Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Economic prosperity vs social disparity- dictates quality of life

I was born and brought up in a village in India. Before I came out of India, life was just fine there. I had no problem to accept the reality of life. But now after living in some West-European countries and then US for some years, my views about life have changed. My perception about law and order has changed. Which used to be a natural phenomenon during my teens and early adulthood is not so now.

I like to give one example. When I was in Mumbai, I learned that school fee in one of the famous primary cum high schools there is about 5 lakhs (INR) per annum! There is another international school in Navi Mumbai that charges about 7 lakhs (INR) per annum as fees. Then I started gathering information about the quality of education, salaries of teachers, facilities etc which can justify that high tuition fee. I was wondering how many Indians can afford that fee and what social impact it has. Then I realized that such schools only train young Indian (not so proud to be an Indian though) kids to learn western culture (wearing ties, well ironed dresses, polished shoes, using knives and forks while eating, American or British slangs etc). Education is not the most important in their agenda. Parents of such kids are mostly businessmen / industrialists / bureaucrats / executives in private companies and so on. They perceive "education" just as another commodity- buy it, use it, and throw it as and when needed.

Of course, you can get your kids admitted to a less expensive schools or free government schools. But you will not like that idea much. Kids from such poor, vernacular schools have less chance of success as these high profile, private schools have great and seemingly mysterious power to influence test scoring ability and success rate in many different competitive exams, as well as in selling themselves in the job market. No, parents do not ask where so many 'successful' young talents get lost in subsequent years. We do not see them in any novel research or technology development or any creative art. We also know such kids do great in earning money as a technician (not technocrat though), by successfully performing routine management or engineering or medical practitioner or 'research' duties. Their main success lies in doing the jobs that require good inter-personal, soft skills more than independent and analytical thinking. This is just the beginning of a mediocre, hierarchical society where the difference between haves and have-nots will increase in subsequent years.

Now changing the gear a bit. How much you need to earn to spend about 5 lakhs per annum for your kid’s schooling (that too only tuition fee), leave alone other educational activities like games and sports, creative art, routine excursions etc? A decent apartment (3 bedroom, hall, kitchen) in a decent locality in Navi Mumbai will cost you around 60 lakhs (with a EMI of ~ 60,000/- per month), a decent car (Honda City) will have an monthly EMI of ~ 20,000/-. So how much monthly take home salary you need to have to afford a 'decent' (in western standard) life there? Now you can easily understand what type of people you, your family and kid will be surrounded with (in your kid's school, in your apartment, neighborhood etc.)? Surely your neighbors will be rich enough but not necessarily the desirable one from whom your kid or you might expect some deeds and lessons of honesty and morality.

One government data, published recently, showed that about 34% of Indians earn less than Rs 450/- per month. About 80% of Indians live below a monthly income of Rs 2000/-. There is no doubt that India is doing great, so far GDP is concerned with about 9% annual increase in GDP. But as one Indian cabinet minister told, “this development is limited to only 0.2% of population”. Just check the data for India's financial capital, Mumbai. Financial activities in that city is not sufficient to sustain itself, leave alone supporting other smaller cities and villages, as happened in more productive egalitarian societies. It's reported that less than 1% people in Mumbai earn more than Rs 10 lakhs per annum. Informed people would acknowledge that Rs 10 lakh/year income is not sufficient to have a decent life in that city. It'll not be unfair to say that wealth from all over the country is accumulating in few isolated islands of prosperity in such big cities, leaving rest of India in worse economic woes. 

This is a very frightening- so far social development and national well-being is concerned. The growth rate in terms of GDP or FDI is helping increasing the social disparity. As a result, people are now chasing a dream of economic prosperity without having supporting infrastructure (law and order, good governance, basic services for all the citizens etc).

Nowadays internal terrorism and extremist communist (naxal) movement is more of an alternative profession than a fight for great ideology or social justice. Such extremism is raising its head almost all over the country. An Indian teen of about 12 years did not hesitate to throw a grenade in a crowded marketplace for only Rs. 120/-. He was not part of any terrorist group though, as published in Indian Express. This, in turn, is bound to affect our day-to-day lives in India. Nandigram/Singur is and will not be any isolated incident in near future. In fact, West Bengal Govt gave more support price for unit land to the concerned farmers than many MNCs and other state Govt (mainly for SEZ and some big projects) in many places in India.

The development in India is generating more social disparity as a 'drag force' that can not be overcome by economic prosperity of a small section of the population. You surely can buy a great car but will not have a great road to drive that, you can buy a great apartment but you need to keep its windows almost always closed. You can never roam in a forest infested with antisocial/terrorists,  you can never enjoy fishing or a boat ride through the river- fully polluted and smelly. Natural resources are disappearing at a very alarming rate. It will be more frustrating if you try to do something to improve the situation there. Then you/your family will be marginalized and/or even (physically) threatened. 

In short, economic prosperity will not lead to have a better quality of life due to social disparity. It is not so surprising that young Indians are now too much obsessed with money, only money. That’s the main reason they are the most optimistic people in the world, as per Forbes survey. It says, “But even though Indians are the happiest, the numbers of those satisfied aren't very high. In Europe, most young people seek a good living environment above all and work-related aspects in life are relatively less important. But the priorities of Indian youth and young people in other 'new economies' are different- for them, work, a good career and a position with high status are what matters”. 

I am not going into the subject of happiness quotient that western leaders have started appreciating to evaluate the wellbeing of their country and efficacy of their policies.

Despite of all these, I still feel that the smile of a kid, the serene beauty of a few remaining natural masterpieces there, worth taking the risk. Initially I thought that it would be better to try to change the system being a part of the system. But after my recent experiences there, I do feel that it makes more practical sense to do something if I am not part of that corrupt system. At least I am not accountable to that system and (mostly) beyond the reach of the custodians of the system there (who have their own interests to maintain the status-quo). I can insulate me and my family from the criminals and crimes ruling my country today, while contributing towards betterment of the society there.

1 lakh= 0.1 million; 1 crore= 10 million; 1 USD ($)= ~ 47 Indian rupees (INR )

Short URL: http://goo.gl/f1ahLk 


  1. This is too much depressing blog. If you can point out the bad side so clearly I believe you can give the solution as well. So please try to give the solution. You have enough informed us about the problems.

  2. Some people never take the leap of faith to research the truth. They depend on concocted info from newspapers and call themselves experts on passing judgement.

    Like the farmer who killed the mongoose because he was too hasty in making decisions you have wasted your intellect and want everybody else to do the same. I am not talking about this post in particular - I am talking about all your posts. Not only do your posts lack any proposed solution which others have pointed out too, you want Indians to FIT INTO A WORLD CREATED BY SOMEONE ELSE, you want Indians to do what the western world tells us to do. What good is whining going to do if you cant put forward any solutions to the problems.

    I am not saying that what is happing in India today is ok. Its true, we need to overhaul the whole political and social system in India. But solutions must come from within and not form western views (which you seem to idolize). I am sure for every negative aspect you depicted I can show you that its not as good as you think it is in the western world. Wait about half a generation and you will regret what you have said.
    India was the richest country with laws and culture superior to the west before the invaders came to India. When the brits left we were the poorest with the crappiest laws. Does that tell you something? The west is not superior. You probably in your delusions never enquired that the brits had to destroy Indian educational system and instil a sense of superiority of western goods and ideas to rule over India. Need specifics? Google it. Its a miracle that Indians still exist today and did not vanish like the native Americans. It is because our ideals are superior to that of the west. Vivekananda tried his best to revive that sense of pride and helped us reach where we are today. Any day I would say the tradition of the gurukul was far superior to the present day system of universities in the west where it only produces brainwashed individuals. The financial crisis we are in today is an example of this flawed educational system. The US president and his lackeys who lie are cheat and torture are products of the same educational system. At least the Indian educational system teaches us peace and harmony and the Indian constitution empower Indians to freely demonstrate like in a true democracy. US and UK are no longer democracies today - except only on books. Develop the wisdom to know things for what they truly are. Your stats with GDP values are senseless because the whay GDP is calculated leaves lots of room for doubt. Know that 50-70% of US GDP comes from borrowing from foreigners. Thats right, high US GDP does not mean US economy is doing super good. Its what comes as a result that is more important. Indians with a lower GDP are richer in the true sense than Americans who can show more money but that money doesnt belong to them. Do some research.

    The Indian constitution is based on the US constitution and by far is the largest, most complex of constitutions anywhere. Indian govt provides for more peoples rights than US or any european govt. Indians just are too lazy to even read and challenge illegalities and hence they suffer.

    Please read (and research) about some of the true journalism available on the internet without resorting to the politically motivated reports you cite - they make very good propaganda items for western governments. I doubt most of them for their accuracy. There are numerous instances when the IMF, forbes and other institutions of dubious intentions have fudged data and then corrcted themselves citing 'mistakes'. The IMF today is responsible for poverty in Africa. Remember the days of 30% interest rates. The IMF routinely bribed govt officials so they do not pay back in time enabling the IMF to buy out African businesses. The US today is destroying the African agricultural base using food aids. Do your own research to find out how food aid really works. You will be amazed.
    The mid-east is in mess today only because of you favorite western govts - specially US and UK. The narcotics business out of Afganisthan and Mexico is owned and controlled by CIA and MI5/6. Wnat details? Google. Very soon there will be wars in Africa when your favorite western govts will fight Chinese (and Indian) interests. The UK today still controls India mainstream news media. Know what Star network is?
    Thats why you never get news that would galvanize the masses. Ever heard of India media puting forward anti british news reports? Why not?

    This is not a personal affront - I grew up in rural Bengal too and I came to US for studies - but unlike you I dont take mainstream news at face value. I do my own research and use my own intelligence and common sense to come to my own conclusions. And I can tell you - you need to rethink how you gather news.

    I am not a blind patriot. I dont support what Indian govt does most of the time. But any day I am proud of what India has achieved in the last 60 yrs. No country in the history of the world have gone from zero to where we are today in such a short time. We made steel but we didnt even make needles when we became independent. Today we are doing things that even the US cannot do with all its money and collection of brains. 60 yrs is really short if you compare with the hundreds of years it took the US or europe to climb the same level of human development index (the starting point is ofcourse different and is not a very good index). Ever heard of inquisition?
    In India?

    I am glad your post will make the morons who go the catholic schools and learn western ways stay out of India - that way, India can filter out the douchebags who dont belong there whining all the time and making things worse for themselves and others - rather than contributing to society.

    Its an idea that builds a nation and that idea of India cant be propagated in catholic schools - like the british never understood India because of the flaws in their education system, nobody will understand India as long as they receive the same type of education anywhere in the world.

  3. Welcome and thank you for your comment. Your comments demands some reply.
    Firstly I appreciate your effort to read seemingly all my posts in this blog and taking your time to comment.
    1. To make any decision and conclusion you need factual data. I deliberately avoided my own personal experiences as anyone can say they do not represent average/general situation and having sampling error. That’s why I sited mainly news reports from reputed media like BBC and some selected Indian news media (e.g Indian Express and Times of India). I do not know if you accept those as trust-worthy or not, but I do.
    2. To solve any problem anyone must acknowledge the problem first. Majority of so-called Indian “elites” and “intellectuals” aggressively undertake a vague and mostly wrong idea that India is doing great as a nation. This is more acute for those Indians living abroad (mainly to gain some type of social prestige among western colleagues). This false propaganda need to be challenged. I know that about 2-5% (max) Indian people get benefitted by this prosperity. And that prosperity is at the expanse of the rest of the population. I am not mentioning any specific data as their will be huge such data to prove this point. It will be suffice to say that UPA cabinet minister Mani Shankar Iyer admitted in Parliament that “only 0.5% of people are getting benefitted by latest “development”.
    3. I fully agree that India is one of the richest countries in the world, before Muslim and then Brit invasion. Even now it’s a very prosperous nation with majority poor people. Starting from religion, to culture to political system almost everywhere the sign of stagnation and deterioration is evident. You can read the social system, Hindu religious customs, political systems, scientific research (Ashoka, Bimbisar, or ancient Kalinga kingdoms or so) in pre-Muslim invasion era. In fact, Gopala in Bengal is one the oldest DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED king in whole Asia. Neither I nor anyone can and should deny those facts. But how do you rate Indian system in any of those fields for common Indians now?
    4. I do not know how do you got the idea that I blindly support “western education” and “ culture”! You can check my blog on “Education” (in case you did not read that properly). If needed, I can send you more of my blogs I published in “Nature India” forum. The bottom line is: I do favour need-oriented and value-based education system. And according to me, US education and research system is just a “corporate” entity, in layman’s term just an industry.
    5. Indian constitution is mostly based in British and to some extent American constitution. In paper, Indian laws and constitution seems to be OK. But it does not matter to ANYONE what is written in a book or what does all those mean in legal terms. What matters to anyone and everyone is how those are implemented and protects common people. In short, India has a fantastic legal system without serving any justice to anyone, as “justice” is perceived in western world from where Indian penal (and criminal) codes were copied.
    6. You said: “Ever heard of India media putting forward anti British news reports? Why not?” In fact according to me Indian media do publish news reports against US and UK, as they are hot-cakes among Indian publics to fan their nationalist ego. Such reports increase sell and TRP rating of TV programs. On the contrary, I hardly notice any news item in mainstream Indian media that is slightly critical against Islam or Islamic countries (mainly due to fear of violent reprisal and to remain “politically correct”). Again, I like to remind you that you need data and facts as reported in “reputed” journals and media to take decision and form your future mode of action.
    7. To build a country fist we need vision, then analysis and wisdom. And everything starts from how we, you and me, perceive the ground level reality and facts that represent average/majority of people. There is no denial that India has achieved a spectacular economic success in last few years. But that prosperity never affected ground level, majority of population. In fact, published data (again in Indian news papers like IE and TOI, I do not know if you will accept those as convincing) shows that prosperity of some states like Gujarat and Karnataka is worse so far basic education and hunger is concerned as compared to poorer states like Assam. The myth of “trickle down” effect is just a myth, both in Western world and in India. Current worldwide economic slowdown is another indication that some people always love to cheat others unless strong Govts and oversight policies are not in place. India severely lacks in that, even as compared to “corporate” democracy of US (thankfully the new admin is taking drastic and tough measures to change it).
    8. India cannot be built on any religious education, be it catholic or Islamic or Hindu. So there is no point to single out “catholic” only.
    9. Once you know what not to do, it will be much easier to understand what to do. Even in this blog there are some proposed solutions. In many other posts I have made suggestions (1, 2) what to do to change the system in India. I’ll appreciate if you can go through some of those and post your comments there.

    Last but not least, I think you prefer to remain anonymous. It will be better if you post your comments in your own (short) name or remain totally anonymous.

  4. 9. Once you know what not to do, it will be much easier to understand what to do. Even in this blog there are some proposed solutions. In many other posts I have made suggestions (http://network.nature.com/groups/natureindia/forum/topics/3348, http://network.nature.com/groups/natureindia/forum/topics/3340 ) what to do to change the system in India. I’ll appreciate if you can go through some of those and post your comments there.

  5. HTML links were not published properly. So sending those:
    7 (Cont.): In fact, published data (again in Indian news papers like IE and TOI, I do not know if you will accept those as convincing) shows that prosperity of some states like Gujarat and Karnataka is worse so far basic education (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Only_21_teachers_in_Bihar_are_Class_X_pass/articleshow/2615791.cms) and hunger (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7669152.stm) is concerned as compared to poorer states like Assam.

  6. Anonymous12:05 PM

    About 645 million people or 55% of India's population is poor as measured by this composite indicator made up of ten markers of education, health and standard of living achievement levels.

    On top of that it also has been shown that 8 states in India has more poor people than all 26 poorest countries of Africa combined!

  7. Anonymous3:35 PM

    Read with interest the comments of M and reply by Jayanta. Needless to mention, each of you have valid points that you made. While I agree with M that abusing India and labeling it "BAD" for everything is not fair as India and Indians has gone through 1000 yrs of foreign invasion and torture. In biological terms I am sure there have been millions of epigentic changes that Indians accumulated in their genes due to this trauma and extended foreign rule. No doubt in that and it will take atleast 200 yrs to overcome that. It has been not even 75 yrs !So we need to be patient and give India chance to show its charisma again.While things are pretty chaotic now(in India) and it seems that India might settle in an anarchy,still there are every reason to agree that new blends of men and women are showing their mark.There is no doubt the Indian diaspora is the most respected community in US/anywhere in world today. All these because our roots are still not rotten yet like what "M" said.Given a good soil, we can still grow up as a productive tree that can bear fruits. The soil is what India lacks today and that is where Jayanta is concerned.His blog(this one and others) points to that direction that possibly our soil is not enough fertilized to grow good plants.We have to agree that while majority of peoples in India are still corrupto-phile, its till not 100%. There are still many peoples who are dedicated and honest, though less in number. Added to that new batch of youths who are more informed,more educated, I can still put my bet that India will surely improve. Remember even by Darwinian cycle,corrupted system are self limiting.. and are unstable.Because corruption never has a good long term benefit, so even if entire population tends towards corrupted,it will self annihilate.It can NEVER survive long, as suckers never allow another sucker to propagate. In that scenario,a threshold number of good and honest population will have more survival advantage as they will have a net positive growth.That is how apparently Western civilizations has evolved though they too have many corrupted peoples. I feel India is now going through the falling leg of the curve. That is why today there are more media uproar, more agitations if something is grossly wrong(2G scams, commonwealth scams..).This curve will surely rise within next 1-2 decade. Till then, we need to support all the good cause and "positively" criticize and do all that we can do help India overcome this man-made crisis.And if that means leaving our safe cocoon here in USA and going to India to initiate a cause..it need to be taken by someone of us.Else for ever we will blame the system from outside.Ofcouse that's easiest thing! Remember after all, that is where our roots are.. what we call as our COUNTRY.
    I thank Jayanta for bringing these excellent items to the table to discuss, at least people should be made aware of(remember even poets played a part in India struggle for freedom,, everyone has their role). Good Post Jayanta. Best wishes



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