Calcutta Notebook


Prime Minister Modi has received standing ovations from PIOs across the world—most recently in Canada. One way to look at the global economy is to think of it like a boat on which all countries are travelling together. Growth of any one country is good for the rest because it makes the boat stronger in the roaring oceans. Other way is to look at like a loaf of bread that has to be divided between the countries. The success of one country in getting a bigger part of the global income then necessarily implies that share of others will be reduced. The reality is somewhere in between. Inventions like those of the TV and internet have strengthened the world collectively and benefited all countries. This is only part of the story though. Other evidences indicate that gain of one country often comes at the cost of another. It is a zero-sum game. The share of India and China in the global economy 200 years ago was about 25 percent each. Then came the period of colonialism. India's share declined to mere one percent despite India benefiting from the developments like those of the steam engine and railways.

I went to study in the US with the intention of settling in that country. I thought that India was a decadent country that was responsible for its poverty. Then I got opportunity of studying economics. It dawned upon me that the poverty of India was, in large measure, due to the imposition of colonial rule. I did not want to join the colonial masters in their conquest of world resources. So I decided to return to India. Indeed, I could have stayed in America and worked for the welfare of the motherland from there. But there was no way of prove my bonafides. A social activist sitting in the palace of Zamindar and claiming to work for the welfare of the bonded labourers would always be suspect. The PIOs sitting in the western countries are likewise suspect.

I honour and respect the desire of many PIOs to give in charity in India. But there is need to be careful here as well. Late Swami Muktanand had given blessings to a businessman of Indore. Later he came to know that the businessman was selling liquor. The swami went back and told the businessman to close down his liquor business failing which he would return the donation taken and also withdraw his blessings. The principle was that charity made with honest money alone is good.

PIOs living in the developed world are beneficiaries of the anti-India policies followed by their host countries. The US, for example, has pushed and got Intellectual Property Rights included in the WTO Treaty thereby impoverishing India and enriching the US. PIOs are beneficiaries of this US income. They are silent participants in the impoverishment of India via such policies implemented by their host countries. Their giving in charity in India is not pure. It is made out of incomes derived from the impoverishment of India.

India does not truly need investment from the PIOs anyway. The admission by the Government that large amounts of black monies are stashed away in foreign lands is proof that a huge outflow of national wealth is taking place.

Therefore, there are two paths available in the quest for capital. One, we can continue with bad governance that is leading to outflow of capital; then seek alms from PIOs to invest in India. Two, we can establish good governance and prevent our wealth being sent abroad. There would then remain no shortage of capital in India and no need to seek alms from the PIOs.

The Government wants PIOs to bring their expertise and technology to India. Here also the situation is similar. PIOs are strengthening the western countries in their quest to smother India. President Obama recently said, "for more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations."

Indian people have the capability to develop these technologies. A report in America's Quarterly says 24 percent of all patents registered in the US; and 25 percent of all start-ups are from immigrants. Six of the 100 fastest growing companies in the US are owned by immigrants from India. These same persons do not find the environment conducive for innovation and entrepreneurship in India. A PIO obtained his Masters Degree in engineering from the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. He returned to India and joined his family business. To no avail. Frustrated, he returned to the US and is now making millions of dollars every year. His talent was smothered by bad governance in India.

There are, therefore, two ways open to India to obtain technologies. Indian politicians can continue to make merry from the bad governance they have spread in the country. They can create conditions that Indian talent migrates to the west. Then India can come with the begging bowl before the PIOs seeking their expertise and technology. Other way is for India to establish good governance and enable the people of India to innovate and create new technologies.

In our tradition one is absolved of his debt to his parents by producing children; not by taking care of his parents, which he is expected to do anyway. Similarly, the PIOs will be absolved of their debt to their motherland, not by giving money or technology in charity to India, but by spreading dharma in their host countries. That will be true service to their motherland. Modi should likewise encourage the PIOs to spread the message of human welfare across the world.

Vol. 47, No. 44, May 10 - 16, 2015