Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Nonstop India by Mark Tully

This 2011 book by Mark Tully(257 pages)  gives very original and authentic insights about contemporary India .It  is much better than Tully's earlier book "No Full stops " published in 1991.In this book he tells stories which leave the reader optimistic ,but at the same time  he raise the questions which make his optimism conditional .
                  Chapter one is called Red India .It deals with Naxalites .It says that the war India should be fighting to overcome the Naxalites is the war against the corruption,inefficiency, bureaucracy,and sloth,which prevents democracy functioning effectively at the grass roots and indeed at all levels of government.The solution lies in providing forest-dwellers with good governance and protection  so that the Naxalites have no where to hide.
                   Chapter two is Caste Overturned.It describes the silent revolution taking place among dalit castes.If this revolution has to gather pace rapidly ,India needs to create more jobs in non-agricultural sectors.India also needs planned creation of towns and cities so that urbanization is planned .Governance and urban planning are two major challenges which India needs to solve.
             Chapter three is on vote banking.It discusses the aftermath of Batla House incident .Interestingly but incidentally  , Tully writes about the attitude of a chief minister of UP,India about IAS(Indian Administrative Service):"She has challenged the mighty Indian Administrative Service ,or IAS, the replacement for the British Raj elite civil service cadre that was known as the country's steel frame.The IAS likes to think it should have monoply of all top government jobs and that no politician can afford to ignore it .But she did not choose an IAS officer for the key post of Cabinet secretary. . . ."The chapter also describes how ,in real political life , vote banking is practised.This practice is being resorted to nearly all the political parties , according to Tully.Not a hopeful sign indeed .
                 Chapter four is  called The Ramayana Revisited.It describes the wide spread impact of  the screening of  Hindu epic Ramayana in 78-episodes  in 1987  by late Ramanand Sagar(chief producer and script writer) on government controlled TV  broadcaster Doordarshan.It discusses the  challenge  of separating religion and politics .
                          Chapter  five  is Building Communities.True development is about activating in people a sense of duty towards their community or surroundings , and towards society.We need to build self-confident communities capable of holding the state responsible for fulfilling its responsibilities.This means changing the attitudes of the poor, not only to demand resources and power but also using the resources ethically , not breaking laws and not to steal from each other.
                      Chapter six is Farming Futures.It is about contract farming   in Punjab by Pepsico.Unless the government is there to prevent cartels and to ensure that agreements made are honoured, contract farming will not be in the farmers' interest.It also discusses  for- profit microfinance companies like SKS.It also describes growth and contribution of NGOs like Development Alternatives and its sister organization TARA(Technology and Action for Rural Development).Tully warns against imitating practices first adopted in the Western countries without adapting them to Indian  circumstances.
                    Chapter seven is The English Raj .Mark Abley believes 90 per cent of languages will be extinct by the end of this century.He described English as being the Walmart of languages, convenient ,huge ,hard to avoid, superficially friendly, and devouring all rivals in its eagerness to expand.In India , proficiency in mother tongue as well as English is equally essential.
                         Chapter eight is Entrepreneurship Unleashed.Tully chose the Tata Group to study the positive and negative sides of Indian business.He quotes J.J.Irani:"The Finance Minister has said this country won't progress until the politicians learn to say no and the civil servants to say yes." The politicians say yes to every populist demand they think will get them votes, and the civil servants tend to say no because that's less risky than saying yes.Gopalakrishnan  of Tata Sons says:"There's problem of political,civic and corporate governance.But I believe this is an inevitable part of  a maturing democracy."At last business does seem to be raising its voice against bad governance and corruption , in India.
                  Chapter nine is A Forgotten Land.It is about the North East of India, especially about Arunachal Pradesh. Development in this part of India must respect  local culture and traditional religion .
                      Chapter ten is Saving The Tiger.He writes about Tiger , Belinda Wright and Wildlife Protection Society of India.Tully is critical of the Forest Service which has bureaucratic character for whom ,keeping files in order matters more than saving the tiger.Senior Forest officers who manage reserves don't live in them.We must train forest staff in modern methods of patrolling and preventing poaching, in gathering intelligence and detecting tiger trading..Forest Service must shed its colonial past and become a modern,well-equipped, and specially trained guardian of wildlife.
                          In Non Stop India , Tully writes on ten varied topics of national importance to India , with tremendous grasp ,insight , and suggests ways forward that I find admirable .I share most of his insights and can say with utmost humility that I find them true and honest .The book has  confirmed  my beliefs  with clarity and direction .I recommend you to read it ,to get a true glimpse of contemporary India.I quote Tully's conclusion: "  But it does seem to me that the most important task for India is to reform the system,to make proper use of the institutions which are in place, and prevent the dishonest coming in the way of  the many honest men and women in those institutions, not allowing them to function as they should."