Outlook | 16 August 2006

A resident of Vadapalani Road in Chennai wrote to me last year to say, “Our street used to be one big garbage dump. The bin outside our home was always overflowing because the corporation van did not often show up. My neighbour in frustration used to set the garbage on fire, but the smoke irritated my asthma and I would douse it with water. So, we began to quarrel and we fought all the time.

 

Read more
Foreign Affairs | 11 July 2006

AN ECONOMY UNSHACKLED

Although the world has just discovered it, India's economic success is far from new. After three postindependence decades of meager progress, the country's economy grew at 6 percent a year from 1980 to 2002 and at 7.5 percent a year from 2002 to 2006 -- making it one of the world's best-performing economies for a quarter century. In the past two decades, the size of the middle class has quadrupled (to almost 250 million people), and 1 percent of the country's poor have crossed the poverty line every year. At the same time, population growth has slowed from the historic rate of 2.2 percent a year to 1.7 percent today -- meaning that growth has brought large per capita income gains, from $1,178 to $3,051 (in terms of purchasing-power parity) since 1980. India is now the world's fourth-largest economy. Soon it will surpass Japan to become the third-largest.

Read more
Newsweek Magazine | 11 March 2006

Two weeks ago I got a call from the board member of one of the world's largest consulting companies, who invited me to come and speak to them about why so many Indians were making it in the global knowledge economy. My distinguished caller spoke about innovations emerging from General Electric and Microsoft's R&D centers in Bangalore; advanced avionics installed by India's Air Force on Russian fighter aircraft that had caught the U.S. defense establishment's attention; sophisticated research on global capital markets outsourced by Wall Street to India; finally, he rattled off a dozen Indian leaders' names in global multinational corporations.

Read more

The recent controversy over Islamic cartoons in Europe is once again testing the boundaries of religious tolerance. Most Hindus, of course, believe that they are tolerant and trace their broadmindedness to their many gods. Some even insistently ask: how did our tolerant pluralism turn into the intolerance of Hindutva? Wendy Doniger's perceptive essay may not answer that question but it does point us in the right direction; it teaches that Hindu pluralism is complex, layered and there may not be a direct connection between intellectual and social pluralism.

Read more
Gurdian Online | 11 April 2005

Pankaj Mishra is always entertaining. His elegant tirade against the “neo-oriental discourse” of the “business lounge class”, however, doesn't help very much to further one's understanding of the great puzzle of our times—why, in fact, are China and India rising economically, and so rapidly? The reasons are very different for the two countries, and I shall try to grapple with the case of India.

Read more
Yale Global Online | 29 March 2005

Two reports appeared recently in my newspaper and they left me bewildered. The first said that the Karnataka government has still not decided to rescind its ban on English in primary schools despite huge popular pressure from parents. In the second report, a Karnataka minister, after a busy visit to China, announced, 'Members of the Standing Committee of the Jiangsu Provincial People's Congress wanted the help of the Karnataka government in teaching English in its primary schools'. This was in pursuit of its objective to make every Chinese literate in English by the 2008 Olympics. The contrast between the ambivalence of India and the certainty of China is always instructive.

Read more
Time Magazine | 07 December 2004

India's rich are doing well, and good for them--but the growing middle class in the real story  

There will always be rich people and poor, but a good society Aristotle says, is the one “where the middle class is in control and outnumbers both the other classes." Yes, India has its share of billionaires, and a quarter of its people are poor, but the most striking characteristic of today's India is the explosive growth in the middle class.

Read more
Outlook | 13 July 2004

It is no use pretending. While the last general election brought some good news--especially, a well deserved slap to Narendra Modi's fascist face—it also brought bad news. The hugely positive global sentiment in favour of India that had prevailed until mid May has received a setback. The clearest example is the dramatic slowdown in the growth in the nation's reserves. Until the week ended May 7, reserves had been growing at the rate of US $750 million a week. This accretion to reserves had diminished to less than US $100 million a week. The rupee has also reversed its appreciating trend. Although this may, in fact, be good for exports, but the currency trend combined with the stock market crash demonstrates that sentiment has changed, and if this is not reversed quickly it will hurt new private investment in the economy, and longer term growth, competitiveness, and jobs.    

Read more
Outlook | 13 April 2004

“The country with the most impressive and intelligent secularist movement is India,” wrote Christopher Hitchens in the respected journal, Daedalus, last summer. Hitchens is a public intellectual who is read and listened to with some admiration on both sides of the Atlantic. He did not explain, but I think what he meant is that Indian secularism has acquired many voices and it seems to be maturing.

Read more
Outlook | 26 February 2004

It is a month since the macabre dance of death in New York and Washington and we are now in the midst of a war, but I am not sure that we understand what this is all about. People around the world are uncomfortable and insistently ask whom is America fighting? Americans are also confused. They want to know who are their enemies and why do they hate us? And hate so much that that a few young men defied the instinct to live and died for it. The trouble is that America is at war against people it doesn't know, and having gone off to war, it can't very well return without having won it.

Read more