After the early 1990’s shock, when gold reserves were mortgaged to raise badly needed forex, economic liberalization saw a lot of foreign investment coming into India. Within the next few years the economy gained momentum from the so called Hindu growth rate (2.5%) to Hindutva rate of growth (4.5%) to the current over 7%. Malls started coming up, Indian cities (actually metros) started to get roads and flyovers and some greenery and parks and multiplexes.
The very thin Indian middleclass started to expand manifold to around 150 million. The “burgeoning” middle class with disposable incomes huge (by Indian standards) needed the luxuries of life. So the country saw a boom in parks, multiplexes, restaurants, discotheques and bars. The government’s propagation of India as an emerging power was lapped by the emerging middle class (150 million) and the pliant corporate media, on which even serious news channels have daily two hour dedicated programming for lifestyle shows, automobiles and electronic gadgets.
With TV showing all is well, two myths have been propagated successfully – one that India is a democratic country and two it’s a rising super power. These world-wide economic down turn and the world’s obsession with Islamic terrorism helped enforce both these myths, as world thought of it as a growing democratic, emerging power in contrast to countries like China or even Brazil.
The emerging power myth, however, is a tyranny on people who work like dogs to build India and whose lives are worse than dogs. The country may have progressed from a starving nation to malnourished one but by no means is it an emerging power. In India around 500 million people (official figures) live on less than Rs 20 a day (independent surveys put the figure at 836 million. More than 40 percent people don’t have access to a toilet, so they defecate in the open. Around half the population does not have access to portable drinking water. A farmer commits suicide every eight hours. These facts are usually brushed under the carpet.
The two myths of Indian democracy and an emerging power are getting exploded by two unconnected things – Kashmir and Common Wealth Games (CWG). The CWG have put India under close scrutiny in the eyes of her people and the world. The more than Rs 72000 crore for developing Delhi and holding CWG were raised by denying basic amenities to more than 70 percent of its people. The extensive crackdown in Kashmir and measures which would be categorized as suppression anywhere in the world, go unnoticed due to the false notions of India being a democracy. Fear of Islamist terror in the world work as an alibi in propagating the notion. As world focus shifts on to India, the trumpeted view of India will be questioned.
India at best is state where democracy means holding elections and power means keeping 70 percent of people malnourished, filthy and in extreme poverty to raise money for CWG and missiles and satellites. And at worst is a chauvinistic, Hindu, corporate state where dissent and civil liberties are subservient to ultranationalist views of the thin vocal middle class.