I have just got back from my nightmare drive through India and although it was only 2 weeks, it was intense enough that I got a good flavour of the country. The criticism that I will make is aimed at the authorities (government and religious), not really at the people.

I was horrified at the lack of support for the people of India.  The financial success of the country is derived from the exploitation of it's people.  The government supplies little infrastructure, if any.  There's no minimum wage, basic working conditions, minimum working age, integrated wastage/sewage disposal system, integrated transport system, health care or welfare system.  It is medieval in appearance.  It reminded me of England in the 13th Century.  How is it right that the people live in rust-stained shacks whilst the Gods live in pristine white palaces?

The idea that this is 'God's country' is offensive.  Even if there was a God, it wouldn't be happy with what is happening in India.  The abuse is atrocious.  I saw so many people in abject poverty, being sick on a continual basis.  No amount of colourful saris and crisp school uniforms can conceal the festering brown stuff bubbling under the surface.  What needs to happen is a revolution; an uprising; an Indian 'Magna Carta'.   But this is the real problem.  They are in a terrible catch-22.  They have such a bad lifestyle that I can understand why they need to believe in something other than this life, but they have been hooked onto the idea that suffering is part of the plan; that if they accept the suffering then they will have a better life next time around.

If it is all part of God's plan then are they going to question or even challenge it?  No.  The religious groups know this and play on it.  The manipulation by them is criminal.

Unfortunately, I cannot see anything changing anytime soon and it looks like, as the population continues to grow and the resources continue to shrink, there is a catastrophic crash ahead.  I hope that this is not true but 'the writing is on the wall'.

As always, I will be interested in your opinions.

All the best


p.s.  What is it about driving in India?  It is utter madness.  I saw more crashes in 2 weeks than I see in a year in England.  Is it really just the Patriarchal system of men doing what they want?  Crazy!

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ha... ha...
So... you had a taste of India...????

Well your reactions are quite understandable...
I think 'Hell' is the better metaphor, not 'Highway to Hell'.

There are a whole plethora of issues that conspire to make India what it is today. You have identified some of them. There are many others.

One thing you may have noticed is the divisions in society. There is a certain level of wealth beyond which the Indian lives a more grand lifestyle than the equivalent Westerner. This is because of the presence of a vast underclass to be exploited by everyone above them. There is an active culture of keeping this underclass down. This has been the model of society in India from as long back as I can remember. I have lived in the West for 10 years now, and I dread the day I must return to help the effort pulling India's head out of its collective ass.

One major reason why this system exists today, 30 years after India opened it's markets and said goodbye to Nehruvian socialism, is the broad-ranging acceptance of trickle down economics as popularized by the Americans. The powerful in the country repeat the mantra of the invisible hand, knowing full well that in a country like India this model can only be successful at the costs that you have witnessed. Despite the fact that all reports indicate that a balanced approach would be much more effective at creating a stable and balanced society, India's powerful have managed to whip the country into a frenzy in support of pure market-based economics. You cannot make a statement like the ones I've made here in any newspaper in India without having a slew of "intellectuals" criticize you, calling you an extremist, a Marxist and a socialist. The idea of a balanced economic approach is dismissed off as socialism! It reminds one of the republican machine in America, except this thing reaches across the entire middle and upper classes in India. These folk ignore the fact that in the West there are vast social security nets to provide basic infrastructure and support, allowing people to take risks and succeed in business.

The things you mentioned:

"There's no minimum wage, basic working conditions, minimum working age, integrated wastage/sewage disposal system, integrated transport system, health care or welfare system."

These are all a result of this attitude among India's middle and upper classes when it comes to the role of government in society. I blame the people, not just the government. But not the poor masses, of course, I mean the people who have power in social, economic and political avenues.

Of course the government is ineffective and corrupt. This is directly related to the attitude among India's rich and middle classes that the government will never amount to anything. Most Indians have never seen any better from the government, and they expect less.

The US is the only country in the world that resembles India when it comes to wealth disparity, and India is worse. There are many very rich people in India and thousands of times more very poor, and this is considered the standard operating model. Indians are brought up in the midst of this wealth disparity, into accepting it as a fact of life. There is a tacit acceptance of this as some sort of inherent superiority of some people over others, all abetted by the Hindu system, of course.

The way the rich have chosen to deal with life in modern India is to create alternate worlds for themselves. Thus there are thousands of private colonies, often built and inhabited by Indians who are educated in the West. In these neighborhoods the rich and comfortable lifestyle is protected and maintained by the slum dwellers and lower caste people who surround it.

I could go on forever, but I have little time.

Let me end by saying that the catastrophic crash you predict is an illusion. You are seeing India for the first time. We have seen it this way for decades. It has always been this bad. The one point I will give you is the consumption of resources. Unless India finds alternatives, there is no way out. Unfortunately, the country seems to be focusing on alternative energy resources, without paying attention to other non-renewable non-energy resources like natural habitat for wildlife, the quality of the air, earth and water and so on...
One point I'd like to add in retrospect (and with the intention of showing that things are not as static or one-directional):

I would like to remind you that this relatively abysmal standard of living was not always the case. When you point out that parts of India resemble 13th century Britain, I must point out that in the 17th century India and China were the manufacturing centers of the world. The average Indian was wealthier than the average European (except possibly the Spaniards, who had gotten exceedingly wealthy at the time thanks to plundering South America. Britain's colonial wealth was mostly made in the late 18th and the 19th centuries). Much of the decline in India caused by the terrible social, political and religious problems that are visible today can be directly attributed to policies implemented by the British. This is a very complicated issue, and I don't expect you to understand it given the way the world looks today, and this is by no means an attempt to find a scapegoat, but facts are facts. You can read up on the economic history of the region in any objective source and you'll see that my facts are right.
Hi Ajita,
I do not question the bad influence that Britain has had (not just in India but around the world) but that doesn't excuse today's appalling conditions. It is time to move on.
Richard, as I said, my mention of the role that Britain played was only in response to your quote that parts of India resemble Britain in the 13th century, and to demonstrate that things are not as one directional as they seem. No one is trying to "excuse today's appalling conditions". That is, quite frankly, insulting. I have made it pretty obvious what I think of India's appalling conditions. If you knew what I do and how often I am the one arguing against fellow Indians intent on repeating the 'India Shining' mantra oblivious to the suffering around them, you would know better than to be so callous in your accusation.

There is no need whatsoever for any Brit to feel shameful or guilty of the behavior of generations past. Every nation has plenty of shame to go around, and the Brits are amongst to most conscious today of inequities around the world, more than making up for their fair share of the burden.
Hi Ajita,

You seem overly sensitive, which is strange given that you are willing to use phrases like "I don't expect you to understand it". This could be seen as a very patronizing thing to say but I know that the internet is limited without NVC. I therefore always apply a buffer and assume that people are not like that. I suggest that you do the same.

When someone says "this is by no means an attempt to find a scapegoat BUT facts are facts" and then insist that "my facts are right" then it is easy to think that there is an element of denial going on. Clearly I was wrong. I don't know you and what you do. I apologise.

If you knew me well, then you would know that I am not a callous person nor do I insult without provocation. Let us put this behind us and move on.
I also feel that you are overly sensitive, since a phrase like "I don't expect you to understand it" is extremely appropriate in the given circumstances. Most people do not understand it, since most people are not aware of the facts. So expecting someone to understand it is presumptuous.

Edit: The facts implied are not just the British policies but the way these policies applied over the social, political and religious culture of the subcontinent. These ideas are not easy to decipher for most Indians, let alone others. Historians like Romila Thappar, Percival Spear and James Grant have written much about this sort of stuff, and it takes a lot of reading to understand.

I agree about one thing. Let us move along.
There is no need whatsoever for any Brit to feel shameful or guilty of the behavior of generations past. Every nation has plenty of shame to go around, and the Brits are amongst to most conscious today of inequities around the world, more than making up for their fair share of the burden.

Exactly. There is nothing we can do about what our ancestors have done long before we were born! I always think it is silly when people try to point their finger.
I have in-laws in Goa and have mostly been there. I spent a total of 10 weeks there so far but it is a very diverse place so I only saw one part of it.

Almost every Indian will agree that it is corrupt. When people talk about corruption in America I have to laugh. I can't identify the difference exactly, except that in India corruption is more open and more assumed, it is on all levels and there aren't any attempts to catch or stop it. Some corrupt ideas never even occurred to me but people don't even blink an eye. From what I hear the cops are basically paid thugs. You can fight them off or run away from them, and they don't chase you (I saw this happen at a checkpoint) but if you get thrown into prison anything can happen. My husband told me stories about his neighborhood taking the law into their own hands, catching a criminal, and punishing them with chili pepper.

Even in the U.S. I've seen wealthy Indian business owners get away with not paying their employees. The employees are usually illegal immigrants who were told some stories about getting sponsored and having good jobs in America, and then they end up working for someone who keeps them sharing a room with 5 other people, working 70 hours per week, and if they have a problem with not getting paid, threatens to report them to immigration.

I did notice there was no trash or recycling service whatsoever in India (except glass bottles could be refilled) and people either threw it somewhere or burned it. I worry about things like India's population which is expected to double.

You made me think of the roads there. Actually I saw lots of swerving, weaving in and out of traffic, cows, dogs, people walking around, motorbikes, cars stopping literally within one inch of each other (also, entire families on motorbikes, 8 people crammed into a car with no seatbelts) but I didn't see any accidents in 10 weeks I was there. Not that I don't think they happen.

I didn't see all terrible things though. My in-laws and their neighbors were mostly working class or middle class rather than dirt poor/sinfully rich. Mostly everyone had lived in the area for generations and everyone knew each other. People just stopped by each other's houses. Kids went to the neighbors' houses too without parents fretting over their whereabouts every minute of the day. People weren't as glued to technology. It wasn't a horrible thing for someone to live with their extended family. I don't think being poor always has to mean being unhappy. Obviously being powerless, exploited, not having the basic necessities make a person unhappy and I did see some really sad things like child beggars. But I also saw some people that lived in one or 2 room houses with dirt floors, had a fluorescent light and otherwise no electric, and went to get water at a water pump--this is considered poor by our standards, but they were not unhappy.
Many of the issues you mention, remind me of a long lecture I watched of Jared Diamond on YouTube.
He wrote a book about why societies collapse.
Here's the TED talk he gave about it:

Pro Rock Girl wrote:
> I don't think being poor always has to mean being unhappy.

I agree. There are many teenage girls living here in Britain who spend a fortune on make-up, cosmetic surgery, tanning salons*, booze, drugs etc, who are far from happy. However, I don't want to overgeneralise and pick the worst aspect of society to compare, but for the sake of objectivity this perhaps needs a mention.

* regarding the tanning salons, here's an irony: white-skinned girls in the West want to get browner and brown-skinned girls in India use skin lightening cream to get whiter!
Yeah, I remember all the commercials for lightening cream like Fair and Lovely. I always thought going tanning was silly. My Punjabi friends have the most beautiful thick black hair that I am so envious of. I dyed my hair black and they said "why?" They like blonde hair!
I saw a lot of this. I didn't know whether it was a move towards a Western way of being, or a rejection of the darkened working class, or just the simple case of 'the grass is always greener'.




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