Young people need to close their phones and ask about the economy.
While this may be a much lower priority issue for Indians busy solving Bollywood conspiracies, it’s worth noting that the Indian economy is in big trouble. GDP contracted 23.9% last quarter, a level not entirely unexpected, but terrible and unprecedented nonetheless. It doesn’t matter if it’s the coronavirus, God, government policies, or a combination of all these factors that caused it. It is like a bowl of spilled milk in the kitchen. We can argue all day if someone kicked it, fell by itself, or the cat spilled it. The fact is that there is no more milk in the house and we need to replace it. We need to recover our economy.
The belief that the last quarter was an anomaly and that there will be a strong rebound is overly optimistic. I hope it happens this way. However, there are reasons to believe that it will not. The demonetization, a unique event, lasted just two months. It derailed India’s economic growth momentum for years. Similarly, once GDP contracts so much, there are effects such as business closures, job losses, bank loan defaults and loss of confidence. Once something is broken, it is not recovered. Also, if we continue to hold the fatalistic belief that ‘God created the problem, God will only fix it’, well, it won’t be fixed. God gave us all a brain, which can be used to find solutions to get out of a problem.
The first step is to recognize the problem. Making creative charts to show that the US contracted more (false, it didn’t. It couldn’t. The US never had such a severe lockdown, and injected trillions of dollars as fiscal stimulus to the people) is not going to solve our problem. Frankly, if we celebrate having the toughest and strictest blockade in the world (‘kamaal kar diya’, is what many said then), then this loss of GDP is the bill. A great bill, indeed. Now, as a developing nation, we may realize our limits and will not compete with the richest nations in the world that can afford closures much more than we can. The high Covid cases also show that such a draconian lockdown was unnecessary. Perhaps it came from the Hindu vision: feel painful and God will be kind. This love of ‘kasht’ is the reason we had weekend closures, curfews and other irrational things that had more to do with the Babus and RWA presidents enjoying controlling people than disease . It didn’t work.
Once we recognize the problem, we Indians have to look inward. What we want? Do we want to be a rich nation? Rich people? A superpower? It won’t come from buying a dozen airplanes, making announcements, or singing high-pitched nationalist or religious chants. All of that is false, stupid and pointless. It comes from low self-esteem, a chronic problem with Indians. We Indians are desperate to feel validated that we are good enough. Stop, please. The real business is to become a rich country. No poor country is respected in the world, no matter how great its history, how wonderful its traditions, how tasty its food. Do you want respect for India? Help India get rich.
This means that we focus on the economy and condemn any behavior that hurts it. Right now, we do the opposite. For example, the social unrest arising from Hindu-Muslim issues really upsets business sentiment. Nobody in their right mind will invest in a country where people hate each other. Another problem is the deep desire of the government and its babus to control every business through policies and regulations. Letting go, as they say in yoga, is not understood by any Indian government. Let it go. Open up the economy. Like really.
At the immediate level, the government must give a real fiscal stimulus. As a poor nation, we cannot have a great stimulus. But whatever it is, it has to be real, not just headline-grabbing numbers.
For the government to act on the economy, it also needs the public to care about it. Right now, our youth, ironically the hardest hit, don’t really care. An entire generation will be unemployed or underemployed. White-collar workers will become delivery men (it is already happening). Ordinary Indians will become poorer and serve the rich few and the elite. That’s right, going back to India in the 80s. Yet young people are busy with their phones, lost in their cheap 4G data packages, watching silly videos, playing video games, consuming pornography and maybe fighting with people on social media. all day. They are all useless things. It is also very distracting from your own personal goals, as well as national issues. Cheap data has been the bane of our youth, where they waste hours watching the circus while the kingdom burns. The young man needs to close that phone and get up. Focus on your dreams, your goals, your aspirations and making money, so that you contribute to the Indian economy. They need to keep asking questions: why isn’t there more growth?
The future of India is in our hands. We can become a poor nation of underemployed employees and delivery men fighting each other, or we can become a rich nation and earn respect in the world. What side are you on?
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed above are those of the author.