You clearly lack understanding and find India an easy target.
You say, “In my opinion the filth, squalor and all around pollution indicates a marked lack of respect for India by Indians.”
When you have a large population that lives in poverty, you immediate concerns are not the environment. Maslows theory is well known. And as far the pollution is concerned, the West pollutes far more than what India does. I guess what you really meant was sanitation.
My lack of understanding? Perhaps, as I am not omniscient, but I often find when someone uses, “you lack understanding” as an opener it means they’re just unwilling to listen. As I said, I may lack understanding, but I do not lack the will to understand. So, perhaps we can move this conversation forward and in good faith I offer a few corrections on my end.
Yes, there is a difference between sanitation and pollution. Many of the issues I address are, more properly, understood under the heading of sanitation. India’s very real air-pollution in cities aside, let’s focus on sanitation, as I’ve since been corrected many times, not only about the difference between the two, but also the fact that India’s carbon footprint, per capita, is one of the lowest in the world. I am also aware that the Indian conception of purity and cleanliness is much different than that in the West. It is a cultural issue. My point about sanitation is this: if Indians desire more investment from the West, this is something Indians need to address from a purely self-interested, pragmatic calculation. I’ll say it again: this is India’s choice, and as I have made clear, I respect India’s choices.
I’d also add, in India’s favor the fact that the wildlife in India is almost the most diverse and rich in the world, outside of Africa it certainly is. The lack of hardcore, industrial pollution in India is one of two reasons for this bounty. The other is the simple fact that most Indian’s are vegetarians of a sort, and the wildlife is much safer than in a place like China. This is to be applauded by all peoples, not just the self-righteous environmentalists of the West, in our increasingly small world
You say: “Infrastructure is poor. I just never have the impression that the Indian government really cares. Too interested in buying weapons from Russia, Israel and the US I guess.”
The West did not build all its infrastructure in one day. And when you have two hostile nuclear armed neighbors, you are forced to spend on defense.
No doubt this is true. However, China, which has a population larger than India’s, and started from a baseline GDP per capita similar to India’s created world-class infrastructure in less than 40 years. India is twenty years along in its reform effort and not even remotely close to where the Chinese were in a comparable stage. And China had the same excuse of nuclear armed neighbors: Russia and the US bases in Japan. You can use this excuse all you want, but it is a crutch, just like the one the US uses on the ‘War on Terror.’ It’s a false choice: either we invest in our own people and live up to our own ideals, as democracies, or we don’t. The US falls far, far short of its ideals, actually betraying them far too often for my taste. But having ‘bad neighbors’ or ‘people who hate our freedoms’ is a lame excuse. Nothing more.
You say, “The rich still have their servants, the lower castes are still there to do the dirty work and so the country remains in status.”
The British too had servants in the 19th century while the Americans had their slaves.
The likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson talked about right to freedom but never gave it to their black slaves. In fact racism against blacks continued till as late 1960′s and 70′s. That’s 200 years after they got independence. But those years did not have media scrutiny and internet.There are large number of illegal migrants in US and Europe who actually work as servants at homes.
I don’t dispute any of this. I’ll only say the following two things. One, you can lecture me on racism when a Dalit is prime-minister of India. Until then, I have an African-American president, and while I criticize him frequently, I am proud of that my country has largely, but not perfectly, moved past race. This is one ideal we have lived up to as a society. Not without pain and suffering, but we have made very real progress.
Second: Russia, Great Britain, France and the US all did away with slavery and involuntary servitude in the 19th century. When are you going to do the same? When does the reality of building an economy on the sweat of another man or woman’s labor become too much? And this is not about guilt, historical or otherwise, as guilt is too easy to project. It is about mobilizing the best capital you have in India: all of your people, men and women.
You say, “And I’ve seen 50 other countries on this planet and none, not even Ethiopia, have as long and gargantuan a laundry list of problems as India does”
No doubt that India has its problems. But you never mentioned its strengths. India has democracy. It is perhaps the only instance where democracy has worked despite widespread poverty.
India cannot throw away slumdwellers like China does. For Beijing Olympics, large number of people were simply thrown out.
China has massive pollution. Most people, including those in cities actually drink polluted water.
India has its problems and at least for the next 20 years, many of these shall continue. But it is our democracy that gives us hope. Ours is an extremely complicated society. We have defied the basic definition of a nation state – which talks about people bound by common culture, language and religion. We have created our own definition. That’s India.
No doubt India has its strengths, some of which I have identified above. There are more. And I will write about them at length sometime soon, when I wind down a few writing projects I am engaged in currently. As I have said before in other forums: my primary aim in my ‘India Critique’ is to impart some realism about the hurdles Western businessmen will face if they choose to invest in India. A myth is being built around the ‘emergence of India’ and I think that myth needs to be demystified. I’m a realist. I see the opportunities in India. But I see them with open eyes, not rose colored glasses.
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