Learn From China, Don’t Blame The Migrant Worker
By Vidyadhar Date
09 January, 2013
Rural migrants in India have always got the flak and the recent rape in Delhi has reinforced the prejudice. Our migrants are treated very badly compared to workers in China. Migrant workers working in factories in China are provided free dormitory accommodation and free meals, observes Mr P.S. Deodhar, a former electronic technology adviser to Rajiv Gandhi and long time China watcher.
Mr Deodhar says that because of the facilities the productivity of migrant workers in China is very high compared to Indian workers. They study during the weekends to learn new job skills. Had India provided similar facilities we could have been far more successful today, he observes in his recently published book Cinesthana Today . Cinesthana is the ancient word for China found in Buddhist texts and other sources. Migrants in China do face problems but these are less severe than those of Indians.
In India a worker has to travel for more than an hour to reach the place of work, often in most tiresome conditions. Mr Deodhar, who has been regularly visiting China for the last three decades, says the credit for China’s progress goes mainly to its people and the government while in India it goes mainly to its people and its vibrant democracy. He is very critical of India’s politicians.
Unlike our politicians and trader turned industrialist, almost all the Communist leaders of China were hands-on-engineers which helped the country get the edge in industry and technology. Eight out of nine top Communist leaders in China in 1988 came from an engineering background. In contrast, poor quality of public service is a matter of shame for India’s public servants, he says. NGOs are India’s strength and poor administration, its biggest weakness.
The two countries share a long ancient culture and need to work in harmony, we should get over the 1962 events, he says. The people of the two countries are so alike in many ways despite differences of language. The basic philosophy of both is the same. Rabindranath Tagore is credited with the revival of relations between the two countries with his visits to China. During his third visit to China in 1924 the title Zhu Zendan was conferred on him, Zhu means India and Zendan means the Sun rising after a storm.
Today, the media image of China in India is largely negative and too focussed on politics and economics, ignoring other vital sectors. Or there is the image of rural China in people’s minds as through the novel of Pearl Buck , The Good Earth. Corruption in China is not so rampant as in India and the quality of public works there is very high. The Communist party rule is not as authoritarian or hierarchical as in the past. As the number of richer people in the two countries grows, their sense of social discipline becomes less.The rich and powerful in India seem to feel that they have a licence to indulge in lawlessness and corruption.
The author cautions against the excesses in China. Too many U.S. business school-trained economists and analysts have been overwhelmed by the vision of Shanghai’s massive development without realising the tremendous cost and waste involved and he price paid by common people.
Mr Deodhar says India and China should not confuse progress only with economic prosperity.. Globalisation today is limited to economic activity. Multi-national corporations, their top officials and stock market gamblers have gained the maximum from such development. Social globalisation, like global poverty elimination, is limited to seminars and political speeches!
Two hundred years ago, the world was socially more global as there were no boundaries, passports and visas. Such barriers have increased during the last two decades. The current policies are tutored by economists, business school faculties and Western thinkers. In fact, a significant number amongst them are non-resident Chinese and Indians!
The prescription for economic development consists of increasing per capita consumption and writing economic policies that promote consumption beyond necessity. Businesses, especially multi-national ones, love this and they weave media magic to promote it. All of this is done to meet the socio-economic objectives of both governments. There is resultant confusion here, since the chase of money and limitless greed is thought to be the elixir of human happiness and well-being.
India has had the rich and poor divide since centuries, and the society has accepted this divide so far without conflict. In China, however, society has moved from an ‘all poor and deprived’ society during over three Mao decades of PRC, to the Deng Xiaoping era where there is unbridled capitalism in a communist bottle. A select few getting extremely wealthy in a short span of three decades, is indeed a little difficult to swallow for many Chinese. The sharp contrast within the population in China is, therefore, alarming.
To some of us, it is clear that the kind of development model that China and India chose in 1980 and 1991, respectively, is not a sustainable one. Such a development model based on the post-1970 distorted US model would not deliver what the people of both countries aspire to. It is amply clear that the development model based on promoting intensive consumption, as is prevalent in the United States and Europe since 70s, is not sustainable ecologically for the world and is culturally alien to India and China. The current Western model is dependent on a business-provoked, self-centred lifestyle, funded largely by offering careless financial credit to the common people, akin to the norms in the Western world. The current lifestyle is not healthy, both to the mind and the body. It is traditional knowledge that can help India and China to evolve a fresh alternative development model. In fact, today, one can feel that both the Dr. Manmohan Singh-led India and the Hu Jintao-led China are indigenously seeking it. The alternative, non-Western model of simple living and high thinking, friendly with Nature has helped India and China traditionally a lot. Our people have learnt to be more tolerant , more humane and have less need for the psychiatrist.
Mr Deodhar says he wished that those in power in the United States used management thinker Tom Peter’s advice given in the early 1980s to close down all US business schools, preferably with its faculty locked inside!
. Due to the mismanagement of their economy on the advice of such business management experts, it is fast declining from its global supremacy. The current plight of the Europeans too can be easily traced to the American influence on their governments and institutions. The Western world has largely become the world of consumers and, consequently, produces little and does not create real wealth. Only those who trade in money and commodities earn well through market manipulation. People in the West also seem to increasingly realise the bitter truth that marketing is driving them into miseries. The boundless credit and lure of multimedia is hurting them like none other. Many independent studies have shown that excessive consumption of food and fun is harming them, both in body and in mind.
Till the early 70s, business culture in the United States too was different. Bright brains, those days, were in research labs and on shop floors using innovations to create some real wealth. There evolved a business culture that caused the United States to get rich as a society. Significantly, this was an inclusive growth. The real income of the average American had been soaring since the end of World War II. Wage ratios between the wealth-creating talents and shop floor workers were acceptable to all. The country’s trade balance was positive and consistently growing. Employment was ever rising. The standard of living was improving democratically year after year. The number of college-going students doubled every five years, and unlike today, getting in was no longer the privilege of the rich and elite. During those decades, there were major breakthroughs in technology. James Watson and Francis Crick won the Nobel Prize for decoding the molecular structure of DNA. Tuberculosis had all but disappeared, and Jonas Salk’s vaccine was wiping out polio in the United States. Many may not know, but Dr. Salk had refused to take a patent for his discovery and had said that he invented it
to prevent human suffering. This reflects the culture that prevailed then. Then during the Nixon presidency came multi-national provoked economic theories and practices. Today, we cannot catch a glimpse of that industrious US. The companies grew organically, then. Today, the only corporate growth route is through mergers and acquisitions. Mr Deodhar, while covering a wide range of issues in his book, is emphatic that India and China should reject the unsustainable American model.
Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of the book Traffic in the era of climate change. Walking, cycling, public transport need priority. email@example.com
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