According to estimates by the United Nations, in April this year, India surpassed China to become the most populous country in the world. On June 22, the United States and India issued the “US-India Joint Statement”, declaring that the two countries will vigorously deepen cooperation and sharing in the fields of technology and information. This makes “India’s Rise” once again become a hot topic in international public opinion. Predictions of India’s rise have been heard for the past 30 years. In the 1990s, analysts claimed that India’s growing young population would drive economic liberalization and bring about an economic miracle; in 2006, the World Economic Forum in Davos declared India the fastest-growing free-market democracy in the world, and India’s business leader at the time The minister said that India’s economy will soon overtake that of China. However, these prophecies did not come true. Today India still has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world, while China’s economy is about five times the size of India’s.
According to economist Ashoka Mody, the prediction of India’s rise is completely divorced from the reality of the lives of the vast majority of Indians. In the next 10 years, India needs to create 200 million jobs to provide employment for the working population. It’s incredible. In his book “India Has Collapsed: Betrayed People, From Independence to Today”, he pointed out that if you want to understand India, you must first pay attention to employment, because employment is not just an economic issue, it is also related to basic human rights. The primary measure of development should be the creation of decent jobs, not GDP growth.
Since independence, India has been severely underemployed. Hundreds of millions of Indians have difficulty getting jobs. The environment, health, education, urban management and judicial system are all very bad. The lack of jobs undermines India’s democracy, and the breakdown of democracy further undermines job creation.
Ashkar Modi pointed out that India has fallen into such a trap and cannot extricate itself because the leaders of India after independence never confronted India’s real problems. India was mortally wounded by Nehru’s mistakes, and Modi’s ruling from 2014 to the present has finally brought down India’s democratic system.
As the founder of an independent modern India, Nehru was a highly idealistic person with a vision of building a democratic, egalitarian and secular India, but he did not translate his idealism into practical policies and actions. Especially without realizing the importance of universal basic education, which is exactly what Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi emphasized.
India announced a policy of universal basic education shortly after independence, but the government did not pay attention to this, resulting in slow progress in literacy. Universal enrollment of school-age children was not achieved until around 2000. But even today, 75 years after the declaration of independence, many fifth-graders cannot solve second-grade math problems, more than a third of young people do not complete secondary education, and most undergraduates attend substandard universities mixed diploma. Compared with India, countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia generally attach importance to basic education, so they can smoothly transform a large number of labor forces into skilled workers, creating prerequisites for economic take-off.
Nehru attached great importance to elite education. He chose the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a blueprint to create a world-class scientific research level Indian Institute of Technology. Indian elite education represented by this university has won international reputation. However, India’s elite education mainly provides management and technical backbones for multinational companies, and has not benefited the Indian public, nor has it effectively designed and implemented socio-economic development strategies for building a democratic, fair and secular India.
Nehru’s neglect of basic education and emphasis on elite education was consistent with his economic development agenda. At the dawn of India’s independence, the country was on the brink of a rapid demographic transition, with high birth rates and falling death rates, and the government was supposed to create economic opportunities to incorporate the growing population into nation building. This meant taking advantage of the post-World War II global export boom and adopting a job-creating export-led economic model that shifted low-wage, low-productivity agricultural labor to labour-intensive manufacturing. This is exactly the path by which Japan achieved its post-war economic miracle.
However, Nehru chose an economic strategy that gave priority to the development of heavy industry, which he called “the temple of the new India”, hoping to achieve self-sufficient industrial development. From 1951 to 1956, India implemented its first five-year plan, and shortly after the end of the plan, it was declared a huge success, laying the foundation for India to join the ranks of industrialized countries.
In fact, Nehru was not concerned with getting the crucial details of the bureaucracy and services right, nor was he assessing the true economic capabilities of the country. As heavy industry requires heavy investment, which seriously affects the income level of the government and the people, and also gives the bureaucracy super powerful rent-seeking power, the result is that the gold and jade are in vain, while India is in the export-oriented light industry with high employment potential. The real advantages of the aspect are ignored.
Neglect of basic education, combined with prioritization of heavy industry and abandonment of an export-oriented economy, has left a large number of Indians unable to find a job that can support their families and access public goods. After Nehru’s 17-year rule ended, more than 60 percent of India’s population remained in abject poverty.
Nehru’s problem was not only that he made wrong educational and economic policies, but also that he was incapable and unwilling to check the moral corruption that permeated Indian politics. After independence, India claimed to have established a democratic system, but the ruling power was in the hands of the upper caste. Since independence, the ruling elites at the top of the Congress and the government have, with few exceptions, been greedy for their own and small groups’ interests at the expense of the general welfare. After Nehru’s death, his daughter Indira Gandhi served as prime minister for nearly 16 years, but did little to put the Indian economy on a healthy development track. Although Indira Gandhi used some slogans close to the people to attract the support of the people, her economic measures actually worsened the situation of the people. The internal division of the National Congress Party has also exacerbated the collapse of India’s democratic system.
In 1991, under the impact of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, then Indian Prime Minister Rao promoted neoliberal market-oriented reforms, which were inherited by subsequent Indian governments. The reform brought about accelerated growth of GDP, which was successful in terms of economic indicators, but the issue of how to provide public goods such as environment, health, education, and urban management to the people was ignored.
From 2001 to 2014, Narendra Modi was chief minister of India’s westernmost state of Gujarat, setting the state’s economic development model. He became Prime Minister of India in 2014, and Gujarat’s development model has since become India’s development model.
Ashkar Modi pointed out that Gujarat’s development model is predatory development on hormones. Businesses got nearly free land, big loans at almost zero interest rates, generous tax breaks and effortless environmental approvals, and taxpayers picked up the cost, subsidizing entrepreneurs who created barely any jobs.
Adani (Gautam Adani) is a typical representative of the Gujarat model. The Adani Group controlled by it operates ports, coal mines, resource trade and other businesses. In 2022, it once became the second richest man in the world. Adani is a close friend of Narendra Modi, and the Adani group grew 14 times in size during Modi’s 14 years as chief minister of Gujarat state. The secret is that the Gujarat government sold the land to the group at a price far below the market, and provided substantial subsidies for its construction projects many times, and the Adani Group’s deforestation of primeval forests and deadly air and water pollution With total impunity, high costs are borne by marginalized groups who have no voice – indigenous peoples in the forest, fishermen, etc. – causing irreparable damage to their livelihoods. While India has some of the most comprehensive environmental regulations in the world, they are often flouted and environmental impact assessments are a dead letter.
Adani Group, on the other hand, has boosted Gujarat’s GDP but its capital-intensive construction projects have created few jobs. When Modi took office as Prime Minister of India in 2014, he declared that he would create 10 million jobs within five years. Yet by the end of his first term in 2019, there were even fewer employed people in India than in 2012. So why did Modi still win the general election with an overwhelming advantage in 2019 and successfully re-elected? The key is that he actively promotes the dailyization of Hindu nationalism, thereby establishing the legitimacy of his own rule.
Hindu nationalism, born in the early 20th century, is a political movement emphasizing the relationship between the enemy and ourselves. It takes British colonialism as its enemy and demands the independence of India; secondly, it takes Islam and Muslims as its enemy and demands the establishment of a Hindu country; finally, it also regards the secularism advocated by Gandhi and Nehru and supported by most Indians. Principles are regarded as enemies. Hard-liners in Hindu nationalism not only participated in the sectarian vendetta during the Partition of India in 1947, but also assassinated Gandhi in 1948.
During the Indian independence movement and the early days of the founding of India, on the one hand, Gandhi and Nehru used their personal strength to marginalize the voice of Hindu nationalism, and on the other hand, the power of national unity based on getting rid of colonial rule also contained A breeding ground for Hindu nationalism. But like most newly independent countries, the national identity established through decolonization can easily be worn away and replaced by a more primitive national identity based on region and culture. For India, this means that Hindu nationalism must become a political force.
Even in the Nehru era, Hindu nationalism was not only prevalent outside the ruling Congress Party, but also potentially influential within the Congress Party. During his tenure as prime minister, Indira Gandhi supported soft Hindu nationalism under the guise of maintaining secular principles in order to win votes. And in the late 1980s, the specter of Hindu nationalism finally broke its seal and emerged.
The turning point that caused Hindu nationalism to break the seal was the failure of the Bombay textile strike in 1982. As a result, trade unions lost their appeal, and many workers and their children who originally followed left-wing parties turned to Hindu nationalist parties. While providing these resentful frustrated people with a sense of identity in a group and warmth, it also strengthens their hatred and demonization of minority groups. In 1992, Hindu extremist organizations forcibly demolished the Babri Mosque in Uttar Pradesh, on the grounds that it was the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama, and there was a Hindu temple in history; from 1992 to 1993, there were many incidents in Mumbai Sectarian riots have killed a large number of Muslims.
Since becoming prime minister in 2014, Modi has actively promoted Hindu nationalism as the ruling ideology. For example, he led Congress to pass the Citizenship Act Amendment, making religion the basis of citizenship for the first time, disenfranchising millions of Indian Muslims, including many families who have settled in India for generations ; he also abolished the special status and autonomy granted to the state of Jammu and Kashmir by the constitution.
What is more, Hindu nationalism not only dominates party politics in India today, but also permeates the judicial system. When the Babri Mosque was demolished that year, all walks of life condemned it severely; and in 2019, the Supreme Court of India ruled that the land where the mosque was located was awarded to Hindus to rebuild the Rama Temple, and the government chose another land for Muslims to rebuild the mosque. Hindu nationalism finally got its wish and won the endorsement of the state apparatus. This not only violated the vision of a secular and inclusive democracy advocated by Gandhi and Nehru, and exacerbated the antagonism between Hindus and Muslims, but also provided opportunities for nationalist politicians to manipulate public opinion without accountability and promises. The master key to the ballot.
Ashkar Modi pointed out that if India wants to get back on track, it needs to rebuild norms and provide people with qualified basic education and various public goods. He sees the southwestern state of Kerala as a model worthy of emulation across India. Kerala, long governed by left-wing parties since independence, has the best education and healthcare systems in the country and has successfully fended off environmental damage. The reason is that Kerala has established a community-based decentralized governance, which has successfully cultivated the public’s sense of community and citizenship, and has brought the elite and the public closer.
Ashkar Modi’s analysis of Indian society is undoubtedly of great enlightenment to the creation of decent jobs rather than the emphasis on GDP growth.