Sunday, 22 November 2015

Bewildering Questions, Part-5 (Rajiv Gandhi)

Blog-Series: Bewildering Questions, Part-5 (Rajiv Gandhi)

A Bunch of Bewildering Questions


Bewildering Questions (1) : Freedom, Partition, Socialism, Dynacracy
Bewildering Questions (2) : Nehru's "Exemplary" Score-Card
Bewildering Questions (3) : Indira Gandhi
Bewildering Questions (4) : Sanjay Gandhi

4G.2: Rajiv Gandhi

(1G=Motilal Nehru, 2G=Jawaharlal Nehru, 3G=Indira, 4G=Sanjay/Rajiv)

Why was Rajiv Gandhi made the PM upon death of Indira?
Rather, why was he thrust upon the nation?
Normally, the senior most minister should have been made the PM upon the death of Indira Gandhi. Subsequently, an internal election/process in the party should have decided on the post.

However, to show his Dynastic-loyalty, Giani Zail Singh, the then President, allowed Rajiv Gandhi to take the oath. Rajiv was not even a minister. He had no relevant experience. He was immature. He soon demonstarted his incompetence for the job.

The most dastardly 1984-Anti-Sikh-Attacks, the worst in the history of independent India so far, happened under his watch soon after he became the PM.

He continued with his incompetent ways till the end of his term.

Prime Ministership by inheritance! That has been the great achievement of Nehru-Indira!! They converted the vibrant Indian democracy into a dynacracy (feudal dynastic democracy), and the Congress into a private estate.

What were the academic achievements or competencies of Rajiv Gandhi?
Like a typical scion from the Nehru dynasty, Rajiv was an academic underachiever. Rajiv Gandhi failed to do his graduation despite all the expenses at London. He was at Cambridge till 1965, but left it without a degree, because he did not appear for the examinations. He joined Imperial College, London in 1966, but again left it after a year, without a degree.

One can understand deficient education on account of financial difficulties or other exceptional circumstances. But, when a person fails academically despite all the money and all the facilities, that's a reflection on the person. Shows lack of sincerety, application and hard work, and tendency to while away time.

What's even more surprising is that if you don't wish to study, why waste precious foreign exchange (fx was very precious in those days) abroad—while away time in India!

Nehru Dynasty scions do not need academic qualifications or expertise in any field or ground-level political experience or experience of running a panchayat or a municipality or a district or a state or a ministry to get into the top-most slot of prime minister.

They do not need to prove themselves in anything; not even in public speaking or debates, so vital for a politician. They have been poor thinkers and articulators, bereft of any worth-while vision. They have also been third-rate speakers, without exception.

India is condemned to bear the exceptionally high risk of them at the apex, and the invariably disastrous consequences that flow from that. They just parachute down as prime ministers.

Shouldn't Rajiv Gandhi and his government be held responsible and accountable for the 1984 anti-Sikh-attacks?
Of course, yes.

There are four sets of questions that arise about the 1984 anti-Sikh attacks.

Why the attacks started?
Who started it?
Who encouraged it?
Who looked the other way?
Why the police and the army did not quell it?
The surprising and the inexcusable part was:
How could the attacks continue for four days; and that too in the capital of India, having no dearth of police, and with the army on call?

Post attacks, why were the guilty not booked?
Why instead the victims were further harassed?
Why sham enquiries were conducted?

Why the guilty and those suspected of involvement in the attacks were being protected?
Why many of them were given cushy or better positions and promotions?

Why no justice has been done till date—even after 29 long years?

The only plausible explanation is that if the State itself is guilty of its failure to protect, and is determined not to get caught, where is the question of justice, and punishment of the guilty. Especially, when the people at the top positions are involved—on account of either their inexcusable silence and inaction, or on account of their deliberate complicity. This is obvious from the way no  stone was left unturned to scuttle all probes, and abort the legal process.

This has a parallel with Bofors. The State ensured the guilty were not caught. Set up JPCs and Enquiry Commissions, hand over probe to the investigative agencies, when you could no more avoid them, and then systematically abort them.

There are people who call it 1984 riots. How are they riots. Riots are when two sides attack each other. But, in 1984, only the Sikhs were on the receiving end—and brutally.

1984 anti-Sikh attacks have established such high watermarks on many counts that they are unlikely to be ever breached:
The scale of the attacks.

The gruesomeness of the attacks.

The complicity of the powerful and those responsible for protection of the people—either through their involvement or their irresponsible silence and inaction.

Exceedingly callous and exceptionally irresponsible manner of response of the State in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, providing little succour to victims.

Shamelessly insensitive justification of the attacks at the highest level—by Rajiv Gandhi: "When a tree falls, the earth shakes under it...

Brazenness with which the State went about scuttling  all probes and attempts to get at the truth and punish the guilty.

Exoneration of the guilty.
Also, rewarding the guilty: accommodation and promotion of the guilty.

Rajiv was apparently so unconcerned that he did not even think it necessary to express regret on the attacks or sympathy with the victims in the parliament.

Was it his lack of concern or was it his guilty conscience that led him to keep silent on the sordid affair?

Why didn’t he prevent the attacks?

Even if it is granted that on the first day he was taken by surprise, what prevented him from acting on the second or the third or even the fourth day?

Khushwant Singh had rightly remarked:
“If he [Rajiv] was not the author of the order to ‘teach the Sikhs a lesson’, he did nothing to countermand it.”

Incidentally, a Sikh was the President of India then—Giani Zail Singh. Sitting right there in Delhi, with all the power at his command, he did nothing to save the Sikhs of Delhi!

This is what the Dynasty has done to leaders and babus. Make them totally loyal, subservient and spineless. Giani Zail Singh could not have been President unless Indira Gandhi was satisfied he was faithful to her, besides being obsequious and gutless. He did nothing either to prevent the attacks on Sikhs, or to bring the guilty to book, later. Why? Because, he just wanted to continue as president. The least he could have done was to have resigned in protest. Even much earlier, did he do anything to prevent the Operation Blue Star, and the reduction of the revered Sikh Shrine to rubble? Could he not have prevailed upon Indira Gandhi to use alternate methods, so as not to damage the shrine—and resigned if she persisted!

Strangely, it was Giani Zail Singh who, as president, swore Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister, upon the death of Indira Gandhi—violating all parliamentary procedures.

Normally, it should have been the senior most cabinet minister who should have been sworn-in as the Prime Minister. Rajiv Gandhi then was not even a minister. Why did Giani Zail Singh do so? Not to uphold the constitution or the parliamentary procedures, but to demonstrate his loyalty to the Dynasty! Person sitting in the highest office was reduced to being merely a lackey.

Those who are unaware of the facts should read ‘When a Tree Shook Delhi’ by Manoj Mitta and HS Phoolka, published by Roli Books, and ‘I Accuse… : The Anti-Sikh Violence of 1984’  authored by Jarnail Singh and published by Penguin/Viking. Also,  ‘The Ghosts of Mrs. Gandhi’, a recollection of his personal experience during the anti-Sikh violence in Delhi written by Amitav Ghosh and included in his collection ‘The Imam and the Indian’ published by Ravi Dayal/Penguin, is worth reading.

Can Rajiv and the Congress be considered secular and protector of women's equality and rights after what they did in the Shah Banu case and in Ayodhya?

In what came to be known as the Shah Banu case, the Supreme Court awarded alimony to a divorced Muslim woman, Shah Bano, in April 1985,  and called for honouring the constitutional commitment to a Uniform Civil Code.

With a two-thirds majority in Parliament, the Congress could have taken the Court’s verdict forward. Instead, Rajiv Gandhi had a Bill passed, the Muslim Personal Law Bill, overturning the Supreme Court’s verdict.

Rajiv Gandhi thereby bent down to Muslim fanatics, ignoring the just stand taken by his own minister, who also happened to be a Muslim—Arif Mohammad Khan. Khan finally resigned in protest!

Was it not expected of a PM to back up what was just and proper, and show support for the poor, old lady, and many like her. If you cannot be just and fair and back up a good cause, even when the Supreme Court is on your side, and you have an overwhelming majority in the parliament, can you ever be just and fair?

But, again the Dynasty instinct. Who cares for the poor, old lady; who cares for the suffering Muslim women; who cares for reforms or justice! What matters is your continuance in power and that of your Dynasty, and that requires votes of the minority. Your Dynasty instinct tells you that if you support what is backward and unjust, you may be compensated with votes. However, it was not as if Rajiv’s government was in any difficulty and he desperately required support. His government had an overwhelming majority and there was absolutely no threat to his power. But, why not secure the future too for the Dynasty—whatever it may cost to the nation and its people and its minority!

And, after having thus secured the Muslim votes, Rajiv thought, like a clever heir of a clever Dynasty, why not try and secure Hindu votes too. So allow opening of the lock of Ayodhya Temple/Masjid to have the conservative Hindus also on your side. Like Indians are still struggling with the consequences of his grand-father’s acts on Kashmir, Tibet and India-China border-dispute; they—particularly, the minority Muslim community—are also suffering from the consequences of Rajiv Gandhi’s disastrous acts on Shah Banu case and Ayodhya.

Wrote Ramchandra Guha in the Hindustan Times of 13 September 2008: “In April 1985, in awarding alimony to a divorced woman named Shah Bano, the Supreme Court called for honouring the constitutional commitment to a Uniform Civil Code. The Congress had a two-thirds majority in Parliament. However, instead of taking the Court’s verdict forward, Rajiv Gandhi had a Bill passed overturning it. Less than a year later, the locks of the shrine in the Babri Masjid were opened. As the political analyst Neerja Chowdhury wrote at the time, ‘Mr Rajiv Gandhi wants both to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.' Chowdhury remarked that ‘a policy of appeasement of both communities being pursued by the government for electoral gains is a vicious cycle which will become difficult to break’ ...Rajiv Gandhi had 400 MPs, a Supreme Court verdict, and a liberal Muslim (Arif Mohammed Khan) willing to bat for him. That he still flunked it may be attributed either to a lack of a sense of history or a lack of a robust commitment to liberal principles—or perhaps both.” Guha is mild in his rebuke. The long and short of it is that dynasts in general work not in national or community interest, but in self-interest, in their dynasty's interest; and that Rajiv in particular was a person thoroughly incompetent for the job of a PM. 

Isn't it an absolutely false claim that liberalisation started with Rajiv?

Finding that there is all round praise for the liberalisation heralded by Narsimha Rao, the Dynasty chamchas were quick to pass on the credit to Rajiv, claiming that the liberalisation actually commenced with Rajiv.

They conveniently forget—knowing no one would remember it—what Rajiv himself said on the subject. He stated at the Qinghua University, “The focus of our socialism is the uplift of the poor, succour to the weak, justice to the oppressed and balanced regional development. To attain these ends, we believe the State must control the commanding heights of the economy...”

In fact, the manifesto of the Congress under Rajiv promised another heavy dose of socialism as the 1991 elections approached. Despite this, people are mislead into believing  that it was Rajiv who ushered in reforms.

The financial bankruptcy and the severe economic crisis that India faced in 1991 was thanks to gross economic mismanagement of the past decades ruled by Nehru, Indira and, of course, Rajiv Gandhi, who was at the helm during the immediate preceding years—foreign debt had doubled between 1985 and 1991.

Wasn't IPKF a huge Rajiv misadventure?

The naive Rajiv Gandhi and his advisers thought the Sri Lankan Tamil issue provided them an opportunity to show off their great prowess in International Affairs. You are a big guy, so you unilaterally decide with Sri Lanka what the solution of Tamil issue should be, without involving LTTE and Pirbhakaran. And, later, you just call Pirbhakaran to Delhi and want him to sign on the dotted line, and expect he would do so!

Then, you dream you are a super power. And, to show to the world your responsibility as a super power, you send in your IPKF to Sri Lanka. What happens? LTTE becomes your sworn enemy. Your soldiers, who do not have full freedom to act, are killed by scores. Sri Lanka itself treats you as an alien, enemy force, which should be thrown out. So you make a mess of the whole Sri Lankan Tamil issue, and your soldiers come back bruised and despised, having failed in the thankless task.

What about presentation of Rajiv as Mr Clean?
A publicity stunt, that Rajiv himself exposed.

Media, ever ready to please those in power, dubbed Rajiv Gandhi Mr Clean. He responded with Bofors. And it was not just Bofors. There were other financial scandals, including HDW. There are unconfirmed reports that Bofors was not necessarily the first such case, and that even as a pilot during the time of his mother, Rajiv Gandhi was perhaps associated with certain defence deals.

The extent to which the Government and Rajiv, personally, went to mislead the public and scuttle the probe itself proved their involvement in some way or the other. What is interesting about the Bofors case is not its main focus—the bribe. By today’s standards it was too less. What was indeed interesting, rather revealing, was the way, the machinations, and the extent to which the government under Rajiv, and even successive government, could go to save the possible culprits, mislead the public, and scuttle the probe they themselves instituted.

Sten Lindstrom, since retired, was the head of Swedish police, and had led the investigations into the Bofors deal in the late eighties and the nineties. He was a conscientious, honest cop, who did his best to bring the corrupt to justice.

Chitra Subramaniam, now Chitra Subramaniam-Duella, was a journalist for The Hindu based in Geneva when the Bofors scandal broke. She did path-breaking investigative work on the Bofors deal. She shifted to The Indian Express when The Hindu reportedly discontinued her investigative reports on Bofors under political pressure. It is thanks to her that the government failed to suppress the scandal.

Ottavio Quattrocchi, or Q, was an Italian businessman and reportedly a friend of the Gandhis. During Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi’s time in the 1980s, Snamprogetti, an Italian company, won dozens of projects (around 60) from the Indian Government. That was thanks to Quattrocchi, who reportedly had free access to the PM’s residence, could freely barge into the rooms of ministers and secretaries. Those in the government who dared to oppose him risked being humiliated or side-lined.

Wrote Ashok Malik in The Pioneer of 28 April 2012, “Those who stood up to him [Quattrocchi]—opposing him on grounds of technology (Thal Vaishet project, 1980) or price (Hazira-Bijapur-Jagdishpur pipeline, 1985) were humiliated or side-lined. HBJ destroyed several careers. Mr Nawal Kishore Sharma lost his job as Petroleum Minister. Mr PK Kaul was sacked as Cabinet secretary. Mr GV Ramakrishna and Mr AS Gill, two outstanding Petroleum Secretaries, were thwarted from being considered for Cabinet Secretary-ship. In the case of Thal Vaishet, Mr KV Ramananthan, then Secretary for chemicals and fertilisers and frontrunner for the Cabinet Secretary’s post, was shunted out to the Planning Commission.”

Sten, in an interview to Chitra published on The Hoot on 24 April 2012 explaining why he turned a whistleblower, said:
“I knew what I was doing when I leaked the documents to you. I could not count on my government or Bofors or the government of India to get to the bottom of this...

“We were conducting several search and seize operations in the premises of Bofors and their executives...In the pile were one set of documents to Swiss banks with instructions that the name of the recipient should be blocked out...Bofors was unable to explain and then we found more and more documents leading to India...

“But he [Rajiv Gandhi] watched the massive cover-up in India and Sweden and did nothing. Many Indian institutions were tarred, innocent people were punished while the guilty got away. The evidence against Ottavio Quattrocchi was conclusive. Through a front company called A.E. Services, bribes paid by Bofors landed in Quattrocchi’s account which he subsequently cleaned out because India said there was no evidence linking him to the Bofors deal. Nobody in Sweden or Switzerland was allowed to interrogate him...

“Ardbo was also concerned about the role of Arun Nehru who had told Bofors in 1985 that his name and Rajiv Gandhi’s name should not appear anywhere. As the stories began to appear, Ardbo knew what I knew. He had written in his notes that the identity of N (Nehru) becoming public was a minor concern but at no cost could the identity of Q (Quattrocchi) be revealed because of his closeness to R (Rajiv Gandhi). He had also mentioned a meeting between an A.E. Services official and a Gandhi trustee lawyer in Geneva. This was a political payment. These payments are made when the deal has to be inked and all the numbers are on the table...

“During that trip to Sweden, the Indian investigators planted the Bachchan angle on DN (Swedish Newspaper Dagens Nyheter). The Bachchan’s took them to court in the UK and won. DN had to apologise and they said the story had come from Indian investigators. I was disappointed with the role of many senior journalists and politicians during that period. They muddied the waters...

“After the LR [Letter-Rogatory] was lodged in Switzerland, I was waiting for the official track with India and Switzerland to begin. It never did. Whenever the public prosecutor Ekblom and I heard of any Indian visits to Stockholm, we would speak to the media expressing our desire to meet them. Can you imagine a situation where no one from India met the real investigators of the gun deal?”

The above clearly shows how the investigation was a hogwash.

Funnily, while the foreign governments—Swedish and the Swiss—were willing to cooperate and furnish documents that could help identify the guilty; our CBI was reluctant to acquire the documents and welcome the cooperation voluntarily offered by them! Such is the level of political control over CBI, and such is the pathetic state of our investigative machinery!!

Even though the Bofors scandal came to light in 1987, a case was registered only when VP Singh became the PM in 1989. His government lasted barely a year. Chandrashekhar government followed, with the backing of the Congress. Thanks to the same, the CBI lawyer started arguing in the court against the government’s case itself!

In 1991, unknown persons—obviously those who must have received bribes—went to court in Geneva to ask the Swiss authorities not tell the Indian Government who the accounts belonged to!

Then in 1992, India gave a note to the Swiss Foreign Minister saying the Bofors case was politically motivated, and requested the Swiss authorities not to cooperate with the Indian investigators and to ignore any requests made by other arms of the Government. Guess, who gave the note? India’s Foreign Minister in the Congress Government, Madhavsinh Solanki, when he met his Swiss counterpart at the WEF meeting.

Soon after Interpol advised India in July 1993 that Ottavio Quattrocchi was one of the persons appealing against the transfer of the Swiss bank documents, Quattrocchi flew out of India. A  Congress politician reportedly helped him fly out.

India finally received documents from Switzerland in 1997 that established payment of kickback to  Quattrocchi. Quattrocchi was then living in Malaysia. NDA Government tried his extradition, but failed—it lost in a lower court on a Friday, appealed to a higher court on the following Monday, but, over the weekend, Quattrocchi fled Malaysia.

To allow the case to die a natural death, UPA allowed two unfavourable court verdicts to go unchallenged. One was quashing of bribery charges in 2004. The second was quashing of charges against Hindujas in 2005 on the ground that papers presented to the court were authenticated photocopies, not originals.

UPA allowed de-freezing of Quattrocchi’s bank accounts in London in December 2005, and he was allowed to have his ill-gotten money.

Argentina police detained Quattrocchi in 2007 on account of then still existing Interpol alert, but, as expected, UPA so handled the matter that Quattrocchi again got away.

Writes Seema Mustafa in her article, ‘Why there won’t be any progress on Bofors’, in DNA of 27 April 2012: “In 2004, when I asked Lindstrom to name some living persons who had full details of the Bofors kickbacks he responded without hesitation, ‘Martin Ardbo, Ottavio Quattrocchi and Sonia Gandhi...’ Ardbo has since died...”

Writes Kuldip Nayar in ‘Beyond the Lines’:
“Rajiv Gandhi had bent all the rules to order Bofors’ howitzers. Even the circumstantial evidence testified to his involvement. A close friend of his told me that Rajiv Gandhi had opened a new account abroad and had deposited the kickbacks there. This benefited his Italian in-laws, parents of Sonia Gandhi. Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian middleman in Delhi, close to Sonia Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, was responsible for the clandestine payment.

“Quattrocchi had once threatened to sue me for defamation because of what I had written about his ‘nefarious activities’ in my book The Judgement (1977). He escaped punishment for all he had done and was eventually allowed to leave India, the CBI ensuring that no harm came to an individual so close to the Dynasty. When I checked with some senior officers in the agency, their reply was that there were orders from above. H.R. Bharadwaj told me in Bangalore that he had ‘put everything in order’ before moving to Karnataka as governor. According to former CBI director Joginder Singh, Quattrocchi was aware in advance of every move the agency proposed to take against him. For example, he was shown all official papers before he appeared for extradition proceedings at a Malaysian court. I once asked Foreign Minister Madhavsinh Solanki in the Narasimha Rao government about the documents he had delivered to the Swedish government regarding the kickbacks. New Delhi was keen that the Swedish authorities remained silent. He did not comment on the documents but said that the Bofors gun deal was ‘as messy as Narmada’s non-use of water’.”

Didn't Rajiv allow Anderson to get away?

Bhopal Gas Tragedy was consequent to the leakage of poisonous gas from Union Carbide plant at Bhopal on 2 December 1984 causing over 10,000 deaths and about 500,000 injuries, making it the worst ever industrial accident in world history.

Warren Anderson, the CEO of Union Carbide, was arrested on charges of manslaughter. Strangely, he was allowed to post bail and escape to the US. All subsequent extradition efforts by India were unsuccessful. It has been reported that Arjun Singh, the then CM of MP facilitated Anderson’s escape at the instance of Rajiv Gandhi.

Wasn't Rajiv partly responsible for the insurgency in Punjab and Kashmir, and for Operation Blue Star?

The rise of the insurgency in Kashmir in the late eighties was partly stoked by the Rajiv Gandhi’s government rigging of the 1987 elections in cahoots with the National Conference. Among those defeated, thanks to rigging, were some of the future leaders of the jihad.

Backroom manipulations by Rajiv and his coterie were also partly responsible for the mishandling of Punjab and for the ill-thought Operation Blue Star.

Is it fair to defend the indefensible: the pathetic record of Rajiv's gross failure on all fronts?

Rajiv Gandhi’s “achievements” notwithstanding, here is a sample  from an intellectual and a thought-leader from the top ranks of the MSM (Main Stream Media): “...All this [about Rajiv Gandhi] is true enough, but I think it misses some of his deeper achievements. We forget, for instance, how bad things were when he took over...Many people, predicted that the Indian experiment was at an end and that chaos was around the corner...It was Rajiv Gandhi’s five years in office—from the autumn of 1984 to the winter of 1989—that showed the world that India was here to stay. We had our problems. But our survival was not in doubt. Even if Rajiv had not done anything else, that single achievement alone is enough for an entire nation to owe him a debt of gratitude...”

What an audacious statement! So, 42 years after independence, ruled mostly by the Dynasty, and after 5 years of rule by Rajiv Gandhi, Indians must thank the Dynasty, because but for them India as a nation would not have survived! What a wise concoction and a clever counterfactual! With nothing worthwhile to show for their achievements, declare that India would have gone to pieces but for the Dynasty.

What if a contrary counterfactual is posed: India would have been far more integrated and united and prosperous had the Dynasty not weighted India down! Had Mahatma Gandhi not ushered in the Dynasty by making Nehru the PM, and had the non-socialists like Sardar Patel or Rajaji taken over the reins and guided India along with competitive capitalism and free enterprise economy, India would have been a much more united, rich, prosperous, first-rate, first-world nation by 1980!

What is even more galling is the “vision” of such “eminent” intellectuals, and the liberties they take with the facts of history. While many countries who were behind or far behind India when India gained independence have long since become prosperous and part of the first world, such “intellectuals” are relieved India has at least survived! Given such abysmally low expectations, any dumb of the Dynasty would come out in flying colours.

Did Rajiv deserve Bharat Ratna?
Certainly NOT.

Giving Bharat Ratna to Rajiv Gandhi meant not only total diminishing of its value; it was also an insult to the deserving ones who got it earlier. What to speak of Bharat Ratna, Rajiv Gandhi didn't even deserve a Padma Shree! And, why even a Padma Shree? If some wrong has been committed, there is no shame in rectifying it. And, it's never too late! The Bharat Ratna undeservedly given to Rajiv Gandhi must be withdrawn.

Then there are uncountable number of institutions, ports, bridges, and so on named after Rajiv Gandhi. Why? Totally improper and undeserved!

The government ought to set up a competent body, invite inputs from public, and should evolve well thought-out transparent rules and processes (that should be put up on the web) to decide on Padma, Bharat Ratna and other awards, and on naming of institutions, structures and bodies. The said body should also review awards undeservedly given in the past, and rename hundreds of things named after the Nehru Dynasty.

* * * * *

Rajnikant Puranik
November 22, 2015

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Nehruvian (NOT Hindu) Rate of Growth

Nehruvian Rate of Growth

the "Hindu" Rate of Growth

India’s poverty is self-inflicted, thanks to the self-destructive policies followed after independence, even though prescriptions for prosperity were available off-the-shelf for many years, and there were any number of real, practical examples to go by. Had Nehru’s government focused on its primary responsibilities—internal security, external security, law and order, justice, education, health, ‘minimum government, maximum governance’, efficient business-friendly regulation—and desisted getting into business, had it allowed the freedom to public to do business, India would have shot into double-digit growth rate in the late 1950s itself—such were its advantages over other countries—and would long since have been a part of the developed first world, rather than still being a poor, pathetic, third-rate third-world country.

What makes a country poor or prosperous?

Climate, geography, area, location, natural resources, race, religion, history, “type of people”, “character of people”?

No. None of these.

Poor countries are poor because those who have power
make choices that create poverty.

—Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
in ‘Why Nations Fail : The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty’

The determining factors are what kind of laws and rules, that is, the institutions, the people are embedded in.

Daron-Robinson demonstrate in their book mentioned above that the determining factors are the institutions: ‘Extractive Institutions’ cause poverty and misery, while ‘Inclusive Institutions’ lead to prosperity and freedom.

Extractive Institutions are normally the feature of monarchy, feudal system, political or military dictatorships, fascism, socialism and communism. Capitalist societies that are not fairly capitalist, or where crony capitalism prevails, may also lead to extractive institutions.

Characteristics of Inclusive Institutions include: encouragement of investments; harnessing the power of markets by better allocation of resources; allowing entry of more efficient firms; ease of starting businesses and provision of finance for them; and generating broader participation in the economy through education and ease of entry for new entrants. Growth under inclusive institutions involves both creative destruction (replacement of the old methods, technology, industries by new) and investment in technology.

Inclusive Institutions are not compatible with socialism, communism and feudal societies, or with dictatorships and monarchies. Only a society with competitive capitalism is capable of having inclusive institutions.

“It would be devastating to the egos of the intelligentsia to realize, much less admit, that businesses have done more to reduce poverty than all the intellectuals put together. Ultimately it is only wealth that can reduce poverty and most of the intelligentsia have no interest whatever in finding out what actions and policies increase the national wealth. They certainly don't feel any ‘obligation’ to learn economics ...”

—Dr. Thomas Sowell

Unfortunately for India, after independence, Nehru laid the foundations of Extractive Institutions, and his Dynasty reinforced them! Socialistic institutions happen to be extractive.

While the developing countries of SE-Asia, which had been far behind India in 1947, raced ahead at over 9% growth and became highly prosperous, with infra-structure rivalling western countries, India plodded along at what was derisively referred to as the Hindu rate of growth of just 3%, and became a basket-case, begging aid and food from all.

However, the term "Hindu rate of growth" is highly inappropriate and unfair, besides being derogatory.

Let us examine why?

One : The "Nehruvian Socialistic Rate of Growth"

The low rate of growth was thanks to Nehru-Indira-Rajiv’s policies. If rather than the “Hindu rate of growth” it was called the “Nehruvian rate of growth” or “Nehruvian socialistic rate of growth” or “NIDP [Nehru-Indira-Dynasty policies] rate of growth” or simply “Socialistic rate of growth”, one would have no quarrel.

“Nehru’s inability to rise above his deep-rooted Marxist equation of Western capitalism with imperialism, and his almost paranoid, partly aristocratic, distrust of free enterprise in its most successful form as ‘vulgar’, cost India dearly in retarding its overall development for the remaining years of his rule, as well as for the even longer reign of his more narrowly doctrinaire daughter.”

—Stanley Wolpert

Two : The “Colonial Rate of Growth”

The rate of growth during the pre-independence period, the colonial period, was even less! In fact, it had even turned negative during several long periods!!

Why was the rate of growth then not called the “Colonial rate of growth” or the “Christian rate of growth” in a pejorative sense?

As per an estimate by Angus Maddison, a Cambridge University historian,  “India's share of the world income fell from 22.6% in 1700, comparable to Europe's share of 23.3%, to a low of 3.8% in 1952.”

Hindu-India had been highly prosperous in the past, thanks to its massive “Hindu rate of growth”, which is why first the countries to the northwest of India, and then the Western countries invaded it.

Until the rise of the West, India was possibly the richest country in the world, which is why it presented an irresistible target for the ravaging Mongols and their descendents, and then the West. Why then was the term "Hindu rate of growth" not used in an adulatory sense?

Three : Higher Growth After 1993

 How do you explain the growth rate of 9% or over for certain periods after 1993? The same India, after only part junking of the Nehru-Indira-Rajiv socialistic policies, reached a growth rate of over 9%! Junk more of the Nehru-Indira socialistic policies, and the growth rate will rise to double-digits.

Four : The Absurdity of Religio-Cultural Connotation

Many Islamic countries prior to the world demand and discovery of oil were very poor. Was their growth rate called the “Islamic rate of growth”?

The growth rate during the dark ages of Europe was static or negative, when during the same period India was immensely rich and progressive. Was it ever called the “Christian rate of growth”?

Sri Lanka and Myanmar have had long periods of no growth or measly growth. Were they castigated for being under the spell of the “Buddhist rate of growth”?

China’s growth rate after going communist and till the end of the Mao-period was pathetic. Was it termed the “Atheistic rate of growth”?

Why associate “Hindu” with a rate of economic growth unless there is an ulterior motive of deliberately showing Hinduism in bad light? Of course, many use the term unfeelingly, without being conscious of its implications.

Five : Nehru vs. Hinduism

Nehru was an agnostic, and was more English than Indian, more western than eastern, more “something else” than a Hindu, and therefore it is grossly inappropriate to name a rate of growth, which was thanks to him and his dynasty, as “Hindu”.

Six : Why not “Secular” Rate of Growth?

Nehru, Nehru-dynasty and Nehruvian intellectuals have raved ad nauseam on “secularism”, without ensuring it in practice. Why not credit the growth rate thanks to them as the “‘Secular’ rate of growth”?

Seven : Socialism vs. Hinduism

Hindu-India has had long tradition of free international trade and commerce, and of liberal religious and world view. Such an ethos can never accept the Big Brother denouement or the run-up to it. There is an age old Indian proverb: Raja Vyapari taya Praja Bhikhari. That is, people become beggars when government enters into business.

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert,
in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.
—Milton Friedman

A belief in self-reliance and an overweening socialistic state on the part of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi actually did India in, rather than something that had anything to do with Hinduism.

Eight : Socialism vs. Gandhi, Rajaji, Patel...

A young man who isn't a socialist hasn't got a heart;
an old man who is a socialist hasn't got a head.

—David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister in 1920

Mahatma Gandhi was no socialist. Nor were the other stalwarts like Sardar Patel, Rajaji and Rajendra Prasad.

Mr Jawaharlal Nehru returned from Cambridge with notions of how an all-governing interventionist state can force people into happiness and prosperity through socialism...He sticks to this bias in spite of the demonstration of world experience against it...I hate the present folly and arrogance as much as I hated the foreign arrogance of those [British] days.

—Rajaji, as reproduced in Rajaji: A Life by Rajmohan Gandhi

All the four—Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Rajaji and Rajendra Prasad—quite unlike Nehru, could be considered as also representing the Hindu ethos, and perhaps precisely for that reason they were against socialistic claptrap of Nehru.

Nine : A Camouflage

In any case, using “Hindu” as in “Hindu rate of growth” in a pejorative sense is not only insulting, it camouflages the real reasons—socialistic claptrap was never going to give you a respectable growth rate to enable you to ameliorate the lot of the poor.

But, the question arises as to why did the term “Hindu rate of growth” gain currency? Well, here are the reasons.

One : Raj Krishna

The term was reportedly coined by the economist Raj Krishna to draw attention to the embarrassing rate of growth during the Nehru-Indira period. India being predominantly populated by the Hindus, he called it the “Hindu rate of growth”.

But, of course, he didn’t mean it to be insulting to Hinduism. He just used another term to represent India. It would have been more appropriate had he used the terms like “Nehruvian socialistic rate of growth”, which would have been really representative and meaningful.

However, what is interesting is the way it was lapped up, used, and made popular by the Nehruvians themselves, the socialists, and the leftist intellectuals; and also by the India-baiters and the colonialists.

Two : Blame Hinduism rather than Socialism

While many studies have documented the predominance of the political left in the academic world, the exceptional areas where they do not have such predominance are precisely those areas where you cannot escape from facts and results— the sciences, engineering, mathematics and athletics. By contrast, no area of academia is more dominated by the left than the humanities, where there are no facts to challenge the fantasies that abound. Leftists head for similar fact-free zones outside of academia.

—Thomas Sowell

Indian politicians and bureaucrats never wanted to admit that the fault lay with the socialistic apparatus. Why blame self? Especially, why blame something on which you have fattened yourselves?

The leftists, socialists and communists got prized slots in the government or government-aided organisations, societies and universities, and dominated the intellectual discourse in India. Socialism and Marxism could not be wrong—what was required was more of it!  The whole band, be it politicians or bureaucrats or intellectuals, didn’t mind the blame shifting to the religious-cultural heritage. Someone coined the term, the next one picked it up, and it spread.

“He [Nehru] had no idea of economics. He talked of Socialism, but he did not know how to define it. He talked of social justice, but I told him he could have this only when there was an increase in production. He did not grasp that. So you need a leader who understands economic issues and will invigorate your economy.”

—Chester Bowles, US Ambassador to India during Nehru's time

Three : The "Secularists", or rather, the Sickularists

For certain class of intellectuals the touchstone of secularism is whether you can be abusive to Hinduism. The term “Hindu” in “Hindu rate of growth” serves that purpose. It serves for them the double purpose: camouflage the ills resulting from socialism, and be also hailed “secular” the cheap way—by casting a slur on Hinduism.

Four : The Colonialists and the India-baiters

Other groups, which received the term with glee, lapped it up, and enthusiastically promoted it to disparage India, were the colonialists or those with the colonial mind-set or the brown sahibs, or the India-baiters. Give power to the Hindus, and what you will get is the “Hindu rate of growth”! Had the British Raj continued, things would have been better!!

* * * * *

Rajnikant Puranik
November 14, 2015

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Leftist-Socialist Intellectuals : An Oxymoron?

Leftist-Socialist Intellectuals :
An Oxymoron?

an Anachronism?

While many studies have documented the predominance of the political left in the academic world, the exceptional areas where they do not have such predominance are precisely those areas where you cannot escape from facts and results— the sciences, engineering, mathematics and athletics. By contrast, no area of academia is more dominated by the left than the humanities, where there are no facts to challenge the fantasies that abound. Leftists head for similar fact-free zones outside of academia.

—Thomas Sowell

For the context of this article, we will be using “leftist” and “socialist” interchangeably, and strictly in the sense of its connotation in economics. We would use “leftism” or “socialism” in a generalised way to represent various flavours of socialism: Nehruvian socialism, Fabianism, Marxism or “scientific” socialism, communism, and so on. Basically, it means dominance of the state, pubic and state sector at the commanding heights of the economy, predominant state controls of the economy and means of production, and lesser or marginal role for the private sector and individuals, resulting in an over-regulated bureaucratic state, and a mai-baap Sarkar. By the term leftist we cover the whole spectrum from light pink to deep red communists, Marxists or socialists.

The typical Indian Leftist-Socialist-“Secular”-“Liberal” “Intellectual” cabal that has spawned the academe, the cultural, literary, archaeological and historical bodies, and sarkari establishments, and has infested and dominated the opinion-making arms like the media unfortunately represents the worst in intellectual traditions.

It supports a globally discredited socialistic economic world-view that has practically and amply demonstrated its poverty-perpetuating, misery-multiplying, anti-poor, anti-prosperity, anti-anything-good characteristics. Its “Secularism” does not rise above religion; but is restricted to being anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim, and being unmoved and unconcerned by blatantly illegal proselytization. Its “Liberalism” is being pro-Animal rights while being pro-beef and pro-nonveg; being anti-American while yearning for green-card or assignments in the US; being a rationalist by slamming all Hindu customs and beliefs, while keeping mum on regressive practices of Islam or Christianity; being pro-Arab and anti-Israel; being anti-Sanskrit while being pro-German or pro-foreign language; and so on.

They oppose renaming Aurangzeb road, but never raise a voice against naming of hundreds of government schemes and institutions after the Nehru-Gandhis. They talk of common man and justice and rage about inequality, but find nothing uncommon or no injustice or no inequality in the unjust shameless continuance of the Dynasty! They shout against intolerance, but are themselves the prime examples of intolerance for alternate view (despite it being far superior to theirs)!!

In an interview, Nayantara Sahgal, who has returned the award, claimed, rather proudly, that she was a socialist. Shows the frozen state of these intellectuals—still living in the bad old Nehruvian times!

It has been said that true “intellectuals tend to have uneasy relationship with the status quo.” However, this deracinated Indian “Intellectual” Class has become uncomfortable with the change in the status quo. They feel comfortable only when cocooned in their good, old “secular”, socialistic, I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine, mutually beneficial, incestuous, quid pro quo milieu, at home with the Dynasty.

By “leftism” or “socialistic state” we are NOT implying a welfare state or a state engaged in social justice and equality, because as per actual global experience such a socialistic state as just defined by us in the para above is neither capable of ensuring general welfare nor social justice nor equality.

How do you tell a communist?
Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin.
And how do you tell an anti-Communist?
It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.
—Ronald Reagan

“Scientific” Socialism:
a Contradiction in Terms!

Marxism and socialism were something Nehru was sold out on since the 1920s, wrote approvingly about in his books, advocated vigorously all through, and, unfortunately for India, implemented it post-independence in his own Nehruvian way.

Mr Jawaharlal Nehru returned from Cambridge with notions of how an all-governing interventionist state can force people into happiness and prosperity through socialism...He sticks to this bias in spite of the demonstration of world experience against it...I hate the present folly and arrogance as much as I hated the foreign arrogance of those [British] days.

—Rajaji, as reproduced in Rajaji: A Life by Rajmohan Gandhi

Marxists call their socialism scientific socialism, as if the self-assigned, self-adulatory adjective scientific is sufficient to testify to it being scientific—correct; however preposterous it might be from a genuine scientific angle, where the litmus test is the real practical proof. Mere dialectics of self-serving arguments and logic does not result in truth! Marxism as a science or as an alternate economic thought for a nation to build on has failed—it has been proven wrong both in theory and in practice.

Nehru’s class or caste bias is apparent in his autobiography where he mentions that “right through history the old Indian ideal...looked down upon money and the professional money-making class” and that “today” it is “fighting against a new and all-powerful opposition from the bania [Vaishya] civilization of the capitalist West”.

Those who do not genuinely understand science or scientific-methods are taken-in by mere allusion to something as scientific. Many became Marxists or socialists because being so implied being scientific-spirited, radical, rational, progressive, pro-poor intellectual, aligned to the forces of history! Rather than being aligned to the forces of history or being on the right side of it, to the dismay of the Marxists and socialists, the unfolding history proved them to be on the wrong side; and their science—“scientific” socialism—turned out to be an alchemy!

The vice of capitalism is that it stands for the unequal sharing of blessings; whereas the virtue of socialism is that it stands for the equal sharing of misery ...Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”

—Winston Churchill
The capitalist economic thought, the capitalist societies and the associated democratic system themselves evolved and adapted since the time of Marx in such a way that they not only brought unprecedented prosperity to the concerned nations, they also significantly uplifted the status of the masses—falsifying, in the process, many of the foundations and assumptions of Marx. Further, Marx didn’t elaborate on the nature of society and organisation that would replace capitalism, and how it would be managed, except talking vaguely about the “dictatorship of the proletariat”—without allowing for the possibility of the Frankenstein it would unleash, and the surreal “1984” it would beget.

In science, society, economics and indeed all disciplines knowledge evolves, concepts change, new theories replace old ones in the light of new experiments, experiences and knowledge gained. To be scientific is to keep an open mind on things, to be willing to change, to be ready to jettison the old in the light of new evidence, and to go by actual practical results.

People who believe in evolution in biology often believe in creationism in government. In other words, they believe that the universe and all the creatures in it could have evolved spontaneously, but that the economy is too complicated to operate without being directed by politicians.

—Thomas Sowell

For anything to be scientifically correct, it has to be proved truly and convincingly in practice, without a shadow of doubt. Till the same is done, it remains merely a conjecture, a hypothesis, a theory. Has the so-called scientific socialism or Marxism or socialism proved successful anywhere in the world in practice? No.

Conclusively Proven, Globally:
A Theory of Non-Affluent Society

Facts, figures, statistics and ground-level experiences of various countries prove that all brands of leftist politics—Communist, Socialist, Fabian, Nehruvian, and so on—are inherently incapable of delivering anything positive for any nation or for its poor. In fact, they have actually been at the root of poverty, want and stagnation.

Leftists like Rousseau, Condorcet, or William Godwin in the 18th century, Karl Marx in the 19th century, or Fabian socialists like George Bernard Shaw in England and American Progressives in the 20th century saw the people in a role much like that of sheep and saw themselves as their shepherds… The vision of the Left is not just a vision of the world. For many, it is also a vision of themselves— a very flattering vision of people trying to save the planet, rescue the exploited, create “social justice,” and otherwise be on the side of the angels. This is an exalting vision that few are ready to give up, or to risk on a roll of the dice, which is what submitting it to the test of factual evidence amounts to. Maybe that is why there are so many fact-free arguments on the left, whether on gun control, minimum wages, or innumerable other issues— and why they react so viscerally to those who challenge their vision.

—Thomas Sowell

Dismal fate of all nations that went socialist proves the point. Take USSR. It claimed to be following scientific socialism or Marxism. But, what were its practical results? It drew an iron-curtain so that no one got to see the disaster: the wide-spread poverty and famine and suppression of human rights. Millions died from hunger and famine in Soviet Russia, yet the communist leadership did not have the heart to save them by seeking help from outside, lest the outside world became aware of the pathetic conditions. Same with China under Mao—about 40 million perished in famines! Country-wise unofficial estimates of the total number of persons who perished thanks to communism, through man-made famines and state-terror, as per “The Black Book of Communism” are: USSR–20 million, China–65 million, Combodia–2 million, North Korea–2 million; the world-total being around 100 million! Compare this with the estimate of Holocaust victims at about 6 million, and total World War II military deaths of all countries put together at about 25 million.

Take the case of East Germany: contrast it with the prosperity in West Germany. Why the Berlin Wall ultimately fell? See the fate of the East-European countries: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania. Consider the case of Albania under its Mao—Enver Hoxha. What of Cuba under the “great” revolutionary Fidel Castro: it is now desperately trying to shed its socialistic past. Note the growing economy of Vietnam after the gradual shedding of its communist policies. The terrible fate of Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot—brought out so chillingly in the movie, The Killing Fields! Appalling conditions in North Korea: George Orwell’s “1984” continuing in the 21st century!

Take the example of the relatively recent red-hot socialist showman given to mega posturing on the world stage, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela for 14 years, who succumbed to cancer in 2013. Called Commandante by his followers, he implemented several populist measures—which he could afford thanks to the country’s oil-wealth—to remain popular. But, what is the legacy of his 14-year socialist revolution? Decline in oil-production, a severely dented economy, dysfunctional state institutions and administration, and Caracas, its capital, turning into one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

“To cure the British disease with socialism was like trying to cure leukaemia with leeches.”

“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.”

—Margaret Thatcher

There is not a single example of a country which prospered or whose poor were better off under communism or socialism. The democratic countries like the UK which were going downhill with their socialistic policies did course correction under Thatcher and prospered.

India’s Self-Inflicted Poverty,
thanks to Nehruvian Socialism

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert,
in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.
—Milton Friedman

Near home, see the unfortunate and the pathetic fate of India and its poor thanks to India's socialistic policies, which are, unfortunately for the India’s poor, only very gradually getting dismantled.
We know how communists wrecked West Bengal during their 34-year rule! Those who still advocate socialistic policies do so not because they are innocent about these facts, but because it suits them politically, so what if those policies actually amount to being anti-progress and anti-poor.

Raja Vyapari taya Praja Bhikhari.
— Indian proverb

Nehru uncritically accepted socialism. It is strange that while Nehru’s books approvingly talk of Marxism and socialism, there is no comparative analysis by him of much more proven competing economic thoughts. It was as if Adam Smith, Alfred Marshall, JS Mill, John Maynard Keynes and others did not exist for Nehru. Economics is a serious subject for its affects the lives of millions, and for Nehru to take up a firm position on one trend of economics without critical appraisal of the alternatives was not only unwise in the academic sense, it proved disastrous to the nation in practice. Further, even if Nehru mistakenly believed that communism was doing good for one country, the USSR, how was it that he did not notice the many countries prospering under capitalism, like the US, the Western-European and the South-East Asian countries. Was Nehru—the scientifically-minded person—going more by personal bias than by facts!

A young man who isn't a socialist hasn't got a heart;
an old man who is a socialist hasn't got a head.

—David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister in 1920

Post independence, and till the early 1950s, India did command great respect and prestige around the world, and there were lots of expectations from democratic India as a beacon for other developing countries, particularly the erstwhile colonial ones, to follow. Unfortunately, Nehru’s policies proved so disastrous on the ground that all hopes stood belied. Nehru’s socialism delivered a monumental tragedy lacking not only in growth and poverty alleviation, but also in delivering social justice.

“He [Nehru] had no idea of economics. He talked of Socialism, but he did not know how to define it. He talked of social justice, but I told him he could have this only when there was an increase in production. He did not grasp that. So you need a leader who understands economic issues and will invigorate your economy.”

—Chester Bowles, US Ambassador to India during Nehru's time

Nehru, through his anti-private-sector policies, throttled industrialisation. Further, not learning anything from Japan and others, who had dramatically prospered with their outward-looking, export-led growth, India under Nehru went in for inward-looking, import-substitution model, denying itself a world-class, competitive culture, incentive for production of quality products, share in the world-trade, and the consequent prosperity. Instead, India invested heavily in the inefficient public sector, over-regulated and strangulated private enterprise, shunned foreign capital, and ignored better technology. India under Nehru also neglected the two vital sectors—agriculture and education.

“Nehru’s inability to rise above his deep-rooted Marxist equation of Western capitalism with imperialism, and his almost paranoid, partly aristocratic, distrust of free enterprise in its most successful form as ‘vulgar’, cost India dearly in retarding its overall development for the remaining years of his rule, as well as for the even longer reign of his more narrowly doctrinaire daughter.”

—Stanley Wolpert

Nehru and the socialists never understood what it really took to create wealth and banish poverty, and persisted with their sterile, copycat methods. Socialists concerned themselves more with the distribution of wealth, than with its creation. They shunned understanding the complexity of wealth creation. Nations which understood this raced ahead, created wealth and also managed to distribute it, while India failed to create the wealth itself, what to speak of distributing it: India stagnated.

Being not a communist state, we cannot fully throttle private enterprise, but we can certainly keep them on a tight leash—thought the thrilled, socialist bureaucracy, sensing all power coming to them. It is the State which has to be dominant, and has to achieve Commanding Heights. Still, if anybody is foolish enough to still wish to set up private industries and businesses, they need to first take our permission, and we would make it so complex for them that most would give up even before they got permissions, and those who manage to get permissions—of course, after greasing palms—would face so many regulatory hurdles, in practice, that they would give up later; except, of course, those who continue to grease palms.
It would be wrong to call babus mere babus and not entrepreneurs. They have been running very efficient private enterprises of loot for themselves and their netas based on very skilful investment of their authority. It was Rajaji who had so rightly coined the term licence-permit-quota raj, and alleged that to be the reason for the Congressmen and the officials getting rich.

Rather than doing a course correction, Indira Gandhi made the things far worse by indulging in more of socialism, nationalisation and bureaucratisation; Rajiv lacked competence to do anything worthwhile; while the UPA set about undoing or reversing the Narsimha Rao—Vajpayee legacy. Rahul Gandhi still mouths the failed old socialistic clap trap! The Congress and the Dynasty seem to be incorrigible!!

Whom does socialism benefit?

Socialism and leftism is something which benefits large sections of vested interests, but not the intended beneficiaries. Why do poor, who can ill-afford, prefer private schools to Government schools, private hospitals to Government hospitals? They know that this socialist claptrap is for the babus and politicians to make money, not to help them. Communism and socialism assume the State as a kind, empathetic mai-baap, meant to do good for the people; when the experience and the practical reality is that very often it is the State—through its agency of politicians, babus and police—that is the biggest exploiter and mafia around.

The real beneficiaries of socialism are the politicians, bureaucrats, and the leftist academia, intellectuals, NGOs and media that stand to gain by aligning themselves with the establishment.

Why did India fail?
Not socialism!
The Alibi...

Leftists are amazingly innovative in manufacturing a slew of excuses. India didn’t fail because of socialism! In fact, there wasn’t enough of it. Nehru was too soft. What about Indira? Yes, she did ram through things, but there were so many other factors. Actually, it’s a problem of national character. We are not disciplined enough; nor hard-working. We are lazy. See the Japanese. We are too self-centred and selfish. We lack collective spirit. Besides, it was that wretched “Hindu rate of growth!”… Leftists are capable of being one up even on the colonialists or the colonially-minded Nirad Chaudhurys, and can dish out reasons far more wild. That’s because, for them, facts don’t come in the way. They overstep and sidestep the facts with their shrill rhetoric.

Why is the economy doing relatively much better since Narsimha Rao led liberalisation in the early nineties? Have the lazy of the old days suddenly become very hard-working? Has the national character changed for the better? Are people now more disciplined? Why are Indians now considered more hard-working and more capable than many Americans, English and Europeans?

Despite all the evidence, the leftists would not admit that it was a plain, bad, borrowed Nehruvian economic model of socialism that did us in. The Western-European countries devastated by the Second World War—particularly West Germany, which was reduced to rubble—recovered from the ashes, progressed and became highly prosperous. Japan was totally ravaged by the War and the Atomic Bomb. Remember that Raj Kapoor song of the fifties, “Mera joota hai Japani ...” pointing to the torn shoes, representing the condition of Japan then. Japan recovered, quickly industrialised, and grew at over 9% for over twenty-three years, to become one of the largest economies of the world. India, in contrast, was untouched by the war and the devastation. Yet, India remained a poor third-rate third-world country.

As per the article “World’s Only RDC” in India Today’s issue of 12 August 2013, Japan, which had almost the same GDP as India in the early 1950s, grew so fast that by 1980, India’s GDP was a mere 17% of Japan’s. Japan grew at massive 18% annually during the 15-year period starting 1965 and took its GDP from 91 billion dollars to a mammoth 1.1 trillion dollars by 1980. In 1982, India’s per capita income was 39% higher than China’s; but, by 2012, it had become mere 24% of China’s—during the period China’s per capita income grew 30 times, while India’s grew mere 5 times. South Korea’s per capita income is currently 1400% that of India, although at the time of our Independence it was on par! While India is variously terms as a Developing Country or as LDC, Less Developed Country, or as UDC, Under Developed Country, the article finds India uniquely as an RDC—Refusing-to-Develop-Country.

“Unless people change... can’t progress!” argument

People are like that… Unless people change… Unless the society improves,... Unless the society takes active interest... nothing would change… Politics is but a reflection of the society...” goes another argument.

However, there is little evidence to show that the prosperous countries have become prosperous thanks not to the competence of its leaders, but to its amorphous public and civil society which suddenly decided to improve itself and take active interest in the well-being of the nation. There is no evidence to show that it was not Lee Kuan Yew and his band of competent leaders, but the suddenly awakened common Singaporeans, who, by themselves, took Singapore to such heights. Yes, good leaders choose competent teams, inspire people, motivate them and take the nation ahead with their cooperation; but it is rare that general public by itself, without a competent leadership, transforms a nation. India’s tragedy has been a lack of genuinely competent leadership. Our so-called great leaders were really Lilliputs.

Common man is busy earning his or her livelihood. They are working on their chosen vocations and thus contributing to the society. They have outsourced supply of water, electricity and other utilities to companies at an agreed payment. Similarly, they have outsourced development of the nation and maintenance of towns, villages, cities, provision of security, and so on to elected politicians and appointed bureaucrats and technocrats. Each of them, whether a politician or a bureaucrat or a technocrat, is getting paid by the public (indirectly through taxes) to perform its allocated work. Just as each member of the public is doing its job (as a banker or an IT professional or a factory worker, and so on), so also each of its (indirectly) appointed persons (a politician or a bureaucrat or a technocrat) ought to do his or her work. It is because these appointed or elected politicians and babus, whose cost is borne by the public, are failing to perform their tasks that the nation is going to dogs. Hence, it is illogical to blame the society or public. Of course, having elected or appointed these politicians and babus, it is the duty of the electing/appointing authority—the general public—to take them to task for non-performance and ensure they serve them and do their allocated task.

Unless “people with character”, can’t take off!

So goes the plea of many. Including that of the organisation devoted to “character building”, and which claims monopoly on patriotism, on “what is good for India”, and on prescriptions for setting the country right.

These advocates of “character building” need to be asked: “Has the Indian character changed for the good or for the worse during the last 66 years after independence? Their answer would mostly be: it has changed for the worse. If so, where is the guarantee it would improve in the future. And, what if the character continues to remain the same for the next 1000 years? Is India then doomed for another millennium?”

Among the best cities in the world are several from Australia, which is now a first-rate, first-world country. It has no great civilisational heritage. Nor can it boast of “character” that has propelled it to where it is now. Their “character” heritage comprises murderers, rapists, dacoits, thieves, debtors, fraudsters, and the like, who were herded in ships in Britain and brought to Australia to undergo their jail terms. January 26 is celebrated as Australia Day, because in January 1788, eleven ships packed with convicts from Britain landed at Botany Bay in Sydney leading to the formation of the colony of New South Wales in Australia.
Priests, reformers and character-builders did not land in Australia to uplift the characters of the settler-convicts who made Australia their home. However, Australia dramatically progressed despite the “bad” characters and despite the absence of “character-builders”. Why? How? That’s what one must try to understand, and apply the lessons learnt to India, where applicable, rather than advancing silly pet theories like “requirements of character”. Competitive capitalism lies at the root of their prosperity. They never touched socialism even with a long pole.

Lee Kuan Yew and his band of competent leaders of Singapore were not “Character-Builders”. They didn’t have that luxury of time, nor did they believe in those crazy notions. They knew what mattered was forward-looking economic policies and good governance. They therefore focussed on implementing solid competitive capitalism, coupled with developing well-paid, merit-driven and competent bureaucracy.

In the process of building and enhancing competitive capitalism, and with increasing prosperity and peace both in Singapore and Australia, the “character” automatically “improved”! It is well to remember that character is also shaped by economic condition. You can’t have millions in hunger and poverty and in wretched condition and with little to look forward to, and expect people to develop “good character”!

What is required is “the spirit of sacrifice”

Not true.

It would suffice to quote Ayn Rand:

“America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to ‘the common good,’ but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America’s industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance—and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.”

Said Adam Smith in ‘The Wealth of Nations’:

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

Why are poor countries poor?

Are one or more of these the factors that make a country poor or prosperous: climate, geography, location, abundance of natural resources, race, religion, history, “type of people”, “character of people”?
No. None of these.

Poor countries are poor because those who have power
make choices that create poverty.

—Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
in ‘Why Nations Fail : The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty’

The determining factor are the human-made institutions. ‘Extractive Institutions’ cause poverty and misery, while ‘Inclusive Institutions’ lead to prosperity and freedom. Extractive institutions are normally the feature of monarchy, feudal system, political or military dictatorships, fascism, socialism and communism. Capitalist societies that are not fairly capitalist, or where crony capitalism prevails, may also lead to extractive institutions. Characteristics of inclusive institutions include: encouragement of investments; harnessing the power of markets by better allocation of resources; allowing entry of more efficient firms; ease of starting businesses and provision of finance for them; and generating broader participation in the economy through education and ease of entry for new entrants. Growth under inclusive institutions involves both creative destruction (replacement of the old methods, technology, industries by new) and investment in technology. Inclusive institutions are not compatible with socialism, communism and feudal societies, or with dictatorships and monarchies. Only a society with competitive capitalism is capable of having inclusive institutions.

“It would be devastating to the egos of the intelligentsia to realize, much less admit, that businesses have done more to reduce poverty than all the intellectuals put together. Ultimately it is only wealth that can reduce poverty and most of the intelligentsia have no interest whatever in finding out what actions and policies increase the national wealth. They certainly don't feel any ‘obligation’ to learn economics ...”

—Dr. Thomas Sowell

Could India have been a first-world country by 1980?

Yes, certainly. Extrapolating the time it took Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan to become first-world countries by adopting competitive capitalism, and the time it took West Germany and Japan to rise from the ashes of the Second World War by adopting capitalist economy, it seems reasonable that India would have been a prosperous, first-rate, first-world country by 1980 had it too adopted competitive capitalism and befriended the West.

Why Persist with the Failed Model?

Just because India, thanks to the lead given by Nehru-Indira, chose the disastrous economic model of socialism, it does not mean we need to persist with those defective and failed ideas of mankind. Sadly, Nehru’s legacy lives on—his socialist way of thought still flourishes—and it remains a challenge to uproot it.

The socialist monster unleashed by Nehru is worse than Frankenstein’s. Frankenstein’s monster voluntarily decided to disappear after its creator’s death. Not so the socialist monster. It continues with its insidious ways. And so also India’s Kaliyug fashioned by Nehru’s socialistic dreams gone sour.

Outlook wise and also materially, India is still largely feudal, and  it appears that the feudal ways and the Marxist-socialistic ways gel well, as both are driven by paternalistic mai-baap mentality: Sarkar knows best.

That Japan achieved what it did, and so also South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, was because their leaders refused to follow the politically convenient and self-serving populist socialistic path to nowhere. Thanks to the wisdom that dawned upon China, it  junked its socialistic past, tremendously improved its governance, and is now a super power both economically and militarily. That India remains an RDC is thanks solely to our politicians, economists and intellectuals of the socialistic and leftist variety.

China bid good bye to Marxism in 1979; Berlin wall came down in 1989; USSR fell apart in 1991; host of Eastern-European countries have given up the communist ghost; Cuba is lately struggling to liberalise; poor North Koreans, thanks to continuing communism, remain condemned; yet, in India, the killing fields of socialism are yet to be fully exorcised—socialism is still respectable in India, many advocating it are still considered intellectuals, while many socialists-communists continue to win elections. Nehruvian socialism has yet to be given a burial. Unfortunately, several prominent members of even young political outfits like the Kejrival’s  AAP mouth the same stale jargon that has taken India to dogs.

Why socialism-leftism still remain popular?

“Of all ignorance, the ignorance of the educated is the most dangerous. Not only are educated people likely to have more influence, they are the last people to suspect that they don't know what they are talking about when they go outside their narrow fields…

“...the vast majority of intellectuals don’t really originate any ideas, but they peddle ideas that other people have originated.  And that gives them a great deal of freedom, because ideas are so malleable. Words are so malleable.  Reality is not malleable.  And so, they can believe in all sorts of things which have no realistic possibility, and which are fatal time and again in history. But because they know how to rephrase it and repackage it, they can just keep right on going…

“Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”

—Thomas Sowell
It remains popular because it has very smartly been projected as pro-poor. Who popularise it to be so? Of course, the ones who have vested interest in it. The politicians and the babus and the parasitic intellectuals and the media that have been benefitting from it have  publicised it as benefitting the masses. And they have succeeded!

Although liberalisation since 1993 has resulted in a  sea change, it has not delivered enough, and the growth has not been inclusive enough. The reason is not liberalisation—it is very insufficient liberalisation. The necessary preventive, detective,  regulatory and penal systems to control corruption have not kept pace with the massive economic changes post-1991, thanks to the rapacious politician-babu combine, who have retained the pre-1991 setup.

The human cost of delayed economic reforms is tremendous—additional millions unemployed or under-employed, additional millions of infant deaths, additional millions in poverty and misery. But, all these, the Jholawallahs would not appreciate. They would stick to their self-serving poverty-for-ever agenda, lest they become irrelevant. People trapped in the mindset of Nehruvian socialism fail to appreciate that India’s poorest would benefit substantially from economic reforms.

Socialists strut around pretending they are pro-disadvantaged and pro-oppressed. Nobody can beat them in sheer hypocrisy. They are still engaged in their hopeless fight against progress, and are committed to make a West Bengal of India.

Lack of Rightist Leadership

It is India’s tragedy that rational, bold, no-nonsense, rightist leadership and influential intellectual class that unapologetically supports competitive capitalism is absent. It is a crucial handicap in tackling poverty and in India’s rise to a prosperous first-world nation.

It is high time the general voting public was educated to realise that leftism, socialism and sops would take them nowhere and would condemn them further to a life of want and misery; and that the jholawallahs, like the religious and communal fundamentalists and the casteists, belong to the past, and have no relevance for modern India.

Sadly the leftist “intellectual” brand and the leftist politics predominate in India. It’s a vicious cycle. Leftist-socialist vote-catching-sops create poverty and misery. In turn, poverty and misery fuel further socialism and sops. The worse you get, the more leftist and socialist you become!

Practically all regional parties—SP, RJD, JDU, Trinamool Congress, ...—profess to be socialists. The Congress is anyway an opportunist socialist and “electoral secular” party. Even the BJP had once professed to be a Gandhian socialist party. AAP, a young party, with many young professional faces, was expected to be different. But, they plan to be more socialist that all the other parties put together!

Is it that Indian intellectuals and politicians—both young and old—lack courage, and want only to play the safe, populist way, and socialism comes in handy.

Much was expected of Narendra Modi. He had made all the right noises. “Maximum governance, minimum government”, “Government has no business to be in business”, and so on. But, you don’t find much movement on ground. After overlong six decades of criminal wastage of time and opportunities, an urgency in rectifying the wrongs was being eagerly looked forward to. The hopes are again being belied! Congress or BJP or over a dozen major regional parties: all seem content with the status quo of socialistic populist mumbo jumbo. If the heavy cost of the same is India dragging itself slowly towards prosperity, while missing available opportunities, and millions of India’s poor persisting even longer in their poverty and misfortune—so be it! But, of course, Modi's government has been in control for only the last 18 months; and they have already demonstrated that they are far, far superior to UPA. They still have many months to go to fulfil their promises before the 2019 elections. Modi is a capable leader, and much is expected of him. Hope he would junk the socialistic path to nowhere, and propel India into a prosperous first-world country!


The whole political vision of the left, including socialism and communism, has failed by virtually every empirical test, in countries all around the world. But this has only led leftist intellectuals to evade and denigrate empirical evidence…

…When the world fails to conform to their vision, then it seems obvious to the ideologues that it is the world that is wrong, not that their vision is uninformed or unrealistic.

—Thomas Sowell
Given that not a single socialist-communist country has ever been prosperous, and given incontrovertible proof of all-round global failure of socialism-communism, one has to agree with Thomas Sowell, the noted American economist, philosopher and author: “Leftism or socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.” And, if an intellectual continues to live in denial despite glaring proofs, can the person be considered an intellectual in the real sense? Doesn’t “Leftist intellectual” then sound like an oxymoron?

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Rajnikant Puranik
November 1, 2015