Saturday 12 December 2009

On the wings of nonsense

Picked up a book titled The Elephant and the Dragon and opened a page at random. In just two paragraphs on page 43:

  • “J. R. D. Tata supplied the steel needed for India’s post-independence five-year plans.”

Any Indian child knows that most of the steel came from state-owned companies, some built with foreign collaboration. No one company could have supplied the steel for any country’s, even little India’s, five year plans.

  • “At Nehru’s request in 1952, he even created India’s first cosmetics company, Lakme, so that women wouldn’t complain that Nehru banned foreign cosmetics from India.”

Most of India’s women are too poor to wear any cosmetics. They best they can hope for are home-made products. And there were small cosmetics companies long before 1952, including Boroline and Afgan Snow.

  • “Nehru stayed in power for decades as India became a democracy with one-party rule.”

This is deeply insulting. India was never a one-party country, before or after independence. Nehru, except the one black spot of sacking a Communist government in Kerala, went out of his way to accommodate rivals.

This goes on and on. On page 55, Kamal Nath says China can progress faster because it is authoritarian and can ‘take many shortcuts.’

An example? Well, the author says, ‘China’s Three Gorges Dam inundated 365 towns with water, requiring about 1.2 million people to move, virtually all of it accomplished by government fiat.’ This, she sniggers, couldn’t be done in India.

Think of it this way. The population of Auckland is about 1.3 million. Would it be progress if the New Zealand could order them to move, by fait? If not, at least one Indian, me, is very happy we don’t have progress and shortcuts of that sort.

You can’t develop people by destroying them. The Soviet Block tried for 70 years. We needn’t.

But my problem is that no capitalism will come to India’s rescue on the wings of such nonsense as this.

The author, Robyn Meredith is the Forbes magazine’s specialist on India and China, an award winner, and a ‘1998-9 Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan.’ And this is what she produces. Unfortunately, she’s by no means atypical.

If such is the state of experts, imagine that of the MBAs, Western and, sadly, Indian, who swear by their expertise.

We are doomed.

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