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Will India become a super power? - An essay by Ramachandra Guha
Posted By:jasmin On 6/29/2008

Will India become a super power? - An essay by Ramachandra Guha

Will India become a superpower? This is one question to which every
Indian would love to answer: "Yes". But Ramachandra Guha in an essay
in outlook presents seven reasons that categorically convey why
India can't!

I rarely find interest in essays but this topic caught my attention
and Outlook is one magazine that is a little different – one has to
see only the "Letters" section in it to like it. For, even though I
hardly listen to/like Vinod Mehta on TV debates, the magazine has
some very good columns and cover stories are also a little different
from the run of the mill ones.

In this essay, Mr. Guha has drawn from history, taken a very
balanced stand, doesn't criticize anybody too much, presents strong
reasons for his argument and in a clear prose emphasizes his points.
It is certainly a compelling read for any citizen of this land to
understand a little more clearly the problems that we as a nation
battle with and the probable solutions that we have.

From 1948, when the West was ready to write our obituary to this day
when we are viewed as a formidable rising power, Guha charts our
progress through the seemingly insurmountable threats to
our "institutions" and towards the end offers India little hope.

"The challenge of the naxalites; the insidious presence of the
Hindutvawadis; the degradation of the once liberal and upright
centre; the increasing gap between the rich and the power; the
trivialization of the media; the unsustainability, in an
environmental sense of present patterns of resource consumption; the
instability and policy incoherence caused by multi-party coalition
Governments – these are the seven reasons why India will not become
a superpower."

Naxalite challenge:

We read about this menace day in and day out in the national dailies
but go about our lives as it hardly affects us. If we are to move
towards an inclusive and just society, this menace needs to be
addressed at its roots but state policies like Salwa Judum, as we
know today, have miserably failed. Mr. Guha seems to summarize the
state's ineptitude in handling this internal security threat when he

"In the next decade, thousands of lives will be lost, some of
policemen, others of naxalites, the majority perhaps of adivasis
caught in the crossfire".

Right wing religious fundamentalism:

Terming the philosophy of Hindutva as "a form of petty and at times
vindictive chauvinism", he traces the current state of affairs back
to 1948 in VD Savarkar and MS Golwalkar.

In our country, we only see the changing colors of our politicians.
They are a species who don't seem to have true colors; it is only
the masks that the electorate sees and is taken in by! On one side,
we have the BJP which seems unsure with respect to which card to
play in every election and at the other end, we have the congress
which is confused as a result of which it is neither able to beat
Narendra Modi nor combat terrorism effectively. All we hear is "vote
bank". The voter is also equally confused as a result-

"Many others naively hope that the mask will in time become the real
face, and that with economic modernization the BJP will be able to
successfully distance itself from the RSS."

Degradation of the once liberal and upright centre:

With the advent of coalition politics and rampant corruption,
politicians and civil servants care very little for the very people
whom they are supposed to serve. The congress party and several
other regional parties are filled with sycophants who feel that
their full time job is ingratiating themselves into the good books
of the high command.

"Now, the Government of India is run by men and women of limited
intelligence and dubious integrity, who know little about and care
less for the ideals on which the republic was founded."

The widening divide:

The Indian state has failed to initiate concrete steps to bridge the
gap between the rich and the poor. Basic primary education and
health care, equality of opportunity – these are some areas of grave
concern that our politicians love to pay lip service to. Mr. Guha
praises the work of numerous social workers but as he says, the
state cannot be substituted. He cites his own experience briefly –

"The school my children go to in Bangalore is world-class; the
school run by the state a few yards down the road is worse than
third rate. I can avail of top quality healthcare; my house help
must go to the local quack instead."

Trivialization of the media:

Celebrities and "Breaking news" in news channels rarely make sense
these days. While gruesome murders and the private lives of
celebrities get the lion's share of coverage, environmental issues
are relegated to the occasional and stereotyped special reports.

"In the eyes of the new, excessively market-friendly media, the
environment is only about pretty trees and tigers. They wish their
readers to have their cake and eat it too; to live resource-
intensive lifestyles and yet be able to glory in the beauties of the

Unsustainability in the environmental sense:

In our greed to consume, we are becoming blind to the enormous
amount of constraint on our environment. I never cease to be amazed
at the number of new cars that are registered in Bangalore every
day. Driving them has become status symbols. Who cares about their
carbon emissions and the rising fuel costs? The self is inflated;
the common good and concern for fellow living things is almost

"With India, China too is trying to ape the west, attempting to
create a mass consumer society whose members can all drive their own
cars, live in their own air-conditioned homes, eat in fancy
restaurants and travel to the ends of the earth for their family
holidays. Will these Chinese and Indian consumers collectively strip
the world bare like locusts? Between them, they have set off a new
scramble for Africa, stripping or at least strip-mining that unhappy
continent to fuel their ever growing appetite for resources."

Instability and policy incoherence:

When the current UPA Government hangs in the balance thanks to the
whims and fancies of the left and the opportunistic policies of the
opposition, need one comment more on this?

In all, Ramachandra Guha takes the reader through a short and
compelling journey in his essay but doesn't offer any "super" hope
and rightly so!

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