Friday, June 11, 2004


I read Thomas Friedman's article on the Indian Elections in the New York Times and thought it made a lot of sense. He was basically echoing a opinion expressed by a few Indian intellectuals right after the elections. The basic opinion is that the B.J.P did not lose because of the anti globalization sentiments of the poor. The poor are not against globalization. In fact, they want globalization to slow down so that too can have its full benefits. That is very true. The average Indian poor man, when he watches a soap or shampoo commercial is not only looking at the product, but more at the lifestyles of the people using it. Its a total package which he wants to be a part of. The same thought was expressed by Cornell University economist Kaushik Basu in his BBC column, just one day after the results were out. Now the main reason why the poor man's condition is not getting any better is because of the truly appaling corruption in local government sectors which is the real cause of all evil. In fact, even anyone of us who belongs to the middle class knows the hassles that we face in the RTO, the passport office, the local police station, and the local courts, to name a few places. An indication of how bad the situation has become comes from the fact that nowadays, most of us don't even feel a high degree of consience when we bribe the policeman who stops us at the traffic light, or the RTO officer who issues us a driving license. Its a complex cyclical system, one end of which feeds the other. So we essentially need to weed out corruption problems on the most local levels in small villages and towns, as well as cities. There can be two simple 'solutions' for doing this, already practised to a high extent in the western world. If every person who works even in the smallest village realises the part he plays in the total working of the economy, if he understands that he is a cog in the mechanism, but one that is essential in combination with other cogs to keep the economy alive and kicking, then the problem will be solved. We might as well say; if every person tries hard enough, he can win an Olympic gold medal. The problem is that not all people are motivated, and they don't even have the same 'aptitude' for getting motivated. In such a case, there is only one other quick solution. Give everyone a fair salary every month, so that at least he will work hard for the money, and more importantly may not feel the need to procure the extra income by practising corruption. Capitalism (almost) exemplified. Well, this is obviously easier said than done. Friedman rightfully notes that well educated social activists will contribute a lot in making this happen, but they are still not going to be the movers and shakers. We will need a complete revamping of the economy to achieve this. Possible with supreme efforts, but i don't see it happening in the near future. Assuming that the Government works efficiently to do this (with due interference from the Communist Party acknowledged....and assuming that we have the same government for quite some time...improbable again) I would say that it will take at least 25 years for the situation to improve to any considerable extent. I hope it happens before that. But I don't believe it will.


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