H C Singh

Brief Review and Comments on The Caged Phoenix-Can India Fly? By Dipankar Gupta

He had all the praise for India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru none for Sardar Patel though he said that with the independence of India in 1947, the phoenix had truly risen from the ashes. But why, how and which circumstances and policies caged the phoenix after independence. It was infact Nehru’s socialistic pattern of society and indifference to India’s economic growth coupled with his love for Mountbatten family that kept India caged. A couple of years after freedom when Ironman like Sardar Patel were no more, private enterprise and private industries were not allowed in Nehru era, so the industrial progress as per GDP was nil or hardly sometimes 1 or 2 percent per annum. Thus phoenix that flew for a couple of years after independence was grounded and remained so for more than three decade. Phoenix was no longer caged and started flying high and very high since Dr Manmohan Singh was made India’s Finance Minister and state controlled economy was replaced by free private enterprise under Narsimah Rao’s government. As a result in a decade Industries GDP rose from 1 percent to 8 to 10 percent annum.

Despite recession in the world and crisis in US and European economy, India is still flying high because of tremendous development in electronics particularly software. India has not gone back to socialism or socialistic pattern of economy. Rightly Gupta praises Indians talent but criticizes disregard for Indian’s competence at home:

“Standards have been so lowered at home that ambitious Indians are often forced to realize their potential abroad Indians are doing well in USA, UK and Europe as Software experts…… while Indian professionals have a great reputation abroad for their competence, they do not shine in the same way in their motherland. There are many reasons for this, but most importantly intellectuals are generally uncomfortable with political graft and craft. What came as a surprise to me is that the actual amount allotted by the state in Research and Development has come down over the years. Naturally the best and the brightest are tempted to leave for foreign shores and can we blame them? Instead of asking why such skilled professionals head westwards, every time a non-resident Indian does well abroad, it is happy have at home.”

The question arises, after having paid such a high tribute to Indian professionals intellect and performance abroad bringing good name to India, why has Gupta thought and wrote whether India will fly at all or not? While in USA it is evident that Gupta was influenced by American thinking about India as well as by his close associate Mary Anne Weaver his contemporary at Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholers (WWICS). “She was a great source of encouragement, friendship and flattery. She buoyed up my spirits before and after every academic encounter, I had at the WWICS and is also responsible for the title of the book”. Gupta further adds to India and Indian’s bewilderment, “As for the text, she has done what she could to improve my communicative skills”.

It becomes clear that not only the title of the Book but much of the ideas and description about India are more by his American associates than by Gupta an Indian himself. It is also evident that Gupta was much more influenced by American Scholars whom he considered more educated, experienced and clearheaded. In his own words:
“ I am not at all certain that this book could have been written, warts and all, were I anywhere else…… while I was in Washington DC, I took the opportunity of testing my views and findings with a larger audience in different universities. A roadshow seemed the best way to New York, Baltimore, Maryland, Illinois and New Jersey and learnt a lot from my discussions there.”

After having written so much about Mary Anne Weaver and Americans, it would have been better if Gupta had added the name of Weaver on the title of the book along with his own name. Even President Obama has made mention of Bangalore as ‘electronic hub of India’ and has urged American students electronic aspirants and workers to follow the example of Indian students and workers and do hard work.

Thus there is no question of the caged phoenix and of question mark: Can India fly? India is no longer caged phoenix and will never be so in view of all round progress, the movement of which has not slowed down or halted during the world economic crises of 2008 to 2010. Dipankar Gupta though pays half hearted tribute to Indian students intelligence, hard work and perseverance. To an extent he is right in condemning India’s politics and corrupt politicians. But that does not mean than India is caged phoenix and it is doubtful whether it will break the cage and fly.

September 23, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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