6th November 2016
I think India is a banana republic. Indians think India is a super power. Who is right?
If you had asked me 25 years ago, I’d have said that India is doing fine. Even the smallest pocket of cleanliness was considered excellent, even a microscopic improvement was an occasion to celebrate, to feel proud.
But all this ended when it became clear to me that we had grossly underperformed compared with the rest of the world. I not only spent considerable time outside India but spent six years in universities abroad studying how countries develop, how the economy works.
By 1998 it became clear to me that one had to do something about this. Too many people were suffering due to basic problems with India’s governance system and bad policies.
I started looking very closely at the causes of India’s governance failure, based both on standard economic theory but more importantly, on the basis of my experience inside the IAS – a first hand experience of the total corruption of all ministers and most bureaucrats. There had to be an explanation for this. And there was. In February 1998 I started working on a manifesto that would contain governance and policy solutions for India. When I returned to India in 1999, I tried to meet interested persons to test their appetite in forming a political party that would take the message of liberty and governance reforms to the people.
Today, the difference in my perception of India and the perceptions of Indians about India has diverged even more dramatically. I find it impossible to understand why people continue to live in the most shanty hovels and filthy environment, and face innumerable problems in their daily lives, and yet say that India is doing well. Super power, they call it! I call it a banana republic.
Unless Indians are willing to open their eyes to the possibilities before them, they will never be interested in finding out the causes, and therefore the idea of changing them will not work.
So the first step is to show Indians the mess they live in and that it can be changed quite dramatically with a different governance system.
For that I prepared preliminary slides that could be used to develop a message for the people.
The key issue at the moment is the need to increase expectations of the people. If people are satisfied with bare survival from day to day, then of course, they will remain in that condition for ever.