Nepali Times
Plain Speaking
India changing


Travelling through Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Shimla and Goa over the past three weeks gave me a glimpse into the astonishing changes taking place across urban India. Wealth and mobility are transforming the country in ways unimaginable until a few years ago.

The 'India Shining' narrative, based largely on high growth figures and the corporate boom, was more than half a decade old when the BJP picked it up as a campaign slogan in 2004. Congress promoted a more rooted campaign revolving around aam aadmi, the common man. Voters went with the latter, indicating that GDP figures did not really touch them. What mattered more was the simple promise of jobs, controlled prices, dignity, communal harmony, and access to opportunities.

This message was reinforced in the 2009 elections. Congress did not win because of the nuclear deal with the US, or because the economy was rescued from the global meltdown. Analysts believe it was the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act that won Congress the elections.

In states across India, voters are sending out similar signals. They are rejecting politics and an economy based solely on industrial growth, which often involves displacing the poorest Indian citizens from their land. Mamata Banerjee's success in challenging the Left in West Bengal is due to her appropriation of the latter's 'pro-poor' stance to the extent of being 'anti-industry'. This resonates with the poor, and unreported by the national media, scores of protests by slum-dwellers against the systematic demolition of their homes have taken place across urban centres. The Naxalite challenge in central and eastern India may be rooted in a complex set of factors, but the tendency of 'democratic' parties to readily become agents for extractive mining industries and the lack of justice are central causes.

India faces multiple challenges, from growing inequality to political discontent and armed rebellions. But we should not forget that the Indian state has never been as equipped to deal with them as it is today. This strength is based on the economic trajectory of the past two decades, which the state is now reaping the dividends of.

The relentless infrastructural expansion of Delhi is striking. The metro now extends to almost the entire city. Airports have been modernised and passenger traffic has increased exponentially. More than IRs 200 billion is being invested in the Commonwealth Games, all in the name of 'national pride'. The national highway project and the inter-related state highway projects promise to connect the country in an unprecedented way.

In Mumbai and Bangalore, young people who graduated five years ago have 'packages' of between IRs 1.5 to 5 million a year. Many are from lower middle class families. Their families, localities, schools and colleges now believe it is possible to improve their living standards beyond what previous generations imagined. Thousands of Indian tourists in Goa and Shimla are testament to the steady increase in disposable incomes. There is renewed cultural confidence, visible in the proliferation in the arts, literature and both Hindi and regional films.

The sense that India's time has arrived is unmistakable in power corridors. The bureaucracy is both younger and more arrogant, and has little patience for any real or perceived obstacle in India's quest for a position at high table. If that means being ruthless, flouting laws, trampling on the freedom of citizens, and constricting democratic freedoms, so be it.

Nepali politicians visit Delhi often, but they spend all their time with operatives and begging for appointments with politicians. It would be far more useful for them to get out and understand the scale and significance of the changes taking place in India; the multiple ways in which the state is dealing with its challenges; and the extent to which politicians and bureaucrats are willing to work in the 'national interest'. Unless they do so, Nepali actors will neither understand India's recent aggressive approach in Nepal nor be able to break out of the old paradigms of thinking about Indo-Nepal ties.

Been there, done that, PUBLISHER'S NOTE
The lure of the national, CK LAL
The failed people

1. Akanchhya Gurung
Nice write-up............lets hope that our Politicians and Leaders go through this article and judge themselves.......

2. Sandeep Dhungana
Yes and it also stifles a small neighbouring country's rights to express itself (through a newspaper), heard of that lately?

3. Anonymous
Yes, there is an unprecedented material growth; but at the cost of what--local culture, native languages, age-old values and traditions, tribal uprooting, environmental disaster? Read Arundhati Roy! Look at the Bhopal disaster, thousands of ordinary Indian workers and family members either lost their lives or are still languishing in pain and trauma after twenty or so years of the tragic disaster. Yet, the Indian government and bureaucrats utterly failed to sue the Union Carbide, the US-based  multinational giant. On the other hand, in recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the US Federal Government virtually "shook down" the BP, and immediately established a twenty-billion dollar fund to rescue the small business people. Why India, which boasts of being labeled as the "biggest democracy" in the world, yet has no power to bargain for its own people in the international arena; yet she bullies small neighbors like Nepal (e.g. stifling the free media!)? India harnessed the western technology and material (e.g nuclear) power, but it lost the moral authority and historic place to give an alternative model of democracy to the world. I wonder, how Gandhi, the great apostle of peace and non-violence, and the Founding Father of Indian Nation, would have swallowed the nuclear deal with the west; or see his own country spending billions to buy military hardware while her people are dying in a civil war for the right to self-determination in their tribal lands in the jungles of Jharkhand! Unfortunatley, Nepali politicians learned from the "other India", and not from the Great Nation of Gandhi!

4. hange

And the more India changes, the more it stays the same.  It is an irony that a nation of one billion that is finally "arriving" after years of inexplicable poverty, somehow feels that they are better than everyone else.  Admire them or hate them, it is this ever-misplaced superiority complex that will dog the reputation of Indians regardless of how successful they or their nation become.  In fact, it is almost reassuring that regardless of their achievements, the Indian character and mentality remain unchanged.  India shining indeed.

5. DG
#1                               Stick-in-the-Muds.
The Wages of Sin of our .Stick-in-the Muds ....? Refer the Bible. Yes, Political Death. Do,nt ever Vote for them, the Failed Ones.
Kukur ko puchhar bahra barsa dungrama rakhe pani bangoko bangai hunchhaEducated Youngmen   Join Politics and Save the Nation.

6. zarathustra
And you didnt know this until now?

I always felt bad about thinking very lowly of Nepali politicians and the self-righteous intelligentsia - that they are totally unaware of the world realities and basic principles of economics, foreign policy and development and are only full of mediocrity and a viewpoint that results from a very limited, layman-like uneducated guess of the world-realities.

I should not feel bad at myself from now on.

7. Hindi-Nepali bhai bhai

Yes, yes. India is changing. It has gotten so drunk in its new-found wealth and power that, like George W Bush, they think it is their business to go spreading "liberty" and "deomcracy" to others, and like Bush in Iraq, they've managed to create a big SH*T in Nepal! Hail to the Indians! While they dine in their "high table" we have this crazy, needless Mess that will take generations to mop up.

Yes, let's learn from the Indians to SCREW OUR NEIGHBORS!!! Republic in Bhutan next! Charge ahead me-hearties!

8. Gole
Physician cure thyself.
 First ly set your own house in order.
Coal calling the kettle black.
Remove the Bhatte Kujkkurs from our politics first and foremost.
 Then we can handle our neighbors and friends according to the established procedure.

9. GD
The Outlaws.
Through learned and laborious years
They set themselves to find
Fresh terrors and undreamed-of fears
To heap upon mankind.      ...     ....
They laid into their treasure-trove
And arsenals of death.    ...    ..
.Built up the faith they meant to break
When the fit hour should strike.   ...   ..
.But their own hate slew their own soul
Before that victory came. -R K.

10. Devashish
Why does Indian politics still influence Nepal so much? Is it not clear and understood that we need to develop our own identity, paths and preferences for development? Are we not smart enough to learn from reading other's people's failures and successes on what will and won't work for Nepal and her people? If not, can we not learn from our own history and figure out what will actually move us forward. Nepal is a country filled with potential yet frustration and sadness is abound upon seeing all of it slowly go to waste. I dread the day we won't be able to retrace our steps to regain the precious things we have lost by losing focus on what makes us and future generations happy and content.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)