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Can India make it to the Top?

By Tanvir Salim for TwoCircles.net,

There is lot of hullabaloo generated over the notion that India is getting closer to being a world power. Some even go to great lengths to make a case that India will eventually surpass the existing super power, the United States. Definitely, the race is on, and there is no denying that India is an active participant in the race.

Many, including myself wonder how India is looking forward to become a world power when majority of its population is uneducated, half fed, out of work and to some extent aimless. Yes, there are numerous example of “India shinning”, which are proudly show cased, but they lose the shine as soon as a new episode which reflects upon the dark side, shrieks out from the news channels. The mismanagement at the recent happened Commonwealth games is a prime example.

People in queue to get weekly food relief from Charity Alliance in Ghoshpara, Murshidabad, West Bengal

There is an ever growing middle class, which in spite of being better off, is constantly struggling to meet its basic requirements. Yes, there is a miniscule percent of the elites, who are living as if they are living in a different world. India is like a kaleidoscope, you turn it a few degrees, the pattern changes and a new pattern emerges, which has nothing to do with what you saw previously.

The elites are constantly failing to fulfill their responsibilities towards their less fortunate brethren. This eventually will create turbulence in their voyage towards upward mobility. The rising insurgency in certain parts of the country is a stark reminder that the situation can easily slip out of our hands, if we are callous in our approach.

It is incumbent upon us to ensure that decades ago the seed that was placed in the soil of the sleepy town of Naxalbari, remains in hibernation and must devoid of the environment that may prompt it to bloom. The challenge is to prevent it from turning out to be a late bloomer, because if it blooms, the entire country will be impacted and our predictions of consistent growth will be retarded.

The gap between the rich and poor is increasing exponentially because of the inability of the poor to get a share in the pie, which is out there. Many may be quick to say that the phenomenon of trickle-down economics will eventually kick in, and in the end they all will live happily ever after. I wish this could be true. But the text book theories, on which the planning processes are based, often ignore the human tendencies. Factors like impatience and greed take the center stage and sabotage the process. We are at a point where we are witnessing a divide or segregation in the society which to some extent resembles to the yester year’s policy of apartheid in the South Africa. The slums, which are getting crowded, are now becoming an integral part of the Indian landscape.

The power is getting concentrated in few hands and those hands are getting dirtier day by day. There is a widespread anxiety and displeasure over the prevailing corruption and the means to stop it, are in vain. The movements of the past provided no refuge and today we are finding it difficult to survive. Corruption is not the only malaise that is jeopardizing our prospects, but it is the one which is responsible for some of our failings. Today the magnitude of corruption is of Himalayan proportions. There are even claims that substantial amount of monies kept in the secret Swiss bank accounts can be traced back to the Indian shores.

Everyone is not participating in the phenomenon growth which India is witnessing at the moment. Change is on the horizon but the benefits that result from the change are not reaching every nook and corner of the land. What is the solution?

There are people who are economically and socially backward. They need help. To some extent we are still subscribing to the doctrines of the past and are still nurturing it with vigor. Even today the economic stature depends on the centuries old social structure, which has considerable inertia which is resisting the change? It is beyond anybody’s imagination how to undo the injustices of the past. The scars are annealed in the body, and the wounds etched on the soul are beyond repair.

“residence” of a homeless family in Assam

The attempts of the past were successful to some extent, and yielded desirable results, but failed to provide permanent solutions. The policy of affirmative action is a temporary fix and should not become routine. We lack permanent and effective solutions because our horizons are limited due to our lack of our exposure to the far and beyond.

In this war of supremacy, we are competing with China, but India’s advantage lies in the entrepreneurial spirit of its people. It is no surprise why the lunch distribution system by the “Tiffinwallas” of Mumbai is taught as case study at many top business schools in the west. In China, the efforts by the state machinery are no match to the effect that gets generated by the individual effort that is garnered by the Indian entrepreneurs. They bring original ideas which provide lasting impact rather than the ones which are dictated by the party machinery.

The other factor in China’s disadvantage is its greying work force which is huge when compared with the younger population. This will put enormous burden on the young ones to support their aging country men. In contrast to this, India is bubbling with youth, who are eager to steer the country to the greater heights.

In spite of all the euphoria created by the press over President Obama’s visit to India, there is an apprehension in the relationship with the United States, mainly because of Pakistan and the fight against global terror. It gets more complicated when China is embedded in the equation. It has also to do because of the baggage which India is carrying because of its leadership role with the non-aligned movement of the past, and its cozy relationship with the soviet Russia during the cold war period.

It is for India to define its role in the changing world order. India needs strong leadership. The compulsion of coalition government, is not helping it either. The next few years are going to make or break India. Indian voters have lots on stake at the next general election. Let the “unpredictable voter” makes its choice correctly?

(The author is a nuclear physicist based in Massachusetts, US. He can be reached at [email protected])