On July 19th, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell's Open Source Radio net-aired an interesting discussion on what and where India is, in the context of the Mumbai blasts of July 11.
It was an interesting debate - even though, Christopher Lydon (the moderator) had set-up the "terms of debate" in a west-o-centric terms, i.e, the Mumbai blasts were a repurcussions of the increasing class-divide in India).
The Panelists (alphabetically):
Chief Economist of a Mumbai based company, Netcore, and a blogger on Deesha.com
The author of Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond, and more recently, of an IHT article The Myth of the New India
Author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, and more recently, of an article in The New York Times (July 12, 2005), A Passage From India
One can listen/download the debate from here (about 50mnts and 24MB MP3):
"...It is not true that this bombing represents something like the clash between the haves and the have-nots. India has always had that disparity. We need to understand that the bombings are part of the global phenomenon, and not localized to India… More people have died since India’s independence through Islamic terrorism than [in] the wars that India fought with Pakistan and China...
...It is undeniable that the rate of growth has been low up to the early 1990’s, but [now] there’s real improvement, and poverty levels have gone down all around. It’s a secular improvement across the board. Although the top segments have benefitted more, it is a rising tide, and it is going to lift all the boats."
"What people do not realize.... is how a very very small percentage of India’s population is actually employed in… outsourcing and call centers. If that’s what you’re preoccupied with, so you have a woman wearing a headphone on the cover of Time magazine, this is the kind of myth that gets multiplied many times.
...I was trying to counter the increasingly commonplace Western perception of India as this rising economic superpower, this is a kind of perception that has originated within a very tiny elite… people who are writing in the newspapers and in the blogs. This infectious enthusiasm, a lot of which is based in fact, is now spreading to the American media, business, political elite, and somehow these two elite have come up with this wonderful idea that India is rising. I wish it were true, but there are a lot of problems that India has not reckoned with."
"There are sections of the country that are enjoying a boom, and there are large sections that have been left behind and have found their standard of living actually dropping year by year… In the years of socialism, there wasn’t so much of a perception of inequality, because people didn’t have access to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Now with television, and with the internet in every little village and hamlet in India, people have their noses rubbing up against windows, literally, they can see how this new middle class lives...
There is a potential for tremendous social conflict, but I think what moderates it is that there is that democracy, which has been established, and it is real and it is irrevocable.."
One India/ many Indias...
....take your pick!