What India should be doing?

A recent survey that puts the new Indian billionaires in India at 311 persons. I don’t know how this is figure is arrived at. But assuming this figure comprises the new IT and BT(biotech) billionaries like Narayanamurthy of Infosys, Azim Premji of Wipro and Ms.Kiron Majumdar of Biocon, the biotech industry’s new star. Then there are the old industry names like the Birlas and others. There are everyday news items and analyses about how the economic boom,as measured by the stock market indices rising and crossing the many new heights.A latest such report puts Wipro as the largest company in India, at Rs. 29,585 crores in terms of market capitalisation, the second company is Reliance(Rs.27,321 crores) and the third is Tatas (Rs.19,807 crores) and so on. Among the new companies to edge out the old big businesses, are the technological companies like Bharti telecom which is now in the top ten league among the Indian companies.

Anyway, the new number of billionaires’ collective net wealth is put at Rs.3.64 trillion. What is much more striking news is that this net wealth of the Indian billionaires is growing at the incredible rate of 71 per cent from last year! Last year it was a mere Rs.2.13 trillion. So, this new wealth club has added another 133 persons in just one year time! A year ago, they were mere millionaires. What this type of surveys routinely do or fail to do is the fact these rich are contrasted with the poor. There is a rising middle class ,16.4 million urban and15.6 million rural middle classes, that propel the rich and also contributes to much of the social transformation that impacts the poor, both the rural and urban poor for positive benefits, be it access to education, health and in employment opportunities. As a senior government official is quoted to have said(in Friedman’s book)”where people have hope you have the middlclass”. And also as rightly said by Friendman,” stable middle classes around the world is crucial to geopolitical stability, middle classes is a state of mind, not a state income”. The vast majority of Americans always describe themselves as middle class, even though their incomes often don’t tally with their claim for middle class status.

When the middle and upper classes are taking off, as in India today, there are also the fact that 700 million are left behind in poverty. There is a dark corner in every new country, India, China and Africa and Latin America. HIV/AIDS and many other deadly vaccine-preventable diseases are likely to kill more people in the current state of globalisation we are witnessing. It is a fact that the India’s IT sector employs only 0.2 per cent of people seeking employment or social mobility. So, there is an anti-globalisation movement as there is a strong globalisers in all governments, as in India.

The fall of Soviet Union had brought America into the open world as the sole superpower, and today thanks to globalisation, there is more local awareness everywhere, in all countries, and as a result there is a clamor for more openness and more opportunities for a variety of needs of poor people fulfilled. Today, that is within the last 10 years there has been a phenomenal change in the purchasing power of the Indian people. Indians will now buy over a million cars in 2005.In China, the changes are more dramatic. In Beijing alone, in 2003 1,117 cars are added everyday! The total number of cars in Beijing at that time was 2.1 million! The point is that with all inequalities, inequities, the old poor societies are changing faster today than ever in their history!

This is a typical current dominant mindset in India, a mindset that is distorted by the Leftist trade unions, leftist politics and also by the highly tabloid-type media, given to sensationalisation of current emerging economic realities.
No doubt, that is why the much traveled, much knowledgeable New York Times Correspondent and international observer par excellence, Tomas Friedman( the author of the latest best seller ” The World is Flat, A brief history of the globalized world in the 21st century”) says so openly that poverty had been eliminated in India and China for the first time in history in the last 20 years. Such a blunt and even an American style bland statement is much needed in today’s world. We are living in a world which is witnessing, in a positive way, an unprecedented economic growth everywhere in the developed countries and there is a sudden growth in economic wealth in most countries.

What is new or the current globalisation is the unexpected development that there has been much local empowerment of the small startups, the new micro multinations, as Friedman calls them. In Bangalore alone we have this new phenomenon of startups popping out from every nook and corner, almost jostling for space side by side the giants like IBM, Microsoft, Dell and who else you have in the already crowded space of Bangalore.

While India is changing, changing for the better, there is no place for rest while the rest of the world outside is seething with terrorist threats, violent resistance to occupied forces as in Iraq and when America itself is desperate to find a honorable exit. And terrorism itself is not abating, rather it is on the rise and new countries are brought into the radr of American supervision and the new countries can give rise to new challenges. Nuclear proliferation, along with the dangers of new nuclear powers, as Iran, can give rise to new uncertainty to the international community.

Eric Hobsbawm concludes his survey of the end of Communism in these following words: “We do not know where we are going ‘We only know that history has brought us to this point. However, if humanity is to have a recognisable future, it cannot be by prolonging the past or the present. If we try to build the third millennium, on that basis we shall fail. And the price of failure, that is to say, the alternative to a changed society, is darkness” (The Age of Extremes, page 584). I thought the historians will give us some guide to the future. But they don’t give. Then who else give a roadmap to the future? Economists? Not likely at all. As Eric Hibsbawam himself had noted in another place of the book, there is no guarantee that great economists, great economic schools, as existed in Vienna, before the Second World War or even in Scandinavia or for that matter now in the USA, have any clue how the societies and economies grow and prosper.

Certainly, Japan and South Korea didn’t have economists of any reputation, known outside its shores, Yet, these two countries beat in economic prosperity, unlike the most sophisticated economists in the West and yet their countries not distinguish themselves on comparative scale. This is more striking in the case of India. India’s IT revolution no one predicted, not the government economists or planners. Why, even the downfall and disintegration of Communism was not predicted by any economists or Marxists!

Globalisation and international terrorism We in India has to address the issues of the larger world in our day to day governance. India cant stand alone and prosper!

We should do everything in our powers, here our powers are enormous to spread and safeguard democracy in our neighborhood.

India, on the contrary, has a clean slate to start on a voyage of exciting discovery of new peace initiatives. Let us hear more and more new articulations for a new foreign policy that would enhance India’s image and also create a new international perspective. Surely, the US foreign policy is not good for an international community that yearns for a reasonable peace. That peace can come along only when we know our immediate past well and draw lessons for the current needs. The new century cant repeat the same mistakes that made the last century one of the bloodiest

in human history. The new century gives lots of technological tools to do good and prevent the foolish adventures. One hopes Bush in his second term, learns some useful lessons. Let us hope the international community, at least among those aspiring for a place on the Security Council, come up with new inputs for a revamped UN body that becomes the rallying point for international consensus.

– V.Isvarmurti

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