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May 05, 2006

Globalisation: The Changing Face of India

[I submitted this project proposal to the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund and won a grant to do this project in India. I am putting it up here so people can send me their ideas, and some contacts which I can pursue to make the project better]


The Economist’s The World in 2006 declared the clock striking “India’s hour”. As early as 2003, Goldman Sachs had reported that the country’s economy, if maintaining an aggregate growth rate of 7–8% per annum, would become the third largest in the world by as early as 2030. Since the early 90s, India has maintained an average growth rate in excess of 6%, which has recently notched up to 7% in the last couple of years, with the annual rate touching 8.1% in 2003–04. In the first quarter of 2005–06, growth rate has hit 8.1%, followed by an 8% growth rate in the second. Sustained economic growth has resulted in a fall in the percentage of people under the poverty line– from 42.1% in 1990 to 24.5% in 2005. This economic spirit of India that has been let loose owes its flourishing largely to the economic reforms ushered in the early 1990s by the man who is Prime Minister today and was Finance Minister then– Manmohan Singh.

Undoubtedly, after a decade or so in a globalising world, Indian society has undergone fundamental shifts. Deep inside the Indian rural heartland, farmers are increasingly affected by the decisions that are taken in the corridors of power at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Indian urban life has been transformed wholesale, with a new found consumer spirit and the burgeoning information technology industry. As the Harvard economist and Nobel laureate scholar Amartya Sen has argued in his recent book The Argumentative Indian, no one facet of India is more representative of the society as a whole. From the farmers working in villages where the caste system still dominates, to the computer savvy business professional in Bangalore– all of them are equally Indians. In essence, whatever is said about India, the opposite is almost always true.

Media space has been lavishly devoted to articles trying to capture this changing face of India. Albeit somewhat vague, but a search for “India” on Google News generates 96,800 articles vis–à–vis 51,700 for Britain. With India on the offensive at the WTO, signing agreements for sharing nuclear know–how with the USA and joining the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor group, there is no dearth of news about the country.

The project that I propose in the following pages will seek to shed light on the lives of today’s Indians. It will not depend on emotionless government statistics, nor would it rely on hearsay and other second hand material. It involves direct interactions with individuals living in all rungs of the Indian societal ladder, and finding out how they are involved in this transformative process, and what their take on it is.

There is a tendency among Indian technocrats and academics to dismiss popular opinion as ill–informed and easily swayed by lavish, and false, promises of politicians. However, I strongly believe that “it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, but what does matter is what others think of you”. No matter how many international rating agencies upgrade India’s credit ratings, or how many anti–globalisation campaigners protest against economic reforms in the campuses across Delhi, what really matters is the perception of the aam aadmi (common man) and how he sees his life changing as a result of these sweeping forces of history.


The ‘common man’ in India is a much idealised and misunderstood figure. Commentators often make the mistake of categorising just the urban worker or the farmer as aam aadmi. In a country where the middle classes comprise a larger number of people than the entire population of the United States of America, the salaried middle classes as well as the ‘new’ middle classes in industries such as pharmaceuticals and information technology cannot be ignored. This is not to suggest that the traditional definition is entirely inaccurate. It is merely inadequate. Indeed, I will be interviewing farmers in various districts in Punjab, one of India’s most agriculturally dependent states, as part of this project.

Nor can we overlook the businessmen. Since the economic reforms, India has seen the emergence and flourishing of domestic companies like Infosys, Ranbaxy, Dr Reddy’s, Wipro, TCS, etc. competing side by side with traditional business houses of the Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis (Reliance Conglomerate), but also with the multinational companies. Entrepreneurs like Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji are respected individuals today. Crucially, as Yasheng Huang and Tarun Khanna of MIT have argued, these Indian multinationals hold the key to India not being reduced to primarily a source of cheap labour for foreign companies, but being able to develop its own products and brands. I will be interviewing business executives from the software and outsourcing company Infosys in Bangalore and the pharmaceutical firm Dr Reddy’s in Hyderabad as part of this project.

That being said, the politician and bureaucrat, both Indian and international, cannot be left out of the scope of this project. After all, it is the government that has allowed the reforms to take place, and it was the International Monetary Fund whose structural adjustment loan initially bailed out India during the balance of payments crisis. I will be interviewing the country representative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in New Delhi. As a representative of the Indian polity, I have arranged for an interview with the Chief Minister of Sikkim, one of the supposedly least globalised states of India.

During my time of academic reflection at Warwick, one of the crucial observations and deductions that I have made is the imperative need to make small–holding Indian farmers more competitive. India may argue for a swift phasing out of farm subsidies by the European Union and the United States at the WTO, but I remain doubtful of its ability to successfully penetrate the international markets once the tariffs are gone, as gaining economies of scale will remain difficult. I believe that the answer lies with Amul, a dairy product co–operative that brings together 2.41 million farmers across the western Indian state of Gujarat. Built with resources pooled together by small holders, it boasted of revenues worth $672 million (£388 million) in 2004–05. Such combined efforts have ushered in what commentators have labelled “operation flood” in the rural heartland of Gujarat, and changed the lives of millions of subsistence farmers, largely women, by providing them with better market access and remunerations. I have scheduled an appointment to visit Anand in Gujarat– the home of Amul– and talk to their managers about this initiative. I will also meet the chairman of Amul Dr Vergese Kurien, a very well–known personality in India.

Aside from the pre–scheduled interviews, I also plan a rather informal and ad hoc interaction with the general Indian populace, both in rural as well as urban parts of the country. My project involves considerable travel through out India, much of it on the train and road which provides ample opportunity to speak to the owner of the roadside dhaba (Punjabi café), or the farmer in the rice fields of West Bengal, or the local priest in a Gujarati village. It is often said that India’s most remarkable achievement has been in sustaining a democratic form of government in a largely poor nation of 1 billion people, something unparalleled in the world. This democratic polity has ensured that the citizens, from the agitating students on university campuses to the farmer in the remote districts, are aware of the burning political issues and are usually rather opinionated about such matters. Their answer to my questions will be deeply revealing of the prevalent attitudes within India.

Relevant Skills and Qualities

I strongly believe in the superiority of first hand fieldwork over reliance on secondary material alone, especially in a sociological project such as I plan to undertake. However, the conductor must possess cultural and language skills to adequately enmesh within the society he plans to study to view the responses of the interviewees in the proper light. I was born and raised in Kolkata, where I spent 15 years of my life. Like other Indian metropolises, Kolkata is also undergoing major structural changes due to the advent of globalisation. My memory goes back to the early 1990s when this change was beginning. I am, therefore, aware of the major issues that are of concern to India’s population and can therefore ask the most pressing questions.

I am a native user of Hindi and Bengali. Not only are these two the two most spoken languages in the sub–continent, but the knowledge of Hindi allow me to interact with common people in almost every corner of India.

Being an Indian also helps in the logistical intricacies of my project. For example, I know the best rates that are available for my travel which would make it cost effective. I am aware of the most useful avenues to pursue relevant governmental departments.

Having my family members, many of them academics and professionals in India, helps immensely in adding to my list of interviewees. For example, I have numerous contacts at the University of Calcutta and the University of Delhi– two of the most esteemed institutions in the country whom I can pursue for academic reflection on my project, and also for additional thoughts on the report which I plan to submit at the end of the project. I have recently worked for the Liberty Institute in New Delhi on an academic project, which has brought me in touch with eminent political commentators such as Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who heads the Centre for Policy Research– a think–tank– in the capital. I am planning to interview him as part of this project.


I agree with Benjamin Franklin when he said– “Time is money”. My aim will be to conduct this project with the absolute minimum time required on the ground, to prevent from adding on the already substantial estimated costs of this project. Not being a foreigner, I do not require additional time at the beginning to “settle in” or “get a feel of” India. The mind boggling commotion and seemingly unavoidable cul–de–sac of Indian life is something I am used to.

I would like to conduct this project during my summer vacation. My point of landing in India would be Kolkata, where I can not only begin the project by casual interactions with some of my acquaintances across the campuses of Jadavpur and Calcutta universities, but also contact some of my academic contacts and get some methodological feedback on the project. I would also take this opportunity to visit some rural areas in West Bengal and speak to panchayat (village council) leaders and common people. I consider 7 days an appropriate time in Kolkata. This stay will not add to the costs of my project since my home is here.

With the arrival of low cost airlines, it is often cheaper to take a flight vis–à–vis the train (which is also time consuming) to travel within India. From Kolkata I would like to fly to Ahmedabad, from where I will hire a car to Anand, where I will tour the campus of Amul. I would also like to accompany some of the managers to their operations in some villages to witness first hand the work there, and speak to some of the villagers personally. I consider 3 days adequate for my stay at Anand.

From Ahmedabad I travel southwards to arrive in the Garden City– Bangalore. I have many acquaintances here that can help me find affordable accommodation. I will visit the campus of Infosys and interview one of their business executives, and also plan to add Wipro, Satyam and TCS to my list between now and the summer. Although I do not speak Kannada, with the help of my friends I will interact with numerous college students, vendors and other actors on the Indian urban scene. In any case, English and Hindi are widely spoken. I will spend 2 days in Bangalore.

I proceed next to Hyderabad, where I will interview representatives from Dr Reddy’s. It is also one of the most cosmopolitan of south Indian cities, as the information technology hub attracts people from all parts of India. This will provide me with a good opportunity to interview many people in the streets of the city. Although I do not speak Telegu, being an international IT centre, English and Hindi proficiency is widespread. I will spend 2 days in the city.

After my stint in south India, I head northwards towards the capital Delhi where I will not only hold my scheduled interview with the representative of UNCTAD, but also use my acquaintances in campuses across the colleges of the University of Delhi to interact with a number of students and academics and note their responses to my questions. Accommodation costs in Delhi will be negligible, as I have relatives here. However, I will be travelling to Bhatinda in Punjab from Delhi to conduct the fieldwork with farmers in neighbouring villages. This will take approximately 2–3 days and I will be living with a friend in Bhatinda. Appendix A includes the list of confirmed contacts I have gathered in these villages. I will spend 5 days in Delhi (including my Punjab trip).

From Delhi I fly to Kolkata from where I will take a train to Siliguri, the biggest town of north Bengal from where I will take a car to the hilly state of Sikkim, and its capital Gangtok. I have been here before, and am aware of the various communities that reside here, most notably the Nepalis and the Buddhists (including Tibetan monks). Apart from my interview with the Chief Minister, I will spend considerable time interacting with the local populace as well as the tourists to the region about the ways in which this erstwhile mountain kingdom is changing. I will spend 3 days in Gangtok.

My project, as it is now, should take 22 days to complete. However, as I later explain, were I to add to my list of interviewees, it would have to be extended accordingly. I keep 8 days as ‘reserve’, entailing that my entire trip will be approximately 1 month long.


It is impossible to list all my acquaintances in a country where I have lived for most of my life. However, the individuals who have agreed to be interviewed are–

–Partha Chakrabarti, Head of Public Relations, Amul
–Bhavna Mehra, Executive (Academic Branding), Infosys Technologies Ltd.
–Mythili Mamidanna, Corporate Communications, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.
–Dr Pawan Chamling, Honourable Chief Minister of Sikkim
–Anuj Arora, Deputy Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance
–Veena Jha, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, New Delhi
–Bhangya Bhukya, Ford Fellow, University of Warwick

Some of my contacts in the Indian academia who will help me get in touch with eminent academics interested in my project include Dr Pramesh Kapoor (University of Delhi), Dr Madhu Kapoor (Vivekananda College, University of Calcutta) and Dr Dhruba Jyoti Ghosh (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta), among others.

Final Report

There will be two overarching sections in the report– 1. Thematic Analysis and 2. Regional Dynamics.

For (1), I would like to lay out the topics according to the questions asked. For example, a section would be titled Changing Urban Culture: India’s Youth Speak or Farming: Contrasting Experiences in Punjab and West Bengal. This would be across the various areas where my fieldwork would take place. This would correspond with the extremely problematic juxtaposition of social hierarchy in the form of class and caste in urban and rural India. For example, another section would be headed The Changing Dynamics of Caste: Rural Punjab and Gujarat in Focus. The dynamics of the IT industry can be subjected to a four–way comparison between the traditional hubs like Bangalore and Hyderabad with their upcoming competitors in Delhi and Kolkata.

Some of the issues will nevertheless be regionally specific, such as the development in co–operative farming in Gujarat, or the problems associated with being sidelined from the mainstream forces of globalisation as experienced by Sikkim. Section 2 is meant for such topics.

My questions will cover the following issues and any others brought up by the interviewees themselves–

1. How far quality of life has improved (if at all) in the 1990s
2. Whether economic reforms have opened up more opportunities for the jobless
3. Whether choices have been broadened, both for the middle as well as the poor classes
4. How far caste still dominates India, especially the rural areas
5. The impacts of cultural imports and changes in popular culture
6. The prospects of new industries such as IT and pharmaceuticals in a globalised market
7. Whether doing business in India is getting less tedious following the ‘License Raj’
8. Whether being Indian means something different today than it did in the 1980s
9. If a solution like Amul is applicable to the rest of rural India
10. Where India will be by 2050
11. What type of society do Indians want for themselves

The most important thing about this list is that it will be equally applied to the entrepreneur as well as the street vendor. The markedly different backgrounds of the interviewees should impact their responses in interesting ways.

My presentation style will be a synthesis between academic correctness and journalistic flair. I will use ample photographic material where relevant, and quotations from individuals will amply dot the final report to prevent any personal bias that I may have creeping in it. Ultimately I will try and bring together all my observations in a concluding section, but it will be kept strictly separate from the sections where actual quotations are being presented.

Ongoing Additions to Project Structure

After consultation with my referee Dr David Hardiman (Department of History), I have decided to add two more legs to my trip. The additional costs for these two legs will be drawn from the reserve fund as outlined below.

1. A visit to rural areas adjacent to Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh as these are diametrically opposite in living standards compared to the city (a fact that cost the local government the elections in 2004). My ignorance of Telegu will not prove a hindrance, as a Ford Fellow from the University of Warwick is currently conducting fieldwork in the region, and has agreed to either accompany me personally or arrange for one of his academic colleagues to do so.

2. I will interview activists in non–governmental organizations like SETU in Gujarat to get a critical view of urbanisation of villages that have taken place because of Amul. I will also discuss the plight of migrant workers with them. I am currently in the process of contacting them.

Benefits of the Project

The most obvious benefit for the wider community of such a wide ranging sociological project is that it will introduce India and her people in a new light to the world. Too much about India that is currently written, both in India and internationally, is based on dry economistic arguments, or entrenched prejudices, or vested interests, or nationalist jingo, or a unitary vision of India. This is an attempt to climb down from the ivory tower and go to the people themselves and make a note of their perceptions and visions about India, for that is what ultimately constitutes (or at least, should constitute) a national consensus. The project will show India in all her diversities and forms, with all her seeming contradictions and myriad of “argumentative Indians”.

From William Jones to Thomas Macaulay, there has been plenty of interest about India in Britain. With the advent of the 21st century and India asserting itself as a growing economic and political power, the West has set out to re–understand India. My project will contribute towards that general attempt with the difference being that it will project a picture of India from within, rather than what India appears from Coventry.

On a personal note, it will allow me to catch a glimpse of what India really is. Yes, a glimpse– for India is too vast to be understood in 1 month. However, as I have selected my fieldwork areas and interviewees carefully, I should get a representative sample of all Indians. My course at Warwick does not focus on India, and in any case it does not dwell on sociological and anthropological interpretations. My project does just that– going into a society itself to gauge its dynamics from within rather than trying to peel the skins from outside.

February 27, 2005

Three Visions for India

[The following text is from where I draw my inspiration from. It is a speech given by the President of India about his 3 visions for India.]

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalaam's speech in Hyderabad

"I have three visions for India. In 3000 years of our history, people from all over the world have come and invaded us, captured our lands, conquered our minds. From Alexander onwards, The Greeks, the Turks, the Moguls, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us, took over what was ours. Yet we have not done this to any other nation. We have not conquered anyone. We have not grabbed their land, their culture, their history and Tried to enforce our way of life on them. Why? Because we respect the freedom of others.

That is why my first vision is that of FREEDOM. I believe that India got its first vision of this in 1857, when we started the war of Independence. It is this freedom that we must protect and nurture and build on. If we are not free, no one will respect us.

My second vision for India's DEVELOPMENT, For fifty years we have been A developing nation. It is time we see ourselves as a developed nation. We are among top 5 nations of the world in terms of GDP. We have 10 percent growth rate in most areas. Our poverty levels are falling. Our achievements are being globally recognized today. Yet we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a developed nation, self-reliant and self-assured. Isn't this incorrect?

I have a THIRD vision. India must stand up to the world. Because I believe that, unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. Only strength respects strength. We must be strong not only as a military power but also as an economic power. Both must go hand-in-hand. My good fortune was to have worked with three great minds. Dr. Vikram Sarabhai of the Dept. of space, Professor Satish Dhawan, who succeeded him and Dr.Brahm Prakash, father of nuclear material. I was lucky to have worked with all three of them closely and consider this the great opportunity of my life.I see four milestones in my career:

Twenty years I spent in ISRO. I was given the opportunity to be the project director for India's first satellite launch vehicle, SLV3. The one that launched Rohini. These years played a very important role in my life of Scientist. After my ISRO years, I joined DRDO and got a chance to be the part of India's guided missile program. It was my second bliss when Agni met its mission requirements in 1994.

The Dept. of Atomic Energy and DRDO had this tremendous partnership in the recent nuclear tests, on May 11 and 13. This was the third bliss. The joy of participating with my team in these nuclear tests and proving to the world that India can make it, that we are no longer a developing nation but one of them. It made me feel very proud as an Indian. The fact that we have now developed for Agni a re-entry structure, for which we have developed this new material. A Very light material called carbon-carbon.

One day an orthopedic surgeon from Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences visited my laboratory. He lifted the material and found it so light that he took me to his hospital and showed me his patients. There were these little girls and boys with heavy metallic calipers weighing over three Kg. each, dragging their feet around.

He said to me: Please remove the pain of my patients. In three weeks, we made these Floor reaction Orthosis 300-gram calipers and took them to the orthopedic center. The children didn't believe their eyes. From dragging around a three kg. load on their legs, they could now move around! Their parents had tears in their eyes. That was my fourth bliss!

Why is the media here so negative? Why are we in India so embarrassed to recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them. Why?

We are the first in milk production.
We are number one in Remote sensing satellites.
We are the second largest producer of wheat.
We are the second largest producer of rice.
Look at Dr. Sudarshan, he has transferred the tribal village into a self-sustaining, self driving unit.
There are millions of such achievements but our media is only obsessed in the bad news and failures and disasters.

I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was the day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert land into an orchid and a granary.

It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news. In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE?

Another question: Why are we, as a nation so obsessed with foreign things? We want foreign TVs, we want foreign shirts. We want foreign technology. Why this obsession with everything imported. Do we not realize that self-respect comes with self-reliance? I was in Hyderabad giving this lecture, when a 14 year old girl asked me for my autograph. I asked her what her goal in life is. She replied: I want to live in a developed India. For her, you and I will have to build this developed India. You must proclaim. India is not an under-developed nation; it is a highly developed nation.

Do you have 10 minutes? Allow me to come back with a vengeance. Got 10 minutes for your country? If yes, then read; otherwise, choice is yours.

YOU say that our government is inefficient.
YOU say that our laws are too old.
YOU say that the municipality does not pick up the garbage.
YOU say that the phones don't work, the railways are a joke, the airline is the worst in the world, mails never reach their destination.
YOU say that our country has been fed to the dogs and is the absolute pits.
YOU say, say and say.

What do YOU do about it? Take a person on his way to Singapore. Give him a name – YOURS.

Give him a face – YOURS. YOU walk out of the airport and you are at your International best.

In Singapore you don't throw cigarette butts on the roads or eat in the stores. YOU are as proud of their Underground Links as they are. You pay $5(approx. Rs.60) to drive through Orchard Road (equivalent of Mahim Causeway or Pedder Road) between 5 PM and 8 PM. YOU come back to the parking lot to punch your parking ticket if you have over stayed in a restaurant or a shopping mall irrespective of your status identity. In Singapore you don't say anything, DO YOU? YOU wouldn't dare to eat in public during Ramadan, in Dubai. YOU would not dare to go out without your head covered in Jeddah. YOU would not dare to buy an employee of the telephone exchange in London at 10 pounds (Rs.650) a month to, "see to it that my STD and ISD calls are billed to someone else."

YOU would not dare to speed beyond 55 mph (88 km/h) in Washington and then tell the traffic cop, "Jaanta hai sala main kaun hoon (Do you know who I am?). I am so and so's son. Take your two bucks and get lost." YOU wouldn't chuck an empty coconut shell anywhere other than the garbage pail on the beaches in Australia and New Zealand. Why don't YOU spit Paan on the streets of Tokyo? Why don't YOU use examination jockeys or buy fake certificates in Boston? We are still talking of the same YOU. YOU who can respect and conform to a foreign system in other countries but cannot in your own. You who will throw papers and cigarettes on the road the moment you touch Indian ground. If you can be an involved and appreciative citizen in an alien country, why cannot you be the same here in India?

Once in an interview, the famous Ex-municipal commissioner of Bombay, Mr. Tinaikar, had a point to make. "Rich people's dogs are walked on the streets to leave their affluent droppings all over the place," he said." And then the same people turn around to criticize and blame the authorities for inefficiency and dirty pavements. What do they expect the officers to do? Go down with broom every time their dog feels the pressure in his bowels? In America every dog owner has to clean up after his pet has done the job. Same in Japan. Will the Indian citizen do that here?" He's right. We go to the polls to choose a government and after that forfeit all responsibility. We sit back wanting to be pampered and expect the government to do everything for us whilst our contribution is totally negative. We expect the government to clean up but we are not going to stop chucking garbage all over the place nor are we going to stop to pick up a stray piece of paper and throw it in the bin. We expect the railways to provide clean bathrooms but we are not going to learn the proper use of bathrooms.

We want Indian Airlines and Air India to provide the best of food and toiletries but we are not going to stop pilfering at the least opportunity. This applies even to the staff who is known not to pass on the service to the public. When it comes to burning social issues like those related to women, dowry, girl child and others, we make loud drawing room protestations and continue to do the reverse at home. Our excuse? 'It's the whole system which has to change, how will it matter if I alone forego my sons' rights to a dowry.'

So who's going to change the system? What does a system consist of? Very conveniently for us it consists of our neighbors, other households, other cities, other communities and the government. But definitely not me and YOU. When it comes to us actually making a positive contribution to the system we lock ourselves along with our families into a safe cocoon and look into the distance at countries far away and wait for a Mr. Clean to come along & work miracles for us with a majestic sweep of his hand or we leave the country and run away. Like lazy cowards hounded by our fears we run to America to bask in their glory and praise their system. When New York becomes insecure we run to England. When England experiences unemployment, we take the next flight out to the Gulf. When the Gulf is war struck, we demand to be rescued and brought home by the Indian government.

Everybody is out to abuse and rape the country. Nobody thinks of feeding the system. Our conscience is mortgaged to money.

Dear Indians,

The article is highly thought inductive, calls for a great deal of introspection and pricks one's conscience too….

I am echoing J. F. Kennedy's words to his fellow Americans to relate to Indians…..


Lets do what India needs from us.

Thank you
Abdul Kalaam

January 08, 2005

Re: So Long US, Hello India, China

Asia Times, 11.11.2004

The conclusion made by David Fullbrook in his article So long US; hello China, India [Nov 4] can be summed up in one sentence – China's boom is probably the world's greatest, ever. As night follows day, bust follows boom. A bust to match China's, or even India's, boom will shatter the evolving geopolitical reality, bringing much instability for Southeast Asia, while creating an opportunity for a weaker, but stable, United States of America. Unfortunately for him, this boils down to reaching far bigger conclusions without any considerable analysis to back his views. Firstly, a bust does not have to be necessarily comparable to the boom a country experiences. The Industrial Revolution has shown us that the boom can be spread out over a longer period and different patterns of growth can be identified, some of which are short-term, while others much more long-term. Economic policies of Europe, Japan and the US reflect the gradualist approach of economic development after sizzling boom during their developing period. Secondly, although we can argue China to be the potentially "boom prone" economy of Asia, in no way can this be said of India. China has grown on excessive and futile government spending, too much dependence on foreign-based corporations, suppression of alternate views by a ruthless governmental structure and by a "herd behavior" by foreign speculators. Its capital markets are shuddery, its banks are a mess, the rural areas which are hidden from the world speak volume of the misery rife in the countryside and its nuclear arsenal pointing at half a dozen countries speak of its political nature. India, though much slower at generating growth, grows under a functioning democracy, domestic companies, domestic investment and a retreating government. India has mature and stable capital markets and a strong banking sector. It shows all the right trends to become a liberalized economy over the past 15 years as the government has consistently, albeit slowly, pursued economic reform. China has been more of a spurt – India is more of an ever-flowing river. Secondly, China has many more political enemies than India and is more prone to going to war than the latter. The world is [starkly] different to what Mr Fullbrook sees it to be – the most likely scenario would be a mutually destructive war between the United States and China in the future as a result of China's ambitions clashing with the US's reluctance to share the superpower tag. This would leave the world without a core state, an attracting pole. The stage will be set for the peaceful people of India to take up their place at the helm of the world community, and so they shall.

Re: China Through a Bangladeshi's Eyes

Asia Times, 25.10.2004

I read the article titled China through a Bangladeshi's eye [Oct 23] on Asia Times, at first with interest that consequently turned to disappointment and disgust following your assertion that "India has democracy; China has accountability and so on. One thing struck me. India is nationalistic; China is patriotic. Indian nationalism is often manifested in its anti-foreign postures. The root of nationalism lies in anti-foreignness." To set the record straight, I am an Indian student (from Kolkata, so we share much in common) in the UK. My objections and alternative suggestions are as follows-

1. Your claim that China has accountability is simply factually incorrect. Yes, China has a very brutal penal code, but that doesn't result in accountability for the higher strata of the communist bureaucracy, most of which is dipped [in] the sea of corruption. Even on the lower rungs, bribing of officials is rife for business contracts and so on. The harsh punishments are only used against petty thieves to remind the Chinese people of the muscle the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] still wields. Was Deng Xiaoping held accountable for Tiananmen Square? Has the same happened for Mao [Zedong] for the Great Leap Forward? When will the officials responsible for hiding details about SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] be brought to justice? Has the whole of the CCP been taken to court over the brutal suppression of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang? Yes, corruption is rife in India too, but if any country out of these two has accountability, then it is the Union of India, not the People's Republic of China. When our minorities are massacred in Gujarat, there is a three-level investigation process; numerous such high-profile examples of exposing fraud exist. So when you say that India is a democracy, how can you forget that accountability goes hand in hand with this term?

2. What do you mean, "and so on"? Do you intend to indulge in [more] of these generalizations? Let's see for ourselves. India has rule of law, periodic elections at local, regional and national levels, freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion, freedom of association, freedom of movement, a Human Rights Act and a National Human Rights Commission, Minority Rights Commission and the SC/ST [Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes] Act to protect their rights, freedom of information and equality of opportunity. Let's look at China's scorecard in comparable fields – law is what the CCP conceives it to be, so rule of law is actually "rule of the CCP", farce in the name of elections, curtailments on freedom of speech, abandoning of religion (note the atrocities committed against Tibetans, Christians and Muslims), restriction on formation of associations and their activities (note the curtailments on Falungong), an appalling human-rights record, suppression of minorities like the Uighurs and Tibetans, censoring of press and other forms of information, government monopoly on most news items and inequality of opportunity (note the preference given to the Hans over the other ethnic races in China). The picture certainly does look a lot different from your utopian China.

3. Your weak assertion that Indian nationalism is based on anti-foreign sentiments is simply laughable. A country that believes in antar-rashtriya sampriti (international peace and harmony) being labeled with such an accusation! On the other hand stands a country which proclaims itself as the Middle Kingdom of the Earth, inhabited by the greatest race on the planet, apparently. Is this why peaceful and patriotic China has major border issues with almost all of its neighbors? Is this why on one hand India has never invaded another country in its long history of 5,000 years and assimilated all those who invaded us, whereas Chinese have invaded, threatened and subjugated others, namely the Tibetans, Uighurs, Indians and Taiwanese – to name a few? Does India's so-called innate anti-foreignness lead it to maintain a cosmopolitan overseas community when compared to a closely huddled and antisocial overseas Chinese counterpart? Is it China's "friendly" attitude towards its neighbors that leads it to point nuclear missiles at Japan, Taiwan and the US?

4. Perhaps you are making a generalization about us Indians from the narrowness of your personal experience, a dangerous business no doubt. Yes, Indians generally do not look kindly on Bangladeshis, not because of some inherent hatred for outsiders but because your government has failed miserably to uplift your people from poverty and so they flee to India to become a burden on our social-welfare system, contributing nothing but crime and misery to our urban and rural areas alike. Incidentally, terrorist bases in your country operating in our northeast doesn't exactly say "friendly neighbor". Bangladesh has forgotten to be grateful to India, to which it owes its existence.

5. The levels of investment have nothing to do with antagonism against foreigners. Borrowing [former US] president [Bill] Clinton's words, "It's the economy, stupid!" India's economic policy over the last 20 years has been distinctly different from China's. Indeed, we have been a lot slower in liberalizing our economy, which has proved detrimental in some sectors, but it is proving profitable in others, notably the better prospects of Indian companies in the long term compared with MNC [multinational corporation] dominated China. You mention the Forbidden City, yet you forget to mention its sponsors – Coca-Cola and American Express. Thank God, the Taj Mahal is still ours to keep.

6. China does not retain any love for its workers – it's simply a farce. There are daily worker protests in China when the subsidy-dependent white elephants known as SOEs [state-owned enterprises] collapse and thousands become unemployed. In India, the trade unions can take matters to court. In China, rule of law being absent, it's the police [who] brutally disperse the crowd.

7. Finally, please do not remain in the illusion that China is Bangladesh's potential ally. If you do, then you will be in the same position as Pakistan. China merely wants Bangladesh to be part of the wall it wants to build to encircle India, its only potential rival to worldwide clout. I hope Bangladesh realizes this folly and does not let itself be manipulated either by Pakistan or Bangladesh. Its best interest lies in building strong economic ties with India, first of all by signing SAFTA [South Asian Free Trade Agreement], and better relations will follow.

I am sorry to have offended you in any way, which is not my intent. I have merely raised some issues which I believe seriously jeopardize your analysis. It was something that could not be left undone, for a patriotic Indian does exist (who does not hate foreigners).

Inside the Dragon's Den

I submitted my proposal for funding for the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund

A comparative socio-economic study of Mumbai and Shanghai


The 21st century belongs to Asia. There is no denying this. However, for some Asian countries, the future looks grim, viz. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc. For others, the peak of their economic miracle is in the past, viz. Japan and the ASEAN states. For two countries, however, the best is yet to come. India and China have been growing at roaring rates over the past couple of decades, and their development will blossom around the half way mark of this century. Since its liberalisation in 1978, China has grown in excess of 8% per annum. India, which opened up much later in 1991, has grown at nearly 7% per annum. By 2025, China and India are predicted to be the second and third largest economies of the world respectively. By 2050, according to a Goldman Sachs report, China and India will become the world’s largest two economies. Such a stupendous phenomenon cannot be left unstudied.

The focal point of the Indian and Chinese economic engines is based in their financial capitals, Mumbai and Shanghai respectively. My aim in this project is to undertake a comparative coverage of the potentials of each city, their weaknesses, their achievements and finally, their characters. The thrust of the research would be to compare these cities on parameters of economic success and social justice, and draw a conclusion on their respective prospects for the future.

The Importance of Mumbai and Shanghai

Once given as dowry to Charles II for his marriage to Catherine de Breganza, Mumbai is India’s premier port city, located on the Arabian Sea. It is the capital of India’s most industrially advanced state of Maharashtra, on the west coast of India. Nearly half of India’s total foreign trade passes through its harbour, and around 40% of India’s total income tax collections come from the city alone. Culturally, it is India’s most vibrant city- hosting the famous ‘Bollywood’ film industry. It is the seat of human enterprise- home to over 18 million people.

Shanghai is a bustling metropolis located on the mouth of the Yangtze river, hosting over 13 million people. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Shanghai boasts a glittering skyline, thanks to its Pudong district. Pudong also hosts some of the world’s top multi-national corporations, all doing brisk business in the city. The city is at the forefront of the economic boom in China, popularly known as the ‘Chinese miracle’.

Why Mumbai and Shanghai?

Thriving metropolitan cities exist in both countries- Delhi and Bangalore in India, Beijing in China. However, no two cities are so uniquely economic in their orientation as Mumbai and Shanghai. Beijing and Delhi are the political capitals of their respective countries, which serves as a distraction from the economic focus of this project. Bangalore is primarily economic in its outlook, but the economic development there is riding on an Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing boom. It lacks the all-rounder status of Mumbai. Mumbai and Shanghai occupy centre stage in their countries’ economies and the surrounding regions.

Benefits from the Project

Much has been said about China since its liberalisation began in 1978. Far less, but still substantial has been said about India since 1991 when it hopped on to the capitalist bandwagon. These countries are now aiming for the top. At the onset of the Asian century, we need to identify the epicentre of their aspirations, more specifically, economic aspirations- Mumbai for India, Shanghai for China. If we are to understand how India and China will shape the future world, we need to comprehend how globalisation has shaped these two cities, how it is still shaping them. There is much to identify that is inherent in the character of these cities that will reveal the story of their rise in the 21st century. It is extremely useful to be aware of their perceptions of each other, and their prospects when seen in each other’s context. For it is only then will we be able to appreciate what these cities have truly achieved, what more needs to be done and what will be realistically done. Today the global economy feels any movements in the markets of New York or Tokyo, a few decades ago they used to follow the lead of the City of London. In the coming decades, as India and China occupy centre stage in the global economy, same will be the fate of Mumbai and Shanghai. Now that it is beyond reasonable doubt that these two cities will shape the global economy, the only question that needs to be answered is how. I seek to answer that question in my project.


Direct interaction would form the bulk of the material that I hope to collect. Essentially, my interviews would target three economic entities, viz. employees, employers and tourists. This would enable me to encompass individuals from all income brackets and thus would enable me to paint a clearer picture of the city in question, both from the perspective of the insiders as well as that of an outsider. Time permitting I would like to interview two other classes- students and the unemployed. The former would help me identify the perceptions of the younger urbanites, while the latter would enable me to comment on the equitable distribution of the fruits of growth. I have already identified some companies in Shanghai for this purpose, among which Satyam Computer Services (IT/ITes), Reliance Industries Limited (Telecommunication, textiles, energy, etc.), State Bank of India (financial services) and Raymond Limited (textiles) would be a priority for me, as they are market leaders in their sectors in India. . My questionnaires would involve the interviewee’s opinions about the business environment, the political climate and the nature of the society of the city in question.

Following the local press would be an important part of my schedule. This would take the form of internet-based outlets, local newspapers and television. The presentation of pressing issues by the local media would enable me to grasp the mentality of the city towards important public policy concerns and their impact on the economy and society of the city.

Visual evidence will also be part of my methodology, as they would vividly depict, more than any other method, the achievements of the city, and the pressing concerns that lie ahead of it. Photo journals of popular urban centres, business parks and slums will help us identify the equitable distribution of growth.

The Report

My study is essentially comparative in nature. The mention of the cities in isolation would be restricted to the introduction and in areas where the same criteria does not apply for the other city. Similarities and differences between the cities would be identified in the following areas

  • Factors of production- business environment, quality of workforce, infrastructure, investor perception, political environment etc.
  • Losers of growth- the extent to which their economic boom is equitably distributed.
  • Performance of domestic industry- How Indian companies are faring in Shanghai and their Chinese counterparts in Mumbai.
  • The soul of each city- popular places of urban life and entertainment and changing trends.

After this comparative analysis, a comment on their prospects would be made. As an endnote, the following categories will be included-

  • Limitations- I will be an outsider in Shanghai, therefore my background knowledge about the city and its people would be minimal. For instance, I might not correctly interpret questionnaire responses. The language barrier would make it hard for me to maximise my interaction with the subaltern classes. However, an empty page is neater than a scribbled on page. I will try to turn my position as an outsider into an advantageous one, for I will be bereft of any previous prejudices or beliefs of my own while making my conclusions.
  • A brief description of interesting encounters during my interviews will be included. This will illustrate more vividly the experience of interacting with dwellers of these cities.
  • Recommendations- I will include a brief section to note the main points for a future visitor or researcher to note about these cities.

Contingency Plans

I will take out travel insurance before I leave the UK to cover for any accidental damage to my possessions or myself. My family lives in India, therefore I would have enough security, both financial and otherwise, readily available there. In Shanghai, I would contact the Indian Embassy in case of an emergency. To be on the safe side, and also for the convenience of language, I would take a tour guide with me everywhere in the city.

Why Me?

There are certain criteria that make me particularly suitable to carry out this challenging project. I was born and raised in the port city of Kolkata in eastern India. Coming from a bustling metropolitan city of India very similar to Mumbai, I am well aware of the character of urban India, which will reflect in my methodology. My first language is Hindi, which is the language primarily spoken through out India. Knowledge of the native language would enable me to reach the most subaltern of people in Mumbai, and to appreciate the dynamics of the lower classes in India’s political economy. India and China share much in common in terms of culture and societal norms. Hence, I would be in an excellent position to conduct a meaningful inspection of life in Shanghai. For example, the issues raised by the poor in urban China reflect to a large extent those of their counterparts in India. Therefore, I will be in an immediate advantageous position to compare the demands of the two classes within the context of their adversaries, and scope for future action by the administrations. Finally, the most vibrant class in these two countries is the thriving middle class, especially since economic liberalisation. My background is also of a typical Asian middle class type. Thus, I can put myself in the shoes of the urban masses of these two great cities and calculate their aspirations and disappointments very easily, something that would not be so natural for someone with a different class profile.


Item Cost (£)

London-Mumbai Return Airfare- 450
Mumbai- Shanghai Return Airfare- 450
Accommodation for approx. 15 days in Shanghai- 350
Accommodation for approx. 15 days in Mumbai- 250
Maintenance (Food and Travel) for 1 month- 700

Total- 2,200


  1. I have chosen Tongmao Hotel in Shanghai because it is located in the Lujiazui Development Zone, at the centre of Shanghai’s Pudong district, which is the heart of its business community.
  2. I have chosen Hotel Apollo in Mumbai because it is located close to the Flora Fountain business centre. It is also adjacent to the Gateway of India, the seat of Mumbai’s urban life.
  3. The need to visit business centres and urban hotspots entails a lot of travelling, which incidentally will take place in India and China’s most expensive two cities.
  4. This project was drawn up keeping the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund in mind, therefore without almost total help from the fund, this project cannot be undertaken. I have worked part-time this year and I can contribute around £200 from my funds, but I would need a grant of a minimum of £2,000 to undertake this project. My estimate of maintenance might not be entirely accurate regarding Shanghai, due to my lack of first hand experience of the country. I will also have to employ a tourist guide in the city, the costs of which are unknown to me. Therefore, I have estimated around £30 per day as maintenance expenses in Shanghai. I will maintain regular accounts of my spending.


I expect to leave for Mumbai around the 25th of August. After having spent a week in Mumbai, I would fly to Shanghai and spend approximately 2 weeks there. On my return to Mumbai, I would stay a further week and then leave finally for the UK. The whole project would take approximately 4 weeks and should be finished by the 25th of September, 2005. I have chosen this particular month, because it is the time when the monsoon season finishes in these countries. The monsoon has a significant impact on the country’s economy, since a large number of people in both countries are employed in agriculture. The impact of the monsoon on the harvest would be evident in late August/early September and would consequently effect the issues that would be raised in the public domain. I have decided to sandwich my Shanghai trip between my stay in Mumbai, because once I have experienced Shanghai and returned to Mumbai, I would be in a much better position to compare the two, rather than if I had stayed in the cities one after the other.

April 2020

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