Justice Markandey Katju
theprint.in has published Kumar Ketkar’s article ‘In Modi era intellectuals confess they are confused.
My response is, one, almost all Indian ‘intellectuals,’ including professors in universities, mediapersons, writers, etc are pseudo-intellectuals who are puffed up with arrogance and bookish, sterile knowledge, which is no knowledge at all. No wonder they are confused.
Two, there is no confusion at all if one has a clear understanding of what is happening in the world and in India.
On this planet there are two worlds. The first world is of developed industrialized countries, ie North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and China. The second is the rest of the world, ie Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
India is the most developed of the underdeveloped countries, and has all the potential of joining the first world because it has all that is required to become a highly industrialized country – a huge pool of technical talent in the form of thousands of bright engineers (many of whom are largely manning Silicon Valley and are professors in science, math and engineering departments of Western universities) and immense natural resources (India is not a small country like England but almost a continent).
But the first world is a fortress. It does not want countries in the other world to become part of it. It will do everything to prevent this. In particular, it is determined that India be kept out of the first world. Why? This is easy to understand (though of course not easy for Indian ‘intellectuals’ to understand) so let me explain.
The cost of labor is a big chunk of the total cost of production. If the cost of labor is less, the cost of production is reduced, too. If the cost of production is less one can sell a product at a cheaper price and undersell a business rival. There is competition in the market, and businesses eliminate others not with guns or bombs but by underselling them.
For instance, after their Revolution in 1949 the Chinese built up a massive industrial base. This industrial base coupled with the cheap labor available in China enables businesses there to undersell the competition in the whole world. Today the supermarkets of Western countries are packed with Chinese goods because they sell at less than half the price that Western manufacturer can provide them (because of the much higher cost of labor in the West). Consequently, many Western industries unable to fight Chinese competition have had to close down.
Now Indian labor is even cheaper than Chinese labor. So if we become highly industrialized (for which we have all the potential today) who will buy the goods produced by the first world, including China? We can undersell everybody.
This was not the position in 1947. Then we had few engineers and few industries, because the policy of the British rulers was broadly to keep India unindustrialized, since industrialization could make it a big rival to British industry. So the British permitted setting up of only some light industries, such as textiles, plantations, etc in India but not heavy industries.
Since 1947 the situation has changed, and today India has steel mills etc and the thousands of bright engineers, technicians, etc mentioned earlier.
So why is India not a fully industrialized country, like those in the first world?
It is because the leadership of a country is its political leadership, and India’s political leadership only aims at winning elections, not at industrializing the country. To win elections it has to appease and appeal to caste and religious vote banks, i.e, to feudal forces. While India’s national aim must be to destroy feudalism if we are to progress, parliamentary democracy further entrenches it.
While China is rapidly moving ahead (because it has no parliamentary democracy) we are still embroiled in Ram Mandir, gau rakshaks, caste politics, etc.
So the main obstacle to India entering the first world is parliamentary democracy, which needs to be replaced by a political system that serves India’s needs. What that alternative system should be, and how it is to be achieved will require the creativity of India’s patriotic intelligentsia.
[Justice Markandey Katju, former Judge, Supreme Court of India. The views expressed are his own]