Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Misgivings of a midway child

Having been born in the year of release of The Midnight's Children,I fall in the age cohort of midway children a term used to by Rama Bijapurkar in her book on the Indian consumer market titled 'We are like that only'.

Two decades have elapsed since Dr Manmohan Singh,the then finance minister,concluded his speech in the parliament quoting the words of Victor Hugo that "No force on earth could stop an idea whose time has come" signalling the country's integration into the free market economy. Much ice has melted from the Himalayan glaciers since then(much more than it did in the previous decade,thanks to Global warming) and flooded the north Indian rivers.

As the heretic movement born in the Mecca of free market economy that pledges to occupy the wall street gathers followers and spreads to all the nations that share the same religious credentials, let us review the trends in the society after our nation did convert to this creed.Some of them are the direct offshoots of the economic policy, others though not related to economic policy are the trends in the society that do not augur well for a nation that generates lot of hope.

The two Indias:That the country is increasingly being divided into(in addition to the usual billion divisions) Bharat( rural,extremely poor, poorer than sub Saharan Africa,hungry,deprived) while India is shining,growing with 8% growth rates,reaping the dividends of the reforms growing increasingly confident,harbouring desires of becoming a super power is an established cliché now.With glaring inequalities in economic distribution the genie of reforms unleashed two decades ago,that miraculously brought about astonishing growth rates for an economy accustomed to the hindu rate of growth,has failed to reduce the Gini coefficient*.

The immediate interests of the two Indias are never more divergent than when it comes to procuring the agricultural land for various development needs that a growing nation requires. Archaic land acquisition laws of the colonial era often results in popular upsurge that the opportunistic politicians never miss to exploit.

Maoist insurgency:From Tirupati in Andhra pradesh to Pashupati(nath) in Nepal* along the ancient Dandakaranya a red curtain has descended across the subcontinent.Prime minister himself acknowledged that " in many ways, left-wing extremism poses perhaps the gravest internal security threat our country faces." discrimination of the indigenous people in the forested districts by the state machinery helped the cause of maoists who often receive the support of the local people.

Insensitive media: Media, owned and controlled by the rich that forced upon the people with renewed enthusiasm.The rural India is in a state of distress more than the media wants to us realize.It required a supreme court judge to remind us that 512 journalists were invited to cover a fashion show, when a mere 2 journalists reported the Vidharbha suicides.*

Increase in the female foeticide among the educated:Though the availability of cheap technology for the determination of sex and the insecurity of raising a female child may be the reasons,the growing demand for dowry in an increasingly consumerist society can not be ignored.

May be it is too early to draw conclusions, when the country finally looks poised,but a doubt arises whether capitalism based on the faith on individual's greed (aided by the increasingly affluent middle class) help the nation pull the bottom millions out of abject poverty.

Can India exploit the once-in-an-eon opportunity before its current generation in the form of demographic dividend to its advantage to grow into an economic power without much income disparities,ensuring food security to its teeming billions and without negatively impacting the ecology of the planet.


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