Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Indian Superpower has no clothes

Economist Kaushik Basu points four of his main concerns about India, in an Interview given to the new business paper, Mint:

1. Poverty
2. Farmers’ suicides ( & unregulated local lenders)
3. Do the masses really think they have a stake in India’s growth? (re: what do they think about the SEZs, toll highways, shining private townships, etc?)
4. Can Disparity in development be a threat to the unity and diversity of this nation?

An article in a recent issue of Fortune gives some troubling figures:

• 47 percent of Indian children under the age of five are either malnourished or stunted.
• The adult literacy rate is 61 percent (behind Rwanda and barely ahead of Sudan). Even this is probably overstated, as people are deemed literate who can do little more than sign their name.
• Only 10 percent of the entire Indian labor force works in the formal economy; of these fewer than half are in the private sector.
• The enrollment of six-to-15-year-olds in school has actually declined in the last year. About 40 million children who are supposed to be in school are not.
• About a fifth of the population is chronically hungry; about half of the world's hungry live in India.
• More than a quarter of the India population lives on less than a dollar a day.
• India has more people with HIV than any other country.
(Sources: UNDP, Unicef, World Food Program; Edward Luce)

The Economist Magazine has often criticized India’s current development patterns.

A look at some articles from The Economist, all of which are accessible only to paying subscribers, but you get the idea from the summaries.

V.S. Naipaul once wrote about our gift of ignoring things, citing how nonchalant we are about seeing people defecating by the roadside.

It is a fantastic gift, which makes us with well paying jobs and clean houses to say, "All the poor man wants is food, nothing more...".

We forget the poor man has eyes and ears too.


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