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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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