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English – The language of progress?

September 30, 2010 3 comments

India is losing business due to loyalty to English Language. We can’t do business with the French or Germans, Spanish or the Arabs. Swahili and Bantu, the Chinese and Japanese are out of bounds to us.

Mr. Feisal Ali (feisal.ali@gmail.com) contributed photograhs (sic) - Khwaja Mohammed Azam, a member of the Indian National Congress based in Ludhiana; friend of Jawaharlal Nehru; picture taken in 1947 when Nehru visited Ludhiana and stayed at my Khwaja Mohammed Azam's residence. (Pic courtesy - oldindianphotos.blogspot.com.). Click for larger picture.

Mr. Feisal Ali (feisal.ali@gmail.com) contributed photograhs (sic) – Khwaja Mohammed Azam, a member of the Indian National Congress based in Ludhiana; friend of Jawaharlal Nehru; picture taken in 1947 when Nehru visited Ludhiana and stayed at Khwaja Mohammed Azam’s residence. (Pic courtesy – oldindianphotos.blogspot.com.). Click for larger picture.

On 15th August 1947, when Nehru made his ‘Tryst with destiny’ speech, he made a choice for India favoring English.

Status quo is not choice

At that time, an Indian economy in tatters and technologically stagnant, it was necessary choice.

To stay with the choice, 70 years later, is an expensive choice based on legacy and ease.

For instance, India’s recent success with the software industry, has been hobbled due to over-reliance on English language.

In the last 60 years, the issue of English language has acquired a tone of chauvinism, a smell of regionalism and parochialism. Over the last 24 months, 2ndlook has been making out a case against English language. Not on chauvinistic appeal but rooted in economic logic, on political advantage, on long-term benefit. To move forward, not on legacy, but by choice.

It was rather good to see this post linked below, which echoed the 2ndlook logic partly. Where this post missed out was how India software success also failed due to English language!

All the same, knowledge of English is probably an over-rated virtue. As the crisis over the Commonwealth Games has demonstrated, it cannot act as a guarantor of execution ability, efficiency or even honesty. Increasingly, it is becoming an alibi for the lack of enablers within the Indian system for talent to rise, irrespective of linguistic provenance and patronage. India makes much of the fact that its English-speaking population base has been turned to profitable use in the vast information technology (IT) and back office industry. In many ways, IT defines the dynamic new India. But surely independent India’s genius must go beyond leveraging a colonial heritage. (via Kanika Datta: The language of progress).

The Elite is using tax-payer money to create passports for their families to 'escape' to the English-speaking West.  |  Jerry Holbert cartoon on Monday, February 9, 2009; image source & courtesy - townhall.com

The Elite is using tax-payer money to create passports for their families to ‘escape’ to the English-speaking West. | Jerry Holbert cartoon on Monday, February 9, 2009; image source & courtesy – townhall.com

What is India missing out on …

India’s biggest economic success in the last 20 years has been the maturing of the software industry. That has also been its biggest failure.

Between 70%-80% of Indian software business comes from two countries – USA and UK. English speaking countries – both of them. Total software business to these two countries is about US$35-40 billion – out of total Indian software exports of US$50 billion. UK alone contributes nearly 60% of total EU software business to India.

India is losing business opportunities due to India’s loyalty to The Great British Gift To India – English Language. We can’t do business with the French or Germans, Spanish or the Arabic speaking world. The Chinese and Japanese are out of bounds to us – as are the Swahili and the Bantu.

English - The language of progress? Cartoon published in Times Of India on 14th December 1958 - Fifty years earlier. Cartoon by RK Laxman; republished in 2008.

English – The language of progress? Cartoon published in Times Of India on 14th December 1958 – Fifty years earlier. Cartoon by RK Laxman; republished in 2008.

In the past few years …

Like an earlier post pointed out, the lack of language skills has stopped Indians from exploiting the Japanese opportunity. This includes the software business. Same story in Europe also – major opportunities overlooked and ignored. RBI in the meanwhile has been complaining how India’s own IT players have been pretty useless in building a software platform for financial inclusion of India’s poor in the formal economic sector.

This is also true of other business opportunities also. Our ‘success’ with English blinds us to the bigger and larger opportunities that stare at us. And the first thing that we need to do is to diversify our language basket. But with our bankruptcy of ideas on restructuring Indian education system or the vested interest banging begging bowls in front of the Indian tax payer!

India missed out on Japanese investments, technology and business – due to a well-cultivated tunnel vision about English language (amongst many other things). Indian loyalty to English language exceeds the loyalty of the British themselves to their language – and we refuse to see how this affects us.

Is it due to the apparent Indian decision to tie its future to the sinking ship of the Anglo Saxon Bloc?

The Indian 'elephant' bows to English language, legacy and red-tape.  |  Cartoon by David Simonds; courtesy - guardian.co.uk, Sunday 25 July 2010 00.06 BST.

The Indian ‘elephant’ bows to English language, legacy and red-tape. | Cartoon by David Simonds; courtesy – guardian.co.uk, Sunday 25 July 2010 00.06 BST.

What India needs …

India should set up 7 specialized universities. One for Chinese and Japanese studies. Another university needs to focus on Franco-German language skills. A third must devote itself to creating a centre of excellence in Swahili and Bantu. A fourth must address the Spanish and Portuguese language markets. The fifth must address the SE Asian languages of Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. A sixth university must address the Russian and Slavic languages. Last and definitely, not the least, the seventh university must create a core of qualified and skilled people using Persian and Arabic languages.

This is, of course, apart from Indian language universities.

Europe’s new headache – Designer Drugs

August 1, 2010 6 comments

Though India is the world’s oldest and largest producer of drugs, Indian society does not have an drug-addiction problem. Wonder why?

A still from Apocalypse Now - a film full of surreal images like this.

A still from Apocalypse Now – a film full of surreal images like this.

European countries are scrambling to crack down. The U.K., Sweden and Germany all recently banned one of the most popular drugs, mephedrone, or Meow Meow, which first appeared in 2007. The U.K. last week announced a ban on naphyrone, or NRG-1, which surfaced after the mephedrone ban.

But authorities are having a hard time keeping up with all the new concoctions. As soon as one is banned, another appears, they say. Last year, 24 new “psychoactive substances” were identified in Europe, almost double the number reported in 2008, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, which keeps European Union policy makers informed on the state of drug use.

European authorities say some of the drugs are cooked up in China, where they say lax control of chemicals makes it easier for manufacturers to obtain the raw ingredients. (via Designer Drugs Baffle Europe – WSJ.com).

Guns and crime

Gun ownership has been suspected behind the crime rates in the US. But the most recent argument against this theory is the spate of bank robberies – which dilutes this argument – at least partly. Estimates of the national stock of guns in the US varies between 40 million to 50 million households which own 200 million guns.

India nukes the gun-control logic! (Click for larger image.).

India nukes the gun-control logic! (Click for larger image.).

India is, in many ways, different. Recent estimates show that India is the second largest gun owning population in the world – with 4.6 crores (46 million) guns. One report states that UP alone has 900,000 licensed fire-arm holders and 1,400 arms dealers. Another report estimates more than 3 lakh illegal firearms in New Delhi alone.

Behind every great fortune …

In modern times, though India is a power in computing industry, India is not a big player in spamming or in software virus. In August 2008, there was a hoax story, which alleged that an Indian hacker, had broken into a credit card database – and sold to the European underworld – and some ‘experts’ feared that this would spark of a crime wave across Europe.

Like software, India has a large domestic, industrial base in advanced pharmaceuticals. With pharma firms exports to the developing world and with subsidiaries in the Western world, Indian pharma companies have posed a threat to Western pharma firms. The Western pharma industry’s dependence on ever-greening their patents for continued prosperity has hit a wall with the growth in Indian challenge.

How come Indian expertise in pharma manufacturing not getting diverted to ‘designer-drugs’?

How is it that Indian guns don’t kill, Indian software experts don’t spread malware and Indians pharma-engineers don’t lead in narcotics production?

There is crime

The largest prison population in the world is in USA, now at 2 million. The US has more people in prison than the totalitarian regimes of Russia or China. USA also has one of the highest crime rates in the world.

The current status of Indian criminal system is a study in contrast. India, with a population of 110 crores (1100 million) has a prison population of 2 lakhs (0.2 million). The Indian National Human Rights Commission gives a figure of 3.5 lakhs as the prison population – including convicts and those who are undergoing trial. The UK Home Office survey of World Prison Population estimates Indian prison population at 2.5 lakhs.

The ‘Desert Bloc’ societies are great believers in the death sentence. On the other, year after year, India has had the lowest numbers of death sentences – and executions. For instance, the ‘Grand Debate’ in the US of A, is as schizophrenic as it can get.

With less than 25 people per 100,000 in prison India has the world’s lowest imprisonment rate. Cynics may snigger at India’s ‘inefficient’ police or the slow court procedures as the cause for this low prison population. That can only mean criminals are at large and India must, therefore have the highest crime rate – which is not true. India has low or average crime rates – based on category.

All the indices …

All the 5 indices (below) create a bias for a lawless Indian society and rampant crime. With these five indices, namely: –

  1. Police to population ratio (‘increase police force’).
  2. Prison population (‘put more criminals behind bars’)
  3. Capital punishment (‘kill enough criminals to instill fear’)
  4. Poverty (‘it is poverty which the root of all crime’)
  5. Gun ownership (‘more guns means more crime’)

against a stable social system, how does India manage low-to-average crime rates.

How can India have such a low prison population, with a poor police-to-population ratio and a crime rate which is not above the average – in spite of a large civilian gun population.

A wrong question can only get you the wrong answers! Guns are the subject.

A wrong question can only get you the wrong answers! Guns are the subject.

When the State commissions crimes!

Behind every great fortune there is a crime – Honoré de Balzac.

For many centuries, piracy, slavery, were encouraged, licensed by European States.

Balzac’s statement only be understood with that background. Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was inspired by Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness. A book examines this phenomenon tangentially – when a ‘licensed’ fighter goes ‘private’! In Asia. Like Britons did in India.

Remember O’Dyer and O’Dwyer!


Jagdish Bhagwati lays out diaspora’s impact on India

January 10, 2010 3 comments
Why are we not grateful to The Great Indian Diaspora?

Why are we not grateful to The Great Indian Diaspora?

Indeed, over time, the flood of such stories coming from the diaspora helped lay the groundwork for the abolition of the senseless licensing restrictions on capacity creation, product diversification, on import competition, that became part of the liberal reforms.

In the case of Japan, its transformation through major initiatives throughout the Meiji era was accomplished rather by sending gifted Japanese abroad to bring back ideas that were adapted to Japan’s culture and needs. In our case, the diaspora has served that function.

But the diaspora has also contributed to India’s achievement of world-class status by its achievements in a variety of fields of science, arts and culture. Noting this growing trend in the United States, I once remarked that we were the next Jews of America: a high-achieving diaspora that would soon dominate the scene as the Jews, once discriminated against brutally, had managed to do. Today, that forecast has come true. (via Jagdish Bhagwati: Diaspora impact on a changing India).

I am not proud of diaspora’s success

Mr.Bhagwati – let me be honest (I usually try and also succeed, at honesty, I mean).

I am very happy for the Indian diaspora – where ever they have succeeded. You will also find that I am not proud of it – because we, the desis, had very little (if anything at all) to do with your success. And we, poor country desi bumpkins that we are , we should realize that – fast.

So, taking pride in the diaspora’s success is hypocrisy on our part. It is recognized by (many of) us, we desis, that we cannot and do not want to provide the means, infrastructure, capacity, rewards and recognition that the West provides to get the output that Indians have produced in other parts of the world. Only too happy with your success – and we should take no pride or credit for it. Period. We are also very grateful that you have decided to keep your Indian passport – and not exchanged it for another country’s.

No reminders … puhleeze

I will not remind you about the benefit of the highly subsidized English language education – for which India’s poor have paid through their nose. Only to find that the bird’s fly the coop when the time came (poor idealistic sods, these desis!). I would like to see how many of the Indian diaspora have succeeded in France, Spain, Portugal, Japan, Korea, Germany, Russia – or now China!

Coming to the Indian ‘success’. This great liberalization that you are going rah-rah about!

The Great Indian progress

The poor, landless labourer, remains poor and landless. Hardly any change. The only way he can get educated is, if he agrees to learn English! The Indian State does not allow private sector into education – and denies him education in the manner and medium that he is comfortable with.

Shh ... How can you point out such 'truths'!

Shh ... How can you point out such 'truths'!

Coming to business – the SME sector remains at the fringe, and over-burdened with a regulatory overload. The only people who have seen a reduction in regulatory overload is Big Business.

Anyway, let us not quibble. The Indian economy has become a force to reckon with – and we Indians can feel proud of that. With your permission, that is! Of course, if you feel, that we should not take any credit for this, and the diaspora remote-controlled that too, I will defer to you.

Behind the ‘success’

Poor country bumpkin, that I am, I need your guiding light. Can you enlighten me about your opening comment, when you say “Indian policy framework had degenerated into an unproductive, even counterproductive, set of policy choices that had produced the abysmal growth rate of approximately 3.5 per cent per annum over nearly a quarter of a century.”

I have only one troubling question. When you speak of ‘degeneration’, the logical question is degenerate from what? From the Colonial Raj policy framework? Or is it the Maratha or Mughal policy framework? Or is it the Gupta or Maurya framework.

Policy options before Bombay High

When you talk of “external payments crisis in 1991 was the occasion for changes that would systematically begin to discard the policy framework” my chanchal mind (curse it!) begins to wonder again. What choices did India have before the Oil discovery at Bombay High? With a flat -on-its-back industrial and agriculture sector, with low capital, with a starving nation, what options did India have? Before Bombay High? If you can kindly enlighten me with the policy choices that India had earlier?

After Bombay High, India could start cracking the whip. The 1977 Janata Government, with comfortable foreign exchange and grain reserves, could take some bold policy decisions. IBM and Coca-Cola walked out. My sluggish memory recalls George Fernandes doing something about this.

A chastened Indira Gandhi

In 1980, Indira Gandhi started with de-licensing the auto sector and the consumer goods sector. With declining dependence on oil imports, India had foreign exchange to invest in building a agricultural and industrial base. This gradual liberalization continued – in spite of many democratic regime changes. My desi,  mand and moti buddhi tells me that broadly this was something that India could manage. One may quibble or cavil – but broadly where were the choices? Am I missing something?

Post 1991, choices are there for all to see.

Where would India be without its entrepreneurs

The current respect that India gets is for two reasons – both home-grown. The Indian software success was entirely home grown – without multi-national inputs, technology, entities, funding. To grow from nearly 50 million to 50 billion in a matter of 20 years – is something that we desis will have to give credit to the diaspora, I presume. Narayana Murthy, Azim Premjee, Rajendra Pawar, Fakirchand Kohli are just presumptuous upstarts who do not know when to be grateful! They have should have banged their head at the altar of the Great Indian Diaspora! I agree, Mr.Bhagwati.

Same case with the pharmaceutical industry, also I presume. Parvinder Singh, Yusuf Hamied, all the pharma czars from Ameerpet, Hyderabad are taking credit, which should rightfully go the Great Indian Diaspora.

The Indian auto-component sector, which has given rise to the Bajaj, TVS, Tatas, Mahindras are again, I presume,  being unduly arrogant of their success. They should quietly give all the credit (not to mention the profits, control, shares) to the Great Indian Diaspora.

I can go on with this list – Shri Pujya Jagdish Bhagwatiji. But you are right. We should now go out and build four temples at the chaar dhaam to the Great Indian Diaspora without whom India would have been nowhere.

What ungrateful wretches, we desi Indians are!

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