A liberal case for a strong state

It seems no book can be written on India, without somehow mentioning Nehru and Gandhi and Rajaji — such was the impact created by these people in India. It also seems to me that everything Indira did was detrimental to the nation and nothing useful was ever done by her, except set the precedent for nepotism in India for several decades to come. What a shame for the only woman prime minister of India?

I picked up Das’s India Grows at Night and had the following thoughts. Prima facie, this book seems to focus on an important dimension, a far better book on this subject, Why Nations Fail, seemed to exclude. Das adds the uniquely Indian flavor and then some.

The book really doesn’t have anything to do with the title, which ought to have been “India can’t just grow at night” or some such. The points he makes, for why India can’t just keep growing at night, are absolutely valid and every bit true.

His basic tenets of a successful nation are political democracy, economical equitability and social inclusivity. This is also where I likened the book to Why Nations Fail. He talks a lot about Hazare movement — I have always been anti-Hazare movement because he, in my opinion, subverted the constitution — but Das helped me look at it from its positive side (hint: there is one). On another note, the author is hung up on Dharma and other Mahabharata related concepts. I thought Dharma could be more easily explained, if you don’t expect readers to understand complex characters from the epic. He quotes IPL as an example of free-market enterprise — I have always thought this way. Glad to see I am not alone.

Chapters 8 and 9 (total 9 chapters, 385 pages) are perhaps the most insightful chapters. I concluded the book thinking India is not short of administrators, economists or political scientists to provide the framework for the nation going forward. I do however think this book turned out to be another dose of free advice, albeit scholarly sound, which Indians have no dearth of.

As for the book itself, there is couple of aspects of writing I didn’t like. You never say “as I have stated before” too many times, unless you are insinuating that you are too smart/ defensive or the reader is too dumb. You also don’t cross-reference chapters too many times, because quite honestly when the reader is reading a build-up, you don’t expect him to remember page numbers and chapter numbers.

Overall, it is a decent read for beginners. But if you have read up on modern Indian history and books that link the outcome of a nation to its politics and governance, this is just a surface read. With the exception of Chap 8 and 9, which are quite meaty.