Can ‘Make in India’ work?

Why India is not going to be the next China – or anything like China ever

By Kanti Bajpai – Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised he would promote a ‘Make in India’ revolution. Nearly four years later, a manufacturing revolution is nowhere in sight. Make in India was supposed to not just boost manufacturing, it was also supposed to generate employment. Estimates show there has been virtually no jobs growth.

To be a manufacturing power, a country needs a strong state which identifies niche areas, supports them and encourages innovation. It enforces contracts and property rights. It also provides public goods including law and order and an efficient bureaucracy.

Nobody would pretend that the Indian state is anywhere near being a strong state. It is often violent and despotic, but that is a measure of its weakness, not its strength.

India has no history of industrial-scale innovation – no world historical inventions that it has scaled up.

It is a trading nation and a nation that does well in areas that requires delicate craftsmanship and care, areas that are (for want of a better word) human in scale. It is also a nation that does well in providing services. It could, with better laws, incentives, and technology, be competitive in tourism, hospitality, fintech, and international education and healthcare – areas where human beings still count, where more personalized attention matters and where machines and scale are less important. more>


American lessons for India

By neglecting science and public welfare, the US is losing the marathon in some respects
By Dipankar Gupta – We look up to America for a number of good reasons. But there are a few cautionary tales as well, especially in the area of public spending.

The US, however, rarely looks outside its borders, east or west, for ideas. The Midwest, the country’s navel, is where it gazes most often. This is where elections are won or lost, and where homebred culture and cars are made.

Between 2000 and 2017 there have been as many as 25 train mishaps in the US, prompting the head of Amtrak to confess that the latest crash is a “wake up call”. It took 60 years, between 1940 to 1999, for 25 train accidents to happen, but only 15 years since to clock that number.

This graphically demonstrates how rapidly public railways have declined in America. We are not starting on the subject of the 56,000 US bridges that need urgent repair. This may sound and taste like India, but we are still talking America.

According to Mark Reutter of Progressive Policy Institute, in the first 13 years after 1956, as much as 46,350 km of interstate roadways were built and, tragically, 95,600 km of rail tracks taken out. In an ironic coincidence, 1956 was also the year when Japan started planning its high speed trains.

Railways have never won state support in the US after their heydays in the 1930s and 1940s. Politicians complain that trains will never make money, so why fund them? In Europe, the calculations are very different.

For example France’s prestigious, high speed TGV train service makes regular losses but gets government money anyway because the public benefits from it.

Not only does TGV reduce travel time, its wide network has also brought booms to towns, like Lille, that had gone bust in the 1950s. China’s high speed train system is also not a financial success, but the country is going ahead with planning a 500 kmph railway system anyway. more>


Ban, mandatory, compulsory: Three vile words increasingly define the modus operandi of India’s ruling politicians

By Ravi Shanker Kapoor – Something is rotten in the statecraft of India. Nothing else explains why three words – ‘ban,’ ‘mandatory,’ and ‘compulsory’ – are most widely used in not only governance and politics but also in public discourse. And not just the words; bans and mandatory requirements are also increasingly becoming a reality in what is supposedly the biggest democracy of the world.

The formulaic, quintessential Left-liberal explanation for this is simple: under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the fascist proclivities of Hindutva are asserting themselves; hence the increasing use of coercive measures. QED.

But Modi didn’t invent coercion, mandatory measures and other illiberal practices. For instance, the draconian Section 66A was added to the Information Technology Act by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government; the incumbent regime supported it in the court, though.

BJP’s ideology and agenda are different from those of the grand old party. But its methodology is still defined by the three obnoxious words: ban beef, make Sanskrit and Vande Mataram compulsory in Rajasthan schools, make it mandatory for people to stand up while the national anthem is played, etc. Any resistance to and criticism of such measures is dismissed with disdain.

Persuasion, discussion, debate and compromise are and should be the hallmarks of a liberal democracy.

Why is it so? The primary reason is that governance, which is essentially a process involving a great deal of assiduity and patience, has been reduced to a hodgepodge of events, rhetoric, and clever messaging. more>