Justice Markandey Katju-
A lot is being said about Bangladesh’s overtaking India in per capita GDP growth, as reported by the IMF.
In my opinion, this is much ado about nothing. Has massive poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, lack of healthcare, etc been eliminated in Bangladesh? Not at all. So merely saying that it’s per capita GDP has exceeded India’s GDP means little. Bangladesh remains a poor backward country even now, and the change is trifling. It is only when a backward country gets highly industrialized and its people become prosperous that it is a matter worth talking about. I would like to elaborate.
(1) Before the Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the middle of the 18th century, and then spread all over the world, there were feudal agricultural societies everywhere. The feudal economy was so backward and its methods of production so primitive that very little wealth could be generated by it. The bullock was used for tilling the soil in India, the horse in Europe, and the buffalo in Vietnam. There were no tractors etc then. Consequently, very few people like kings, aristocrats, etc could be rich but the vast majority, probably over 95%, had to be poor. When the cake is very small few people can eat it.
This situation drastically changed after the Industrial Revolution, which, as said before, began in England in the mid 18th century, and then spread elsewhere. Now the modern industry is so powerful and so big that enough wealth can be produced to give a decent life to everyone on earth–a job with a good income, healthcare, nourishing food, good education to the children, etc
(2) Yet despite this unique situation which has been created after the Industrial Revolution the fact remains that about 75% of the world’s population is poor. In fact, this world is really two worlds, the world of the prosperous, developed, highly industrialized countries like those in North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and China, and the world of the relatively poor, underdeveloped countries which include India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
(3) The aim of the underdeveloped countries, like those in the Indian subcontinent, must be to make a Great Leap Forward and transform themselves into the ranks of the developed, highly industrialized countries, otherwise, they will remain condemned to massive poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, lack of healthcare and good education etc. How to do this is the central question all patriotic people must think about
(4) To my mind this Great Leap Forward is only possible by a historical, united people’s struggle, led by selfless, patriotic, modern-minded leaders, which will result in a mighty historical transformation, and create an alternative political and social system to that presently prevailing, under which there is rapid industrialization and raising the standard of living of the people. What form this great historical struggle will take which will create an era of prosperity for all, when will it occur, who will be its leaders, what will be the alternative system created by it, etc are all questions whose answers it is presently impossible to predict. One cannot be rigid about historical forms. But it is bound to come about, since the present chaotic conditions in our subcontinent, with our economies sinking, our present political leaders having no inkling how to resolve the crisis, and the people in deep distress, cannot continue forever.
[Justice Markandey Katju, former Judge, Supreme Court of India. The views expressed are his own].