Guide Unspoken History of India of Six-Thousand Years

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Indira Gandhi. Meena Agarwal.

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Madan Mohan Malviya. What Do Hindus Believe? Rachel Dwyer. Fascinating Hindutva. Badri Narayan. Indian Political Thought. Vipul Trivedi. Hinduism in the New Age. Swami Agnivesh. The Hindu Civilisation. Shashi B Sahai.


The Nirankari Sikhs. John C. Kaushal Kishore. Khadi: Gandhi's Mega Symbol of Subversion. Peter Gonsalves. Carol Kelly-Gangi. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Ravindra Dr Kumar. Lord Rama: The Shelter for the Saints. Krishna's Mercy. Beating the Drum. The Structure of Hindu Society- Rev. Nirmal Kumar Bose. Teacher Forum. Modern Hindu Traditionalism in Contemporary India. Daniela Bevilacqua. Judith Dunlap. The Highway to Guru's Wisdom. Madan Singh. Prophet of a New Hindu Age. Ninian Smart. Acharya Mahapragya: A Journey to Wisdom. Sohan Lal Gandhi. My Days With Gandhi.

Onkar Singh Dewal. The Bewildered Leader-M. Sujata Singh. Acts of Faith. Makarand R. Mahatma a Scientist of the Intuitively Obvious. Promod Kumar Sharma. Ayodhya - The Dark Night. Dhirendra K Jha. A History of Hinduism. Professor R Ramachandran. Faith and Philosophy of Hinduism. Rajeev Verma. Universality of Buddha. Manan Sharma. Social Harmony. Throughout his years as prime minister, Congress enjoyed enormous majorities in parliament, and controlled virtually every provincial government, in a caste-divided society.

All non-Congress governments were handed their cards. Subjectively, any prospect of a dictatorship was alien to Nehru. But objectively, it was also quite unnecessary, so little temptation ever arose. By and large, democracy across most of the union was costless. That he handed it on as well as he did remains, nevertheless, his positive legacy. What of the other side of the ledger? The inheritance he left in the North-East was much the same.

The Nagas, whom he started to bomb in , were unbeaten when he died. Three years later, in March , a full-scale rebellion broke out among the neighbouring Mizo. By the end of the following decade, Manipur, Tripura and Assam were all in flames. Repression, co-option and exhaustion have yet to bring any real peace to the region, where India still has so much to hide that outsiders need special permission to enter, and can only visit parts of it under strict controls. Tibet is generally easier of access to foreigners.

He claimed to reject any dynastic principle, and his capacity for self-deception was perhaps great enough for him to believe he was doing so. But his refusal to indicate any colleague as a successor, and complaisance in the elevation of his daughter — with no qualifications other than her birth for the post — to the presidency of Congress, where Gandhi had once placed him for his own trampoline to power, speak for themselves.

From the outset, she was more authoritarian than her father — within weeks, she called for the ouster of the government of Kerala. Once in command of the state and not just of the party, she would declare an emergency, arresting the leaders of every opposition party and jailing , citizens without charge.

A Twenty-Four-Thousand-Mile Walk Across Human History

To many, it seemed that India was on the brink of dictatorship. This was the technique the Raj had applied to civil disobedience in and again in , and that was used to bring Kerala to heel in But it could also be deployed less formally on a national scale, as when Delhi interned and deported thousands of Indian citizens of Chinese origin as enemy aliens, and arrested all communist leaders out of hand — including even those who had rallied to the patriotic banner — during the Sino-Indian War.

The difference between resort to civil martial law by father and daughter was one of degree rather than kind. After twenty months, Indira Gandhi lifted the Emergency and held elections, as the guidebook of the Raj laid down. The Emergency was nevertheless a watershed in Indian politics, since popular reaction against it broke for the first time the monopoly of government in Delhi enjoyed by Congress since independence. The heteroclite coalition that replaced it in the elections of did not last long, and the dynasty — daughter, succeeded by grandson — was soon back at the helm.

But out of the magma of post-Emergency opposition eventually emerged a party of comparable electoral strength, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which two decades later was capable of forming governments as stable or unstable as those of Congress. With the arrival in power of the BJP, formally committed to the idea of Hindutva, it was less democracy which looked under threat — at least immediately; if ultimately it too, in the eyes of many — than the third value of the Indian state, its secularity.

In the struggle for independence, the legitimating ideology of Congress had always been a secular nationalism. It was in the name of this ideal that it claimed to speak for the whole subcontinent, regardless of faith. In the run-up to partition, British officials regularly referred to the larger area where Congress would rule as Hindustan, a term in private not always shunned by Congress leaders themselves. But when an independent state came into being, it was proudly just India, repudiating any official religious identity, proclaiming the unity of a nation that had been artificially divided.

The constitution it adopted did not, however, describe India as a secular state, a term that was avoided. Nor did it institute equality before the law, a principle also eschewed. There would be no uniform civil code: Hindus and Muslims would continue to be subject to the respective customs of their faith governing family life. Nor would there be interference with religious hierarchies in daily life: Untouchability was banned, but caste itself left as it was.

Ambedkar, responsible for much of the constitution, was not satisfied with the upshot, and as minister for law introduced in a Hindu Code Bill striking down the grosser forms of marital inequality it had sanctioned. Faced with uproar from the benches of Congress he had the temerity to tell its MPs that the cherished legend of Krishna and Radha was an emblem of Hindu degradation of women , he was unceremoniously abandoned by Nehru and the bill neutered.

With his exit went the only outspoken adversary of Hindu ascendancy ever to serve in an Indian cabinet. My answer is I was a hack. What I was asked to do I did much against my will. Congress had failed to avert partition because it could never bring itself honestly to confront its composition as an overwhelmingly Hindu party, dropping the fiction that it represented the entire nation, and accept the need for generous arrangements with the Muslim party that had emerged opposite it.

After independence, it presided over a state which could not but bear the marks of that denial. Compared with the fate of Pakistan after the death of Jinnah, India was fortunate. Muslims or Christians could practise their religion with greater freedom, and live with greater safety, than Muslims could in Pakistan, if they were not Sunni. Structurally, the secularism of Congress had been a matter not of hypocrisy, but of bad faith, which is not the same: in its way a lesser vice, paying somewhat more tribute to virtue.

Around it, however, there inevitably developed a discourse to narrow the gap between official creed and unofficial practice, which has come to form a department of its own within the Indian ideology. Secularism in India, it is explained, does not mean anything so unsophisticated as the separation of state and religion.

According to another version, this is too limitative. A leading test of these professions is the condition of the community that Congress always claimed also to represent, and the Indian state to acquit of any shadow of confessionalism. How have Muslims fared under such secularism, equidistant or group-sensitive? In , the government-appointed Sachar Commission found that of the million Muslims in India, numbering some A quarter of their children between the ages of six and 14 were not in school.

In the top fifty colleges of the land, two out of a hundred postgraduates were Muslim; in the elite institutes of technology, four out of a hundred. In the cities, Muslims had fewer chances of any regular job than Dalits or Adivasis, and higher rates of unemployment. The Indian state itself, presiding over this scene? In state governments, the situation was still worse, nowhere more so than in communist-run West Bengal, which with a Muslim population of 25 per cent, nearly double the official average for the nation, many confined in ghettos of appalling misery, posted a figure of just 3.

It is possible, moreover, that the official number of Muslims in India is an underestimate. In a confidential cable to Washington released by WikiLeaks, the US Embassy reported that the real figure was somewhere between and million. At partition, most middle-class Muslims in Hindu-majority areas had emigrated to Pakistan, leaving a decapitated community of poorer co-religionaries behind.

The great mass of those who remained in India thus started out in a very disadvantaged position. But what is transparent is that the Indian state which now claimed to cast an impartial mantle over them did no such thing. Discrimination began with the constitution itself, which accorded rights of representation to minorities that were denied to Muslims.

But Muslims were refused both, on the grounds that conceding them would violate the precepts of secularism by introducing religion into matters of state. They were thereby denied any possibility of acting collectively to better their lot. If a Muslim party had possessed any proportionate share of national representation, its interests could never have been ignored in the coalition politics that have been the norm since Congress lost its monopoly of power. To add insult to injury, even where they were locally concentrated in sufficient numbers to make an electoral difference, these constituencies were not infrequently reserved for castes supposedly worse off than they, but actually better off.

In mechanics such as these, Indian secularism is Hindu confessionalism by another name. How many Muslims do they contain? The answer is too sensitive to divulge: as the report notes, no data on their composition are available for three-quarters of these. Put simply, Muslims are not wanted in their ranks. In , a former defence minister let slip that they numbered just 1 per cent of 1,, regulars. The Indian armed forces are a Hindu preserve, garnished with Sikhs, and bolstered still — a unique arrangement in the postcolonial world — by Gurkhas from Nepal, as under the Raj.

Unlike blacks in the US, who comprise a roughly similar proportion of the population, they suffer from no racial stigma, and are overlaid with a thin elite layer of upper-class origin, the small residue of those who did not leave for Pakistan in , bearers in some degree of a historical memory of Muslim rule, without any counterpart in the descendants of slavery in America. But otherwise most Muslims in India are much worse off, because they benefit from no affirmative action, and in a caste society are perforce more endogamous. They are second-class citizens. Their fate throws into sharp relief unspoken realities of the Indian polity that emerged after partition, which take still more ominous form where it is contested.

The description is powerful, but it looks away from the connection between them. For what is perfectly obvious, but never seen or spoken, is that the hand of AFSPA has fallen where the reach of Hinduism stops. The three great insurgencies against the Indian state have come in Kashmir, Nagaland-Mizoram and Punjab — regions respectively Muslim, Christian and Sikh. There it met popular feeling with tank and truncheon, pogrom and death squad.

What is hidden within India is Hindustan. It is that which tacitly shapes the state and determines the frontiers between freedom and repression, what is allowed and what is forbidden. Official secularity is not meaningless. If India is a confessional state, it is by default, not prescription. There is no need to be a Hindu in any sense other than by birth to be successful in bureaucratic career terms. Descent, not piety, is the criterion. Much of the state apparatus, especially its upper echelons, may be composed of individuals largely or entirely secular in outlook, practising or devout Hindus perhaps only a minority.

Compared with the state, society is less secular. To that extent, the ideology of Indian secularism is grounded in a real difference, and makes a difference. An ideology it nevertheless remains. For what the character of the Indian state essentially reproduces is that of Congress as a nationalist party. It is not overtly confessional, on the contrary making much of its secular ideals, but in both composition and practice is based squarely on the Hindu community, and just as Congress made no serious effort to register or come to terms politically with the Muslim League, so the state over which the party has presided has never made any serious effort to improve the social or political position of its Muslim minority.

Had the party or state been truly secular, in each case this would have been a priority, but that was the last thing it had in mind. There cannot be a genuinely secular party or state unless it is willing to confront religious superstition and bigotry, rather than truckle to them. Neither party nor state has ever contemplated doing that, because both have rested, sociologically speaking, on Hindu caste society.

The continued dominance of upper castes in public institutions — administration, police, courts, universities, media — belongs to the same matrix. In the history of 20th-century nationalism, there is a distinct sub-group in which religion played a central organising role from the start, providing so to speak the genetic code of the movement. The most significant cases are those which eventually founded stable parliamentary democracies.

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The three leading states of this type in the world today are Ireland, Israel and India. In all three, the nationalist party that came to power after independence — Fine Gael, Mapai, Congress — distanced itself from the confessional undertow of the struggle without ever being able to tackle its legacy head-on. In each case, as the ruling party gradually lost its lustre, it was outflanked by a more extreme rival that had fewer inhibitions about appealing directly to the theological passions aroused by the original struggle: Fianna Fail, Likud, BJP.

The success of these parties was due not just to the faltering of the first wave of office-holders, but to their ability to articulate openly what had always been latent in the national movement, but neither candidly acknowledged nor consistently repudiated. They could claim, with a certain justice, to be legitimate heirs of the original cause. In each case, the setting was a parliamentary system, in which they operated constitutionally, if in each case with certain prewar sympathies for European fascism. Historically, no Congress leader had been capable of openly and vigorously combating Gandhian pietism, all persuaded that its emotional appeal offered a shortcut to independence with an emotional awakening against the British.

For two generations, as in Israel, the compromised origins of the state could be masked by the charisma of a ruler who cared little for superstition of any kind, but a good deal about state-led economic development. After he went — full Hindu funeral rites on the Ganges — there was a rapid degeneration.

Unspoken history of India of six-thousand years / Anand Mohun Sinha | National Library of Australia

Arguably, Nehru left a worse legacy in this respect than Ben-Gurion, since he injected a further irrationalist element into the political system, blood rather than faith, with the creation of a hereditary dynasty that has been an additional curse, lingering without end. The daughter, characteristically, made more of a show of secularism, writing a belated commitment to it for the first time into the constitution, while in practice toying instrumentally with confessional appeals. By the time the grandson was in charge, the global turn to neoliberalism was in full swing, and the Indian middle class eager for its pickings.

In these conditions, the ground was prepared for the BJP to enter, Likud-style, into its inheritance. In all three countries, the political system would come to rest on a more or less regular alternation between two large kindred forces, each bidding for alliance with an array of opportunist smaller parties to form majorities difficult for them to achieve by themselves — the pattern shared in the Dail, the Knesset and the Lok Sabha. In all three, the marginalisation of the left has been a structural effect of the dominance of the hegemonic religion in the national identity. The temporalities and outcomes of the process differed.

The Irish reversion came within a decade of independence — its carrier was the genuinely more popular and radical wing of the national movement, with the greatest anti-colonial legitimacy — and enjoyed the longest ascendancy, only finally collapsing last year. It took thirty years for the Israeli variant to gain the upper hand, which it still enjoys.

The Indian was slower still: half a century passed before the BJP gained office. A mutation of the Hindu Mahasabha, with which Gandhi had been on good terms, it had played a very modest role in the independence struggle, coming to the fore only during partition, when it led the campaign to divide Bengal along religious lines, pulling Congress in along with it. It took successive stages in the decay of Congress — the Emergency; the manipulation and repression of Sikh insurgency in Punjab; its retribution in the death of Indira Gandhi; the ensuing pogrom in Delhi, applauded by her son; the ballooning corruption around Rajiv Gandhi, and its generalisation with the neoliberal turn under Narasimha Rao — for the BJP finally to achieve take-off as a credible alternative to the ruling party.

But by the s, the conditions for its ascent had crystallised. The social promises of Congress had faded, markets and money filled the airwaves, customary expectations and inhibitions were eroded. In such conditions, anomic modernisation unleashed a classic reaction of religious compensation. The time for Hindutva, the vision of Vinayak Savarkar, a revolutionary fighter incarcerated by the Raj on the Andamans before Gandhi ever set political foot in India, had come.

This was a category mistake — there was no working-class threat, no economic slump, no revanchist drive, to produce any subcontinental equivalent of the interwar scene in Europe — and overlooked not only the distinct social matrix of Hindutva, but the ideological setting in which it could flourish. Indian secularism of the post-independence period had never sharply separated state and religion, let alone developed any systematic critique of Hinduism. But by the s, it had come under fire from neo-nativist thinkers as an alienated elitism, insufficiently attuned to popular sensibilities and practices of devotion that Gandhi had intuitively understood, and Subaltern Studies would later defend and illustrate.

Still, the vocal anti-secularism of Ashis Nandy, T. Madan and others remained a minority trend within intellectual opinion, if one that enjoyed high visibility and real influence. Much more widespread was — and is — another discourse, embellishing Hinduism as pre-eminently a faith of tolerant pluralism and peaceable harmony, its teeming multiplicity of different deities, beliefs and rituals a veritable template for a modern multiculturalism. For Amartya Sen and others, indeed, no other religion has so capaciously included even atheism in its repertoire, along with monotheism, polytheism, pantheism and any other sort of theism.

In this version, secularism cannot be at odds with a Hinduism whose values are so close to its own. Of course, just because Hinduism is so ecumenical a religion, intolerant or aggressive strains may also find accommodation within its embrace. But with a sufficiently open mind, these can be transformed into their opposite. A secularism as spavined as this presents little obstacle to Hindutva. Long before Sen, its originator Savarkar cast the generous mantle of Hinduism over atheists, and his successors have had no difficulty turning the tropes of Indo-tolerant pluralism into maxims of their own.

In such a process of competitive desecularisation, as another analyst has termed it, the initial advantage could only lie with the BJP. Its breakthrough came in with a national campaign to demolish the mosque at Ayodhya, desecrating the supposed birthplace of Rama, the only mass political mobilisation — something of which Congress had long ceased to be capable — India has seen for decades.

Culminating in the triumphant destruction of the mosque, as the Congress government stood by, the operation gave the BJP the momentum that put it into office in Delhi by the end of the decade. But its arrival at the turn of the century as a ruling party was not a straightforward jump from the springboard of Ayodhya, nor a progress that left it structurally unaltered. Its strongholds had always lain in the Hindi-speaking belt of North India, a narrower regional base than that of Congress, and one incapable of delivering a parliamentary majority on its own.

Another and more important obstacle came from a different direction. In the time of Nehru and for twenty years after him, Congress had ruled a segmented society, divided vertically and horizontally by caste, which rarely coincided across regions. At the summit of this hierarchy, and at the controls of the state machine, were Brahmins. Beneath them, in that epoch, were the least privileged castes comprising the majority of the population, pinioned in their hereditary stations, the passive foundations of a huge democracy run by an elite without inconveniences from below.

Fifteen years later, synchronised this time with the take-off of the BJP, caste erupted onto the political scene. There matters stood when the Janata coalition that briefly followed the Emergency produced a report from a commission headed by B. On returning to power a year later, Congress would have none of this, and it was not until another Janata-style coalition was, again briefly, in office in that the Mandal quota became law, over furious upper-caste opposition in North India. The upshot was to galvanise an entire spectrum of hitherto apathetic, resigned or intimidated lower castes into active political life, transforming the landscape of Indian democracy.

A coalition of two parties, one mobilising Dalits and the other OBCs Other Backward Classes , captured UP — much the largest state in the country — a year later, and within another two years, Lucknow had the first Dalit chief minister in history, the redoubtable Kumari Mayawati, who has ruled the roost, alternating with her OBC rivals, for much of the time since. The upheaval in UP was the most spectacular expression of a new political scene, but caste parties and factions sprouted across the land, disrupting traditional arrangements and drawing suppressed forces into play.

What this development, unquestionably, has wrought is an impressive social deepening of Indian parliamentarism, whose roots now reach much further down into popular soil. But castes are not classes. Constructed by religion and divided by occupation, they are denizens of a universe of symbolism governed by customary rituals and taboos. State and market have loosened the frontiers between them, but when it came, political activism would all but inevitably acquire a distortingly symbolic twist.

Job reservations are material benefits. The jobs, overwhelmingly in the lowest rungs of the bureaucracy, typically go to the highest layers within each caste, all of which are internally stratified. But since public employment accounts for a mere 4 to 5 per cent of the labour force, these jobs amount to little more than a drop in the ocean of destitution and unemployment; if the more precious and bitterly fought over for that.

Since regional reservations can be much higher than the national ceiling of In driving this Hobbesian free-for-all, recognition — the quest for dignity — trumps redistribution, leaders gratifying followers with symbols of esteem rather than the substance of emancipation. Awakening as voters, the poor and not so poor activate hereditary enclosures as political communities, rather than dissolving them. Within these enclosures, internally far more hierarchical than equal, the identities are ascribed and conformity to them enforced.

Historically, the political philosopher Javeed Alam has pointed out, caste was a form of collective unfreedom from which it was more difficult for individuals to escape than slavery or serfdom. The traces of that remain. Economic and educational development, however uneven, have weakened caste barriers.

But crossing them is still taboo for the vast majority of the population, three-quarters of whom reject intercaste marriage, as do well over half of those with higher education. Nor has the actual lot of Dalits, exposed to violence and misery across India, changed in pace with either the formal ideology of citizenship or their electoral clout at the polls.

Castes continue to be, as they have always been, and Ambedkar saw, one of the purest negations of any notion of liberty and equality, let alone fraternity, imaginable. That the Indian state has never lifted a juridical finger to do away with them, but in seeking only to ameliorate has if anything legally entrenched them, says more about its secularism than the omission of any reference to it in the constitution, or the belated passage of an amendment rectifying the omission to embellish the Emergency.

But as they have become increasingly powerful lobbies, with the peculiar dynamism of hybrid voluntary-hereditary associations, castes are more than ever the pediments of Indian democracy. No longer passive but vigilant, in yet more radically segmenting its vast electorate they are what most fundamentally stabilises it. The BJP, as a party aiming to unify the nation under its true Hindu banners, thus found, just as its momentum was increasing, that caste was blocking its path.

At the time, its onslaught at Ayodhya was often read as a counterblow to the arrival of Mandal, mobilising the rage of upper-caste youth against impending loss of privileges. There may have been some truth in this, but if so, a course correction soon followed. Realising that it could not hope to win national power without attracting middle and lower castes, it set about broadening its appeal, and by the time of its first major electoral success in , won 42 per cent of the OBC vote in North India. But regional parties composed of heteroclite caste blocs by now commanded too much of the landscape for it to have any chance of taking the place of Congress of old, itself now reduced to a remnant of its former self.

In the last three national elections, the two parties combined have never won so much as half the total vote. Coalition with an array of regional parties has become a requirement of rule at the centre. With it has come a large measure of convergence between Congress and the BJP in government, each pursuing at home a neoliberal economic agenda, as far as their allies will allow them, and abroad a strategic rapprochement with the United States. Culturally, they now bathe in a common atmosphere in which religious insignia, symbols, idols and anthems are taken for granted in commercial and official spaces alike.

Organisationally, they are not so similar, since the BJP possesses real cadres and members, Congress little more than a memory of them. Ideologically, too, their appeals are distinct, as are their social bases. Congress may tack towards confessionalism, but it can still rely on Muslim and Adivasi vote-banks by pointing to the BJP as a greater sectarian danger, and invoke a vague social paternalism to garner votes among the poor.

The BJP may tack towards secularism, but it can rely on the fervour of the devout and the attractiveness of a more muscular nationalism to an upwardly mobile middle class. Practically, the differences are fewer. Where communalism suits them, there is little to choose between the two. Neither compares with the massacres in Hyderabad under Nehru and Patel. With the morphing under pressure from below of the political system into one resembling the Irish or Israeli, levels of parliamentary personnel and conduct have plummeted.

Pervasive corruption dates back to the third generation of Nehru family rule, mired in a massive arms procurement scandal in the s, and the subsequent regime of Narasimha Rao in the s, the first to purchase a vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha with millions in cash for defections to the government.

Indiscriminate criminality is the concomitant phenomenon. In the present Lok Sabha, some MPs — over a quarter of the house — have a total of more than four hundred criminal charges against them. At state level, the statistics are more extreme. In , Bihar held elections that were widely hailed as a triumph for the clean government of Nitesh Kumar, a well-respected ally of the BJP. Of the newly refreshed Legislative Assembly, nearly half — out of members — had criminal charges against them, including murder, kidnapping and extortion. Or that nepotism has reached a point where more than a third of all Congress MPs inherit their seats by family connection twice the figure for the BJP , and every single one of them under the age of In India democracy never extended very far from government to the parties contending for it, which were always run from the top down.

Today, however, many have become something other than the oligarchic organisations into which the political scientists Ostrogorsky and Michels thought all parties must sooner or later turn. With the exception of the communists and the BJP, they have become family firms competing for market shares of the electorate and so access to public office.

The first of the major regional dynasties, setting the pattern for so many others, dates from the capture of the DMK in Tamil Nadu by the Karunanidhi patriarch at the turn of the s. Among so many degenerative symptoms in the executive and legislatures alike, one antibody in the constitution has stood out. The Supreme Court, which had not played a particularly distinguished role under Nehru, disgraced itself by rubber-stamping the Emergency. Thereafter, spurred by the reaction against it and no doubt ashamed of its past servility, the court has moved in the opposite direction, becoming the principal breakwater in India against threats to liberty, abuses of power and theft of public goods.

Today, the court is so proactive that it can not only annul laws passed in the Indian Parliament if it decides they are unconstitutional the normal prerogative of a supreme court , but also demand that Parliament pass laws it determines are urgently needed — a juridical innovation without precedent in any other country. The current bench has harried Congress and its prime minister on the telecoms scandal, in which licenses were doled out to companies at billions of dollars below their value, and shows no sign of being willing to sponge away its implications.

The court, now self-recruiting, is the most powerful judiciary on earth. It has acquired such an abnormal degree of authority because of the decay of the representative institutions around it. Even admirers are aware of the risks. So long as the malady persists, few Indians would think the country better off without it.

The tidal wave of corruption in Indian public life has, of course, been in part a by-product of the neoliberal turn of the state since the s, and the faster growth it has unleashed. The country now occupies a prominent place in every prospectus of the Bric powers, its economy the second largest in size, though in many ways strange in shape. Manufacturing is not its pile-driver. Services account for over half of GDP, agriculture for less than a fifth in a society where it accounts for more than half the labour force.

Over 90 per cent of total employment is in the informal sector, a mere 6 to 8 per cent in the formal sector, of which two-thirds are government jobs of one kind or another. In India cultivable land is 40 per cent more abundant than in China, but on average agricultural yields are 50 per cent lower. The population is younger and growing faster than in China, but the demographic dividend is not being cashed: for ten million new entrants to the labour force each year, just five million jobs are being created.

The greatest economic success of the past twenty years has been achieved in IT, where firms of global impact have emerged. But its employment effect is nugatory: less than 2 per of the labour force. Even in high-technology industries, average labour productivity appears to be little more than a third of Chinese levels. Nonetheless, growth averaged 7. But if the comparator is China, with now roughly the same size of population and a similar starting-point in the s, India scarcely shines, as Pranab Bardhan has shown in his masterly analytic survey of the two countries, Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay.

Per capita income in India is about a quarter of that in China, and inequality is significantly higher even than in the notoriously polarised PRC. Capital at large is three times more concentrated than in the United States. Infant mortality is three times as high as in China. Undernourishment is much more prevalent even than in sub-Saharan Africa, afflicting more than half of all Indian children under the age of five.

In 11 Indian states, four-fifths of the population are afflicted with anaemia. For the most part, the corrective role of the state is minimal. Two-thirds of all government subsidies — for food, fuel, electricity — go to the relatively well-off, mainly rich farmers. Over 80 per cent of expenditure on healthcare is private. One out of every five children never goes to school.

Unspoken History Of India Of Six-Thousand Years

Military expenditure virtually equals spending on all anti-poverty programmes combined. Neoliberal the direction of every government since the s may have been, but the pace has often been halting and the road strewn with obstacles. The dirigiste instincts of an unregenerate bureaucracy and the populist demagogy of too many politicians have, in this view, hampered normal progress to freer markets. Banking remains largely controlled by the state. There has been little privatisation, even of such important industries as coal.

Barriers to trade persist, with tariffs still twice as high as in China. Quotas limiting international stake-holders have not been abolished. Why be surprised, then, that foreign direct investment runs so low, that the two-million-strong Indian expatriates — the richest of all immigrant communities in the United States — fail to invest in the homeland as gladly as overseas Chinese have done, or that Mumbai conglomerates put so much money into buying up auto or steel in Britain, where Tata is now the largest private employer in the UK?

What such frustrations express is the intractable brake that Indian democracy has so far placed on the fullest expansion of Indian capital. The poor outvote the rich, the villages the cities, the slums the suburbs. At once activated and segregated by caste, the deprived have never been able to achieve any real redistribution of national income, their drive for recognition typically contenting itself with symbolic representation in the political firmament, with little reaction at its lack of practical consequence.

Whereas in India, democracy allows just the opposite — an input legitimacy from the holding of free elections, that thereby excuses the political class from distributing more than confetti to the masses who have elected them. Commentators now complain as regularly of legislative deadlock in Delhi as they do in Washington.

But the underlying reasons are quite different. Neoliberal precepts have the favour of the latter. Yet the former still continue, negatively, to inhibit too provocative a dismantling of the arrangements of an earlier, more paternalist system of rule. Worse, from the standpoint of the stock market and the technocrats seeking further liberalisation to empower it, legislation cannot be wholly insulated from the pressure of a vast destitute electorate.

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Top Pick. An evolved civilization existed in India, much before the advent of Roman, Greek, Egyptian or Chinese civilizations in this world.