India Shining


These are words of one of my dear friends which prompted me to write the following piece. He might have said this in a wave of passion but it does reflect a collective thinking of common Indian men who want to take pride in them selves unconcerned of what reality is to the eyes of rest of the world.

Most of us in contemporary India believe or want to believe that India has risen from ashes to center stage of world; it is no longer a third world country; we stand side by side to the rest of world in development. But the reality which we do not want to believe differs by a significant amount. In other words there is another perspective to look at things which is hard to consume.

For coherency and better understanding I will make some statements and will then prove those.

  1. We have not risen to center stage in competition with developed countries; rather we attained a meek position at back stage following what west mandates.
  2. We have changed our behavior not exactly to improve ourselves but rather in accordance with west.

Some notes to be made are that development or progress (will use development from here on for such terms) alike terms are abstract in nature, and these depend much on individual’s perception. It’s not my purpose to demean the development we have gone through; my effort here will be only to point to the nature of this development.

Now first of all what I refer to ‘We’ is the common man of India; common man is a major part of Indians who reflect actual India. That includes peasants, the daily wagers, the labour working in factories, a small scale shop keeper, teachers in schools, software engineers etc. ‘We’ is not categorised according to richness, it doesn’t necessarily mean middle class or poor or riches. There maybe exceptions arising from political, intellectual or personal choices.

Secondly, what I am proposing is not a scientific theory which can be logically proved. This is rather an observation based on social (as well as economic and political) behavior of human beings living in India. So I will be giving insights and examples in support of my theory rather than logically proving it.

The 100 year old slavery of British government has made Indians believe that they are inferior to west (I am not saying we are superior either, but to feel inferior is as much setback to the equality as to feel superior). The impact of feeling of inferiority is so profound that even if we are in race for something we race for only second highest position. When we compare ourselves with west, we take pride in ‘next only to US’ position (US is just an example of typical west).

India was always a country with diverse cultures and vibrant life styles. It was the central point of the most of the clashes of civilisations in history. This history is so vast in examples and lessons that we could have set up the entire state on basis of learnings from past. But do we try to retrospect and learn from our own history? No. We try to ignore all that and try to emulate the west in our economical, political and societal behaviour. Lets start with post independence growth of India, because that’s where the story of ‘influence’ begins.

The fundamental pillars of contemporary Indian politics are democracy and secularism. Both of these concepts have been adopted from British state. Do we ever wonder that both of these concepts have been tried in Indian state itself? We tend to accredit these with western notion that India inherited after independence. But we tend to forget Ashoka and Akabar who had founded successful pluralistic states in their successive times. Akbar, in fact, even founded a syncretic religion Din-I-Ilahi while he ruled but the attempt remained mostly unsuccessful. The traditions of arguments and debates of intellectuals even in anarchic states of India kept pluralism alive indirectly if not directly. I am not implying that we did not adopt those behaviours at all, but we do not accredit them properly. Simply putting, we give a heed to a concept only if it is tried by west, but not try to learn directly from our own past. Moreover our democracy and secularism is flawed to its roots. Recent incidents of Babri Masjid and Nandigram are prime examples of this fact. One is a burn on Indian secularism and other on Indian democracy. (Notes: 1. Indian Secularism has its own definition which is ‘impartiality between religions’ rather than ‘opposition of religion’. 2. Democracy does not just amount to fair elections. Fair elections are necessary but not sufficient condition for democracy)

After successful adoption of western politics, we were in race for industrialisation. This Industrialisation was again due to the Industrial Revolution that started in Britain, which spread in other western parts Europe and USA afterwards. We followed it blindly forgetting primary sector which is agriculture. The blind following lead to disaster of agriculture because of not integrating agriculture and industry properly taking into account the large segment that depends on agriculture. Rarely do we take initiatives on our own that could be first of its kind. Even the concept of entrepreneurship got recognition among Indians only after its success in Silicon Valley. It is also not that we followed west here on equal terms. We are the people who carry out only back-end work in BPOs, call centres and outsourcing offices but the front runner in software development or IT industry will be USA only. How much do we take pleasure in our economic progress, we are merely following US. This following is over and above the fact that we try to reject primary Indian sector, agriculture, in the race of industrialisation.

Our whole political ladder from top to down is influenced by west. When government wants to do a nuclear deal, it is to enhance diplomatic relations with west and when left opposes it, it is for fear of western backstabbing. We don’t think it in terms of what is valuable and beneficial to Indian people. At the lower end of ladder also situation is same. When there are elections for Panchayat or MLAs, the issues that are stressed in agenda are construction of roads, water or electricity rather than issues like agricultural improvement or employment which are more fundamental to India.

The bias to west is also seen in our changing societal behaviour. The Aryan culture had great and successful societal system that we inherited generation by generation. There was a definite family hierarchy and joint family system in Aryan culture which was also adopted (or say not rejected) by subsequent civilisations also. But with changing times more and more families are disintegrating and tending towards single family culture as that of west. And this change is leading to our own mockery as more and more people are living stressed and lonely lives.

Not to forget the consumerism and materialism we are adapting more and more vigorously with changing times. The difference between the old imperialism and the new consumerism is very subtle. The country suffered the brutalities of foreign envasions and foreign dominations. But until globalisation, if you look at the Indian culture for instance, its facial aspects remained Indian. Now, with the intensity of globalisation reaching into every little corner of life, even the comedians, the jokes, the rhythm of the music, the very fundamental life-style has started changing. This makes consumerism and materialism deadlier than old imperialism.

The driving point is that the influence of west is not absolute in itself. It tries to dominate domain of our discretion by excluding other references from our viewpoint. For example we don’t try to emulate Japan for its economic behaviour. We don’t try to emulate our ancient culture for its societal advantages. We do not only lack concern for China, Japan etc., our knowledge is actually very less for these countries as compared to knowledge and concern we impart towards awe for west.

In the end I will say that till now this was the trend that we Indians have followed. However optimistically we are climbing up in the value chain, though, to a limited extent and in a limited space. The obstacles are largely because of lack of education and excess of population.



18 December 2007 at 15:45

phew ... u wrote so much !!
Well lemme take ur points one by one ...
Coming to political system the constitution wasnt aping of British or for that matter west on the whole. The system was designed after picking up the best systems all over the world ! Most part of it was picked from French if i m not wrong. If u look beyond constitution the seeds of politics in india were sown by nehru with his soviet friendly ideology highly socialist system which was very much in practice atleast till 90s ...
In 47 after independence it was essential to take either american stand or russian in order to march ahead as it was almost next to impossible for a country like india to make progress after scars like partition and a 33 crore population most of which was illetrate and malnutrished. So aligning towards one end was not by choice but by boundation.
Post liberalisation era was again a necessity to get out of the mess of economic instability. A country with no capital in hand, with mortgaged gold and close of billion of mouths to feed cudnt have asked for anything else. If that hadnt happened at that time till today u wud have dreamt about broadbands while working on dialups !
Regd. BPO/IT industry i agree we r doing the dirty job of americans but it had to start from somewhr .. u cant put a billion dollars in research until u have them frm somewhr and u dont have experience of the business !! So this phase is paving way to high end job profiles.
Entrepreneurship isnt a new concept for indians .. it just got redefined and appeared in much bigger form. Right from the fruit vendor in some small corner of village to some big store owner its very much in blood of indians its matter of perspective that those starting up .dotcoms or money minting orgs hog all the limelight!
Otherwise u have entrepreneurs all around u ... jst see with open eyes :)

Moving to agri society ... m70% of india is still surviving on agri directly so i dont think it has taken backfoot. Its just that while u have competition from all over the world u cant jst go on producing food and keep throwing it in sea year after year u need to change urself acc to need and demand so thats the change u r seeing in form of industry.
Guess i been able to do justice to ur highly revered words :)

  Sukesh Kumar

19 December 2007 at 18:10

Well firstly thank you for a very thoughtful comment.
Secondly thank you for just elaborating on my point though the intention might be of contradicting me.
Let author be justified with a justification from author…

First of all my intention was not finding faults in political/economical/societal system of India. My intention was to give an observation on reflection of mind of COMMON MAN of India about what he thinks of West. ( which I guess I have emphasized a lot before giving explanation )

1. Firstly, Gaining political support from other countries and building a constitution for country’s own people are essentially different concepts, with possibility of some overlap. And what you just mentioned is about political support. Secondly, we followed the world(western) but forgot out own experiences. Ambedkar especially considered building administration according to village administration of pre-colonial period but he discarded the idea for being (or looking like) too local or limiting one’s horizon. Even an intellectual like Ambedkar had Western influence.
2. Agreed, that there was need for development. But the need was not to blindly follow what west was doing (and that’s exactly what we did.). We needed a broad integration of agriculture and an industry based on agriculture which will help flourish agriculture as well as becomes a backbone for production sector.
3. We started from doing back end work and are still largely doing back end work. It should have ended somewhere. Maybe when there will be rise in bio-technology in US then IT will be totally handed down to India (amen!).
4. Totally agreed! You see, writing a so comprehensive piece of blog is very difficult. Sometimes we miss some things. My point was also same that we should recognise ‘Bania’ class as great entrepreneurs. The concept was old enough but we learnt it after US told us to learn it. I will edit my blog to make it clear. (Again thank you, third time)
5. Again what we did was, overlooked the agriculture sector. Now there are rare (considering 70% of Indian population is dependent on agriculture) sons of peasants who want to become peasants. The ever increasing suicides of peasants in every state and decreasing fertility and water level of soil tells us something what we did to ourselves (ourselves = 70% of India).