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All posts for the month March, 2013

No lessons learnt from the Nirbhay case…

Published March 9, 2013 by vishalvkale

The article above raises some serious concern over the lack of official apathy, and what seems to me to be a total lack of governance. Autos on the fateful Dec 16 route are still refusing to go to Dwarka – and the police is doing nothing about it. The entire Nirbhay incident seems to have been consigned to the dustbin of sad memories – and it is life as usual for everyone including the government and the people. There have been few lessons that have been internalised from this entire sad scenario…
The total lack of even the most basic of steps by the New Delhi traffic police : ensuring that Autos do not overcharge, and refuse to go; or that of providing alternative means of transport to the public has been ignored. No meters are used; rules are broken in front of the traffic cops, who apparently do nothing. Rampant overcharging, refusal to take people to out-of-the-way destinations – all in the open. This begs the question: are these autos above the law? They obviously fear nothing from the police. This lays open the field for further questions, none of them very comforting…
This is not just about that Dwarka route where the incident happen; my point is that this is precisely the way things happen in India. Remember the AMRI fire? Reference: http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/01/amri-fire-fundamental-questions.html. This incident too has been forgotten; no lessons seem to have been learnt. There is no indication of any action on fire safety hazards steps, and nothing has been done on public education to ensure that people cooperate. In short, a silence: we have carried on as before. Yet again, no lessons have been learnt.
A similar argument can be made for any number of incidents that hog the headlines of our newspapers and our Media, and then are replaced by others, which each subsequent incident doing little to change the status quo. As my social issues tag displays, http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/search/label/Social%20Issues?updated-max=2013-02-20T12:18:00%2B05:30&max-results=20&start=8&by-date=false our media has faithfully reported each and every such incident vociferously and examined the repercussions in some detail. And yet, the absence of a sustained pressure from the public and the media in the form of continued follow-ups and questions has meant continuing official apathy. We all know the bureaucracy does not act; the fact that we dont act to ensure action points to both official and public apathy.
We Indians dont even want to act to protect ourselves, to provide basic amenities to ourselves, we dont want to ensure good governance, our Media is more interested in current news rather than leading change… this has become a social issue of monumental proportions…
Jaago Sonewaalon! 

Why are we so poor?

Published March 6, 2013 by vishalvkale

This is my latest quest, after my previous (ongoing) quest to understand Independence and Partition. Reasons for the current status of India are diverse; you cannot pin it down to any one reason alone. There is the historical perspective of colonialism, and the political perspective of poor governance. Both are equally important; both need to be looked at in detail in order that we get close to the reason for India’s poverty. This is a recent quest for me; so I freely admit that I may be off-the-mark somewhere; any suggestions are more than welcome. 
First, we need to understand one thing: the conventional reasons that are oft-quoted for India’s poverty are way off-the-mark and totally inaccurate. By that, I mean poor governance. Poor governance is only partially responsible for the continuing poverty that afflicts India; the core reasons lie elsewhere. More of this is covered in the section on the political perspective. 
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From my earlier post:
The per capita income of the bottom 20% of India’s population has not changed (as a percentage share) since 1978. That means, the bottom 20% of our population has not benefited at all from our economic boom. This is also confirmed by consumption patterns: with the consumption by the bottom 20% of the population being static @ between 0 – 1 growth%, in complete variance with the 3% growth registered by the top layers. While in the 1990s, India’s Gini Coefficient was 0.32, it has now gone up to 0.38. The top 10% now make 12 time the bottom 10% – as opposed to 6 times in the 1990s.  
As per Putting Growth In Its Place
“But looking at contemporary India from another angle, one could equally tell the following—more critical and more censorious—story: “The progress of living standards for common people, as opposed to a favoured minority, has been dreadfully slow—so slow that India’s social indicators are still abysmal.” For instance, according to World Bank data, only five countries outside Africa (Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Yemen) have a lower “youth female literacy rate” than India (World Development Indicators 2011, online). To take some other examples, only four countries (Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar and Pakistan) do worse than India in child mortality rate; only three have lower levels of “access to improved sanitation” (Bolivia, Cambodia and Haiti); and none (anywhere—not even in Africa) have a higher proportion of underweight children. Almost any composite index of these and related indicators of health, education and nutrition would place India very close to the bottom in a ranking of all countries outside Africa.”
And the numbers are not too different if you consider even the bottom 40%… think about that! BPL numbers do not mean we have pulled people out of poverty!
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The Historical Perspective
First read The Mahatma:  I came reluctantly to the conclusion that the British connection had made India more helpless than she ever was before, poltically and economically.. . . Before the British advent, India spun and wove in her millions of cottages just the supplement she needed for adding to her meager agricultural resources. This cottage industry, so vital for India’s existence, has been ruined by incredibly heartless and inhuman processes as described by English witnesses. Little do town dwellers know how the semi-starved masses of India are slowly sinking to lifelessness. Little do they know that their miserable comfort represents the brokerage they get for the work they dofor the foreign exploiter, that the profits and the brokerage are sucked from the masses. Little do they realize that the Government established by law in British India is carried on for this exploitation of the masses. No sophistry, no jugglery in figures can explain away the evidence that the skeletons in many villages present to the naked eye. I have no doubt whatsoever that both England and the town dwellers of India will have to answer, if there is a God above, for this crime against humanity which is perhaps unequalled in history
Note the underlined statements in the quotation from The Mahatma above. This establishes the income disparity between the villages and the towns. The income inequality that you see today has its underpinnings in our colonial past. An examination of this past will bring it out in the open, almost beyond any shade of doubt. 
The core reason is the systematic planned destruction of both the agricultural as well as the industrial base of the nation. In agriculture, they played havoc by forcible cultivation of Indigo and to some extent opium. This disturbed the food chain; further farmers were deliberately not paid for both crops. Land tax was increased from 18% to 50-60%. The farmers were not allowed to store seed and grains for food. Frequently, this left no grains, farm produce or seeds – which meant starvation. This has been recorded by both Indian as well as British observers in several sources. There are minutes of Parliamentary proceedings available that show admissions from the British rulers that regions under British rule have been reduced to poverty not known anywhere else on Earth, Similar is the well-understood case of Indian Industry, which was systematically destroyed. Duty of 80% on home goods, and 20% on British Goods effectively outpriced Indian manufacturers, leading to starvation and death as large numbers of units closed.
The intrusions in the farming landscape meant unmitigated disaster and ruin for India’s hitherto well-off villages; with the cycle of crops being broken, lack of seeds and grain, and no protection (unlike earlier), the lot of the farming community degraded quite rapidly. Even today, take a look at the poorest sections of India: most of them were under direct British rule for the longest amount of time. The economic cycle was interrupted; leading to ruin. There was no development work undertaken for the welfare of the community. With the fall of the farmers into ruin, the entire village economy took a hit, and went on a downward spiral. 
The condition in the towns and cities was no better; the industrial and handicraft units were broken up due to lack of business driven by the lopsided duty structure, with imports being taxed @ 20% and home products @ 80%. The influx of cheap imports broke the back of the economy in combination with the destruction on the farming landscape. Merchants guilds – a reality since harappan times in India- ceased to function; millennia-old trade routes were disrupted as they came under British control, and the cost of home-produced goods sky-rocketed. This broke the chain, the economic cycle; bringing the economic engine to a standstill. This also had its impact on the rural sector, as handicrafts, and rural goods trading also suffered. Now these were traded by the Brits, who are on record stating the lack need to pay for them. This was a frequent reality with goods being “purchased” and not paid for. No brickbats – this is a matter of documented record. Even a Brit PM is on record on this matter. 
And this is the story, in a nutshell, of how one of the 2 greatest trading engines in the history of Earth crashed to its nadir. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the destruction was complete; nothing remained of the once-great Indian trading and manufacturing powerhouse. The towns fared slightly better thereafter, since the Brits needed people to run their administration; that let in modern education. This restoked the engine; the existing capital rose in the form  of some manufacturing units of initially textiles in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries as some Indians tried to restart it. They faced heavy opposition: Indians were not allowed to have textile mills, it was supposed to be imported. The machinery that was to imported was stalled on several occasions; when procured it was further delayed at customs – every form of harassment was tried- leading to some just giving up. Others didnt; and thus started the rise of the towns and cities of India. 
But rural India had no such initiative for them… and were left as they were! The per-capita income was nearly stagnant during the first half of the 20th century… this is a figure that tells the tale.
The Political Perspective
This was the scene when India became independent. The status of agriculture was terrifying; there was no growth in any sector; there were no industries – only a textile sector and a nascent steel plant. India had nothing; it was at zero. The morale of the nation had been broken by 200 years of the most brutal exploitation known to mankind. This was what our political masters had inherited. This problem was on a scale not known anywhere else on earth; the scale of the challenges facing India were unique and have no precedent anywhere on Earth on a similar scale. Repeated famines were hitting India – with each causing millions in death toll. The tasks facing the incumbent government were stupendously and horrendously arduous and beyond description; they further had no experience – and no one else did either, for no one had faced such a terrfying spectacle ever. And that is why, despite their many failings which I shall subsequently cover, I have nothing but respect for the founding fathers; what they achieved is a miracle. In retrospect we can say that they might have done better – but I submit anyone can say that with the benefit of hindsight. They deserve our respect and our gratitude – what they did, they did to the best of their abilities and with no one but themselves for advice. No one else had to face such a horrendous spectacle ever – not on this scale. Respect – thank you, Sir… all of you! 
Thus we can see that India was already poor when she became independent. Given the scale of the destruction, it was always going to be a difficult, long and arduous climb spanning decades. But that does not mean we did not commit mistakes.  We have made only 2 mistakes since independence, in my humble opinion:
  • Governance: we have failed to deliver to the people. That is something for which there can be no excuse. These problems stated below have created a people who are unaware, and are unprepared to reap the advantages of the freedom we now enjoy. They have not been developed, which is a developmental and Governmental failure of monumental proportions. This has meant continued stagnation, as agricultural productivity did not grow, meaning lesser produce and money in rural markets; underdeveloped and unregulated rural markets; uneducated people etc. We have created an unweildy and unresponsive bureaucratic class in the bargain. The problems can be identified as:

    • Absent or inappropriate Health Services in Rural India
    • Lack of even basic educational facilities in Rural India
    • Leakage in funds allocation to the priority sector and villages
    • Lack of even basic amenities in certain villages
    • Resultant continuing Urban Migration
    • Severe shortage of needed infrastructure in the hinterland
    • Very low knowledge transfer from universities to Rural farmers, entrepreneurs etc; this has nothing to do with the internet: here I am talking about upgrading farmers with latest techniques; awareness of opportunities that arise with economic growth; awareness of technological developments that can be used to generate business etc
  • Corruption: this is the single most significant drag on our growth. This has its impact on every segment of the economy from the farmer to the agricultural mandis; from the rural mandi gundas to the urban thiefs; from the corporate scams to the governmental scams… there is not a sinble aspect which does not carry this rider…

Conclusion
We started out as poor in the beginning; the scale and magnitude of the problem was so terrifyingly horrendous, that it was always going to take time. We went wrong in only one vital aspect: lack of focus on inclusive growth; lack of rural infrastructural development; lack of focus on human development and lack of control on governance leading to an unwieldy administration that is now more of a drag than a help…
It is my ongoing quest to understand the current status of India in terms of governance, as well as the the policies – economic and otherwise – that have lead to this and the path forward…

The Curse Of Poverty

Published March 5, 2013 by vishalvkale

This is the first time I am venting my heart on Quora – or on any platform for that matter. I have never let out the innermost thoughts of my heart; but with the passage of time, it is becoming more and more difficult to hold it within myself…
Whenever I pass by a beggar, or a labourer, or a poor destitute person, or a hapless scarcely clad woman, my heart stops beating for just a moment; my breath holds and my eyes well up. Whenever I see poor children on the streets, children with no education, and no hope of a good life, children denied the simplest joys we take for granted- like a glass of milk, or a chapati, or a chocolate, or a comic, or a tasty sabji, or a lovely dress… I cant help but feel lonely and sad at the horrifying curse that has hit my lovely nation. A queer frustration at the state of my nation and its poor people grips my mind…
And my heart screams – why, God, why? Why has it got to be so? What have we done that is so wrong, so brutally amoral that generations of Indians have to suffer this terrifying curse of abject poverty? What have we done to deserve this? My mind deserts me, and my heart goes vacant… for a moment – just for a moment – I can think of nothing else. At that point, I feel no rage, just a queer emptiness and a total helplessness in the face of such insurmountable odds. 
The evidence of poverty is to be found everywhere: on the roads in the form of the roadside hutments, the labourers in the sun, the carefree and scantily clad children playing around doing nothing, the poor and bare hutments in villages, the kuchha roads in the villages, the series of villages with landless peasants, villagers lounging about the chai shop with nothing to do, women with a old faded sari, the malnourished and famished children and adults both, the beggars in cities and towns alike… and my mind wonders… when will we be free of this terrible scourge? 
Raasta bahut lamba hai… manzil milon door hai, aur jaanaa kis taraf hai abhi toh yeh bhi maalum nahi hai. Magar tabhi- doosre kshan, mujhe kuchh aur dikhai detaa hai…
Har chehre par muskan; a smile on every face; the joy on the children’s faces; the sheer delight as the mother gives them what she has to eat; the laughs of the men on the chai shop, the animated discussions of the labourers, the happy faces of the women as they talk while going about their chores, the carefree delight on the children… and I wonder in admiration at these people’s spirit… 
Unfortunately, this spirit does not relieve them from the problems of poverty; having said that it does give them the courage to face it. Perhaps, faced with such insurmountable odds, this is a natural and expected defense mechanism of the human mind. I dont know; but I cannot help but feel a wonder at their spirit and infinite sadness at their plight… and in this moment, I sometimes (not often, to be frank) ask God to allow me to contribute in whatever way I can to alleviate the problem!
And then the moment passes; I am back to realities of life; to the meeting with my team; or with my boss; or my monthly target; or the business plan that needs to be submitted next week; or the…. the moment has passed, and life goes on. Such is life, folks… such is life…
Hope at least one person appreciates this; it is written from my heart. The first time I have shared such internal thoughts…

India: and the USA… A complicated relationship…

Published March 5, 2013 by vishalvkale

There is an established history of trade between our 2 countries; even on the military side. There has been a turnaround in the relationship from 2000, with the initiatives by the Clinton administration. There have been agreements on agriculture, education, health, space exploration, energy. The US is one of India’s largest trading partners. Exports to USA have risen faster than to  almost any other nation. Between 2002 and 2009, US exports to India increased from $4.1 Billion to $16.4 Billion. Services Exports to India have gone up from $3.2 Billion to $ 9.9 Billion. India is the US 12th-largest trading partner. India has also sourced a good deal of defence technology from the USA – something that was not possible just 2 decades ago. 
But the positive points- and the direction – does not negate India’s doubts in other areas; and until the Pakistan imbroglio remains, I personally do not think this relationship will go too far forward. Sure, we will – and should – remain major trading partners; but a strategic alignment is just out of the question. There are major political differences on the Nuclear Liability Law, US dependence on and propping up of Pakistan, lack of sufficient cooperation on vital strategic and security issues, and Iran. India is a very proud nation – whether or not you like it – you are stuck with that reality. It will never be anyone’s tool; this chronic independence and refusal to toe anyone’s line is a reality, and is another thorn in the relation. Dont expect it to change anytime soon .And the USA seemingly just cannot accept that reality. That is leading to the relationship entering a stalemate… which is very sad for both countries. And as far as people-to-people contacts are concerned, while there is nothing so much to worry about as of yet, but the trend – wherein every major US gaffe and anti-India statement or strategy is highlighted by the Media, US portrayal in Indian thrillers, increasing revelation of US ugly past through some landmark recent books and the recent internet revolution are massive downward pressures. 
The Historical and Individual Perspective: 
Yes, it is true that a large number of Indian citizens aspire to – and do migrate to the USA. But please do remember that we are a nation of 1.25 Billion and counting. These people (the ones who migrate) dont represent the majority. The illiterate couldnt care less. And the educated – they couldnt care less either. Sure, they will read up with interest any US related news, follow the US politics, but they dont care overmuch – and neither do they harbour any driving ambition to migrate to the USA. In fact, an increasing number of professionals are targeting off-beat locations like Africa, and even China in some cases. I dont profess to know the reason for this dichotomous behaviour; but I suspect that there are various reasons for it; like business professionals will state they follow US news as it impacts the economy and so on and so forth. 
Be that as it may, personally, or on a national political level, the USA is just not trusted. There are several powerful reasons for it: and trust me the large majority of educated Indians have not forgotten these reasons.And the same is the situation in the political class. No one trusts the USA in India. 
·        Primary Reason? Pakistan. End of Story. The USA has been building up Pakistan with weapons since at least 1954; and those weapons are used to spill Indian blood. They have been used in 3 wars (the first did not have US weapons I think); and also in the terrorist attacks on India, Evidence of this has been repeatedly given to the USA; to no avail. Till date – 4th March 2013 – this continues unabated. Without USA, chances are a lot less blood would have been spilt. 
·        Second Reason: Pakistan again. Circa 1971. India – Pakistan war. The USA sent its fleet in support of Pakistan – despite the genocide it had carried out in Bangladesh, and despite India facing the brunt of the problem. 
·        Third Reason: Denial of technology to build steel plants in late 50s. (Of course, you can build warships and tanks in a steel plant. Silly me.) Plant technology was given by Russia. Little wonder we were pro-USSR.
·        Fourth Reason: Nuclear imbroglio 1998, with sanctions on our tests – forgetting the simple fact that we are the only nation on Planet Earth sitting beside 2 Nuclear armed neighbours. If anyone needs a deterrent, it is us. It was a known fact that Pakistan had weapons – built with Chinese help and US “looking the other way. Then there is the entire NPT pressure: we are probably one of the few nations with a clean record, and yet pressurise us? Any way, no arguments. No Government in India can sign the NPT and survive. Simple truth. 
·        Fifth Reason: Denial of solid state fuel technology for our rockets. We still reached the Moon, and are now launching a Mars Probe, 
·        Sixth Reason: Pakistan again. The real support – Arms, Money, all support is to Pakistan – till date 4th March 2013. We get only symbolic gestures. 
·        Seventh Reason: Alia Caldwell’s answer. 
No, we dont hate you guys; but please dont ask us to trust your Government. We dont, and we never will. All the points above (except the steel plant bit) has been widely reported; all are well known in India. I have just given one unknown reason; trust me there are several more such delightful examples from 1935 to 2013. Like, for example, drawing back at the last moment from supporting us in our Freedom Struggle circa 30s and early 40s;  or the even more infamous decision to not include India in the Atlantic Charter. (India had no right to freedom, hey?) These reasons are not known to the population (and many, many more); but most of the intelligentsia, the political class and a good number of the educated classes are aware. And they definitely dont like any of them…
And in conclusion, such absolutely wonderful remarks as given below did not help too much, either:
John Foster Dulles: Neutrality between Good and Evil is Evil itself… on our policy of Non-Alignment and refusal to get caught up in taking sides. (Switzerland in World War 2 was evil, by those standards… but no one said it then. Why?)

President Harry Truman: I thought India was pretty jammed with poor people, and cows around streets,witch doctors and people sitting on hot coals and bathing in the Ganges…. but I did not think anybody thought it as important
With such awesome views being aired, what do you expect? 
BTW, 60 years later (give or take a few) this nation – with, aah, what was it – “people walking on coals, witch doctors etc etc” – is being sought after by the very same US of A for arms deals, business etc…
If you guys think these facts are lost on us…
Think Again! 
The sad part is, if any two nations deserve to be together as strategic partners, it is India and USA, given that both are massive democracies. And yet, in 5 short years, public sentiment as well as political will has waned driven by US support to Pakistan on every issue combined with differences on any number of other issues; as well as some utterances of the – shall we say – interesting kind. This is a continuing trend; the latest was only a few days back when a gentlemen said India was causing trouble for Pakistan in Afghanistan. This gentlemen is a very  senior person in your Government-  and believe me it was headline news in India – every newspaper and TV channel screamed it as breaking news. Every arms deal with Pakistan, every support to Pakistan is driven home to Indian minds on the Media – repeatedly, day in and day out. This is driving a wedge into the Indian mind, and turning the sentiment against the USA. Every US gaffe, (Iraq, Iran, Nuclear Liability Bill problems, etc etc  ) is reported by the media- and lapped up by the public.A latest series of terror thrillers places the USA firmly as a rogue, supplying the arms to Pakistan. I could go on and on…
The clock is ticking; And public opinion, driven by incessant hammering on negative points from all sources, is changing. Let us hope that the USA can show some respect to Indian views. All that is required is to stop supporting Pakistan – we are an emotional people; trust me – with that one step – all will be forgotten. But I dont see that happening… In the meantime, Indian policy moves on, befriending France, Israel, The East… leaving USA high and dry. Witness the Arms Deal. Or Witness the Nuclear deal with France…
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This does not mean that we dont share a strong relationship on the political level as we have seen above; we do – but it is a complicated relationship. There is a strong feeling towards increasing relations on both sides; what I mean is that the relationship is a bit complicated: and the complications are all on the US side. Dont expect us to understand your support for Pakistan; we cant – and we most likely never will understand. 
In fact a glance at the historical perspective throws up a very interesting parallel: in the 50s, we were desperately hunting for steel technology; USA categorically refused to transfer the technology to us. It was sending us surplus wheat it had as we were deficient; but no technology transfer. Cut to today – and we have a similar situation: Cryogenic technology transfer has been consistently denied to us; while the Nuclear Deal went through. The latter meant moolah for the USA – but the former could not provide as much moolah. So it was rendered a blocked item. This is a lesson to all Indians: something that our political class seem to have realised; they are making all the right noises about Indo-US strategic partnership while allocating the substance to the French and the Israelis among others. This is a trust deficit – and it is rooted in US dealings with India. Nothing has changed in the past 60+ years, as the above example shows. And it is a lesson that seems to have eluded the USA and its experts… you dont treat a proud nation this way. And whether you like it or not, pride is a very important matter in Indian Society – and hence in Indian politics. 
How long do you think it will be before a largely negative image of USA emerges in Indian minds when they are being bombarded by rhetoric from all sides? The negative news far outweighs the positive in both decibel as well as sheer volume. As it is, surveys which show a majority of Indians view USA in a positive light are being questioned online in news and in blogs. And that is why I state – A Complicated Relationship…
References: Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor

Formation of the Indian National Congress, 1885

Published March 2, 2013 by vishalvkale

The Indian National Congress was founded at the behest of Allan Octavian Hume in 1885…

The Congress was supposedly created as a safety valve to let off steam and protect the empire. The proof of this was in 7 secret volumes that came to AO Hume’s attention in 1878; these convinced him of the seething discontent and the possibility of violence against the British.

But…

In 1878, AO Hume was the secretary to the department of revenue, Agriculture and Commerce! How would he have got access to such secret reports? These “reports” were first brought to public attention by William Wederburn; he writes that a warning came to Hume from the leaders among those devoted to a very religious life. Thus, the evidence of the 7 volumes were prepared by chelas of these Gurus. The books of Madame Blavatsky, Viceroys Ripon and Duffering, we discover that these gurus were supposed to possess supernatural powers!

I am associated with men, who though never seen by the masses, are yet reverenced by them as Gods… and who feel every pulse of public feeling – AO Hume to Viceroy Ripon, December 1883!

As regards the Congress being formed as a social entity: “At his last interview he told me that he and his friends were going to assemble a political convention of delegates, as far as I understood, on the lines adopted by O’Connell previous to Catholic Emancipation… ” Dufferin to Reay, Governor of Mumbai, May 1885!

Further, how can a National Level Organisation arise out of nothing? This question has not been attended to in the written and commonly understood version of History. We move from 1857 straight to 1885 without accounting for the intervening years. How is it that till 1885 May, there was no political movement of any kind – and lo and behold, by December 1885 we had a national political organisation? This is one question that needs attending to if we are to understand the complete history of the INC.

From this, it can be surmised that the formation of the congress is not such a simple affair; there was a lot that remained hidden..,

The reality was that the Congress was not formed as a sudden event out of the blue; it was the culmination of a series of events that started in the 1860s. The years from 1860s to 1870s saw a slow transformation from localised interests to a slow national awakening. The developments were there for all to see: Indian Association, 1876 (Banerjea and Bose), Madras Mahajan Sabha, 1884 (Iyer, Viraraghavavachariar, Charlu), Bombay Presidency Association, 1885 (Telang, Mehta), Poona Sarvajanik Sabha etc came into existance. The nationalist newspapers had also started around this time: The Hindu, Tribune, Bengalee, Mahratta, Kesari, Amrita Bazaar patrika.

By 1885, the need for a national organisation was being recognised by everyone. The Indian Mirror of Calcutta was already carrying a contnuous campaign on this. The Indian Association had already organised an All India National Conference in 1883, and given a call for another one in 1885.

The hard-core evidence in support of this is present in front of everyone’s eyes: P Ananda Charlu, founder of The Hindu and Madras Mahajan Sabha, was one of the founding fathers of the Congress!  He became the president of the congress in 1891. Mahadeo Govind Ranade (immortalised by the TV serial Uncha Mazaa Zhokaa, one of the founders of the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha was another founder member in the congress.

One of the Congress objectives was the eradication… of all race, creed or provincial prejudices amongst all lovers of our country” – WC Bonnerjea, First President of the Congress

As to AO Hume, courageous leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Mahadeo Govind Ranade and Surendranath Bannerjea cooperated with Hume to lessen official suspicion. WIth the Brits seemingly in control, the threat of a clampdown was much lesser. The brutality of 1857 was far too fresh in Indian minds as at this juncture.\

The clincher:

No Indian could have started The Congress; If an Indian had come forward… the officials would not have allowed it to come into existence – Gopal Krishna Gokhale…

QED…

The above contains excerpts from India’s Struggle For Independence written by Bipin Chandra, Mrudula mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, Sucheta Mahajan and KN Panikkar. I shall be reviewing this book on this site, for those who are interested…

The illusion of Growth since 1991…

Published March 1, 2013 by vishalvkale

The question asked by AAP and Arvind Kejriwal deals with the devolution of power to the bottom of the pyramid…  why is he advocating this? Especially when India is growing great guns right now? In this concluding section on AAP policies, let us go into the backdrop and try and understand. I shall also attempt an alternative solution and its analysis, although in very short. I welcome any suggestions as to alternatives that I could not think of…
Please remember – India resides more in its villages than in towns and cities; when we talk of development, you have to look at the entire picture – that is what determines sustainability… Urban India, it is high time you woke up to this reality…
Backdrop of the question
Before I answer this question, It becomes necessary to understand the real problems facing India. It is important that we undestand from what realities is this question emanating: We have, since 1991, been growing at an average of 7-9% on GDP terms. Our Per Capita Income has increased; our exports have increased; the value of brand India has gone up; sectoral competitiveness of Infotech/Space/Pharmaceutical Generics/Automobiles/Telecommunications have increased to global standards (to name a few sectors) – judging from exports, or from Indian companies expanding abroad, or from Indigenous designs capturing world attention being adapted for international use; The BPL numbers suggest a trend of increasing prosperity in the underprivileged; The stock markets have deepened; Dollar reserves have gone up by a huge amount…. in short, we are experiencing an economic boom, recent recessionary trends notwithstanding.
This sounds great, doesnt it? Makes your heart swell with pride to read this heady stuff. Look around you: you will find examples of economic success everywhere – in professionals, in entrepreneurs, in the consumer goods in homes and shops, in the variety on display. These are all visible and tangible results of our economic progress…
Well, I strongly suggest that all of you park that misplaced pride somewhere for the time being. There is another side to the coin: one that is extremely worrisome, and points to impending disaster. . The per capita income of the bottom 20% of India’s population has not changed (as a percentage share) since 1978. That means, the bottom 20% of our population has not benefited at all from our economic boom. This is also confirmed by consumption patterns: with the consumption by the bottom 20% of the population being static @ between 0 – 1 growth%, in complete variance with the 3% growth registered by the top layers. While in the 1990s, India’s Gini Coefficient was 0.32, it has now gone up to 0.38. The top 10% now make 12 time the bottom 10% – as opposed to 6 times in the 1990s.
As per http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?278843
But looking at contemporary India from another angle, one could equally tell the following—more critical and more censorious—story: “The progress of living standards for common people, as opposed to a favoured minority, has been dreadfully slow—so slow that India’s social indicators are still abysmal.” For instance, according to World Bank data, only five countries outside Africa (Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Yemen) have a lower “youth female literacy rate” than India (World Development Indicators 2011, online). To take some other examples, only four countries (Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar and Pakistan) do worse than India in child mortality rate; only three have lower levels of “access to improved sanitation” (Bolivia, Cambodia and Haiti); and none (anywhere—not even in Africa) have a higher proportion of underweight children. Almost any composite index of these and related indicators of health, education and nutrition would place India very close to the bottom in a ranking of all countries outside Africa.”
And the numbers are not too different if you consider even the bottom 40%… think about that! BPL numbers do not mean we have pulled people out of poverty!
Are these numbers indicative of an economic boom? Dont these sections of our society have the right to participate in the growth? What nonsense are we talking about? Gender Equality, Primary Schooling, Life Expectancy, Infant Mortality, Nutrition, Literacy are all basic indices that indicate quality of life and governance. We look at economic indices and worry… perhaps it is high time that we looked at these basic indices – for the very simple economic reason that a healthy, literate, Well-schooled and taken care of population will be more productive.
What is the quality of governance that we are giving our people? More to the point, how sustainable is our model of growth if the basic needs of the majority of the population are not addressed? This is indicative of a deeper problem within us: unless the changes initiated in the past 20 years are not drilled till the grass-roots levels, the figures are not going to be very different. We are creating an urban rural divide within us wherein the rural population will lag behind. And unless literacy levels go up & mortality goes down you cannot expect productivity to significantly improve
The Problem
First read The Mahatma (bear with me, this is extremely relevant): I came reluctantly to the conclusion that the British connection had made India more helpless than she ever was before, politically and economically.. . . Before the British advent, India spun and wove in her millions of cottages just the supplement she needed for adding to her meager agricultural resources. This cottage industry, so vital for India’s existence, has been ruined by incredibly heartless and inhuman processes as described by English witnesses. Little do town dwellers know how the semi-starved masses of India are slowly sinking to lifelessness. Little do they know that their miserable comfort represents the brokerage they get for the work they do for the foreign exploiter, that the profits and the brokerage are sucked from the masses. Little do they realize that the Government established by law in British India is carried on for this exploitation of the masses. No sophistry, no jugglery in figures can explain away the evidence that the skeletons in many villages present to the naked eye.
    I have no doubt whatsoever that both England and the town dwellers of India will have to answer, if there is a God above, for this crime against humanity which is perhaps unequalled in history
Substitute British Empire for the GOI, and these words still hold true in every letter, word and in spirit. And let me place this on record: the current trend is a sure-fire recipe for unmitigated disaster. Disaster in staring us in the face – if the numbers quoted above are anywhere near accurate. The current trend will only heighten anti-government stances, increase disaffection with the centre (perhaps even the state), fuel militant anger and create a divide that will be the cause of downfall. We dont have a choice about this: not anymore. Governance has to improve.
The problems can be identified as:
  1. Absent or inappropriate Health Services in Rural India
  2. Lack of even basic educational facilities in Rural India
  3. Leakage in funds allocation to the priority sector and villages
  4. Lack of even basic amenities in certain villages
  5. Resultant continuing Urban Migration
  6. Severe shortage of needed infrastructure in the hinterland
  7. Very low knowledge transfer from universities to Rural farmers, entrepreneurs etc; this has nothing to do with the internet: here I am talking about upgrading farmers with latest techniques; awareness of opportunities that arise with economic growth; awareness of technological developments that can be used to generate business etc
I could go on, but these will suffice.
Solutions


Now look at the problems in the backdrop outlined above. The central – state approach has failed to deliver results, What changes can be brought in to make it more responsive? Even a cursory glance at a newspaper will tell you that the entire system is top-driven, with deep systemic malaise. Changing that requires changing just about everyone in the entire political spectrum and top bureaucracy; even that will not have a total impact, as the middle and lower segments – the people who actually implement the programmes designed in the central and state capitals – are also taking a part of the pie home. Further, the government’s latest solution: The Direct Cash Transfer Scheme will not precisely zero impact on any of the problems given above. How will that ensure that doctors turn up at PHC’s, medicines reach on time, agricultural innovations reach the farmer, the teachers turn up to teach – and are good at teaching? It wont. Therein lies the rub. I respectfully submit that anyone who thinks that real change in the HDI factors can be brought about by current methods – or any refinements – is totally off the mark.

At the same time,one cannot ignore the pitfalls along the path of total devolution of power to the people – the chances of anarchy, as most other answerers have been quick to point out, are there, The only solution is limited devolution: to ensure implementation of programnmes, make the bureaucracy truly accountable to the people, Increase the power the Gram Sabhas -and other local self governments – and give them the power to take action against the primary school teachers, agricultural researchers, PHC doctors and medical staff, anganwadi staff, central program scheme implentors, PDS staff – all those people who come in daily contact with the people. Let the decision making reside in the centrel and the states; but put in place a system that says if a majority of the people want “x” to be implemented, then it will have to do be done. Place restrictions on what such decisions can be – allow only intervention from the people in the primary areas, like education etc. That is, local issues. Issues extending beyond a village or a tehsil, cannot be devolved.
In place of central and state schemes, place the money directly in the people’ hands: the Gram Sabha; let them decide on how to use the money. Since decision will be taken based on majority votes from the people, there is little chance of skullduggery. And before you start objecting – this is precisely how Kerala does it. 40% of funds are decided by the Gram Sabhas. And look at its HDI numbers! This is not a communist viewpoint – I am talking pure economic sense. I am just advocating a limited devolution of powers to the people to ensure targeted schemes and proper implentation. I am not advocating touching the capitalist framework; just a modification that ensures implementation. If the people can do something about lack of implementation, it stands to reason that fear of a loss of salary and job will propel an increase in effectivity as well as help control corruption.
Hence, to answer your question – yes, limited devolution is the only answer…
Just take a look at these very same parameters for any of our competing nations- from China to Brazil, and from Russia to Turkey. Remember: The Demographic dividend we have can turn into a demographic disaster if we dont give attention to it. It is high time we realised that India resides in the villages; Cities and Towns are still in the minority.
And in conclusion, read Nandan Nilekani  – Imagining India – Ideas For The 21st Century. For those not too keen on reading, I shall be reviewing the book on my blog @Reflections.
The green revolution, the white revolution and the IT revolution have, to a greaty extent, passed them by. The politics of revenge has obscured development. 


The challange now is that many voters, or rather interest groups within our electorate, view the solution to such inequalities as the problem. The policies that would address our inequalities and emancipate our farmers, our illiterate and our rural poor are precisely the ones that are now politically volatile and locked in debate… without these reforms in place, we will again have a system that promotes the sharing of elite power…. as before, the elite will close themselves in… and the others out”  – Nandan Nilekani

And read this: http://agbssem1.webs.com/Business%20Economics/HUMAN%20DEVELOPMENT%20INDEX%20final%201%20Compatibility%20Mode.pdf
Wake up, India…
As I always say in such posts…
Jaago, Sonewaalon!
or rather, this time, it is rural India that is calling out to us:
Jaago, Sonewaalon – Suno Meri Kahaani!