This is from the NOT A VERY BRIGHT IDEA Department. Mr. Ram Narayanan sent out an email reporting that a US Congressional delegation was going to visit India. Quote:
Congressman Crowley said, “…With over 300 million citizens considered middle class and with a burgeoning economy and geo-political role, strengthening US-India relations is more important now than ever for trade and security. I commend the Confederation of Indian Industries for putting together this exceptional program to give the delegation a well rounded overview of the political, economic and cultural vitality of India.”
Congressman Crowley’s delegation includes Congressman Steve Israel (NY), Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (NY), Congresswoman Denise Majette (GA), Congressman Jim Marshall (GA), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA), Congressman Anthony Weiner (NY), and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (CA). Congressman Gregory Meeks (NY) will join the delegation in Mumbai. Except for Congressman Crowley, no other member of the delegation has previously visited India.
None except Crowley has ever been to India?
The last thing one should do to people who are favorably inclined towards India (from news reports and such like) is to bring them to India. The disillusionment cannot be but a total reversal of opinion.
If all I knew about India was from hyped-up news reports that claim that India is an IT superpower, from pictures of the Taj Mahal, pictures of regal Royal Bengal tigers, pictures of pretty village women dressed in colorful ghagras carrying shiny pots on their heads, and other such advertizing copy, it would be a total shock for me to arrive at any of the international airports and find that it is so dilapidated that it beggars imagination, and from then on, it would be a downhill run when I see the unimaginable crowds and abject poverty amidst the filthy rich of any city of India.
I think the best thing for friends of India is to stay as far away from India as possible and to use their time reading the articles by President Kalam and other visionaries. I recommend they put off their visits till — shall we say — 2020.
In an Indian Express article by Vijay Kelkar (Advisor to the Finance Minister) and Ajay Shah (Consultant, Department of economic affairs) ponder the question Why is this a very happy Diwali? (Oct 2003) Their answer is REFORMS. It is an interesting article and it belongs to the same class as the series of articles that Arun Shourie wrote around mid-August regarding the rise of the Indian economy.
The article by Kelkar and Shah essentially tells us that the Indian economy is not doing badly and that we would not be remiss if we indulge in a little bit of self-congratulatory back-slapping. They indicate with pride the progress we have made. For instance:
In a recent month, we added two million mobile phones, an event that made the global telecom industry sit up. Prices have crashed. In a truly ironic reversal of roles, land lines are now a luxury, mobile phones are cheap and ubiquitous.
To confront the cliches and shibboleths of one’s age is neither easy nor rewarding. The emperor’s new clothes exist only in the imagination of those committed to maintaining an obvious falsehood for fear of falling out of favor. I believe it is time that we examine some of the ICT related myths that drape the development emperor. I will categorize them as myths, misunderstandings, misconceptions, and misapprehensions and number them randomly. I may even intersperce them with some facts.
Misapprehension #78: There is a digital divide and it is the cause of retarded development. Hence, if we bridge the digital divide, development will occur.