Comments on: Madhya Pradesh chief minister exorcises English, exercises investors Perspectives on South Asian politics Thu, 02 Jun 2016 08:03:22 +0000 hourly 1 By: Woman21 Tue, 22 Jan 2013 08:36:49 +0000 You may be forgiven because you are a foreigner who has not grown up in India. I will tell you a perspective of someone who grew up here, took everything taught in the text book at face value, and conveniently overlooked the origins of our class and roots. Of course I must clarify my background. I am not a member of the upper elite class, but yes I grew up in a reasonably well off upper middle class family. My investigation made me realize that we existed even during the British and if someone was to interview my grandparents, their perspective of British rule will be of denied opportunities (what Dadabhai Naoroji called the moral drain) but not of starvation and famine.
This is what I expected of “My experiments with the Truth” (Gandhi’s autobiography) and despite my reading of Indian National Movement at least three times at school, I had no clue of the origins of the man. I thought he will be of a poor peasant family, regularly oppressed by the British, and one day when oppression crossed limits, he will rose up in revolt. Not even in my wildest dream had I imagined Gandhi’s England trip, his violin lessons, his trying to be an English gentleman and the gold watch. The last one irked me and I couldn’t help thinking how careless he is, his parents (a very poor family in my opinion) would be bankrupt. Of course after few pages I was relieved when he admitted he must stop all this as his brother must be working very hard. But still Gandhi’s amazing (in my opinion) love for luxury continued. When in South Africa he wanted to travel first class because he is in a habit of it and he cannot compromise.
The point that I am trying to drive here is that Indian society is not just of poor people. A stat from my school textbook indicates that 40% of people in India are below the poverty line, this means that 60% are above it, right! And history/ historians know that it is always the rich or the middle class that revolts. The poor have their own ways – lies, deliberate not listening, deliberate mistakes etc. ( from the Weapons of the weak by James C Scott). Do you know that in the initial years because of the policies of Congress (hereafter INC), British govt was able to project itself as the protector of the poor people! This is because INC had objected to reforms like the factory laws which affected the labour of Indian industries (but they were okay if these laws were imposed on British owned plantations :D). INC essentially was an elite club of lawyers, doctors and other educated professions. It was not until Gandhi that INC became a leader of the masses.
To cut a long story short, during the British, Indian economy could be divided into three levels: Level 1: dominated by the British mainly the import-export trade. Indians were not allowed to operate here. Level 3: the farmers and the peasants. They are ruthlessly oppressed by exposure to the free market, unreasonable British tax collection (no concession during famines, drought, crop failure, while in traditional taxation this provision was always there), and in deep debt to money- lenders. The level 2 is important to understand the recent prosperity. It consisted of the traders involved in internal trade. While the British did import Lancashire cloth, it was Indian traders who sold them to the masses. They were a rich class with potential and capital to set up industries. But British policies of course discouraged setting up industries in India till World War I, when there developed an acute shortage of industrial goods in India. In fact, on the eve of India’s independence, she had the most developed industrial complex in the developing world. ( Nehru’s socialist policies and Bombay plan of industrialist 1944 arrested this growth :( ). There were nearly 18 big business families (3 of them Muslim, so after independence their number has come down to 15 :(). If you ever investigate the origins of the Birlas, Bajaj, Tatas, you will realize these are families traditionally involved in trade. Once liberalization happened ,you often end up reading about them in Forbes richest people list. And they have also been investing abroad (or rather prefer because of senseless socialist policies of Congress).
So if I have to answer your friend’s question. I may not be surprised that the entire money was raised indigenously. (also read Tata steel plant story 1907, how after being given harsh terms by British merchants–profit we share, loss only on you, Tata raised the entire capital from the indigenous market). Even in IPL, 4th richest sporting body in the world, most of the money is indigenous. (There may be some investment from Malaysia, Mauritius, but rich people also exist in India). That’s why India’s growth model is like individual capitalist (coming from already existing trading class) and indigenous demand (coming from an already existing middle and upper class, remember we consist 60% India).
Just to conclude with the middle class. Recent reforms and opening up of new employment avenues has furthered the purchasing powers of this middle class. But even before liberalization there are important indicators of their purchasing powers. (What comes now is not a proper study but what I have heard in drawing room discussion on politics and economy). It seems that Bajaj has faced an enquiry on the selling of his scooters. The way he manufactured it, it seemed like he had overstepped the quota. The truth it seems that Indian govt was not aware of the buying powers and demand of the Indian middle class. It is also said that when Maruti Suzuki began selling Maruti 800, they were so surprised by the sale figures that they actively began pressurizing Indian govt to allow their other products in the market. ( Indian govt was resisting because of grand socialist ideals).
I hope, in the above writing ,I have partly answered some of the questions regarding Indian growth.

By: Woman21 Tue, 22 Jan 2013 08:33:12 +0000 “I’ll have to make sure that I never write another word about anything…”

Okay dear sir I am sure this is an exaggeration =D. And from the look of it seems he too had no answer to the question. They say,” Offence is the best defence”, that’s what he did! Otherwise he would have cared to answer it :).
I will try to answer the question, and perhaps explain difference between Indian and Chinese growth. As you may be aware Chinese growth model is state led capitalism + external demand whereas India is individual capitalism + internal demand.

By: Robert MacMillan Sun, 20 Jan 2013 19:51:05 +0000 After that conversation, I must confess that I know nothing. Perhaps I’ll have to make sure that I never write another word about anything…

By: Woman21 Sun, 20 Jan 2013 07:44:34 +0000 Just saw your conversation with ImamHaq. Couldn’t resist asking,” Do you know the origins of Indian middle class?” Just exercising you not exorcizing!

By: Woman21 Tue, 01 Jan 2013 09:28:14 +0000 Hi Robert,
Your understanding on this issue is absolutely correct. I completely agree with you that English can act as a link language more than Hindi. I have traveled to many parts of India, and have found that not many people know Hindi. Even, when I lived in Gujarat,only the middle classes were aware. But the problem comes in our interaction with the west. I do not expect our foreign friends to learn more than 22 languages to interact with us ( believe me 22 is just an official number, India has extreme form of diversity, extreme!There are more languages). I don’t favour Hindi, even though it is indigenous, because it rightly implies that one indigenous language is superior over other. We are all living together anyway so why create more problems. If someone wants to learn more languages one can decide for oneself. Many of my south Indian friends know hindi and they study it because it helps in communicating while staying in north India. but it’s okay if Southern people do not want to learn it. What use it will be there? let other local languages and their media (films, radio, literature) flourish.
it was indeed heartbreaking to know about that conference and the inability of the politicians to understand the situation and importance of English as a link language. Chinese don’t have so many language diversity ( correct me on this) so it’s not a problem to learn one language but Indians do and many of us want to maintain the diversity! so its not right to compare China and India.

By: ImamHaq Tue, 25 Dec 2012 00:52:05 +0000 I am not the one pretending to be a part of the “informed journalism” crowd.

You are.

Opinions are common. Knowledge is rare. –A.C. Doyle.

PS: In an interesting parallel of Gaelic names, just like the name MacMillan originates in Alba, the name Doyle originates in Eire. We go out there to learn about others; only to realize that we know so little about ourselves.

By: Robert MacMillan Mon, 24 Dec 2012 12:32:33 +0000 I can’t. What are your thoughts?

By: ImamHaq Mon, 24 Dec 2012 04:52:46 +0000 ^^^Do you have any idea where a dirt-poor country like India could have managed to get that kind of money?

Care to answer the question?

Just so that your readers don’t think that you are being evasive.

By: Robert MacMillan Mon, 24 Dec 2012 04:02:53 +0000 Thanks for your advice.

By: ImamHaq Mon, 24 Dec 2012 03:31:11 +0000 Let me think before replying. Also, it’s “Robert.” Thanks for reading!


It would also be helpful if you were think before actually writing your articles.

Thanks for contributing to Internet Journalism.