Wednesday, November 18, 2009

World at Threshold, India at Crossroads

Some physicist who explore the universe for signs of life believe that civilizations come in three types according to their technical and hence political progress [1]. It is famously known as the Kardashev scale:
  • Type 1: a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available on a single planet.
  • Type 2: a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available from a single star.
  • Type 3: a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available from a single galaxy.
In this scale from 1 -3 the Earth ranks as type 0 civilization, but also one which is on the threshold of becoming a type 1 civilization. Already, the concept of nationality has been diluted in many European and American nations. The domination on a global scale is not measured by the area captured by a country, but by the trade surplus and economic might.

It interestingly concurs well with the Asimov's novels giving an insight into the complex science of politics and control. Long gone are the era's of control through religion, when the writ of the Pope was stronger than any of the monarch. Soon as religion faded out as a tool of control, trade flourished and it was even more subtle but highly powerful tool for domination. Even after the collapse of imperialism and colonialism the western powers did not fade away. While the real economy of manufacture of goods and production of raw materials shifted more and more towards the east, the contrived concept of capital got concentrated more and more in the west. Thus enabling the west to secure their interests inconspicuously.

But nothing remains static, and now the world is again evolving to a higher dimension where trade and corporations matter the most and not the countries. The MNCs (Multinational Companies) already span the whole world and global trade deals are being hammered. Governments, at times, act just as a stooge for the corporate interests influenced by 'Lobbies.'

The pace of this change has not been even everywhere. Countries like India have not even crossed the threshold for such a change to occur. The threshold being the security of all its citizens in all respects, whether economic or social. It has been dragged along the world with a leash called globalization and liberalization. India still is dictated by strong regional, linguistic, religion and nationality bias.

Things are changing. NREGA and various social programs are changing the rural landscape. Internal dissent and conflict of interest of people with corporate interests is being recognized [2]. The problems with neighbors are being sorted out [3].

There are many challenges that the nation faces today which come in the form of choices we can take to make India "developed." One of the most subtle and yet formidable challenge is what economic and social model suits India the best? India is going through a demographic sweet spot, where the majority of Indians are young. But the sweetness doesn't end here. Majority of Indian population is still uniformly spread out all over with seventy percent of India still in the villages. We have a choice to make. Do we want a city centric model for the nation, or a village centric one? While the city centric model is easy to adopt as the whole of west stands as an example of it, the village centric one is more sustainable, especially for a billion people, and so, much more hard to build in the first place. There are almost no precedents in the contemporary world of village centric economic model leading to prosperity, but all we need to do is to dig up our past.

Instead of emptying out the villages into cities, we need to do the reverse. The goal of such an economy would be to have the level of incomes and quality of life better in the villages than in the cities. For this to happen, NREGA is not enough. It needs to be supplemented by PURA i.e. bringing the urban infrastructure to the door step of villages. This still, is an easy task. The bigger task would be to build an environment which could nurture small cottage industries. This environment must be built as on organic one rather than a parasitic one, that is fed on subsidies and the government's pampering of few, breeding incompetence. This task has no parallel in the contemporary world, dominated by mammoth corporates and their politics. Only guide can be the past where such industries flourished in India and produced goods better than those in the west. Of course this wont supplement needs of modern management and practices needed to make a enterprise efficient and profitable.

The least we can do at the moment is to complete the PURA and thus remove the physical barriers inhibiting the rural growth. The is also a hope that in this environment and soil, the rural enterprises shall themselves sprout out. After all nothing is a big surprise in India. If the Indian corporates could do it, so may the rural enterprises, given a responsive democracy devoid of "lobbying".