With Manmohan Singh, the liberalizer……..

Sep 10, 2020

With PM Manmohan Singh at Montek Ahluwalia’s home in the spring of 2000. He was the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha at the time. I was on my high horse at the time championing the telecom reform. Manmohan Singh was dead set against privatization of the industry at the time. I was surprised, given his liberalizer creds.
I later came to realize that he was not a liberalizer at all. He talked about inclusive growth as the PM and pushed NREGA as his main agenda. During his 10 years no liberalization happened, at least I cant recall any. And growth came crashing down. He preferred no growth to the non-inclusive growth. During Bajpai’s regime there was a liberalization galore: starting with telecom, airlines, financial sector, automobile sector, golden quadrilateral highway building program. I am sure my memory is not as good as it used to be so there must be more that I am missing.With Manmohan Singh

Macaulay’s Children

Aug 21, 2020

Thomas Babington Macaulay must be turning in his grave wondering what had he wrought.

After East India Company had conquered India and was in full control of India san Punjab in 1830s, he set out to educate a class of Indians who will be intermediary between the British and the Indian masses and will help them rule. They will be fluent in English and accept British as a superior race but will be seen by masses as part of them.

British never had the numbers needed to rule directly. At the height of British Raj, there were fewer that 100,000 English men, women and children in India. There were less than 10,000 of them in the army of almost 200,000.

Macaulay’s children were quick studies. They were not happy being clerks. They went on to become engineers, doctors and scientists. Within 50 years, they had started Indian National Congress as a national movement.

Macualay’s children have turned out to be very aspirational. They out-argued British out of India, gave India constitution and built a well functioning democracy.

As they moved on to the world stage they constitute 10% of all the business and science/engineering professors in US and almost 14% doctors. They are emerging as CEOs in top corporations. One of them may even become a VP of US.

I know the Saffron crowd detests Macaulay’s children but they are just being ungrateful.

Syncretic India, a noble experiment

Aug 15, 2020

Today is India’s 73rd independence day. I will be 75 in 2 weeks. So my life spans independent India’s life.
India is unbelievingly diverse. As a matter of fact it is an amalgmation of amost 30 sub-nationalities. It has 30 major languages. It is roughly 80% Hindu, 15% Muslim and remaining being Sikhs, Christians and other sundry religions. Neither Hindu nor Muslim polulation is homogeneous.
It has several complex layers of histories. Most recent being the British rule for almost 200 years. It was preceded by Muslim rule for almost 800 years. Northwest India was ruled by Sikhs for almost 100 years while central India was ruled by Marathas for almost 100 years.
It has developed a unique syncretic culture which is a mixture of all these components. An India without British and Muslim influence would look like Nepal; and one without British and Hindu influence would look like Afghanistan. British provided a pan-India standardization of sort with English language and British common law. I have travelled widely in India and have felt at home almost everywhere, even where I did not understand local language or was not able to read any signs.
Britain had been a rapacious imperial power and had left India bone poor at the time of indepenedence, with its share of the global GDP less 1%, thought it had almost 16% of world’s population. Literacy rate was about 10%.
Inspite of all that India chose to be a democracy with universal sufferage. Almost nobody gave it a chance to stay free and democratic. It was called a functioning anarchy by US Ambassador Kenneth Galbraith.
India has surprized everybody by becoming a cohesive, well-functioning nation with a unique and vibrant culture. It has brought literacy rate to well over 80% and its share of the world GDP is 2.5% now. It is well on its way to become a power to reckon with.
In every respect India is a noble experiment. It has striven to process its diversity as positively as can be imagined. It has stumbled a couple of times but has always gotten back on its feet. Other multinational countries like Yogoslavia and Soviet Union were not able to integrate their diveristy politically and fell apart.

Hari Singh Nalwa

Aug 10, 2020

It is not only Hari Singh Nalwa but also Maharaja Ranjit Singh who never got due respect.

Afghans had ruled India except for the Mughal period. Mohmed Ghouri, Sher Shah Suri and Ibrahim Lodi conqured and ruled India. Babar had defeated Ibrahim Lodi, an Afghan in the first bettle of Panipat in 1526 to start Mughal dynasty. Later, Nadir Shah ( Iranian/Afghan) and Ahmed Shah Abdali defeated Mughals and in case Of Abdali also Marathas in the third battle of Panipat.

Traditional border between India and Afghanistan was Indus river. Maharaja Ranjit Singh consolidated Sikh Misls into a Sikh empire and spent 40 years ejecting Afghans out of Punjab. He pushed the border to the other side of Khyber Pass. Hari Singh Nalwa was the general who led the charge. Kashmir, Peshawar, Gilgit and many other areas of NW Punjab were all wrested away from Afghans. He sealed the Khyber Pass as the invasion route to India.

It was the English who enjoyed the fruits of Hari Singh’s and Ranjit Singh’s labor