Sunday, 14 August 2016

70 Years of Indian Independence and the Growing Challenge of Manifold Nationalism

      India as we know today was born when 200 years of British Raj was overthrown and democracy was crowned on 15th August, 1947. It’s far from possible to forget the sacrifices our freedom fighters made to create this nation, but it won’t be too long before we forget the values that they fought for. Hence it’s necessary from time to time we introspect and understand the challenges we come across through our journey post-independence.

I remember the television interview few years back of Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, who transformed Singapore from a third world country to a first world country in a single generation under his three decades of leadership. When he was asked what he would do if he were to govern India, he replied, “No single person can change India.” He said that when he had visited India he observed that there are many different ‘Indias’.

            We are a set of multiple cultures and this diversity has fostered brotherhood, social advancement, revolutions, innovation in medical science, technology and space research, but we are yet to experience a unified sense of NATIONALISM.

To quote Rabindranath Tagore “India has never had a real sense of nationalism”. Unfortunately his words have lasted the test of time as we are incapable of generating the real sense of nationalism even today after seven decades of independence.

I feel we still stand divided along the lines of region, religion, culture, language, ethnicity, etc. We Indians find it utterly impossible to tear through these layers and identify ourselves as Indians first. This is evident from ethnic and religious conflicts that occur every day in some or the other parts of the country.

We fail to put our country ahead of everything else and pledge our loyalty to the country and only to the country. In modern times this divided sense of loyalty towards the nation can bring down the hopeful picture of a prosperous nation.

Every other group, community or a social unit has a different vision of India’s national identity and shamefully express of what and how India should be. Even a majority government gets accused of looking India through the chasma of Hindu nationalism. Though every government in the past has failed to bring together different communities under a single sense of nationalism, every community today has become sensitive enough to put its interests before the nation.

This divided sense of loyalty towards the nation impacts the country socially and economically and continuously exposes the national security to external threats.

I feel our society is yet to break free from the shackles of caste divide and the consequences are slowly apparent in recent times. A complex system of reservations and quotas has hardly succeeded in educating the economically underprivileged. The stir among the Patel, Jat, Gujjar, and Maratha community demanding reservations in education and employment shows that the issue of national development is far from being a common interest.

The country’s attempt to forego its socialist ideas and the reluctant steps taken towards capitalism has benefited the economy in huge ways by making array of products available and affordable to Indian consumers. However lack of conscious spending on foreign products and poor implementation of policies allow foreign companies to take away huge amount of wealth from the country. Consequently we are still dependent on advanced countries for our technological needs and have made little progress to uplift our manufacturing sector which is far below the global standards.

The conflict of separatist ideology and Kashmiri nationalism has disallowed both India and Pakistan to come to terms to the animosity between them. The problem that is intensifying everyday has not just prevented economic development in the region but has allowed infiltrators to take advantage of the critical situation and carry out terrorist attacks in the country.

I understand we are diverse and we need to march ahead at our own pace but we also need to protect and nurture this gift of democracy that our forefathers have given to us through their struggle of independence. If we are to achieve the dream of economic prosperity and stand united as Indians we must start by nurturing a common vision for the country.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Inflation and Deflation for India

We all know one tings never stay the same –prices. When general prices increase in an economy the rate at which they increase is termed as inflation. This rate of inflation pushes down the purchasing power of people. To put it in monetary terms if inflation rate is 9 percent, a shopping basket full of goods that costs Rs. 100 will cost 109 a year onward. A measure that helps identify inflation rate in the country is Consumer Price Index (CPI).

CPI presents a weighted average of prices of a basket of goods which includes goods for domestic use, transportation and medical care. It is the most prevailing used indicator for assessing the cost of living in an economy. Heavy ascent of CPI in short time implies inflation while vice versa signals deflation.

While inflation pushes down purchasing power of citizens deflation does the same. It is a common fallacy to consider whatever that moves opposite of what is bad must be good, though inflation and deflation are forces in opposite direction, both when unleashed can pull the economy in a vicious spiral.

To understand deflation let’s look at the current trends in international oil prices. Oil production which was primarily a Middle East phenomenon has equally gained momentum in the U.S., Latin American nations and elsewhere. This has resulted in massive supply in oil.  This has coupled with decreasing demand for oil majorly due to lowering of China’s consumption given its shrinking growth rate. These circumstances have led to lower revenues for oil producing nations with eventual under recovery of oil production costs.

In an economy experiencing deflation or heavy drop in prices, interest rates drop due to low demand for money, there is lower rate of return on investments, investments fall, people start losing their jobs, demand for goods go down, production shrinks, and the overall economy goes into a spiral resulting in massive contraction.