India & the West – A Comparison
By AIF Staff
Extracts from a speech given by S Gurumurthy delivered more than 15 years ago in Chennai – giving a brief comparison between India’s civilization and the West – a differentiation which still stands
When we think of an alternative, the Western thought and structure, before we go into the meaning and content of Swadeshi, it is necessary to compare India with the West and by West, I mean America, because what we are trying to install is the American model.
Resource – human ratio:
Let us take the resources human ratio. America has 40% of world’s resources with just 4% of the world’s population -forty percent of world’s resources and four percent of world’s population’. In India, we have four percent of world’s resources and fourteen percent of world’s population. Our per capita resources are lower than that of Japan, which is supposed to be one of the lowest resource based countries in the world.
Structure of the economy:
If we look at America, 4% of the economy is agricultural, and the rest is industrial. In contrast 70% of the Indian economy is agricultural and thirty percent industrial, in fact, it is really urban. If we look at our agricultural economy, 70% of the Indian agriculturists are peasant farmers. They cultivate for their livelihood; agriculture is really backward integration of their kitchen. They have nothing to sell. They own half acre or three quarters of an acre. They do not come miles within the Dunkel concept of market. Such a phenomenon does not exist in US or any rich country. Only thirty percent of an Indian farming could be regarded commercial. In contrast, in US farming is wholly commercial carried on by corporations and MNCs on thousand and hundreds of thousands of acres, by totally mechanized farming techniques.
Individual life Vs. Institutional life:
In the West, everybody is basically and ultimately an individual. No Indian except a San/as/’ or Vanaprasti, is an individual. Everybody is an institution and has different layers of consciousness – family society, village community, or caste. But in the West there are only two entities – the individual and the state, outside the state. In the West there is no institutional plurality outside the state. This also extends to cultural and civilisational differences.
Swadeshi a functioning reality:
A functional native economy and society is one of the biggest advantages of India. In five thousand years of known history we have had a continuous functional economy What is this economy? The continuity is the historic alignment of civilizational, political and economic aspects of a living society with continuity and change. It is this unbroken continuity that has sustained India and continues to do so even now. When we talk of Swadeshi we are talking about something which is of only archival interest or which is an existential reality. Is Swadeshi a dead concept? or is it a living phenomenon? I will just place a few facts before you and I need not have to give any judgement. You will be able to judge for yourself. In India, the entire modern economy was built on technology and ideas imported after 1950; we may call it ‘the modern sector’. Whatever was developed earlier with traditional resources, traditional skills and improved with modern inputs, may be regarded as the ‘traditional sector’, which the economists refer to as the ‘unorganized sector’.
The traditional sector contributes 70% of GDP:
The contribution of the unorganized sector to the national income in the country today – till today and I don’t foresee any change for decades to come – is 70% of the national income.
The traditional sector employees 70% of the employed, outside agriculture:
Let us look at employment; 70% of the employment is from this unorganised sector, excluding agriculture; because we just don’t know how many people are employed in agriculture. Handloom industries employ 13 millions, small scale industries employ 13 millions, khadi and village industries employ 5 millions – and all add upto 31 millions. In contrast, what is the employment in Public & Private Sector undertakings, (leaving the government, railways, post & telegraphs, which are anyway not involved in manufacturing activities)? Just less than 10 millions. In public undertakings we have invested over Rs. 1,30,000 Crores and the employment in PSUs is 23 lakhs and the figure has remained unchanged from 1989 till today; Not one additional hand has been employed. In Private Sector from 1979 -mark the year 1979- till today-it employed 75 lakhs in 1979 and about the same number today. If at all the modern sector has proved its ability anywhere, it is the proven inability to employ India. Whatever employment rise is recorded since 1980, it is only in the traditional sector, especially small scale industries. The traditional sector has provided employment in villages and semi-urban areas where it is easier and less costly to maintain human being -the cost of maintaining a person in a village is 1/10 of the cost of maintaining him in a city. The traditional sector maintains millions of people in villages. It is at that place their money is most needed, it is provided by the traditional sector. If Dunkel Regime comes, this 3.1 Crores people will be largely wiped out from employment. It will only take a few years for them to get wiped out. What will happen to India?
Traditional sector account 80% of India’s exports:
In exports, will you believe that nearly 80% of the Indian exports are from the traditional sector? This is from 1950 till today. What is the share of small scale sector in export?
It is now in direct terms over 30%. In the year 1989-90, the Government of India’s pre-budget survey says, “the direct exports of small scale sector are nine thousand crores out of the total export of thirty thousand crores”. But, the exports from SSI units are likely to be more because all these ITC’s and Hindustan Levers only purchase the exports of small scale units. To-day, the small scale industries contribute 40% of the national income according to the latest estimate.
The traditional Grahasta has alone behaved responsibly:
The traditional Indian mind conserves and saves – the only traditional Indian mind left is the householder, the Grahasta, today. The saving the householder has effected in 12 years between 1980 to 1992 is Rs.6,56,000 Crores – the public sector saving in this period is Rs.88,000 Crores and Private Sector savings is Rs.82,000/= Crores. 80% of the savings has come from the householder. But for this savings, the country would have become bankrupt long ago. This savings habit of the Indian householder is precisely the target of Dunkel which aims to wipe out the savings through promoting mindless consumerism. The Indian householders save 25% of their income. In America, the household saving is Nil. It is not just Nil ; every American has spent his next year’s income through Credit Cards. The concern of the exponents of Dunkel is that this savings may be dangerous. In fact, Jagdish Bhagwati says, if this people save and invest in acquiring a house that will promote inflation. So the Indian householder should own Air Conditioners in rented houses instead of own houses.
The Swadeshi mind saves and conserves – that is the tradition of this country.
Social institutions have saved the public order:
The traditional arrangement in India has saved the public order. If you see the policeman-population ratio in India and compare it with that in the West, America, it is amazingly low. We do not need policeman to keep peace ourselves -between neighbors; that is the tradition. There are lakhs of villages which have not seen a policeman. I have been in a village till my 15th year. I never have seen a policeman entering our village. There are hundreds of thousands of such villages in India. In contrast, a few years ago there was a power break-down for a few hours in the Manhattan area in New York where the richest people live and largest MNCs’ headquarters are situated. In that short duration hundreds of murders and rapes took place. In the West, the state will have to maintain peace between husband and wife and between neighbors. The Indian tradition has saved the Indian state of this tremendous financial and administrative burden, tension and problem while mindless industrialism has lumpenised social life.
Family as an institution has saved the Indian state:
Take another dharmic institution, the family and how this institution of family has saved this country. In the West, the biggest budgetary item is old age pension, unemployment doles and health insurance. Nearly a half of a nation’s expenditure is on these items. Because the state bears, in the west, the responsibilities which the families discharge in India. In India, if a person gets employment, it amounts to a family getting employment. A man remains unmarried till his last brother is educated and his sisters get married. A sister remains unmarried till her brothers are educated. Every Indian bears responsibility for many dependents. In that sense, every Indian is an institution. The collapse of the family transfers these functions to the state.
This is what has happened, for instance, in USA. The political parties in USA are now promising in their election manifesto to restore family values. This is not possible to manifestoes and tax rebates. I shudder to think what would happen if the family system in India caved in. If all earning Indians disown their responsibilities towards their handicapped kith & kin and others who are dependent on them, the Government of India will run away; It will take several times the budget of the Government of India to keep their body and soul together. The family institutional arrangement which has been saved inspite of the western cultural onslaught and which has survived the encouragement given to the western educational and civilizational onslaught by the indigenous policy makers, has still preserved itself and is preserving this country. It is the family which is the lowest social unit in India and not the individual. Thus there are fundamental differences between the Western, American pseudo-political and politico-economic structure and that of the Indian. What we conceptualise as Swadeshi is the view of life which regards the Indian fundamentals as the core and the western as the additive. By Swadeshi we do not mean merecharka; We mean the whole civilisational, political and economic arrangement which has formed the back bone of this great nation for thousands of years, which has made this country what it is and which it is going to sustain for ever. If India has a chance of surviving, it will be on this basis of Swadeshi. It cannot survive on any other basis certainly, not on the basis of the philosophy and institutions of the USA or of the west led by USA.
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