Articles and Commentaries |
April 16, 2024

Resurgent India: A Visible Change in Mindset and Psyche

Written By: Jay Bhattacharjee

For quite some time, at least since the decolonisation of the world commenced in earnest in the late 1940s onwards, sociologists, historians, economists, and all other variants of scholars in the wide world of social sciences have studied the entire gamut of issues that were involved in the churning. The world saw not only numerous countries that were decolonised but entire continents.

In India’s case as well, this academic churning happened. Understandably, in the first two decades or so, we saw a lot of euphoria and froth among our academics and foreign scholars. One should not be too critical about this, because we were in the good company of many other countries and societies that had gone through the process of decolonisation and liberation from alien rule.

In India, the entire evolution of research and scholarship on our independence movement and freedom struggle was a complicated and complex process. The residual influence of our departed colonial masters was overwhelming in many ways. The British did not necessarily leave behind many of their tribe to run the post-colonial Indian administration. What they bequeathed to us were innumerable Indians whose mind-sets had been effectively transformed by the Sahibs over more than two centuries. The Kala Sahibs were more royal than the erstwhile battalions from Whitehall and the British oligarchy. This was true both for the world of academics as well as the corridors of government departments.

India’s bumpy ride as an independent country (which soon became a republic and, thereby, concluded its sovereignty odyssey) was a process that was far from optimal, or even satisfactory in a meaningful sense. For many decades, our country thrived more by posturing itself as a one-off model of a former colony that had “peacefully” earned its independence from a rampaging imperial power. The Gandhi-Nehru successor regime pulled off one of history’s biggest marketing deceptions, based on voodoo sociology and ersatz economics. Throughout the 1950s and well into the 1970s, the country’s rulers (who had mutated to a Gandhi-Nehru-Gandhi oligarchy) sold their Alice-in-Wonderland ideology to its domestic electorate and to an international audience, that was admittedly becoming progressively more sceptical about the Indian junta. Well into the late 1970s, the Indian economy under different appellations (“mixed economy,” “democratic socialism,” “socialist planning,” “state control over commanding heights,” and other grandiose terms) blundered along. The term “Hindu rate of growth” (around 2 percent per annum) became an accepted term in economic theory.

Admittedly, there were some encouraging developments in the midst of the doom-gloom scene. Higher technical and scientific education and research (in the IITs, Indian Institute of Science, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bose Institute, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, and others) matched international standards. It must be emphasised that these islands of excellence owe their survival and progress to a handful of savants and scholars. The agricultural marvel of high-yielding crops that took place was because international know-how was suitably transferred to India. A wide-scale famine was largely avoided.

Low-cost American assistance in the form of the PL480 programme was also very important for the young Indian state during droughts and floods. However, the principal factor that impeded India’s growth and development was the ham-handed “Control Raj” policy apparatus of the Union Government (GOI) and their junior partners, the state governments.

A perceptive, frank, and exhaustive study by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, of the Government of India, published earlier in 2024, summed up the performance of the Indian economy in the last 65 odd years and identified the key factors that affected and defined our economic trajectory. Admittedly, this study was done when the current dispensation of the BJP and its allies is in power. Yet, the study satisfies the tests of academic and intellectual rigour. A second study, of the same calibre, was done in 2019 by another reliable agency of the Indian government and came to the same conclusions.

More importantly, neutral organisations like The Economist, not known for their empathy for the NaMo regime, also published reports that were quite complimentary about the economic performance of India under the BJP-NDA  dispensation (1). The white sahibs and memsahibs in London’s West End, whose condescension towards the lesser mortals in the former colonies is blatant most of the time, admitted grudgingly that India had done quite well under the saffron rulers.

Among domestic observers, The Economic Times (ET) is reasonably objective and scientific on most occasions when it has to study sensitive and complicated issues. In a recent study (2), it summarised what the BJP-led Union Government had managed to do in the last ten years. The ET referred to the reform measures initiated by the current government that have laid the foundations for solid economic growth in the coming decades. It quoted a study by the well-regarded Jefferies Equity Research agency, which said that India would become the third largest world economy by 2027 and is expected to achieve a capital market valuation of USD 10 trillion by 2030.

We now look, in greater detail, at how the BJP-led regime under PM Modi has performed in the last 10 years.

THE INDIAN ECONOMY’S GROWTH TRAJECTORY FROM 2014 TO 2024

THE GLOBE’S TEN LARGEST ECONOMIES: 2014 TO 2024

RANK 2014 2023
1 US US
2 China China
3 Japan Japan
4 Germany Germany
5 UK India
6 France UK
7 Brazil France
8 Italy Italy
9 Russia Canada
10 India Brazil

Source: IMF; CEBR

 

This is the most impressive performance by any country in the economic arena. India moved from the 10th rank to the 5th rank between 2014 and 2023.

GDP growth under the Modi administration has also been satisfactory. From 6% in the last year (2013-2014) of the Congress regime, it has gone up to 9% in 2021-2022. The rate has improved in recent quarters, and India is currently among the fastest-growing economies globally. The only weak point in the Modi government’s track record is the unemployment rate. It was 5.2 % in 2014 when the BJP-led government came into power. It went up to 8.72% in 2016, before coming down again to 6.8 per cent during January—March 2023, from 8.2 percent a year earlier.

On the critical issue of his approval ratings, Prime Minister Modi ranks as the most popular leader in the world, according to reputed international agencies. He obtained 77% on the popularity index and also scored very well on the negative disapproval rating of only 19%. Having established and assessed the benchmarks of the performance and ratings of the BJP–2 government under Narendra Modi, we must look at certain critical issues that need to be tackled head-on. What is taking place currently is the resurgence of our venerable Indic civilisation. While supporting and endorsing this, we must frankly, and without fear or favour, highlight the residual weaknesses that affect India’s sociopolitical structure. These weaknesses critically impact the ability of Bharat to confront our societal and cultural adversaries.

This writer and analyst would suggest that Bharat still has very powerful and potent adversaries, internally and externally, that are resolutely opposing Bharat’s resurgence and will continue to do so. The substantial public endorsement of the BJP-NDA regime under Modi (3) does not mean that the opponents of our national resurgence have reduced the vitriol and vigour of their war against us. In addition to the external forces that would oppose a NaMo 2024 government in Raisina Hill, we must also bear in mind the important lessons that history holds for us.

I had penned an essay for this journal in 2019 in which I identified and studied the principal factors that cause regimes and states to collapse (4). This study was an appropriate assessment of the Republic of India after many decades of the Congress Raj and its junior accomplices in the Union Government. I had emphasised the widespread discontent with the central government and the Congress Party that was sweeping the nation.

To explain for lay readers, this article studied a number of examples from the past, when empires, regimes, juntas, and dynasties collapsed in different parts of the world. I did add the cautionary note that the Congress Party (under the leadership of the Nehru-Gandhi family) had displayed a lot of dexterity in coping with existential threats and risks over many decades. However, the Congress ship was taking in too much water, and the captain and crew on the ship’s bridge were manifestly ineffective.

My essay paraphrased the basic question that Edward Gibbon had asked in his landmark study (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) more than two and a-half centuries earlier. The great scholar wrote: Instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted for so long.”

This is the warning bell that needs to be pointed out to any new occupants in North Block who are from the BJP-led alliance. They must avoid any of the mistakes and blunders of the Gandhi-Nehru-Gandhi coterie.

In a recent book (5), this author has studied the entire gamut of Bharat’s resurgence with as much rigour and objectivity as he could summon. The problems in our resurgence effort are manifold, and the forces that are operating in the arena include many determined opponents. A few decades earlier, the Indic forces were limited in numbers, weak, disunited, and dispersed. However, thanks to a small band of dedicated warriors under Modi and his fellow combatants, the war has assumed an entirely new dimension. This is not mere hagiography, as the record shows. Whenever necessary, this writer and his comrades have sounded warning bells and made criticisms. Furthermore, there will be no apologies for using a thoroughly honourable term, “comrades,” usurped by people who don’t deserve it.

Bharat is currently facing both internal and external threats. The two are interconnected and usually work in tandem. The former derive their resources and strengths from the latter, even though its members  are nominally Indian nationals. The unqualified allegiance that the indigenous members of the dissenting groups and organisations in India have to their foreign patrons makes the situation very dangerous for India. The ideology and thinking of the opposition forces are completely and virulently against what our ancient culture and civilisation proudly proclaim.

Both NDA1 and NDA2 have tried to address and correct the deep fissures in our national structure, but this remains a work in progress. Many contentious issues, which a lot of people thought were outside the pale of resolution, have been successfully addressed. An example is the complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian Union, which required that certain clauses of Article 370 be made inoperative. This was done in August 2019, when all the provisions of the Indian Constitution were made applicable to Jammu and Kashmir and all the clauses of Article 370 except clause 1 were made inoperative. Economic reforms such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and certain financial inclusion schemes have done much to unite the country and empower the individual. However, much still remains to be done. Structural changes do require a much larger time frame. The Westminster model of parliamentary democracy and the electoral system were critical hurdles in our recovery trajectory and continue to be so. Hopefully, the third term, beginning in the middle of this year, will see a renewed thrust in these areas.

It must be emphasised that the Indic civilisation forces in the current Union Government as well as in a number of state governments, particularly Uttar Pradesh, have demonstrated their commitment to the overall revival agenda by successfully inaugurating the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Their odyssey was remarkable in every sense of the term. From judicial and administrative hurdles to opposition at the street level from Islamists and so-called “secular” elements within India and abroad, the journey would rank among the most arduous ones in social and cultural history.

In an essay penned a few days after the inauguration ceremony, this writer summarised the major issues and lessons that Indic forces should remember in the midst of our euphoria. I studied the examples from the last few hundred years, when other countries like Greece and some Slavic countries fought heroically against foreign occupants and invaders to regain their sovereignty and independent existence (6).

The concluding segments of this essay will study what I think are the underlying weaknesses in the ruling Indic dispensation and the pitfalls that they must assiduously avoid. A number of eminent social scientists have analysed the complex process of the collapse of societies and nations. This essay will primarily use the ideas of two of the pioneers, Joseph Tainter (1998) and Pitirim Sorokin (1975). It is to these primary sources that we will now turn to as we continue our assessment of post-2018 Bharat. I will use lay language and easily-understandable concepts as much as possible. Tainter put forward the thesis that the sustainability or collapse of societies depends upon the success or failure of their problem-solving institutions. Furthermore, regimes and societies crumble when their “investments in social complexity and their energy subsidies reach a point of diminishing marginal returns.” He foresees collapse when a society involuntarily jettisons an important proportion of its structure. Sorokin’s thoughts were more or less on the same lines (7) and (8).

Tainter begins by categorising and examining the often-inconsistent explanations that have been offered in various studies on the collapse of societies and countries. In Tainter’s view, while invasions, crop failures, disease, or environmental degradation may be the apparent causes of societal collapse, the ultimate cause is an economic one, inherent in the structure of society, rather than external shocks that may batter them.

More research in this extremely interesting area is now also available from other scholars who have carried on where Tainter ended in 1988. Peter Turchin, another Russian-born social scientist who has a vast analytical canvas like Sorokin, his fellow Russian, has followed Tainter’s theories by suggesting a single mechanism that leads to collapse. This mechanism is the loss of “social resilience,” which Turchin describes as the ability of a social system to “cooperate and act collectively for common goals.”

According to Turchin, the United States was collapsing well before COVID-19 erupted in the country in early 2020. For the last 40 years, he argues, the population has been relentlessly getting impoverished and more unhealthy, while the elites have accumulated more and more wealth. All the while, the legitimacy of institutions is continuously eroded. The United States is basically eating itself from the inside out, he says.

Inequality and “popular immiseration” have left the country extremely vulnerable to external shocks like the pandemic, and to internal triggers. Turchin does not hesitate to predict that the U.S., in the years to come, can expect much more of the variety of social upheaval that it saw in 2020. This is simply because the underlying conditions are only getting worse.” Clearly, the Tainter school of civilisational collapse has enrolled new proponents and advocates, who will continue to enlarge the boundaries of this most captivating sociological doctrine.

For the lay reader, I would like to emphasise the key factor in all this research and data. This is the concept of “social resilience” (emphasis added). NaMo and his team must get to the root of this phenomenon, and understand and appreciate its origins as well as its dimensions and magnitude. The countries and regions that possess and utilise this asset are admittedly few, but they would include Japan and Singapore in our part of the globe and Scandinavia and Switzerland in the western hemisphere.

We must also assess the factors that contribute to “social resilience.” Such an exercise need not be mathematical or numeric. For the lay public, a non-quantified study would do, since it would be easier for a general  audience to appreciate what the concept implies or stands for. Also, it passes the test that the good poet Alexander Pope spelled out in his oft-cited poem: “For forms of government, let fools contest. What is best administered is best.”

For those in the vast Indian electorate who would like to extend a helping hand to the current government and its key personnel to better appreciate what action is required (in the finest traditions of our ancient culture and civilisation), here are a few hints that our Indic rulers should bear in mind when they re-assume the reigns of administration in Raisina Hill, a few weeks after the publication of this essay:

  1. Reform the judiciary from top to bottom—from the Supreme Court to the lowest judicial forum. Make the apex judiciary liable and accountable in the same manner as the bureaucracy and the legislators. Bharat cannot continue with the charade of one wing of the governing apparatus appointing themselves and not being accountable to anyone else.
  1. The delays in decision-making at all other levels of governance must be eliminated or drastically reduced.
  1. The ersatz notion of “secularism” that currently prevails in India must be done away with as soon as possible. It will be a very intense and complex process, with the supporters of this pernicious ideology fighting with all the resources (many external) at their disposal.
  1. While English will continue to be a language that is extensively used in public life, Indian languages must be given widespread support. The Indian DNA permits us to be multilingual without much effort.
  1. And finally, the new leaders in the post-2014 regimes must ensure that they heed Sri Aurobindo’s unforgettable clarion call in 1905: “We have to create strength where it did not exist before; we have to change our natures, and become new men with new hearts, to be born again… We need a nucleus of men in whom the Shakti is developed to its uttermost extent, in whom it fills every corner of the personality and overflows to fertilise the earth. These, having the fire of Bhawani in their hearts and brains, will go forth and carry the flame to every nook and cranny of our land.”

We have to conclude with the words of a more recent Indic savant-warrior, the great Professor Syama Prasad Mookerjee, a faithful follower of the Sage of Pondicherry, who spoke the most profound truth in his epic address at the Bombay University Convocation in August 1937. The grateful Indian nation must remember that the titan sacrificed his life for his motherland nearly 16 years later, in 1953. Needless to say, the rulers of the Indian Republic in 1953 shamelessly refused to investigate the possible causes surrounding the death of the national legend.

This is what he said for the benefit of his Indian sisters and brothers: “You have drunk deep at the springs of western knowledge. While you will not hesitate to absorb for your benefit and for the national good the best elements in western culture and thought, you must not in any case permit the destruction of the vital elements of your own civilisation.”

The moving spirits in the BJP-NDA national administration could not possibly have more relevant and inspiring guidelines for their future course of action than these thoughts.

 

Author Brief Bio:  Jay Bhattacharjee is an advisor in corporate laws and finance, based in Delhi. His other areas of interest include socio-political issues and military history. He has been a commentator and columnist from the mid-1990s.

 

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2024/01/15/how-strong-is-indias-economy-under-narendra-modi
  2. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/the-ten-big-policy-plays-key-economic-initiatives-india-has-seen-under-modi-from-2014-to-2024/articleshow/107335824.cms?from=mdr
  3. 2024 Lok Sabha Opinion Poll: Will Modi win 400 Seats? (politicalpulse.net)
  4. The Collapse of Societies and Regimes: An Analytical Framework India Foundation (India Foundation Journal, January 2021)
  5. Resurgent India and other Issues – an Anthology of Essays – Jay Bhattacharjee (Garuda Prakashan, 2022)
  6. https://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/recovering-our-national-ethos-and-self-confidence-a-single-decisive-gesture-does-make-a-difference/
  7. Joseph A. Tainter – Collapse of Complex Societies,Cambridge University Press, 1988
  8. Pitirim A Sorokin – Social and Cultural Dynamics,Porter Sargent, Boston, 1975
  9. Ugo Bardi, Sara Falsini and Ilaria Perissi – Toward a General Theory of Societal Collapse: A Biophysical Examination of Tainter’s Model of the Diminishing Returns of Complexity, BioPhysical Economics and Resource Quality Volume 4, Article number: 3 (2019
  10. Jack A. Goldstone and Peter Turchin – Welcome to the Turbulent Twenties (Berggruen Institute) (https://www.noemamag.com/welcome-to-the-turbulent-twenties/)

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