This book is basically the journalistic account of South Asian chief of The Financial Times during his stay in India during 2001 -2005 .Its amazing seeing India from the eyes of a foreigner . Now the book captures many aspects of post independence India which were much influenced by Gandhi , Ambedkar and Nehru . But Nehru was the main architect of Indian policies . Nehru and his propensity towards protectionist economic policy has been elucidated in much detail . His concept of swadeshi and highly regulated economy was responsible for so called Hindu rate of growth .As a result majority of indian population remained below poverty line . But after the reforms of 1991 India freed itself from the shackles of license raj . India , though hesitatingly leapt from protectionism to liberalisation and without any industrial revolution immensely progressed on economic fronts and now it is on path of becoming a superpower .
As far as education is concerned India produces 1 million engineers every year which is more than that of US and Europe put together . Still 35 % of Indian population is still illiterate . India spends more money on higher education rather than elementary education . This is in direct contrast with China which spends more on elementary education .As a result , literacy rate is high over there .
While appreciating the the diverse multiethnic character of India author has explored its dark side . Manifestation of caste prejudices in state politics is clearly seen . Author has said – In India people don’t cast their vote , they vote their caste . This kind of attitude nullifies economic strengthening and upward mobility of downtrodden class . The rise of Hindu Ultra nationalism some of its sects sparking off riots with their chauvinistic and jingoistic behaviour is appalling .
While describing the obstacles on the road to progress , author says that India has one of the most hopelessly corrupt bureaucracy . In the state where 50% of population lives in extreme poverty , state is nothing but like an abusive father . Corruption , nepotism and bribery are engrained in the system . Corruption in many respects is not just the part of system but it has become the system .
But as someone told author – In India things are never as good or as bad as they seem to be . Keeping aside corruption , casteism poverty & illiteracy, India is superpower in waiting . It is expected that in coming years India will overtake China in terms of economic growth . It is expected that India and its relations with US and China will influence many world affairs . For US , India would act as counterweight for China in Asia .
I quite agree with author that India with its vast diversity is myriad of contradictions . But with its impressing democracy and not so impressing bureaucracy, i’m hopeful that India will meet the challenges posed in front of it . And then there is no reason to be pessimistic as Mr Luce says – India is not on an autopilot to greatness but it will take incompetent pilot to crash the plane .