India Uncut

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Killing higher education; and free markets

India's loss is China's gain, writes Gurcharan Das, describing with anguish how the attempts of a prestigious American university to set up a branch campus in India were scuttled by mindless red tape. The university eventually gave up and set up the campus in China instead.

Some people will no doubt consider such articles to be "unpatriotic". Some of the responses I got to my AWSJ oped – just a small minority, thankfully – berated me for showing just the dark side of India's liberalisation. Well, for someone who believes in free markets and globalisation, I felt it was necessary to show that dark side. The main reason I believe in opening up our economy is because it will give all Indians a chance to progress. But in reality, just a fraction of us have: people like me. This gives globalisation and free markets a bad name, and it was important to point out that the reason for India's inequalities is not the process that began in 1991, but the fact that it was wasn't widespread enough, that it touched just a fraction of the people, and crucially, that it was the state, and the vast bureaucratic apparatus set up by Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, that were coming in the way of progress.

I was one of those lucky enough to be touched by 1991 – three of the four companies I've held full-time jobs in have been multinationals who would not be in India if not for the events of that year. But too many of us get too caught up in ourselves and don't notice that most of India is still on the outside looking in. Yes, our prosperity will touch them in small ways, but televisions in slums don't count for progress if the owner of that television does not have legal entitlement to that land and a system that enables him to get ahead instead of pulling him down repeatedly. It is for him, and the millions like him, that it is important to point out what still needs to be done, and to not rest on whatever laurels we've earned.
amit varma, 11:47 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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