Of the three major sectors of any economy, agriculture is the primary sector. It is prior in time and naturally enough forms the basis for the other two sectors — manufacturing and services. Without a solid foundation provided by an efficient agricultural sector, no society can prosper.
Everybody — factory workers, quantum physicists, doctors, programmers, musicians, writers, politicians — needs food. Farming is the oldest occupation and all civilizations begin as essentially agrarian societies. Agricultural success is the necessary precondition for the advancement of civilization. Without an agricultural revolution there can be no avenues for social, technological, and economic development.
The claim of this essay is that India has not had a comprehensive agricultural revolution. All the other problems that India faces derive from that failure. The good news is that India has the opportunity to have an agricultural revolution. It has always had that opportunity. Primarily because of plain idiocy — let’s not sugarcoat this bitter fact — India has failed in progressing much beyond subsistence agriculture. India’s abysmal poverty follows relentlessly from that fact. Continue reading
The Sardar Patel statue, also called “The Statue of Unity” which is to be unveiled tomorrow Oct 31st, is the biggest statue in the world at 182 meters tall. Built at the cost of Rs 3000 crores, it must be impressive to behold because of its sheer size. It is supposed to represent unity of the nation and to be a tribute to a great man who united India.
Maybe that’s so. But to me, it represents the power that those in government use to force people to do their bidding. Certainly, it’s not the worst form of naked tyranny like marching people off to the gulags to be worked until they die but it is something that reasonable leaders of a free people should never do. It is a shameful display of a gigantic ego and the misuse of power. Continue reading
The first lesson of development economics is that economic policies matter. Even if a country has everything going for it, lack of good policies condemn it to poverty. So it is easy to believe that if only good policies were known to those in power, economic development would necessarily follow. My good friend, the globe-trotting adventurer and consultant to capitalists, Utsav Mitra, brought that lesson to mind in a recent twitter exchange on my timeline. As a student of development, I have written a bit over the years on the matter and Utsav refers to it in a tweet which is embedded below.
If you have not been reading Media Crooks, you have been missing one of the sanest, most incisive commentator on Indian current affairs you could ever find anywhere — mainstream media, social media, off-line, online, wherever. I am an unabashed admirer of Media Crooks. I am a fan.
Media Crooks sets the gold standard that very few observers are capable of achieving. Take his expert fisking today (link provided below) of Mr Katju, an ex-judge of the supreme court of India who writes a lot of politically motivated stuff and is often in the media spotlight. Katju deserves to be taken to the cleaners and MC does it with aplomb and ruthless precision.
Sometimes looking at the way the government does things one wonders whether the lunatics are running the loony bin. But perhaps the truth is not funny at all, and more horrifying: the people running the country are not crazy but rather they are terrifyingly smart and know exactly what they are doing and why. Their game involves controlling the masses through lies and misdirection.
But that’s too generic a description. Besides being too general a description, democracy is hardly a comprehensive description of the Indian government. Surely, the democracy found in say Switzerland is quite different from what’s in India. We need better descriptors of Indian governance. Here’s a partial list, offered in the hope that you will add your own favorite.
Observing what’s going on in India these days, I am filled with loathing and fear. What kind of monsters occupy India’s highest public offices! I stand with H. L. Mencken when he wrote, “It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.” It appears that the primary requirements for holding political power in India are a lack of common sense, common honesty and common decency.
Madhu Kishwar writing in OutlookIndia.com says, “I fail to understand why almost every commentator, every TV anchor, every editorial writer feels compelled to pay ritual obeisance to the “personal honesty and integrity” of Dr Manmohan Singh.” I note that Madhu qualifies the statement with “almost every.” As a blogger, I have been insisting that the appointed prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh is despicably dishonest man, and that he will be remembered for his venality. That he is getting a free pass right now can only be because Indians are not the most clued in people in the world and it takes a few generations for the truth to dawn on the country. But eventually, as the Indian motto goes, satyam eva jayate.
It is widely rumored that India is a vibrant democracy but one wonders if the rumors are wild exaggerations with little bearing to reality. I could be wrong but doesn’t the idea of a democracy include having an effective opposition to the ruling party? Or is it still a democracy if it is a one-party rule which does whatever suits its narrow interests because there is no opposition to provide the checks and balances that are needed to assure that the ruling party does not use its rule to enrich itself at the cost of the national interest? In a sense, one cannot entirely blame the staggering misgovernance of the Antonia Maino, aka Sonia Gandhi, led UPA — it is partly a consequence of the utter failure of the BJP to provide a suitable opposition to the misrule of the UPA.
In August in a post, Is the Indian Government the Greatest Enemy of India’s Prosperity?, I had quoted a WSJ piece which read in part, “Because India’s entrepreneurs have succeeded amid dysfunctional government and financial institutions by developing a kind of independent and experimental ingenuity, it stands to reason that the enterprising class would prosper even more were India to reduce barriers to business and clean up corruption.” I commented on that and wrote: Continue reading