns out chief-ministers (a hero, heroine and a script-writer so far.) Being the good people we are, in our infinite wisdom we select only the heroes and never the villains as chief ministers thus displaying our abundant incapacity to distinguish between reality and fiction.

So what would India be like if it were a developed country? Transforming India describes that India of our dreams. It does not stop at that. It outlines what is holding India back and what needs to be done to make that dream a reality. The good thing is that it is all common sense.

The author’s reasoning is based on economics, a subject that affects every aspect of everyone’s life. Economics is a subject that is poorly taught and understood even more poorly, particularly in our country. All this in a land which over the millennia gave birth to some of the greatest minds of the human race, a land that produced Arthashastra, a land that had Nalanda — one of the greatest universities of the ancient world.

Why should the transformation of India interest me? I am obsessed with the dream of living in a developed India. The current circumstances call for a transformation: a transformation from a filthy, third-world, under-developed country into a developed first-world country, whose citizens are not viewed upon as potential migrants to other countries. As the translator of the Tamil version of this book, I hope it gets translated into all Indian languages. That hope has to be translated into a plan.

I should stress that this book is not a panacea but shows a glimpse of how things ought to be and how they are now. It is an outline of a dream and some ideas that can take us to that dream, ideas we need to constantly remind ourselves of and most importantly we need to act upon.

So all we need to do is take little steps toward that dream. Sit back, relax and enjoy the read, and I am sure that it will be well worth it. Have a look at what the author has to say; debate, discuss and dissent. Let ideas flourish.

Here’s to a developed India. Jai Hind.

The Tamil version will be available shortly in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.