Two decades of economic reforms unleashed the idle potential of many Indians, who owing to the tainted socialism, could hardly rise above the status quo, defined by the British domination over India for more than two centuries. 1991 paved the way for the systematic, yet insufficient, rise of a new wave of Indian entrepreneurs. The initial inhibition to embrace something they were sceptical towards was shunned by the few daring success stories that played the inspirational tune to make others tread the path of courage and innovation.
Frugality had always been embedded deep in culture, because of our innate desire for big things at small prices. Thankfully, our business houses, both big and small, realized that sooner or later. Fast forward to the 2000s, the success stories of India Inc. need no deep research. We are the home to the world’s cheapest car, world’s cheapest tablet (which by the way Steve Jobs would have been surprised to see), world’s cheapest call rates, world’s cheapest mobile phones and not to forget, world’s cheapest life. Britons divided our nation into India and Pakistan. We have divided it further into urban and rural, into poor and rich. While the urban India is rising at an envious pace of around 8%, it is the rural India that had a lacklustre performance, thanks to our desperation to see India rising in terms of numbers, defined in the institutions of west to determine the status and strength of a nation. The quality of rise has been awful, so has been the inclusiveness. Though, it is true that rural India has now started picking itself up from the lowest ebb, they have an exceptionally long journey to tread before they can reach an acceptable level of dignified life. Of these, BIMARU states of India- Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have been the worst sufferers. The Planning Commission, formed with the vision of Nehruvian Socialism, has failed to cater effectively to the rural population, the place where it was needed the most. Add to that, reluctance of Indian states to accept the supremacy of Planning Commission on the subjects enlisted in the state list. The much criticized report of Tendulkar committee further added to the woes, which assumed that poor only needed food to survive and that services like education, health et al would be provided by the government for free. The result is unambiguously clear and simple; we have failed collectively as a nationalist society. For the rural and the uneducated, only the occupants in the secretariat buildings have changed not the pervasive attitude and elitist policies. Crony capitalism has worsened the condition by increasing the black money supply in the market, leading to inflation, thus directly affecting the most vulnerable. Much preached spill over and trickle down effects have failed to take off. The result is, in comparative terms, the life of Indian poor has drastically been demeaned over the years. Bhopal gas tragedy still awaits justice to the thousands of poor while Mr. Anderson lives a luxurious, peaceful and retired life after he managed to escape the nation in connivance with our elected leaders. Thousands of unmarked graves in Kashmir, as claimed by the locals, the inhuman practices by the security forces in North-east and Naxal affected areas, the Rs.32 definition of poverty line, ethnic cleansing in Gujarat, killing of a party worker after he threatened to expose the corruption of his bosses- how cheap has life become in India? The question that follows is- how cheap have we become? Laying the blame squarely on our politicians is all we have been doing. We do need a self-introspection. The rich of Europe have written to the government for taxing them more, what about the Indian rich? Well, the Indian rich do help setting up stalls and bhandaras at popular fasts, but beyond that they grease the palm of politicians to find their way through. The rising middle class fails to find resonance with the people who take genuine causes of the poor, suppressed and downtrodden. Instead, we happily glue ourselves to television sets airing extravagant protests, propagated by the media and embraced by us. Constitutional amendments won’t succeed much in bringing the change we need, for there are enough laws already, if effectively implemented, to achieve the desired. What we need to change is our mindset, our political will and our indifference to the real problems. The genuine claims of India shining with the aam aadmi still have a very long way to go, if at all we chose to walk that way.