Speech delivered in the Institute of South Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley on 19.3.2015 at Stephen Hall
Prof. Goldman, Respected Professors, Faculty and dear students, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great honour to be invited to Berkeley University, which has an outstanding reputation in the world as a great center of higher learning.
Today I am going to speak on ' The Future of India '. This would be an interesting subject to many of you as many of you would be from India or neighbouring countries, and also because India is a huge country with 1250 million people, and so what happens there is likely to affect the whole world.
India is presently passing through a transitional period in its history, transition from feudal agricultural society to modern industrial society.
A transitional period is a very painful and turbulent period in history. If we see the history of Europe from roughly the 16th to the 19th centuries, when Europe was passing through this transition from feudalism to a modern society we find that this period was full of turbulence, turmoil, wars, revolutions, chaos, social churning, intellectual ferment, etc. There was the Reformation by Martin Luther, Calvin, Henry the 8th, etc, and then the Counter Reformation, the Inquisition with its accompanying burning of heretics on the stake,, the St. Bartholomew massacre of Protestants ( called Huguenots ) in France in 1572, the Civil War in England, the 30 years war in Germany in which Catholics and Protestants massacred each other, the Wars of Spanish Succession, the 7 year war, the French Revolution etc, with theories of Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Montesquieu, the thinkers of the Enlightenment, etc. The whole of European society was thrown into turmoil during this period. It was only after going through this fire that modern society emerged in Europe.
India is presently going through this fire. We are going through a very painful and turbulent period in our history. Presently India is neither totally feudal, nor totally modern, but somewhere in between. My guess is that the transition will last another 15-20 years or so, and so the next 15-20 years in India will be very turbulent.
What is a transition in history ? It is a period when the old feudal society is being uprooted and torn apart, when old values are being destroyed, but have not been replaced with new values of industrial society. Everything has become topsy turvy and chaotic. It is a period when, as Shakespeare said in Macbeth " Fair is foul and foul is fair ". In other words, what was regarded good earlier is regarded bad now, and what was regarded bad earlier is regarded good today.
For example, in feudal India the caste system was regarded good, but today the enlightened section of Indian society regards it as outdated and bad. In feudal society, one could not choose whom he/she will marry. One's parents decided this. Earlier love marriage was regarded as bad. Now it is acceptable in the enlightened section of Indian society
However, feudal elements are still very powerful in Indian society. For instance in some parts of India like western U.P. Haryana, etc if a young couple who fall in love have an inter caste or inter religious marriage both are brutally killed as an ' honour killing ' by the relatives or caste bodies ( called khap panchayats ).
Most Indians still regard the scheduled castes or dalits as inferior, and will not allow their daughters to marry a dalit boy, and if she does both are sometimes murdered. A pitched fight took place a few years back between dalit and non dalit boys in a University in Tamilnadu.
Casteism and communalism are still deeply entrenched in Indian society. In elections often votes are cast on the basis of caste and religion, instead of the merits of the candidate. That is why many criminals are elected. it is estimated that one third of the members of the Indian Parliament have a criminal background.
There is widespread discrimination against women and minorities. Female foeticide is common in many parts of India, and so is the practice of dowry deaths. Muslims have difficulty in getting jobs or houses on rent, and are often falsely implicated in terrorist acts..
Upto 1947 India was under British rule. The British policy was divide and rule, in other words, make Hindus and Muslims fight with each other ( see ' History in the Service of Imperialism ' by B.N. Pande and ' The Truth about Pakistan ' online and on my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in). The effect of that policy is persisting even today.
There was very little animosity between Hindus and Muslims before 1857 when the Great Mutiny took place in which Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. After suppressing the Mutiny the British rulers decided that the only way to control India was divide and rule, in other words, make Hindus and Muslims fight with each other ( see details in ' History in the Service of Imperialism ' online ). This communal poison was injected into our society systematically by the Britishers, year after year, decade after decade, resulting in the Partition of 1947 with all its horrors.
The British policy was broadly not to permit India to industrialize, and keep it agricultural and feudal. So heavy industries were not allowed to be set up, and only some textile and plantation industries, which too were initially under the control of Britishers, were set up in India. Obviously the Britishers thought that if India industrializes it would become a rival to British industry. So upto 1947 there were very few industries and very few engineers and technicians.
After Independence a Constitution was promulgated in January 1950. This Constitution was based on Western models. It borrowed Parliamentary democracy and an independent judiciary from England, fundamental rights and federalism from the U.S. Constitution, and the Directive Principles of State Policy from Ireland. This Constitution set up modern institutions and laid down modern principles such as equality, liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc, the idea of our Founding Fathers being that this modern.Constitution will pull our backward semi-feudal society into the modern age. And to some extent it did.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Nehru India set up a heavy industrial base, established several engineering colleges ( including some like the Indian Institutes of Technology of a very high order ) and technical institutes, schools and colleges, etc This no doubt led to much progress. Girls, who were earlier not given education also started going to schools.
However, after some time the feudals hijacked our democracy and made it an empty shell. Elections started relying on feudal caste and religious vote banks, and merit took a back seat.
Today the situation in India is that the economy has broadly stagnated ( despite all tall claims to the contrary ), and all state institutions have become hollow. People have largely lost respect for our politicians, I have called them ' Bourbons ' in a blog I have written ' Wake up Bourbons '. Most of them have no genuine love for the country, and are perceived by the Indian people as crooks and rascals who have looted India
About 75% of the 1250 million people in India are very poor. There is massive unemployment ( see my blog ' Unemployment in India ' ) .10 million youth enter the job market every year, but only half a million jobs are created in the organized sector of the economy annually. What do the rest do ? They become hawkers, street vendors, bouncers, stringers, criminals or prostitutes.
About 50% of our children are malnourished, some of them severely malnourished ( see my blog ' Malnutrition in India ' ), and a UNICEF report has said that one third of the malnourished children in the world are in India. 50% childhood deaths are due to malnourishment. India has one of the highest infant mortality rates. Many children die due to preventable causes e.g. low birth weight, pregnancy complications, diseases, poor sanitation, dehydration, diarrhoeia, etc. Half our women are anaemic
Healthcare is almost non existent for the masses, though the rich have excellent hospitals ( see my blog ' Healthcare in India ' ),, Good educational institutions are available only to a few children, the gap between the rich and poor is increasing, prices of foodstuffs etc have skyrocketed, corruption is widespread ( despite all the talk against it ), farmers are regularly committing suicide, etc. All this is an explosive mixture.
It is said that under the new Indian Government GDP is growing. The question, however, remains, who is getting the fruits of this growth, is it the Indian masses, or just a handful of big businessmen ?
The one and only test of every system is whether under it the standard of living of the masses is rising or not. In India the answer is clearly in the negative.
In perhaps the greatest speech delivered by anyone in the 20th century President Franklin Roosevelt called for a Second Bill of Rights in a speech delivered to the nation on 11th January 1944. He said that the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution had clearly proved to be inadequate. A hungry or unemployed man has no use of liberty or equality or freedom of speech. Hence President Roosevelt called for an Economic Bill of Rights, providing for each American (1) Employment with a living wage (2) Food, clothing and leisure (3) Medical care (4) Social Security. Fair income to farmers, etc.(5) Good education, and (6) Housing.
In India these economic rights have been mentioned in Part 4 of the Indian Constitution, called the Directive Principles of State Policy, but these have expressly been made non enforceable by Article 37. Since there is little likelihood that these economic rights will be provided to the Indian masses any time in the near future , I am afraid India is heading for very turbulent times.
So the future of india, as I have said earlier, is that the next 15-20 years are going to be very turbulent and chaotic, but after this period I am confident a just social and economic order will emerge in India in which the Indian masses will get decent lives and a high standard of living