If you haven’t already heard or smelt it, the Indian economy is dead (according to post-mortem reports, it died after 86% of the ‘blood’ in the system was drained out on November 8, 2016 and a final cardiac arrest was induced by an assault on its head on July 1, 2017), and the corpse is rotting now. The Modi government seems stricken by an inability, or an unwillingness, or both, to do much about it. Instead, since returning to power with a bigger mandate than in 2014, it has sought to cover up the stench by throwing one garland of the nationalism flower after another on the rotting body – Article 370, triple talaq law, UAPA amendment, screaming ‘NRC nationwide, NRC nationwide’, and the like — and chanting loudly and incessantly the nationalism mantra.
All of this is still unable to staunch the stench of the economy. It is assaulting our noses daily. But the average Hindu is cheering the government on regardless, made to believe that there is indeed a greater urgency to tackle terrorism, Ram Mandir, triple talaq and the like, as Amit Shah suggests daily (amplified by captive TV news channels), rather than the economy. And so, the average Hindu puffs himself up with nationalist pride, while his pocket and prospects sag and shrink.
If you are a patriot, demand that the government turn its focus entirely to reviving the economy. For if that’s not done today, India’s future, and that of you and your children, will be no better than its present, and will in all likelihood be considerably worse.
And think about it: in the era of liberals and globalists, the children of Jawaharlal Nehru’s India — one which pursued a secular, modernising agenda — were welcome in the US and Europe. If you couldn’t find opportunities and succeed in India, you could fly away to America or Britain and Europe, make a good life, perhaps even become a Silicon Valley billionaire and share the stage at ‘Howdy Modi’ years later. But if the children of Modi’s nationalist India can’t find education and economic opportunity here, where will you go in this world of competing nationalisms? Far-right nationalism in the US and Europe is based on Christian fundamentalism and White supremacy. Nationalist China is an adversary and, in any case, has its own huge population problem. And the Hindu nationalist cannot stand the idea of going to the Muslim nations. Where will you go if the economy stays dead here?
Oh, did you say Modiji will capture POK and eventually create Akhand Bharat? Will we go to war, like Hitler did, against the whole of South Asia and beyond to get our lebensraum? Where will we find space anyway — Pakistan will be 250 million people by 2030, 300 million by 2050, and with as many nuclear weapons as us, if not more; Bangladesh will be 250 million by 2050. Nepal, Sri Lanka cannot hold enough of us. The only places we have to make good is the India we have in hand, and in addition an America, Canada, Britain, Australia and Europe that are welcoming of us — if we can keep them that way, without rubbing our nationalism against theirs.
Which is why, previous governments, especially since PV Narasimha Rao and through Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, focused all their energies, even their foreign and security policies, on ensuring economic growth and on negotiating greater access for Indians in the education and job markets of the developed countries. That continues to be the way forward — to focus on building up our own economy and to be as a nation and as individuals what Nehru was: a secular, patriotic Indian, but a global citizen, too.
This is not an anti-Modi rant. It’s a cautionary tale. We are in the midst of a period of ‘demographic dividend’. Nations have the best chance to rise to economic prosperity and global power in such a period, thanks to a predominantly young population and all the good that that means – a large workforce, and therefore greater savings as well as consumer spending, availability of good manpower for the military, and so on. But while we have a young population, we are not able to obtain the benefits of it, thanks to rising joblessness. This must be fixed today, before our demographic window – which will last only a few decades — begins to close. So, if you want India to rise to power and prosperity, tell Modiji to focus on the economy now. The rest can wait. That’s a lesson he and Amit Shah can learn from Xi Jinping and his predecessors in China.