Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Wake Up, India's Bourbons

It’s time for our Bourbons to wake up and sense the anger of the public

Rau mein hai rakhsh-e-umr kahaan dekhiye thame
Nai haath baag par hai, na paa hai rakaab mein
Mirza Ghalib’s couplet quintessentially reflects the historical situation in India today.
“Rau” means speed, “rakhsh” means horse, “umr” means time (it also means life, but here it means time or era), “bag” means “reins” (of a horse), and “rakaab” means stirrup.
Hence the sher means: “The horse of the times is on the gallop, Let us see where it stops/The rider has neither the reins in his hands, nor his feet in the stirrup.”
Ghalib was probably writing of the happenings at the time of the Great Mutiny of 1857, when events took place at a galloping pace. But the beauty of Ghalib’s poetry (as also of much of Urdu poetry) is that it is often universal in time and place.
Today in India, the pace of history has speeded up. Events are taking place even more rapidly than earlier, and one wonders where all this will end.
In the media, one scam after another is reported, often involving politicians who swear by the poor and disadvantaged sections of society.
Talleyrand said of the Bourbons that they “saw nothing, remembered nothing, and forgot nothing.” Most Indian politicians today remind one of the Bourbons. They do not see the public anger rising against them and reaching boiling point. They do not remember the fate of the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs, and the Romanovs (if they have even heard of them). And they do not forget their power and pelf, thinking these will continue forever, as did the ill-fated dynasties mentioned above.
The decisive factor is the economy. The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said recently that deceleration in the Indian GDP growth has bottomed out at 5.5 per cent. This rosy picture is in sharp contrast to Standard & Poor’s warning that the Indian economy’s sovereign credit rating could be downgraded to “junk status” in 24 months.
What economists like Dr. Ahluwalia do not see is that the problem in India is not how to increase production (that can easily be increased considering the large number of engineers and technicians, and immense natural resources) but how to raise the purchasing power of the Indian masses. After all, what is produced has to be sold, but how can it be sold when 75-80 per cent of our people are poor, living on about Rs.25 per day?
Moreover, if GDP growth benefits only a handful of rich people by making them richer while the poor become poorer because of inflation, it follows that the goods manufactured cannot be sold because the masses will have no purchasing power.
In recent months there has been a manufacturing decline in India, and export-oriented industries have been particularly hard hit because of the recession in western countries.
India’s relative stability was based on the 15-20 per cent middle class, which, considering our huge population of 1,200 million, would be about 200-250 million. This provided a market for our goods and services. This middle class is fast losing its purchasing power due to skyrocketing prices, and this in turn is fast eroding India’s stability, as can be seen from the popular agitations lately.
Massive poverty, huge unemployment, skyrocketing prices, absence of health care for the poor people, farmers’ suicides, child malnutrition, etc, are all an explosive mixture. If the Bourbons do not wake up now (of which I see little likelihood at present), a prolonged period of chaos and anarchy seems inevitable in India in the near, not distant, future.

Published in The Hindu on November 7, 2012


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  2. Another example of Justice Katju's views being balanced. We need people like him for the betterment of our society.

  3. Respected Sir ,This is very good article which demonstrate real Indian economy,It should be evident in every newsletter.

  4. Dear Sir,

    I am a avid reader of your blog and was attracted to your site after watching your interview (via video conferencing) on NDTV Big fight. You gave your candid view on Shiv Sena and I believe the legal head of Sena was debating with you.

    One question came to my mind after watching the complete shut down of Bombay after death of Mr. Thackrey. Though I understand that it was more of fear psychosis then reverence which lead to this shut down but can full state honors be given to a person who never held a govt post under any title ? What is the constitutional position on such a situation.


  5. Dear Sir,

    I felt so vindicated when I read your article, "Why I can't pay tribute to Thackeray" and "Letter to the Maharashtra CM". I have been 'campaigning' all day on Facebook trying to drive home the point that the emerging popularity of Shiv Sena and the state honors given to the late Thackeray during his cremation are indicative of a great intellectual malfunction in the psyche of the masses. Reading your blog post at the end of the day made me feel like I could finally rest. As if the cavalry had arrived.

    The most disturbing fact is that the people who seem to be the most misled come from the white-collared, educated work-force of the country. Engineers at ASUS Inc, Financial analysts at Citibank, programmers from Infosys...

    Our educational system has failed. Even back in school I could sense the inefficacy of the education system but now the sysptoms are getting scarily obvious. People are literate alright - they can argue in impeccable English - but they lack to ability of an unbiased analysis.

    Maybe it's already too late. The problem has reached epidemic proportions. The apathy has seeped in right to the roots, into everything. People like to make an example of India's technological prowess, our IT industry, and the sea of engineers we command. But our IT companies rank nowhere in terms of per-employee output, we don't spend enough on research, we don't register enough patents, we don't have enough scientists. In fact, it would be safe to say that Indian IT companies are just servicing the IT giants of the west - doing the backend housekeeping chores for the cheapest prices. As a 26 year old computer engineer, I should know. I've watched my peers. Engineers are not innovative anymore - IITians just dream of jobs with big financial firms (look up their placement records) - and our smartest doctors are still leaving the country for more lucrative opportunities abroad. The situation is dismal but the facts are hardly reported because the media too has sold it's soul.

    The politicians are corrupt, the well heeled are apathetic, and the not so well heeled are clueless. You are right in that the masses are brimming with anger but the anger is directionless and they lack a true leader.

    We are at fault too! The intelligentsia of this country have been asleep for far too long. We have been living in a cocoon busy with our drawing room discussions. Pardon my language but brains are of no real use if they aren't accompanied by any balls. That's precisely why it's such a pleasure to see you in action.

    And that brings me to the crux of this comment. You sir, command the respect of the youth and the media alike. With your knowledge of the law you couldn't be better prepared to fix the system from within.

    You need to join politics and, if possible, even run for the post of Prime Minister. No one could be more deserving and neither is there going to be a more appropriate time. The idea might seem outlandish but I beseech you to give it an honest thought.

    Respect and gratitude,

  6. Dear Ishan,

    You have just spoken my soul out there.


  7. Dear Sri Katju,
    You speak your mind but it is the heart and soul of the point that a common man like to make...This discussion is often missing in the main stream media and after a long time you are filling in for the masses... Your efforts are much applauded here...


  8. i would tell you my story, i topped in SCIENCE in school, cleared IIIT-Bangalore, did not join. It is not to glorify myself, but to show the reality that what is wrong in india. I don't do engineering to solve the india's problem which would make indians better in living. This is what VISHWAKARMANS are ordered also as per VED, to connect the empire/nation. Engineers in india are not trained properly also. the only motive is to serve. Only if engineers are allowed to do engineering, would we be able to uplift others, by providing jobs to many others.

  9. Dear Sir,

    I agree with the GDP thing ,let us increase the purchasing power... but the question that come into mind is that " Whether we want country of innovators or country of consumers ". The problem with the GDP concept is that, it helps the rich ,talks about the number ... but doesnt talk about the inclusive growth . We should learn from our small neighbour friend Bhutan in this manner, which has included "HAPPINESS" factor and called it Gross National Happiness , ....well then the solution is simple as suggested by you ... let us increase the purchasing power of poor section and increase the innovation quotient of rich .... with the time , poor will by default come into innovator section..... The economics need to be looked with different perspective.

    The question of our politicians.... the problem with this breed is that they know that by getting 25-30% vote, they can sit in parliament.... so they just use their muscle power and get the desired result .... Though they are not the representative of 70% + people, ,,,, so, its WE THE PEOPLE who have to get up and vote according to development criteria and not on the basis of caste, religion , sex, ....((( 90% of indians are fools :):) )...
    but there is a positive change i feel, its because of people like you , DR J P Narayan and ofcourse few people working at grass root level...

    Keep doing the great work... let the celebrity news be replaced for ever with such mind boggling articles.

    Thanks & With Best Regards,

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