There are two challenges India faces today: An economy that is not growing fast enough, and a Hindi heartland that is stuck, its youth demotivated, and at risk of dabbling with extremism. Whether your party won or lost, it needs to start giving solutions to these challenges.
The politics of "us vs. them" needs to end. Every Indian is in the same boat, and wants the same things, regardless of the imaginary boundaries the politicians and media create. Remember the issues that you actually care about (as per the ADR voter survey): a desire for jobs, better healthcare, basic amenities, the urban environment and the agrarian sector.
Do not forget that these are the issues that trouble you, and you need to force politicians and the media to talk about YOUR issues. Do not give in to hearing the stories of politicians. Politics is about you, not them. Force your politicians to talk of pollution and roads, in place of God and glory. And, stop the rhetoric that you won/lost. India is not winning, if China's economy has become 5 times the size of India's over the last decades, or if the places you live in lack in basic quality of living (water, air, roads, public transport, jobs, schools and healthcare).
It is good that India will have a stable government for the next five years, and I hope that an era of land and labour reforms takes centre stage. We need to grow the economy, and 7-8% is not a good enough rate of growth. It is unsatisfactory, especially when India's neighbour is China which grew consistently at 10-15%.
With extremist candidates (e.g. in Bhopal) winning elections, there is a threat that India goes the way of parochialism not progress, and the youth (esp. in the North) invests its time and energy in delusional stories and not in skills. Rhetoricians cannot deliver growth, just good speeches. Rationality, policy, and enlightened ideas matter, even more so today.
It is Buddha Purnima today and I was wondering what drags India and its economic growth. It is its tyranny of hierarchy that is so obvious to an outsider, but equally oblivious to many Indians. We look at the multiple master-servant relationships in our lives and its associated culture of servitude and sycophancy, and we do not realize how unlike it is to any other major economy. We condone it without realizing how urgent it is to dismantle this tyranny.
Many of us are not willing to act, because it hits at some of the core foundations of Indian society. Dismantling tyranny of hierarchy means your maids will sit on your couch and share a snack with you and their kids may marry or be friends with yours. It will mean that your daughters in law will debate with you, and not obey you when they think you are not correct. It will mean politicians will act like public servants and not local overlords, and farmers and workers won’t stand in front of them with folded hands prostrating for a hearing. Instead they will shake hands, share a drink together, as equals, not as masters and servants, not as prophets and devotees.
Tyranny of hierarchy has perpetrated in India a culture of servitude, where we want those below us to act as servants to us, while we act as servants to our superiors. Sycophancy has become a guiding principle, and I guess if we have to think where it all began, it must have begun with colonization, but then caste is one of the greatest institution of oppression ever built and its origins are beyond colonial. This tyranny is like cancer that is eating India from within. We have to embrace a radical form of equality, where all adults are equals and nobody is deserving of prostrations under any conditions. It is a tough medicine to gulp.
Many misunderstand respect as servitude. Your parents deserve respect, your boss deserves respect, so do your juniors, and your children. Respect has nothing to do with hierarchy, nor is gratitude associated with it. You can be grateful to your family, society and nation without being their servants, and without erasing your individuality and freedoms, and expecting others to do so as well. The tyranny of hierarchy crushes the individual and that is its greatest sin.
Personally in my life, I attempt to challenge the tyranny of hierarchy whenever I can. There are acts of small rebellions against the traditional order of what is considered proper between two people at different status positions. When I travel and see different countries, I am reminded of the richness of Indian culture, especially its diversity and culture of tolerance. Yet it also reminds me how uniquely entrenched this tyranny of hierarchy is in Indian life, how comfortable we are with it, and how many endless rebellions shall be needed before this tyranny is totally dismantled.
May the 21st is the Anti Terrorism Day in India.
India has always been a leading voice fighting against terrorism, and it was raising alarm over the problem long before many other countries woke up to it. As a good initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs, members of Indian universities are taking an anti terrorism pledge. The thoughtful, well phrased pledge goes like this, and I am happy to take it, and I hope you take the pledge too.
"We, the people of India having abiding faith in our country’s tradition of non-violence & tolerance, hereby solemnly affirm to oppose with our strength, all forms of terrorism & violence. We pledge to uphold peace, social harmony and understanding among all fellow beings and fight the forces of disruption threatening human lives and values."
While I am taking this pledge, I would like to invite our Prime Minister to take this pledge too. As we all know, over the last few weeks our Prime Minister and his party has supported a person for election, who is not only accused of terror, but who also admires terrorists like Godse and curses martyrs who died fighting terrorism like Karkare. Doing so was reckless, myopic, dishonourable to our country's values and traditions; and harmful for India's reputation and global moral leadership in the long run. If our Prime Minister takes the pledge, he and his party should also apologize to the nation for supporting candidates sympathetic of violence and terrorism, and take action against such "forces of disruption" that destroy peace and social harmony.
The Chinese economy ($13.4 trillion) is 5 times larger than India’s ($2.7 trillion) even though the countries are similarly sized in population. A small fraction of China’s large GDP can fund multiple Indian military budgets, and with large budgets, China is rapidly expanding its military capabilities.
India will become the fifth largest economy in the world this year. While that is reassuring, at no point in history of modern India has India been so weak relative to its neighbor in economic size. Even though India is growing at a rapid pace it is not growing fast enough. In the 2000s India expanded its nominal GDP more than three times. It should have expanded this decade even more, but this was a lost decade and in 2010s India’s GDP only doubled. During the same period China expanded its GDP by about six times in the 2000s, while in this decade it still managed to expand its GDP by about thrice.
Given the urgency of the situation, it is important that politicians prioritize economic issues over jingoism and cultural politics. Here’s the bottom line- patriotic slogans cannot fund India’s military. Only a growing economy can.