India’s Poverty is a Crime

To a recent post on the great enrichment and the great divergence, Prabhudesai posted this comment:

US and India comparison just depresses me. 300 years ago USA was basically just a country with barely any history, culture, any achievements, no educational system, no philosophers, artists, kings. Basically a large tract of land with lots of warring tribes that were oblivious to the outside world. Then a bunch uneducated sailors arrived on this land and soon they became the engine of the world capable of landing men on the moon.

Sometime in the 1990s my family considered buying a two-wheeler. It was hard to get one. Rarely any used models were available and for new items there was a much longer waiting period. Rajdoot and Chetak were the most popular two wheelers but we settled for a cheaper “Moped” that ran on petrol, had peddles and was probably had a 60cc engine.

Then one day while waiting at my dentist’s office in the US, I came across a Smithsonian magazine. It had a story of how a person tried to renovate his apartment in 1967 and surprisingly found a motorcycle in the walls. “Not bad, someone had enough cash to buy an entire motorcycle and hide it in walls in 1967. Muricans must be rich” I thought.

Then I read further. The motorcycle which had advanced twin brakes and which could hit 85mph, was built in 1916. “Holy moly” I thought. Americans not only had motorcycles in 1916 but they were much more advanced than what a reasonable person in India could afford in 1990s !!!

But as I read further I was more stunned. The motorcycle was built by hand by some individual and people were able to figure this out because he wrote a letter to the editor of Motorcycles Illustrated magazine.

This was another “Holy moly” moment for me. Not only Americans had motorcycles in 1916s but this industry was large and diverse enough that someone could run a magazine business around it. Compared to that my house got electricity only in 1970s in India.

We don’t have to compare Singapore and India. Compare India with Turkey, Egypt, Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa, China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Thailand, Indonesia or any other average country without serious handicap of Islam, wars or being landlocked (though many landlocked African countries are doing better than India).

India’s poverty has no excuse. It is crime.

Unfortunately, the large majority of Indians (and other people in very poor countries) consider the poverty they suffer to be natural and therefore their fatal acceptance of their dire condition. The government of India is the criminal responsible for the crime of poverty. Why is the government of India the greatest enemy of the Indian people? I welcome your thoughts on this matter.

Author: Atanu Dey

Economist.

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