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…to open this discussion, a disclaimer.

This opinion is mine, formed through various conversations, reading and also first-person observations….the bulk of my first-person observation has been in Bangalore, though Hyderabad, Gurgaon/Delhi and Pune and Mumbai (to a lesser extent) also figure…

…the reason I have often heard being voiced for the sustainability of the Indian economic miracle (esp in contrast to the Chinese one) is the fact that India is finally a functioning democracy where the deprived ones have a legitimate non-violent means of effecting a regime change when desired. I have myself often cited the several changes in the ruling coterie in Delhi, all brought about by a supposedly uneducated and ill-informed population.

…12 months into a closer interaction with India, I am less convinced of this. The democracy seems to work in fits and starts. In most parts of the country, the rule of the mob prevails. Karnataka, supposedly the destination for most IT majors worldwide, rules the roost in terms of the pervasiveness of corruption. Gujarat, my favorite state and once the industrial hub of the nation, is riven by a communal divide that will take a lot of statesmanship to heal….

…even within the little conclaves that are being formed by the elite around the country, the operative term is their unsustainability. The mall-worker syndrome, as my friend Pallab most eloquently described it in a conversation, will catch up. As the humble mall-worker, often living miles away from the mall where he/she works at, usually unable to even dine at the same mall where he/she works, always unable to live the life of the nouveaux riche in their spaghetti straps and designer jeans, comes to terms with the hopelessness of his/her existence, I am dreading that he/she will snap one day….the outcome is terrifying….whether one thinks of Gurgaon or Koramangala or Phoenix Mills in Mumbai.

…the gap between the haves and the have-nots has become untenable…even amongst the haves, the gap between those enriched by IT and related services and those unable to partake of the dollar-driven wages of the IT/ITES sector is growing…the country is still blissfully celebrating the 25th year of Infosys’ existence – and not dwelling enough on the disaster waiting to happen…

…it will take a lot of political fortitude and seasoned statesmanship to stem the rot. Someone needs to call Mulayam Singh Yadav’s bluff. Someone needs to contain Narendra Modi. Someone needs to tell Deve Gowda that enough is enough, and that the time has come for true champions of the farmers to emerge. Someone needs to tell Sonia-ji that backseat driving is ok if it is a Karl Rove doing it; if the Prime Minister of the country has to start his day by paying obeisance to her, it is not acceptable or appropriate….

…I doubt whether such persons exist…will the businessmen of today take on a different hue if they get into politics – or will they change politics for the better? Rajeev Chandrashekhar of BPL is an MP, Vijay Mallya is an MP, Anil Ambani of ReliAAnce is into active politics – and yet while leveraging power for their business interests, they have done little to leverage their business savvy to improve the body politic….

…I am totally anguished by the politicization of the entire reservations business. just because Senor Arjun Singh wishes to score political points off Dr Manmohan Singh is no reason to bastardize the entire education system in the country.

It is bad enough that nearly 60 years after Indian independence, the oppressed and deprived class continue to toil in misery and hopelessness. Worse is the insouciance of the ruling classes that tends to opine that reservations (in higher education and in jobs) is the only form of affirmative action that needs to be tried out.

Why dont these people ensure basic physical safety, sanitation, and primary education, for these poor-est of the poor? I have seen classmates at the IIT that came in through the SC/ST reservation system – 90% of them did not deserve to use it since their respective fathers had used the same system before them to rise to the top rungs of their own public sector jobs! Unless this creamy layer is contained, and the realization sets in that deprivation applies to so-called forward castes as well when they live in poverty, no affirmative action program will be effective.

Most wonderful is Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav’s munificent offer to reserve seats in colleges for the so-called forward classes based on percentage of the population…

Go ahead, dilute educational brands that have been developed over the past 40+ years in a single diabolic stroke of the political pen.

While travelling in the US, almost every Pakistani I met (and there are several of them, all very nice to know, etc) had come there for under-graduate studies (since the college education system in Pakistan has totally collapsed after Bhutto successfully politicized the campuses in the 1970s). Indians seemed to typically come there for post-graduate studies.

Give the devils here in India a chance and I am sure this ratio will change – and an increasing number of even middle-class parents whose children do not get through to a premier college will start sending their offspring, and a whole boatload of foreign exchange, abroad to educate them in the US and Australia and elsewhere, and fund US and Australian universities and the education systems there.

Eventually the best faculty will be disheartened about teaching at the so-called temples of learning in India and avoid taking up employment there, in the same way that abysmal salaries and work conditions are keeping the best and brightest away from becoming school teachers.

This will be the death-knell of our much-vaunted education system. Talk of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

…and a solitary vocal voice in support…

Kaiser said…
There is no use in reserving seats in educational institutions .It would lead to dilution of standards set by these institutes. Rather the government could start strengthening the primary education system for these less privileged classes. Reserving those jobs and seats is like putting cart before the horse

It was with some anxiety that I first contemplated the idea of shifting to India from the US when it was broached about a year back.

The crowds are maddening and the traffic worse, especially in the one-time garden city of the country. Tech palaces built by the likes of Infosys and others rub shoulders with squalor and filth of a kind that is alien to those who knew of the Bangalore of the 1980s and before. An interesting study quoted in the Times of India here a few weeks back stated that Bangalore has perhaps the slowest average traffic speed in the country of about 14 or 16 kmph – the best is Hyderabad at about 24-26 kmph, a singular tribute to the previous Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and his vision for Hyderabad.

Yet Bangalore continues to grow, and grow rapidly. Companies are still expanding here despite an ongoing outcry for civic improvements. Housing prices are soaring sky high, and yet any new development is being lapped up in a hurry. Public transport is non-existent, crime is rising with pollution keeping pace and yet there is no other Indian city I would rather LIVE in than Bangalore.

The weather is still much more moderate than any of the contenders in India – Hyderabad and Pune are much hotter in summer and Chennai (and Mumbai) are both way too sultry. Crime is still lower than any city from the North, the choices of cuisine for eating out are outstanding!

The Bangalore airport must rank as one of the worst I have seen anywhere, period. The domestic departure terminal is bad; the international departure terminal is worse. And international arrivals – all one can do is to hope and pray. They have exactly ONE baggage carousel in international arrivals – and around midnight, there are jets landing from Frankfurt, Paris and Singapore, full of people and their baggage. Retrieving your bags and getting out can take anything from 30 minutes (if you are lucky) to over 2 hours.

And yet I love Bangalore and am thoroughly enjoying the move back. Now that I have been back for just over 9 months, I must confess it has been an exhilarating experience.

and the solitary comment this drew when first published…:

Aruna said…
way to go! thats the beauty of india………despite the numerous flaws its the one place u can call HOME………..is someone reading this and getting the message?!!!!!!!! ;-)))

1:27 AM

….it is my belief that open economies prosper.

I am sure history will bear me out on this. When a society or nation prospers, it attracts talent from all over. A large part of the talent infusion is of semi-skilled or unskilled persons from nearby lands coming over for a better living – a smaller but significant proportion is of inherently smart people coming over for better opportunities.

The semi-skilled and unskilled segment help meet the needs for labor for the more mundane tasks. The talented/educated lot help sustain these successful economies through the cycle of continuous innovation required to keep them at the forefront. Without this infusion of talent, one is left reliant on regurgitated ideas and thoughts and this is the death-knell of any civilization.

The English civilization from the 17th through the 20th centuries, the French civilization, the German dominance of the early 20th century, the US domination from the mid-20th century and even the ongoing emergence of China has all been characterized by the infusion of new talent into the economies. Perhaps the only significant recent boom economy that has been the exception to this rule is Japan – while they did borrow from Deming and more, and while Nissan did gain from the induction of Carlos Ghosn, there has not been the usual infusion of large numbers of expatriates into the Japanese economy.

I was reading a Goldman Sachs projection (“Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050”, 1st October 2003″) where they spoke about China and India as the leading economic powers in 2050 AD along with the US. I have a feeling the analysts have gone overboard yet again with their projections – akin to the dot-com boom era of the 1990s. There are so many flaws in the Chinese and Indian socio-economic structures yet that the jury is still out in my opinion.

Unless China and India can each demonstrate the economic freedom, social equity and access to comfort and security that has been provided by the US, Great Britain, western Europe and even Hong Kong and Singapore in their respective hey-day, they will not emerge as a magnet for top-notch talent.

The education systems need to be strengthened to not only cover the under-graduate level education but also for graduate studies. In addition, there is a need to raise the overall IQ of the colleges – the standards fall off rather dramatically after the premier institutions. Finally, can India and China ensure that the female child is not punished for her gender. The gender ratios in the two countries is already atrocious and this kind of an imbalance is unhealthy to say the least.