09 One India or three? A fragile state - Eddy D'Sa

posted Aug 8, 2018, 11:29 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 8, 2018, 11:29 PM ]
If I shift myself a little away from the noise, anarchy, contradictions and lost opportunities of India's society and politics, and dispassionately observe all that is around me, I see not merely crossroads, but an interlinked distorted web of them, with directionless forces moving in all directions, without an inkling of how to propel the nation forward along the right path. There are roundabouts along which we have been aimlessly circling, though what we should really be doing, very consciously and carefully, is breaking the circle at the right place and advancing forward. I see flyovers where the privileged, fortunate, industrious and crooked have been able to ascend to riches or power or fame, often at the cost of the nation and the multitudes trampled on the ground. And then there are tunnels, where the poor, hungry and ignorant remain trapped, even after more than 70 years of independence, without ever seeing the light at the end.

Indeed, there are not two, but three Indias. The first of the growing rich and famous, whose wealth and ostentation match, if not exceed, that of the wealthiest of the planet. They make their presence felt in lists of the richest people in the world. Like their counterparts elsewhere, they control governments and their institutions through their wealth. They hold enormous leveraging power not only to protect, but to expand their financial and economic interests, often at the cost of national interest and common good.

The second India consists of the new middle class, which has been growing unobtrusively over the last few decades. This India is well educated, works hard, earns well, boasts of gender equality and has contributed handsomely to the economic growth of our country. To it belong the malls and bars and hotels, the brand names and designer clothes. The malls, department stores, hotels, restaurants, beauty parlours and gyms that cater to them also require manpower from the stage of construction to maintenance — migration from all parts of rural and northeast India is more than evident. I am told that the size of middle class India has now reached 160 million individuals, nearing 20% of the population in 2015, and increasing to 37.2% by 2025-26. It is indeed paradoxical that the Indian state appears to be failing in direct proportion to the economic growth it is claiming to have achieved and the burgeoning of the middle class. The Indian middle class wants things which every citizen of a modern country wants - which our failed state is incapable of delivering anymore - such as proper governance, proper civic amenities, law and order, public safety, freedom from harassment and corruption from politicians, bureaucrats and touts. Cash and booze, white goods and caste reservations - the only electoral language that present day politicians know - mean nothing to them. It never had the numbers, couldn't influence electoral outcomes, and therefore, had no clout. This fast expanding new political force now desperately requires its own political outfit to protect its interests. And this is precisely what the existing political parties are trying to thwart, as they know the risk that lies in it for them. But it is inevitable that their political formation will come. As Victor Hugo has said, "All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come."