Wednesday, 2 August 2017

India losing its way, 70 years after independence

  • In 1960, an American writer predicted that in an unstable India no outsider will be able to say with assurance where political legitimacy resides.
  • Three years earlier, C.Rajagopalachari had predicted that “the centrifugal forces will ultimately prevail”, bringing anarchy or fascism. Older generation people, who had survived partition, mournfully surveyed the country’s future, some even hoping the British would come back.
  • Even in 1969, India relied on wheat given away by America, and a “guest control order” specified that only 50 people could be invited to parties where food was served. To travel abroad, Indians required the approval of the Reserve Bank.
  • India has not reduced poverty levels as dramatically as China. Still 250 million Indians live on less than four dollars a day, but the progress since the British left has been impressive.
  • In 1947 life expectancy was 32 years, now it is 68. The per capita income in India was $439. Now it is US $1861, an all time high and was at record low of US$ 304 in 1960.
  • In 1947 only 1,500 villages – a mere 0.025% – were electrified; now 97% of 6.41 lakh villages have electricity. After two centuries of British rule, literacy in India was only 12% of the population and now 74% are literate.
  • Every change of government since 1947 has been via the ballot box, with the army never involved - something Greece, Spain, Portugal or even France can’t claim..

As its 70th anniversary approaches, India beset with fears? 
  • The way, since Narendra Modi’s astonishing election victory in 2014, the country seems to be turning its back on the tolerant, secular society India’s founding fathers wanted. 
  • Modi has always ridden two chariots: Modi’s real business of making India prosperous; and his Hindu business of appeasing his fanatical Hindu followers.
  • Some people are confident that Modi will change India for the better, and that the Hindu business will amount to nothing.
  • Yet Modi has proved a timid reformer, whose tinkering has included an overnight demonetization that led to such chaos that many people died.
  • His Hindu followers have been given free rein. This has seen a ban on the slaughter of cows, and a growing intolerance of minorities and their lynching.
  • Today in Mumbai, there is now a form of religious apartheid in housing. A Muslim client wanted to buy a flat in a suburb but the broker said “You are a Muslim. This building is not for Muslims. Hindus only.” 
  • In some parts of Mumbai, the most vibrant city, have become so segregated that “owners say this building is for vegetarians only, so no Muslim, Christians, Jews, Parsis or even meat-eating Hindus”. Ironically 31% of Indians are vegetarian and 69% are non-vegetarian.
  • In Mumbai of the 50's and 60's, all faiths lived side by side. 

Narendra Modi: Is he India's saviour, or sectarian with blood on his hands?

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