Quit India — Then and Now

A few days ago, Prabhudesai and I were discussing a remarkable fact about India. We observed that these days many Indian families are sending their children abroad for schooling.

In the past most of the students went abroad only for postgraduate studies. Case in point: I came to the US for my doctoral studies in computer science. But these days families are sending their children for undergraduate education, and a significant number even for high school education.

Among my acquaintances, friends and relatives, I don’t know of a single family that did not send its children for education abroad if they could manage it. Education in developed countries like the US is not cheap by any standard. By developing country standards, education abroad is a huge expense but desperation forces them to somehow make it happen. Quite often they go massively into debt. By hook or by crook, they do the best they can to escape the dysfunctional Indian education system.

The rush is to somehow quit India if one can. And the government is doing all it can to make sure that people, especially those who could have been most productive in India, quit India as soon as they can.

This is incredibly pathetic. What makes it so sad is that this situation is entirely the doing of the Indian government. It doesn’t have to be this way. Indians should not have to quit India in their desperation to secure a future for themselves. They are being forced to quit India

Quit India — Now

Nearly 80 years ago, in 1942 there was a “Quit India Movement.” It was a call to the British to stop exploiting Indians and to quit India. The idea was that if the British left India alone, India would develop as it could. The British finally quit India because eventually it suited them.

Though the British government loot of India ended in 1947, the loot of India did not stop. The Indian government of India took over the task of looting India. Since the Indian government could not be asked to quit India, the only avenue open was for Indians to quit India if they could.

Unlike the 1942 Quit India movement — the people forcing the government to quit India — this time around, the government is forcing the people to quit India. Not every Indian can quit India but those who can, do quit as soon as they can. The government is doing its best to force Indians out of India.

Quit India version 2 is devastating India because it essentially is forcing capital to exit India. By capital, I mean both human and non-human capital. Capital creates wealth. Capital is mobile and moves to where it is welcome. This is no secret. Countries that welcome capital do better than those that don’t.

The US imports lots of stuff. But its more important import is the immense amounts of human capital. The US exports lots of stuff but exports practically zero human capital. The situation is exactly opposite for India. India does not import any human capital and only exports whatever human capital it has — especially high quality human capital.

Human capital creates the wealth of nations. Some of the human capital is homegrown in the US. But it’s like a magnet for foreign high-quality human capital. For example, Peter Theil was born in Germany; Sergey Brin was born in the USSR; Elon Musk was born in South Africa. Of the 95 US Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine in the period 2000-2019, 36 (that’s nearly 40%) were foreign born; of the 303 US Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine for 1901-2019, 105 (35%) were foreign born.

It appears that the Indian government is dedicated to keeping foreign capital out, and pushing domestic capital out as quickly as it can. Firms that wish to expand their operations generally choose to do so outside India to avoid the bureaucratic nightmare they face and the high levels of taxation. Now the government is proposing to add another burden to domestic and foreign firms doing business in India: they propose to add reservations and quotas based on caste and religious lines.

Economic policies that prioritize economic freedom have an enormous influence on the economic prosperity of an economy. That’s as surprising as the fact that water is wet. But that obvious fact is apparently missed by the politicians and bureaucrats in India. They don’t understand that the road to persistent poverty is the license-permit-quota-control system they have engineered for decades.

I sometimes think that a simple device could change India. It’s a logic inverter for policies. Input any proposed government policy into the device and it spits out the negation of the policy. Input policy A and the output is policy ~A. It’s simple and would reverse India’s descent into continued poverty and irrelevance.

There appears to be no end in sight to the idiotic policies of the government. Is it that the bureaucrats are stupid and the politicians are evil, or is it that the politicians are stupid and the bureaucrats are evil? But it doesn’t really matter since the end result is the same.

People are stupid some of the time, and evil some of the time. But people in the Indian government are consistently stupid and evil all of the time. The bad news is that most Indians don’t appear to mind that. And of the minority that do mind it, only a fortunate few have the option of escaping the disaster by quitting India.

It’s all kama, neh?

Author: Atanu Dey


10 thoughts on “Quit India — Then and Now”

  1. Good points.
    India is doomed to slog over next 50+ years…. the politicians and bureaucrats should be made to quit india but they get fatter by the day so no incentive….but there are some exceptions.

    without the boom in technology over last 30 years where would india be?

    And why are there so few original thinkers/inventors in a country of a billion who can win just one gold medal at olympics?


  2. The biggest success story of India in last 30 years is the IT and BPO sector. Neither of which were planned by any planning commission, no economist and economic advisor predicted it nor government created any plans to “promote” it either. IT sector flourished because the thick skull babus in Delhi and other bottom feeders did not know much about technology.

    The sector was unregulated and had hire and fire policies and not trade or worker unions. Today India exports more software than Saudi Arabia’s oil (in terms of $ earned).

    Instead of learning from that experience Indian government is hell bent controlling and promoting everything.

    Watch Piyush Goyal scolding Indian business owners that they are “not patriotic enough” for him. This made my stomach churn.


    1. and one of the key reasons for this is the prevalence of english language without which it would be quite different….

      at least the brits did that for india….but certainly not to help them in IT, literature, science etc…


  3. I have been hearing that India is a ticking bomb since last 4 decades. Yes I am 40+ age group privileged male, residing in the US.

    Emotionally I am Indian at heart, though technically I am an NRI.

    My hope is, that all the human capital flight that has taken from India in last few decades will go back and invest in India. Even if that is a fraction of that population, that will be helpful.

    Vande Mataram!


    1. If they can help it no one is going back.

      Also human capital is pretty much worthless if other factors that make them productive in first place do not exist there. For example an excellent aviation engineer might find many opportunities in USA but might be worthless in India.

      With each passing decade technology is improving massively thus the skills requires to earn high income are pretty narrow, you go back you probably wont find a good job.


  4. I know of 4 kids at higher levels of academic achievement, who are US citizens (born in the US), who were educated in Indian high schools when their parents relocated to India. And not all went to the international schools that have come up in the last 20 years, but the once reputed city schools their parents graduated from. Many of the parents could have easily afforded sending these kids here for high school (or continued staying in the US until the kids graduated) if they were concerned about Indian educational quality. But they chose not to. At the high school level.

    For their undergraduate degree, this cohort invariably ends up here. Not all of them, but most. I can speak for someone in my own family who graduated in the 1990s and secured a top rank in JEE, who was a US citizen also. She chose to study in IIT and turned down a full scholarship that was offered at a top US school. But later she came here for grad school, finished her PhD and ended up as a reputed faculty member, continuing to stay in the US. But her decision as an undergrad is that of a minority. Not all students are gifted enough to make it with a high rank at IIT. Sufficient US colleges exist where the aspirants stand a chance to get in and which form an attractive option when compared to the colleges they would get into in India. So they leave.

    The allure to work in the west is the biggest draw for this behavior.


  5. I disagree on one point and agree on another. Agree that there are folks who would want to get out as quickly as they can given a chance.
    But disagree on the point that these cohort somehow represents special human capital. They are nothing but kids of privilege and are just exercising their privilege.
    India has plenty of high quality human capital. What India does not have is economic freedom. The government is too big and too much in everything. India can start with abolishing IAS of they want to address economic freedom.
    What Indians dont have is access to credit. This has improved recently but improvement was from rock bottom.
    92% of employment in India is still in informal sector. As Manish Sabharwal says, if India formalizes employment, industrializes on large scale and financializes (improve credit access) it will be able to improve productivity and result in prosperity to people.
    India can easily be an alternate to China in providing all sorts of items to the world but for that it needs the above.
    Those who get power just by writing one exam will never voluntarily give it up.


    1. In this discussion, religion, culture, caste, skin colour, regionalism (state), language, stereo typing of women only as mother ,daughter, sister, wife, extremes of wealth and poverty etc need to be factored in…… eg most Gujaratis support Modiji despite being party to killing 1000+ Muslims…
      India is far more complex than europe and even they can’t get the EU to work well….
      But India will stumble on inching forward because the people are resilient and accepting at the same time…..

      Each community looks down on the other due to some of the factors above…..thousands of years of culture steeped in patriarchy will not help…

      Maybe the long march to catch up to china is an illusion – due to indian democracy and divisions?


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