Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Indian “renaissance” fiction

By Sukrit Sabhlok - posted Wednesday, 19 July 2006


The recent news that co-ordinated bomb blasts have ripped through Mumbai is no more than can be expected in a country governed by the incompetent. While the gravity of the attack is certainly shocking, no one should be surprised that it occurred. That’s because India’s government has always found it difficult to guarantee law and order.

Not just an issue in Kashmir, insurgency remains a problem throughout the lesser known states - such as Assam and Meghalaya - in the northeastern region near China. The perception that India is struggling to provide security might be a far cry from the “India Shining” tourism advertisements promoted by the government, yet 150 of India’s 600 districts experience Naxalite violence.

Travelling by train is an unforgettable, and uniquely Indian, experience. Sadly, it is also a risky one. Quite apart from the threat of terrorist attacks however, incidences of rapes, murders, and robberies are also relatively frequent occurrences within the train system. Unfortunately, that’s not surprising either.

Advertisement

Part of the problem lies in policies that divide, rather than unite. Affirmative action policies for the backward castes were at one time designed to be a temporary measure. But as economist Milton Friedman once said, “There is nothing more permanent than a temporary government program”.

Rather than being reversed, as one might expect in a so-called “tiger” economy, politicians are considering extending reservations based on background. Predictably, quotas on entry to higher education have caused tension among those who argue for merit based programs. The Anti-Reservation demonstrations this year showed that beyond a certain point, affirmative action becomes counterproductive because of the resentment it creates.

The Indian “renaissance” is itself, of course, a product of fiction. Yes, economic performance has contributed to a growing middle-class. However the majority of people continue to struggle against corruption and mismanagement. Those in poorer rural areas have no opportunity to prosper given the pathetic state of infrastructure. Perhaps fed up with bribing local authorities for even the smallest service, a common goal among Indians appears to be the sending of their children to study abroad.

Questions have also arisen over India’s democratic nature. Writing in the journal Freedom First (April-June 2006), Firoze Hirjikaka asks whether India fits under Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy as “government of the people, for the people, by the people”. While voting ensures a government “by” the people, the nexus between politicians and criminals does not in any way reflect the decent, hard-working people of India. So can Indian governments be governments “of” and “for” the people?

I doubt it. Far too many politicians are former criminals who have become cabinet members to enjoy the benefits of public life. Poorly constructed electoral laws are primarily to blame. As salaries for MPs remain pitifully low, so too does the calibre of people attracted to politics.

Socialist policies since independence in 1947 have led to an entirely avoidable situation where 250 million people live at, or close to, the poverty line of $US1 a day. It would not be an exaggeration therefore, to describe India as a predatory state: a kleptocracy, feeding off its own people.

Advertisement

It’s something reflected in the culture that promotes politicians to “god-like” status. Travel in metropolitan India by road for any significant period of time and you will encounter nightmarish traffic jams, often brought about each time a VIP decides to play golf. Can we seriously expect behaviour such as this to not cause tension?

Whatever terrorist group is held responsible for these despicable acts, violence will continue as long as authorities gloss over simmering resentment from their own policies.

But Indians are used to living with fear, and the terrorist attacks will no doubt be taken on the chin. This same admirable trait, which allows adaptation within a perverse regulatory environment, will guide Mumbai through this tragedy.

For this reason however, no violence in India should be surprising. When people are pushed to the limit by a government that does not care, the results are predictable.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

2 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Sukrit Sabhlok is a Young Voices Advocate and Masters in Politics candidate at Monash University in Melbourne.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Sukrit Sabhlok

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 2 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy