135 million Horatii are needed in India

Justice Markandey Katju-
Justice Markandey Katju

Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.

” Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds?
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods”
—Thomas Babington Macaulay: Lays of Ancient Rome

I don’t wish to horrify or scare anyone, but my guess is that about 135 million Indians will perish in the coming mighty historical struggle, which may last 10-15 years or more, and will culminate in setting up of a political and social order under which India rapidly industrializes, and our people get a high standard of living and enjoy decent lives, with proper jobs, adequate incomes, nutritious food, proper healthcare, and good education, etc.

In my article ‘ India’s Long March has begun ‘ published in indicanews.com I mentioned that a study of history reveals that about 10% of a country’s population is killed in great historical transformations, as happened in China and Vietnam. One wishes that such a transformation takes place peacefully, and without loss of life, but that is not how history functions.

One may be terrified by what I am saying, but if we are not prepared for this huge sacrifice we will remain condemned to abject and massive poverty, unemployment, malnutrition,  lack of proper healthcare and good education for our masses, etc.

Why is it that I say that we Indians have to make such a huge and terrible sacrifice?  Let me explain, but for doing so I will have to delve a bit into economics, for politics is concentrated economics.

The cost of labor is a big chunk of the total cost of production, and so if the cost of labor is less, the cost of production is less, and one can sell his goods at a cheaper price. There is competition in the market, and one businessman eliminates another businessman not with bombs, guns, or knives, but by underselling him, i.e. selling at a cheaper price.

The same happens on the international level. For instance, after the Chinese Revolution, which ended in victory in 1949, the Chinese set up a massive industrial base, and this industrial base, coupled with the cheap labour available in China, enabled the Chinese to undersell the whole world in consumer goods. All the Western supermarkets are packed with Chinese goods, which often sell at half the price at which the American or European manufacturer can sell ( because Western labor is expensive ).

Once a country sets up a massive industrial base then everything turns on the cost of its labor. Countries with cheaper labor have a distinct advantage over countries that have expensive labor.

Now Indian labor is even cheaper than Chinese labor. If we set up a massive industrial base in India ( which we must if we wish to abolish poverty, unemployment, hunger, etc ) will the industries of the developed countries survive? No, most of them will collapse, as they will be unable to face competition from our industries because due to our cheap labor our products will be sold at less than half the price of the goods made in developed countries. Who will then buy their expensive goods?

But will the developed countries allow their industries to collapse, throwing tens of millions of their people into unemployment? No, they will oppose India’s transformation into a highly industrialized country tooth and nail. And how do they do this? They do it by making Indians fight each other in the name of religion and caste, thus dissipating their energy and resources in fratricidal conflicts. The present religious polarisation in India is a direct consequence of this, and the political party doing this is an agent of developed countries.

The present ongoing farmers’ agitation in India is of historical importance, as it has smashed the barriers of caste and religion, and united our people. Farmers constitute about 60-65% of India’s population of 1.35 billion people, i.e. they are about 750 million. This mighty force, which has been unleashed and has arisen for the first time after Independence in 1947, is irresistible like a tidal wave, and is bound to develop into a historical united people’s struggle for our socio-economic emancipation.

But this is only the beginning of a long, arduous, hazardous journey on the road ahead for the Indian people. There will be many twists and turns, reverses splits, and retreats, and the journey will probably last 10-15 years or more, during which great sacrifices will have to be made, and many will fall on the way. But without undergoing this journey we will remain in our present miserable and pitiable condition.

We need millions of patriotic Horatii for this, who are willing to sacrifice their lives, like Horatius guarding the bridge in Ancient Rome. I am confident we have them.