Study of Societies


Needless to say, it is complacency that deprives us of reaching our full potential.  Complacency is another name for “comfort zones”, where we deceive ourselves with satisfaction that everything is running fine. We convince ourselves that the status quo is the best solution for all our predicaments. We hesitate to challenge the status quo. In other words, we stop competing. We replace the two most important human values – challenges and competition – with complacency. Without challenges and competition we either stagnate, or worse, we begin to decay. The fear of competition overshadows all our strategies and policies. As a direct result, we spend all our energy on protection – protecting complacency.

India, after independence in 1947, endorsed a protectionist policy. It closed itself off from rest of the world, deceiving itself that it was protecting its economy. Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, a well known economist and author of the book titled The Rise of India (JOHN WILEY AND SONS, 2007), has called, India’s strategy, “A century of lost opportunities”. In fact, he has dedicated a whole chapter to analysing how and why India stagnated for much of the 20th century. For India, this was a century spent in fear, terrified of competition. The rationale given was that India ought to be self-sufficient. But I disagree with Rajadhyaksha, I think India needed this time period to contemplate, to decide what to do with its two obstacles: the colonial damage and the rigid caste system.

What India really wants and had always wanted is to “reclaim its lost position” writes Rajadhyaksha. It wants to regain the economic superiority it once enjoyed under the Mughal Empire. The Mughals ruled over India from 1526 to 1857, and India boasted an impressive 24.44% of the share of the world economy at the time.  The magnificent monument, the Taj Mahal, is a reminder of the economic power India wielded during the Mughal era. The Taj Mahal’s entire complex, with gardens, gateway structures, and mosque, was completed in 1648, according to the Columbia Encyclopaedia, Sixth Edition.

As the above table1 from Rajadhyaksha’s book illustrates, the British occupation eroded India’s economy and economic superiority quite comprehensively. However, the question has to be asked not how but why the British succeed in conquering a nation that boasted “a quarter of the world’s output.” After deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that despite economic successes, India was on a path to self-destruction of its own design. And the British recognised this important flaw which enabled them to successfully conquer and occupy India. Now that the Mughals and the British have long gone and India has to look to the future. The future, as the RTM readers very well know by now, is the full development of the human brainpower.

India is seeing that its source of power is its larger population size. The Malthusian thesis is not on India’s priority lists, and India foresees something positive in having a larger population, over 1 billion brains. India’s vision of its future workforce is of a highly skilled one and of entrepreneurs, argues Rajadhyaksha. A similar argument is made by William R. Brody, the President of The Johns Hopkins University, USA. Of course he is talking about the USA and not India.

What makes India so special is that it is the only country that has recognised that its future and the future of the world depends on unleashing the full potential of the human brainpower. Real progress, the most valued progress, is the surge in brainpower. India’s education policies (quotas for students from lower castes) indicate that it is working towards jettisoning its rigid caste system, although sometimes the changes do seem like a token. The caste system is still rampant in rural India. However, India is making progress in urban areas where the caste system is not as strong as it used to be but is still there. What is important is that India is beginning to recognise that all human thought must be given equal weight. Suppression of brainpower no longer serves the interests of India and for that matter any nation.

India now intends to bring the 300 million people who are living below the poverty line out of poverty, despite the fact that India’s per capita income is still low, between only $900 and $1,000 at the moment. The Indian economy is making steady progress, an average of about 7% over the last four years.  The confluence of the internet and cheap labour is aiding India in achieving its economic goals. However, the global economy is entering a depression and this will affect India’s economy as well. I hope India does find a way to minimise any damage, which might be long-lasting, that complacency would have on a fragile developing economy.

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha’s book The Rise of India is an excellent read and does not bore the reader with too many statistical figures. He has tried to pack a lot of information on different areas of the Indian economy; including call centres and banking and how these sectors have developed over the years. Like Rajadhyaksha says, poverty is India’s biggest problem, I think India is responding by surge in brainpower. I publish a few paragraphs from the book The Rise of India.

I publish below entry for India from A Dictionary of Contemporary World History (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2008).

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