A Few Home Truths about India

A sense of optimism is an absolutely essential necessity for any future success. That’s true not just at the individual level; collective optimism is as indispensable for national success. However, misplaced optimism grounded on delusions of grandeur can ensure failure through misalignment of priorities and mis-allocation of limited resources. So it is not out of plain crotchety contrariness but rather out of welfare concerns that one must take a dispassionate look at reality to base one’s expectations on, and to chart out a course of action. The balance sheet must include an accurate account of current assets and liabilities — not just future expected earnings grabbed out of the thin air of wishful thinking. I find that balance missing in many of the reports that are generally published by the main stream media and which land in my inbox enthusiastically forwarded by the “mera bharat mahan” brigade.

It is tiring to read yet another article how India is going to be (if it is not already) a “super power”. Or that by such-and-such date, India’s GDP will be growing at some particular rate. Growth rates are meaningful only when understood in the context of the base on which they are computed.

Bloomberg reported recently “India to Top China as Fastest Growing Economy by 2015.”

India may overtake China as the world’s fastest growing major economy by 2015, as the South Asian nation doubles infrastructure investment and adds six-fold more workers than its northern neighbor, Morgan Stanley said.

India’s growth may accelerate to 9.5 percent between 2011 to 2015, Morgan Stanley economist Chetan Ahya said in an interview from Singapore today. India’s gross domestic product has expanded at an average 7.1 percent over the decade through the third quarter of 2009, compared with 9.1 percent in China, which surpassed Japan as the second-largest economy last quarter.

So what? Over the last decade, the growth rate of my wealth has been significantly higher than the growth rate of Bill Gates’ wealth.

I have never understood that fascination that some people have with aggregate measures. Here’s one example from a few months ago published in Rediff: India to be top economic superpower by 2030: Survey.

The Indian economic tiger is set to roar and become the most important economy in the world by 2030, says a survey. . . India is already moving up the economic league tables as the 12th largest economy in the world, as per the World Bank.

Why should it matter to anyone’s well-being how large India’s economy is? Per capita measures are more meaningful than aggregates. Let me put it this way. Take any of the small developed economies such as Finland, Switzerland, New Zealand, etc. They will never become an economic (or any other sort of) super power on this side of eternity. But given a choice I would rather have a Swiss per capita income than the per capita income of “economic super power” India now or even in some mythical future when it becomes the “largest economic power.”

Allow me to locate India in the present global context a little more realistically. The picture that emerges is not as rosy as as the newspapers would have your believe. There’s a very sensible reason for a reality check, which I will go into presently.

The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-10 published by the World Economic Forum ranks India in the 89th place out of 133. India is listed in the group “The First Stage of Development” — per capita income less than $2,000 — in the company of such countries as Burundi, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Uganda, Zimbabwe, etc. Those countries are not in any danger of becoming superpower any time soon.

I suspect that those countries in the “Stage 1” of development share more than just low per capita income. I think “per capita” corruption would be another tie that binds.

We Indians of course can take some comfort that India is not as economically backward as, say, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Unfortunately, that is not quite true.

Newsweek has an interesting interactive infographics titled “THE WORLD’S BEST COUNTRIES: A Newsweek study of health, education, economy, and politics ranks the globe’s true national champions.

I checked out how India fared relative to Pakistan. Why? Because Pakistan really sets a very low bar and I wanted to see how far above India sails over it. Anyway, you be the judge. I state here some of the numbers that you will find if you were to click on the many little drop-down list in the graphics.

India is ranked 78 overall (in the Newsweek study); Pakistan comes in at 89. No surprise there.

In the “Education” sector, India’s literacy rate is higher at 61.4% (Pakistan 50.4%), but surprisingly India’s average years of schooling is 10.3 — lower than Pakistan’s (13.2).

Life expectancy is marginally higher in India: 56 years (55 years). Here are “Quality of life” indicators:

{Click on image to go to the source page.}

Note that the per capita incomes are not too different. But income inequality (GINI) is worse in India: 36.8 (31.2). Not just that, 75.6% of Indian’s live on less than $2 a day, as compared to 60.3% in Pakistan.

We all know that Pakistan has been under military dictatorship for almost all its existence. That is not conducive to economic growth. Couple that with the burden of Islam, and it is easy to see why Pakistan is essentially a basket case.

But how do you explain India’s basket-case-ness? Consumption per capita in India, $632, is lower than in Pakistan ($789). Manufacturing as a percentage of GDP is 14.7% in India; it is 34.1% in Pakistan. It takes 7 years to resolve insolvency, only 2.8 years in Pakistan. It takes 30 days to start a new business in India; it takes 20 days in Pakistan.

Here’s another graphic on “Economic Dynamism.”

The reason for India’s basket-case-ness is because for almost all of its existence since 1947, it has been under Nehruvian socialism. Nehru gave India the so-called “Nehru rate of growth” and his clan made sure that India stuck to that growth rate.

There were two brief episodes of hope: PV Narasimha Rao ditched Nehruvian stupidity. His reward for freeing India? He has been erased from the history of India by Nehru’s clan. Then there was Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He carried on the liberalization of India that PVNR started. But as bad luck would have it, the incompetent came back to power and Mr Manmohan Singh (fake prime minister but real toady to the Italian Sonia Maino) is presiding over India’s back slide into Nehruvian stupidity.

In summary, India’s present condition is not significantly different from Pakistan’s. Pakistan has the curse of Islam and military dictatorship. India has the curse of Nehruvian socialism and Congress mismanagement. The future of the two nations could be different, however. The Indian voter has the opportunity to kick the Congress out lock stock and barrel. But I will not go into that right now.

What’s the Point?

Why am I raining on someone’s parade? Actually, I am interested in seeing India progress beyond where it stagnates today. Major mistakes were made by powerful people that led to this awfully miserable situation. How did India come to have about 800 million desperately poor people? Why do just 8 of India’s poorest states have more poor people in them than the poor people in 26 poorest countries in Africa?

Why are half of India’s children below 5 years of age malnourished? Childhood malnourishment causes mental retardation. What is going to be the future of these over 100 million children? How will they ever get out of poverty?

India had an estimated 200 million poor people when Nehru took over the ruling of the country. Since that fateful day, India’s poverty has deepened and widened. How many hundreds of millions of Indians have died prematurely after living lives of untold misery since Nehru took over as the dictatorial authority?

Surely all that has to be laid at the feet of the Nehru-Gandhi clan — people whose names are attached to thousands of institutions, roads, ports, airports, government schemes, buildings . . . It is heart breaking to see that the very people who dragged India to its knees and strangled its very life breath consider it their birth-right to continue to misrule India.

When will India wake up? How will it wake up?

This is important because unless we understand that mistakes were made, we are unlikely to know what to do to repeat them. Unless we get the people who did this to India out of power, there can be no hope for India. Note the operative word “we”: it is we who have to get these blood-sucking parasites out of power.

I would like to go into that tomorrow. And I will argue that ultimately we, the people, are to blame. And therefore we have to fix the problem.

Further Readings:

1. Manmohan Singh is a Despicably Dishonest Man.

2. Manmohan Singh is really and truly a despicably dishonest man.

14 thoughts on “A Few Home Truths about India

  1. Atanu,

    I think it is a good idea to post what a super power would mean…when can we say that India becomes a superpower. That way, people who dream of India becoming super power will know how wrong they are. I hope you will also what would indicate to us when we get there (apart from economic factors). Ex:
    –Number of foreign students coming to India.
    –Number of Medals in sports
    –Influence of our culture on rest of the world.
    –What impact will be on energy prices in the world..
    –What impact our military will have on rest of the world…

    etc etc

    –anonymous.

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  2. I feel little uncomfortable to analyse data purely on the basis of statistical terms ( ie avg). The issue with avg is our large population.If growth rate is misleading criteria so as the avg. Frankly I don’t know how many care about what happens to farmer and stuff. Probably median income figures would work.

    I did the same, as soon as I got hold of the newsweek article I compared India with Pakistan and I was shocked to learn that Pakistan is actually better in education and quality of life segment ( really !!) and just two places behind in health.

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  3. The twin ideologies of socialism and secularism that were surreptitiously sneaked into the Constitution on the dark night of Emergency are our bane. These are exploitative ideologies that the ruling elite use to keep Indians divided, the poor ignorant and the middle class disenfranchised. We have to dismantle these two if we have to earn our place under the sun. Or our position will remain fixed alongside of the criminal enterprise called Pakistan.

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  4. @oldtimer

    How is secularism an exploitative ideology? Socialism I can agree. Asking the state to treat all citizens equally irrespective of their religious beliefs cannot be exploitative.

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  5. Would like to mention that 9% growth rate shows trend & velocity of the country’s growth which is an indicator of projection. Per capita shows preset unit income health. The two are to be analysed seperately. To write off 9% growth as bull shit is not appropiate. Economical analysis requires macro & micro approach rather then generalisation. My twitter add @shonatwits

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  6. Well what is the drivers of economic growth really? It is that of large businesses, like that of Ambanis and Tatas. Some computer technicians and business class grads and some few middle class now have an easier time finding jobs. But go to most Indian cities they resemble hell holes with an uncontrolled, teeming population that is growing without any check…the dirt and filth around you, the lack of civic discipline, the illiteracy, the destruction of the environment…it goes on…
    The biggest problem is that India does not have any ideology anymore, it is based upon imported artificial false ones made up by the ruling power. It has no direction, and just exists, does not even know what it exists for. Such a nation can never be destined for greatness. It can only ape others which is what India does: from its form of governance to the sickening mass culture which it imbibes, its all fake and borrowed.
    Actually let’s focus on the problem that are growing:
    1) a growing Maoist insurgency
    2) terrorism–other Indian states are soon going to be facing the problems of Kashmir.
    3) the Chinese will become a menacing threat–look the Chinese can squash India currently if it wants…
    Soon HIndus will find that the demographic tide is againt them, they will just blink and wonder what happened? They will be too busy watching Bollywood and cricket to understand what is going around them.
    It’s not the government but Hindus themselves who are the biggest obstacles: their passivity which has been turned into a virtue by them.
    Since they are passive and put up with anyone that rules them, (sometimes I wonder if you put up a scarecrow and they will be able to tell the difference), it is not difficult for a good central command to change the state of affairs. But for a good central command entails people that are willing to allow for this. I do not see any hope with such apathy in the people and no national leadership.

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  7. That article on bloomberg was written by some Indian analysts: one rule of thumb I have learned: disregard such analysis, you”ll find it written by Indian themselves, who have a penchant for deluding themselves, and have illusions of grandeur…I only read pessimistic accounts of India (not the Marxist commie kind, but you know what), for at least they contain some truth…

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  8. “Why am I raining on someone’s parade? Actually, I am interested in seeing India progress beyond where it stagnates today. Major mistakes were made by powerful people that led to this awfully miserable situation. How did India come to have about 800 million desperately poor people? Why do just 8 of India’s poorest states have more poor people in them than the poor people in 26 poorest countries in Africa?

    Why are half of India’s children below 5 years of age malnourished? Childhood malnourishment causes mental retardation. What is going to be the future of these over 100 million children? How will they ever get out of poverty?

    India had an estimated 200 million poor people when Nehru took over the ruling of the country. Since that fateful day, India’s poverty has deepened and widened. How many hundreds of millions of Indians have died prematurely after living lives of untold misery since Nehru took over as the dictatorial authority?

    Surely all that has to be laid at the feet of the Nehru-Gandhi clan — people whose names are attached to thousands of institutions, roads, ports, airports, government schemes, buildings . . . It is heart breaking to see that the very people who dragged India to its knees and strangled its very life breath consider it their birth-right to continue to misrule India. ”

    One has to see beyond the family and see the “enablers” in the government at work: those who benefit financially by having this family in power and support them. They are the real problem, for without them, a single family would not rule India. Is anyone ever going to be accountable in India for turning it into a banana republic? Why balme the family? Look at Nehru, his interest was in having his daughter succeed him. What kind of morals does that show for someone who professed to be “democratic and liberal” in front of cameras? The rot beginning at the top permeates the entire society. I remember Churchill once said “HIndus sharpen their arguments, while Muslims sharpen their swords” thus summing up defects in both groups. Now I don’t like Churchill but this does not prevent the man from making intelligent observations…

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  9. India had 200 million people in poverty at the time of independence. Now it has 800 million people in poverty. The population quadrupled. So there has really been no change except amongst a few sectors of society since independence. And India has a kind of feudal system now with the same family and their puppets in power, and all in the name of democracy to fool Indians who can’t seem to see the truth. How about a crimes against humanity for the sheer increase in people in poverty, who is to be held responsible? When will Indians wake up to the damage that is done in the name of democracy and liberalism?

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  10. DarkLord,

    I mean secularism to refer to what the ruling elite and prominent secularists mean by it: ie., enacting a Muslim Women’s Bill to let an exploitative, fundamentalist religious code prevail over humane, secular laws, to give one example. Of course, I do know that what passes for secularism in India is either apologia or outright defence of religious fundamentalism. But I see no point quibbling over definitions when the dominant meaning of actually existing secularism is what it is.

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  11. Someone should seriously release Indian statiscs on general backwardness in the country: India before and after independence. You will find the results shocking in that India was better off then, as then the problems were manageable but now with the huge surge in population, they have gotten out of hand. How come no one does it? My old American friends remember that in the fifties, it was China that had a population problem and was extremely poor. How come the ruling classes in India are able to hide the damage done by them under the banner of democracy, such that India today is a banana republic ruled by a clan like nations in Africa, Middle East and Latin America? Indians need to take a quick look at where their “democracy” has landed them: it has turned them into an emasculated nation, getting more slavish, it can’t even organize a sporting events properly without any corruption. I hope the organization of the games really shames India so that Indians might wake up to the reality that is their country.

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  12. But then will the middle class Indians really care? They will be happy if their kids get into mediocre engineering schools (how many times do you hear the nonsense that many of the Indian engineering schools are better than what you find in America, how come they are rated so low and India has not a single education institution that ranks among the top ten in the world), they will be just happy to have some servants at home, and travel to Singapore and watch Bollywood and cricket. They will continue on their sheepish selves…I think it’s futile because nothing changes in a nation of sheep, they are always meant to be ruled over, that has really been their history for the past 800 years…An emasculated culture gives no chance for any heroism or sacrifice, and if someone does try to change things, they will most likely get dirt thrown at them. I remember one Himanchal leader tried to establish the rule that bureaucrats won’t get paid unless the actually show up to work for the full day? What happened? He got defeated in the election.

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