Thursday, September 07, 2006

India: the land where time stood still but everything changed

Time travel or intergalactic flight has always been the stuff of science fiction.

But in many ways, a machine that transports people across space and time has already been invented. It's called an aeroplane.

When I stepped off a flight to Bangalore, India it felt as though I had landed in both a different world and a different time.

If you ask someone on a street in India what year it is they would respond 2006, but they wouldn't think it was 2006. And neither would you.

When people talk about India, they usually mention its population of over a billion and that many of them now form an integral part of the way companies work around the world.

What people don't describe, or perhaps appreciate, is what it is actually like to live in the country.


If you consider India from the perspective of an average Indian, your perception of it would change considerably.

The values and way of life of the people don't seem to have changed for over half a century.

While Indian people are still courteous in public, the streets are utterly chaotic. As one local described to me, it must seem like a scene Charles Dickens would have witnessed in late nineteenth century England.

And while much of the British legacy remains it has failed to develop in the way Britain did.

Part of this is because of the late stage India joined in the race for economic development. Because of this, it feels the need to move at the currently hectic pace just to keep up with the rest of the world.

Another hurdle is the lack of effective and organised management of public systems. As mentioned, the streets are in complete dissaray, the air during rush hour in Bangalore is heavy with smog and most of the roads are filled with potholes or in many cases incomplete.

This is not the country or the city you imagine when you are told of an "IT hub" or the "next global superpower".


While India has much to be proud of it has equally much to be concerned about.

All of the achievements of the past 50, and especially 15, years are what India has to lose if it continues to fail to provide the necessary infrastructure necessary for a country to develop sustainably.

Put bluntly, before another shopping mall or office block goes up, roads and water mains should be put down. Without this, India will forever remain stuck in the past.


Anonymous said...

Your blog was utterly void of any thought-provoking insights. It seemed you just wanted to reflect on how fucked up the streets in India are. Wow, thats fascinating stuff coming from an economist! Heres an idea: How about talking about the break-neck speed with which the Indian economy is (perhaps dangerously) growing? Anyway, it sounds like this was your first trip to a third world country and you got a little "culture shock." Well, thats what 2/3rds of the world looks like buddy, so I assume you wont be visiting subsaharan Africa anytime soon. God forbid you soil your galoshes! God forbid you slum it with locals who dont have advanced degrees!

Iestyn said...

Wow, somebody's angry about something.