Monday, April 08, 2019

The Decline and Fall of India

India, my motherland, is a country in terminal decline.

The pollution levels are reaching record levels, with absolutely no sign of there being any concerted effort at controlling or reversing it.  Indian's soil, water, air, its rivers, its beaches, its cities and towns, are all polluted to an absolutely alarming degree.  The non-profit NGOs and the courts are fighting a losing battle trying to clean the country up - a losing battle because the sources of the pollution are unchecked.  India generates most of its electricity from coal/thermal power.  Its industries are under little regulation for their effluent discharge.  The cities have no garbage or sewerage treatment systems to speak of.  Most of India's commercial vehicles are rickety diesel-powered fume monsters.  Of the top ten most polluted cities of the world, seven are in India.

India is the world's most densely populated country, and soon to be the most populous country.

India's governments are dysfunctional to a large degree.  Public services for education, healthcare and law enforcement are now mostly employment schemes for people working there, and offer little benefit to their customers.  Especially the police and the courts are clogged to their gills with pending disputes.  The police routinely tortures suspects, and human rights abuses by it are legion.

There is a certain level till which the inhabitants of a region want to improve their lot and seek to fix their environment.  That level is based on perceptions of lawlessness, the effort required to effect any change, and the anecdotal risks of going against a corrupt and powerful mafia.  Beyond that certain level, people just give up.  It is beyond dispute that most of India's educated and elite are either seeking a safe, privileged cocoon within India or are desperate to immigrate to a foreign country.  The cost of being safe in India is becoming prohibitive.  Everybody cannot afford private guards all the time.  As soon as you venture out on the chaotic roads, use public transport, or need to work with public servants, the chaos, danger and dysfunction hits you hard.

Each day on an average, ten people die on Mumbai's suburban train system.  I read The Tribune, a newspaper of my region (the North-West India).  Every day there are at least a dozen deaths in Punjab and Haryana on their roads, with likely hundreds suffering non-fatal injuries.

The problems have reached a scale that is probably too massive for remediation.

I believe the decline in hope, if not the decline itself, started during the regime of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.  Civil liberties were clamped down, the media became a lackey of the state, and people lost whatever little faith they had in democracy and the courts.  Since then, the situation has remained more or less the same.  There are still draconian laws comparable to the Emergency.  Numerous acts allowing the state to imprison people without a trial, harsh powers given to the police, a lack of accountability for the government, the paralyzed courts, and the corrupt industry-politician nexus continue unabated.

The wealth boom during the last decade or two has been primarily driven by multinationals using Indian middle class as their outsourced labor.  If you discount people employed, directly or indirectly, by foreign multinational corporations, and the flow of wealth from NRIs, there is not much to speak about India's increasing GDP.  The services sector is now almost two thirds of India's GDP.  Either this sector is serving foreign organizations (which I call the primary services sector), or it is serving the many layers of India's populace who are richer because of the primary services sector.  I am only too happy to be proved wrong.

Despite my best efforts, I cannot but be pessimistic about India.  Yes, there will be success stories of a few individuals, but the stories of suffering will far, far outnumber them for the foreseeable future.

And as India loses its best and its brightest, who migrate to foreign lands, there is no way it will become better managed or better planned.

The advice is often given to grumpy non-resident-Indians like me that we should come back and fix India.  The reason many don't come back, despite there being in them a sadness at this state of affairs, is because the personal cost to them is going to be too huge.  They have achieved some measure of dignity, prosperity and self-reliance for themselves and their families, and they are unwilling to be thrust again into a war-zone-like situation.  Is it still permissible for them to talk about the suffering of their motherland?  Of course.  They did not create that suffering, and they are not responsible for fixing it.  The pollution of our lands and rivers was not our doing.  We paid taxes to a government who was supposed to take care of it for us.  But in the absence of any accountability, we were looted, our homes razed to the ground.  Is it fair to ask the victims to band together and rebuild their house, while the looters are only too ready to loot them again?

If you are a reader of this blog, you are most likely privilged enough to be all right for their rest of your lives, even if you live in India.  But you are the .1%.

I am afraid for the country of my birth.  Much suffering ails it, and far more, I fear, is imminent in the next few decades.


Venkat said...

Fantastic post!

However, I would like to mention that, technically speaking Monaco is the most densely populated country in the world followed by Singapore and Vatican City. Bangladesh is more densely populated than India.

Definitely, India's over-population is the elephant in the room and has not been addressed. Overpopulation is itself linked to a number of factors, the most significant of which I believe is education and development. The less literate states have higher birth rates (take Bihar for example).

Female infanticide also plays a role. Sadly, I know of educated families where couples have had a third/fourth.fifth child only because the first two/three/four were daughters. This is mainly due to pressure from the husband and in-laws. These are broad generalizations but I am sure you can related.

Venkat said...

What are your views on the Congress and the BJP?I have read of your support to Donald J Trump so I was wondering how you see and assess Mr. Modi and his 5 years of governance. The one difference I see is that the majority of the mainstream media here is biased towards the ruling party and Mr. Modi. They are unwilling to accept any fact that shows the BJP in bad light and label everyone who questions the ruling party as an 'anti-national'.

I admire the way DJT deals with the media. Sadly, Mr. Modi has not given a single press conference in the last 5 years and speaks directly to voters through radio and television.

Given that you live and work in the United States, I would be very interested if you made a post on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections (like you did in the 2016 American elections).

SAMEEP said...

Well articulated article. Especially the comment War-Zone Like situation. It's so true for India. We are still in a primitive age of evolution. Where every body is basically fighting for the limited resources and Survival of the fittest instinct outperforms the evolved individual.