In a footnote in The Black Swan (2008), Nassem Nicholas Taleb wonders whether all it takes to effectively construct a nation is a flag, a few speeches and an anthem! What is a nation? The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘nation’ as ‘a large group of people sharing the same culture, language or history, and inhabiting a particular state or area.’
The best way to create a new nation, independent India’s incipient leaders thought, was to destroy the existing structure, consisting of culture, language and history, much as we demolish an old building to construct a new one. With some help from our colonisers, they have been assiduously attempting to erase, deface and disown our national cultural ethos, not to speak of language and history, in order to artificially create, what the left-liberal crowd likes to call a composite culture. The leftist economist Raj Krishna’s coinage, ‘Hindu rate of growth’ is but a small part of the larger scheme of things aimed at demolishing the old structures.
The left-liberal pamphleteers constantly aver that ‘it was India’s fabulous wealth, which attracted the invaders.’ (It is as if causing genocide and plundering are some kind of noble pursuits sanctioned by the gods.) If India was so fabulously rich, how could one attribute the poor economic growth rate to Hindus, especially when others ruled India for over ten centuries? Speaking in multiple voices and obfuscating inconvenient facts that do not fit into their narratives are techniques, their ‘eminences’ perfected to a fine art.
William H. Avery, a former US diplomat and global business strategist points out that ‘India had been rich and powerful for most of Human history’. Avery’s book, India as the Next Global Power (2012, Amaryllis, New Delhi.) cites the British economic historian Angus Maddison (1926-2010) who painstakingly compiled statistics of world economic growth from the first century AD. Here are some interesting facts from Avery’s book:
“India’s recent centuries of poverty are an exception in its history of wealth. For most part of the past two millennia, India accounted for one quarter or more of world GDP. It was the single largest contributor to world GDP until around 1500, when it relinquished that position to China…”
It may be superfluous to point out that seven centuries of benign Mohammedan rule must have taken its toll, for Avery points out:
“India’s share of world GDP, which was close to thirty percent for much of the first millennium, began a long term decline thereafter.”
As an interesting aside, narrating the reign of Akbar, he points out that India’s per capita GDP was a bit over half of England’s at the time. Yet the Mughal ruling class ‘enjoyed even a higher standard of living than European aristocracy.’ This was because of their ‘exploitation of the lower classes.’ We were taught that Akbar was a benign (and more importantly secular) emperor who ruled his subjects ‘as his own children’!
The downward slide of the Indian economy continued during the British rule until it reached its nadir by the twentieth century when it fell to below five percent of global GDP. Avery’s next observation is enlightening for the fan boys of ‘Nehruvian socialism’ and ‘Nehruvian legacy’:
“… [T]here was an uptick in India’s fortunes in the beginning of the late twentieth century. Its share of global wealth has continued to grow since then.”
This clearly means that Jawaharlal Nehru’s economic policies were not responsible for the ‘uptick’. In fact, his pernicious socialism sent the Indian economy spiralling down to the bottom. It was Nehru family’s bête noire P. V. Narasimha Rao, who ironically, brought about the positive change.
Conquerors often used psychological offensive as a ploy to tighten their hold on the vanquished. They ordered history writing to this effect. Avery documents how British historians laboured to create negative images of India. James Mill was one such who toiled for twelve years to produce his three-volume The History of British India (1817), without ever bothering to visit India. Here is what Avery says about Mill’s work:
“Mill must have sensed his audience’s hunger for negative judgements about India, and he did not disappoint. His general criticism of India (‘[it has] in reality made but a few steps in the progress to civilisation’) is supplemented with specific dismissals of Indian achievements in math and the sciences. He give no credence to the claim that Indian mathematicians invented the decimal system, and mocks the notion that Indian astronomers (including Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta) once postulated the existence of gravity and a rotating earth. Of course, Mill would see no reason to believe that such ideas could have originated in India, as he had roundly dismissed native (Indian) scholars as having ‘a general disposition to deceit and perfidy’. ”
What makes the narrative more poignant from an Indian perspective is how it shaped Indian thought. Avery observes that
“[…] Many Indians themselves imbibed colonial biases.”
Although Mill aimed his work at his British audience, he largely succeeded in planting negative images of India in Indian minds. One of the reasons for this could possibly be, his work influenced Indians who flocked to England to pursue English education but came back with a Bohemian outlook and derision for all things Indian. Our left-liberal intellectuals (a double oxymoron) echo Mill’s derision to this day. They never bothered to enquire about the veracity of such accounts but imbibed them as gospel. So much for the vaunted ‘scientific temper’, which Nehru wanted to inculcate in Indian citizens.
The decades after independence were frittered away by an elite that became physically free but remained an ideological slave to European thought processes. India began to experience severe poverty and shortages that she did not in centuries, in the decades after independence. The poverty and shortages were so severe that Indians began sentimentally recalling the ‘good times’ of the British rule. Everything from food grains to kerosene, cement, and steel were severely rationed. Many fast moving consumer goods were either not made or were of such poor quality, that Indians developed a craze for ‘foreign’ goods.
Telephones, electronic goods and motor vehicles were for only for the rich. There was a long period of waiting to obtain a telephone connection and motor vehicles were not available off-the-shelf even for those who could afford them.
So inefficient were the public sector undertakings (the prime component of Nehru’s mixed economy), that they made losses even in sectors in which they had a monopoly! India’s external debt mounted and mounted. Any external aid was used to service debts, which in plain English means paying interest on it.
Indian citizens might not have been aware of even the number of articles that comprise the Indian Constitution but they all read about US public law 480, P. L. 480 for short. It is the law under which the US supplies food grains to indigent nations against payment in their own currencies.
The reason for the sorry plight does not require rocket-science to decipher. It was so simple; any sophomore student in economics could have told the rulers that no one could distribute something that is not produced.
Hopefully the nation had learnt its lessons and there would be a return to sanity. Will we return to the true ‘Hindu rate of growth’?