14th March 2017
Let’s agree to the facts about India’s performance and then look at the quality of the excuses #2
Continuing from here, some initial thoughts. I’m going to improve this post and polish it in the coming days. All this will ultimately form part of a booklet that demolishes common myths about India’s performance. (I dictated most of this material on my mobile phone and have lightly edited it, so there may be some typos).
Seventy years after independence it is up to us whether we want to make excuses for India’s performance or we want to recognise that we have miserably failed and try to rectify the situation.
The difference between India and west is largely qualitative. Numbers are very deceptive. There may be a school in a village and it may count as a one school in the data, but neither does the school have the basic infrastructure nor the most essential quality of the teachers. It may have a Secretary to the Government but the Secretary is completely incapable of understanding the basics of public policy and governance.
Comparing numbers around infrastructure is not going to help. We need to look at the quality of infrastructure such as the quality of educational facilities and the quality of healthcare. In each of these indicators India performs miserably in terms of quality, in addition to performing badly on the quantity.
We have failed as a nation to ensure that our children are well-educated well-fed and given the opportunities to come up with a highest potential.
It is hard, if not impossible to have a reasonable quality of life in India without being extremely rich. On the other hand, it is possible to have tolerable, if not excellent, quality of life even as a very ordinary and poor person in the West. This quality of life is experienced through the quality of public infrastructure, public transport and many such basic things.
Coming to the justice system, it would be an extremely ambitious and foolhardy person who tries to seek justice through the legal system of India. Not only is it prohibitively expensive but is totally and comprehensively ridden with bribery and corruption. The police are entirely corrupt and most of the judiciary is corrupt. Expecting this system to provide justice is nothing but the purest form of delusion.
International indicators are barely able to capture the distressing quality of the justice system of India where lakhs of people are behind bars at any given point in time without any charge. The story of James Tooley is not an exception but the norm.
With regard to justice it is not simply possible to look at data (which itself is highly distressing). We need to look at real life stories of thousands of people who are in distress on a daily basis because of the dysfunctional system.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
India is at the very bottom of the world with regard to freedom of speech or any other expression, excluding the Muslim world and perhaps some of the other extremely poor countries.
You can be jailed for saying things on Facebook or making comments about religions. And on top of that the press is almost entirely corrupt. I have personally experienced how the press demands money after a press conference. With the system so thoroughly corrupted there is simply no possibility of free expression. And we know of so many rationalists who have been killed. India’s situation is pretty much like an Islamic nation like Bangladesh.
When I say that India has zero infrastructure it is intended to highlight the fact that relative to the rest of the world we have next to nothing as far as infrastructure is concerned.
Most people in India still do not have basic access to electricity. Wherever there is an electricity connection, it is only sporadic and comes rarely during the day. When I go to India even in a place as allegedly well-developed as Gurgaon, I experience a massive series of power cuts every day.
Continuous piped drinking water supply – a basic minimum in all developed countries – is almost unheard of by most Indians.
The amount of roads per person is a tiny fraction of the roads per square kilometre in the developed world. The quality of roads is another big issue. How many thousands of lives are lost in India from road accidents caused by terrible, dangerous roads?
We do relatively well in telecommunications but that is because the sector has been largely privatised. Whatever the heavy hand of the government is deployed the situation is beyond miserable.
Sanitation and sewerage
There’s no sanitation and sewerage across most of the country. The vast majority of the country defecates in the open. The problem of drainage is unbelievable. The absence of this basic infrastructure not only effects amenity and the quality of life but the health and hygiene of the country. Similarly the absence of facilities for drinking water has a similar effect, including the fact that most people are unable to wash their hands after going to toilet.
One of the basic missing infrastructure in India is public toilets which means that it is well night impossible to be a tourist in India.
Environment and waste management
Ability to manage the environment is a critical part of infrastructure. The filth and pollution in waterways across the whole country is a symptom of the country’s total ability to manage waste. Rubbish pollutes the entire waterways of India including the beaches. The waste infrastructure is almost entirely missing. There is virtually no recycling of the material.
We see heaps of rubbish piled in the streets in India. There is no system to pick up garbage from people’s houses. This is perhaps the most basic infrastructure but it is missing and the quality of whatever exists is pathetic.
Infrastructure also includes social infrastructure – the quality of healthcare system and education system. In this regard the less said about India’s performance, the better.
If all this is not considered zero infrastructure, I’m afraid we are merely quibbling and trying to deny the basic facts.
Consider the issue of extreme poverty. We have not only some of the highest levels of poverty in the world but extraordinary high levels of malnutrition and infant mortality.