Saturday, February 26, 2011

Egypt in India: Who knows whether a time bomb is not ticking here.

The conjuncture of open corruption, high unemployment and uncontrolled inflation is capable of creating a situation where even the safety-valve of periodic elections could be rendered infructuous; people might not have the patience to wait for the next elections or they may lose faith in all parties, including those currently in the opposition. The searing flames from Tunisia and Egypt could reach our shores too.

True, globalization has crushed the organized trade union movement in the country; its lure has also sucked in a section of the middle class. The immiserized rural poor are both riven by caste animosities and dispersed in hundreds and thousands of villages, apart from being victims of illiteracy and a low level of consciousness. It is nonetheless an uncertain horizon, and on account of a probability to which attention was drawn nearly 90 years ago by Allyn Young, the Harvard economist. Pick a country bumpkin from a wilderness, let him roam aimlessly in the thoroughfares of a metropolis like London or New York, he will watch the city lights, the procession of fleeting cars, rows of huge mansions and skyscrapers, the billboards and huge departmental stores, the assortment of smartly attired men and women rushing about. At the end of just one week, he will no longer remain a dumb country bumpkin, he has absorbed the sights and sounds of metropolitan existence, he is a changed human being, his awareness and intelligence have shot up even though not a penny has been spent to improve his bearings.

This is the imponderable factor. Television, the internet and cell phones have enabled India’s rich to become enormously richer. These, at the same time are directly as well as indirectly, raising the level of consciousness of the country’s impoverished, exploited, hitherto mute millions. Such awakening is a dangerous incendiary. The trade union movement may be dead. The peasantry may be inordinately backward and faction ridden. Thievery at high places coinciding with massive worklessness and inflation could nevertheless, without the courtesy of a warning, give birth to a nationwide fury convulsing the system. Who knows whether a time bomb is not ticking somewhere.

Ashok Mitra in The Telegraph.  More Here.

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