ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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India's Hope against Hope

Those who puzzle why reasoned policy prescriptions, clearly comprehensible and undoubtedly apprehended by decision-makers, do not lead to change are absolutely correct to attribute the failure to bottomless venality and insane corruption. Yet there is a churning, as the borders of the predatory state recede in the face of an expanding civil society.

A diabolical confluence of interests and honeycomb of illicit mutual favours continue their stranglehold over the contemporary Indian polity. India’s political class and their ever-burgeoning hangers on, serviced by an army of filing-clerk bureaucrats, combine with manipulative industrial and rural interests to cynically skim this highly profitable business opportunity called India. So industrious is the effort to grab and hold on to the spoils that incidental losses due to excessive short-term greed and inattention to preserving the system itself constitutes one of the worst sources of damage to the economy. The intelligence debacle over Kargil, frequent train collisions, massive delays in project implementation and assorted misfortunes are but the many calamities inflicted upon the Indian economy and society by this shameless preoccupation.

The history of what might be described as a jagirdari system for scooping up India’s fabled wealth has antecedents stretching back millennia. The Mogul rulers misspent most of this bounty fighting wars and leading a life of luxurious excess. The British ruthlessly reduced the number of local subcontinental claimants and spirited much of it away to England to spur the industrial revolution and financed a glittering lifestyle for a newly enriched elite. Independent India, on inheriting full control of this bounty of human and material wealth, quickly descended into a feeding frenzy. The very earliest experience of self-government, the resolutely corrupt Calcutta Corporation, had already given a shocking foretaste of the shape of things to come. The distraction of slogans celebrating national independence and self-sacrifice was jettisoned with breathless alacrity, the new rulers barely pausing to catch their breath. Fresh bona fides, appropriate to the new situation, were invented by resort to subterfuges about socialism, removing poverty and, increasingly now, patriotism and ancient traditions. Cruel and lifeless deceptions, alas. As always, the rural poor carry the greatest burden of the total surcharge for this misrule, followed by the mass of unorganised urban wage earners, and growing national indebtedness coils like a cobra, as a tax on the unborn, ready to strike. Yet complacent, self-satisfied middle class India always finds something to celebrate, whether it be tennis, cricket or, most of all, the unfathomable bravery demonstrated by its fighting men. But business is business and hypocrisy the name of the game, the defining characteristic of the wily bania of Islamic caricature.

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