134 Comments

I read this with my Indian wife and there were two huge gaps in this story.

1) Environment - I just came from Northeast India and the Air Quality Index was 290. Like we could stare directly at the sun in broad daylight and according to accuweather, "Any exposure to the air, even for a few minutes, can lead to serious health effects on everybody. Avoid outdoor activities." This is an area where the BJP government has done almost nothing.

I can only talk about Assam where we were, but the infrastructure being built in the city was all highways and flyovers. There were no subways or public transport being built, it was the same sort of road focused construction that has caused such sprawl and gridlock in the US.

If India wants to shift to manufacturing, it has to do so in a way that doesn't just pollute and poison everyone. While the BJP is popular, they aren't the CCP. Popular opinion matters. India needs to grow, but it has to grow clean.

2) The effect of Hindutva - An exploration of the ideology of Hindutva and the effects this might have on India's development is sorely lacking. This is Modi's raison d'etre. This is very much a "blood and soil" ideology asserting that India belongs to the 75% - 80% of the population who are Hindu. There has been violence and anti intellectualism associated with this. I don't know what the development literature says, but I seem to recall that the devotion of the American South to maintaining segregation and a racial hierarchy was a significant drag on its ability to industrialize. (Seriously, go read up on "cow protection" and compare it to the history of lynching in the American South.)

You talk persuasively about how America is stronger because of our immigrant history and how our ability to attract/integrate immigrants is a key driver of our success. Now, it is odd that the strong nativist sentiment of the BJP wasn't brought up as a possible obstacle to future growth. There are political prisoners and the crushing of dissent. Similarly, by omitting any mention of the dangers/excesses of the Hindutva, this post very much comes off as a "But Mussolini looks like he is making the trains run on time... so good show."

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Pollution was a huge problem for China and the U.S. too! We eventually dealt with it, after we reached a level of income where we felt we could afford to deal with it...

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Air pollution was never a "huge problem" in the US. A lot of people talked about it and there was a significant amount of localized air/water quality impact, but it was never a huge problem.

It was solved fairly quickly even when there was localized impact -- cleaning up the Hudson River, Cleveland, the list goes on.

Folks tried and are still trying to use air pollution/global warming/climate change as a bludgeon for political reasons. That IS a huge problem.

JLM

www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com

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Can the climate handle India industrializing in a dirty way?

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The potential of Hindutva to destroy the country or whatever is, predictably, exaggerated by Modi’s political opponents. Certainly there are extreme elements within his party but Modi himself has shown recent willingness to tamp them down a bit. Look up the BJP’s outreach to Pasmanda Muslims.

As an aside, Hindutva can also have positive effects for national unity and development because it posits a unified identify for a religion, Hinduism, that has traditionally been very divided by caste, language, and region. It can also be made more inclusive by emphasizing a common Dharmic civilizational inheritance shared by all religions. Unity can create greater national purpose, and thus reinforce a goal of common prosperity.

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Caste unites what religion divides, religion unites what caste divides, nationalism unites what regionalism divides - Adages of Indian politics.

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Feb 10, 2023·edited Feb 14, 2023

Accusing India of urban sprawl based on your visit to one city is hardly good criticism - India already has 15 metro systems operational - most of which came online in the last decade. 3 more are launching this year. 3 more are launching next year. That's an incredible number of metro systems coming online all at once. The railways budget increased by 40% this year and rail lines are 83% electrified already. This is pretty strong progress in electrified public transportation infrastructure.

2) Hindutva... well we never saw poland's economic rise being derailed by christian nationalism, nor Americas, and quite frankly neither you nor noah have any kind of depth of knowledge of indian policy to figure out which direction things are going. If you read english articles written by the disenfranchised congress elite and global islamist organizations - then you will obviously expect genocide. But majoritarian movements can take on many shades - they don't necessarily have to end up as Nazis putting people in concentration camps - BJP has increased funding scholarships for muslims in schools and colleges, the RSS is saying that indian muslims and hindus are genetic brothers, that's not exactly how genocidal rhetoric works. Everyone wants Indian muslims to modernize and not become islamists - and also to have the freedom to critique a certain someone's colorful non-consensual sex life without getting their heads chopped off.

Malaysia's Bumiputra policies discriminating in favor of the country's islamic majority are worse than anything BJP has ever done or ever formally proposed - and those did not stop Malaysia's progress.

Funny those guys never get called fascist.

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Their elites gets quite the stick if they criticize Malaysia. Malay Govt uses NSA quite effectively.

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Yes. I did not mention Hindutva in my response because 1930s Germany proved you can, in fact, discriminate horribly against one community and still grow, at least in the short run. But in India, Hindutva is definitely holding back economic growth and (in my opinion) is a big reason for the divergence between North & South India.

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Disagree fundamentally that Hindutva is the reason for North-South disparity in growth. Karnataka and Maharashtra are clear counter examples with the BJP and Shiv Sena firmly established in both states for a long time.

The North-South divide pre-dates Modi and the rise of the BJP by many decades and has more to do with southern states having lower fertility, better administration and access to ports and ocean trade.

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I concur. North South divide is driven by language rather than Hindutva or religion.

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Absolutely true

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Difficult to know whether Hindutva will be a positive or negative thing for development. I think Goh Keng Swee's comments on the political triumph of the Chinese Communist Party and the subsequent Cultural Revolution are relevant. On the CCP, he interpreted the triumph not (as traditional) as a peasants revolution, but rather an urban revolution which succeeded because for the first time, Mao treated the peasants as humans. Does Hindutva has the same potential, or is it just obscurantism/nativism?

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It depends how much the US and the West more broadly is comfortable bankrolling a far-right politician (which is what Modi would be in a Western context, only that religion rather than race is the primary prism in India).

Given the recent spate of deals between the US and India, it seems that they are willing to close an eye to all that in order to build up India to counter China. But if China starts to slip, I can see a situation where the heat suddenly turns up on India. If India hugs the West very closely, it becomes very dependent on it, and thereby can be more easily bullied later on. China, for all its faults, early realised it needed to chart a more independent course.

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Well, Hindutva helps the BJP maintains cohesion among it's factions. Without it the cadre would collapse and the party would splinter. However, BJP's strategy has been sub-caste micro targeting across religions (Christians, Muslims have their own castes). But then again, this is a transitional phase, politics is moving towards Infrastructure, women and welfare.

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With regards to Infra, I strongly disagree. I follow Infra pretty closely and there has been multiple proposals in the works for transit system for Assam- most of them have been rejected or gone back into the drawing board because of cost and financial viability. There are plenty of cities which are getting Metros and heavy rail transit particularly outside Assam. Also India's primary mode of transit is bus and it is quite popular and will be for quite a while.

Wrt, Hindutva, well it is for the cadre and keeps a check on factionalism (BJP is a cadre based party like most Indian political parties). Hindus are still somewhat fragmented along caste lines (and there are caste specific parties). Most westerners have been fooled to believe caste is uniquely Hindu, however, it is uniquely Indian. Hindutva is the veneer that hides the actual strategy of the BJP, which is (sub) caste microtargetting. Also, look up BJP's Pasmanda aka Lower caste Muslims outreach.

Caste unites what religion divides, religion unites what caste divides is one of the oldest adage of Indian politics.

Besides polarization has been part and parcel of Indian politics - right after independence it was polarized across languages (India has 22 official languages), socialism (with/without God), religion, caste and religion. Most Indian politicians are veterans when it comes to keeping the polarization pot simmering - it works as an excellent voter consolidation tactic.

Going forward, Modi is changing some of the dynamics of elections, trends are moving towards Infrastructure, Women and Welfare. The Religion overhang is going to be there for a while but the transition is very promising. Don't trust me, look at issues on which Regional parties (especially incumbents) are bringing up in their campaigns.

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Feb 9, 2023·edited Feb 9, 2023

OK, a couple things.

1..Busses won't stay popular as the amount of cars on the road increases. They are less used now in guwahati than they were.

2. The chief minister in Assam is BJP, Himanta Biswa Sarma, also known as Mamaji is fantastically corrupt. He is a huge real estate person and everyone knows that contracts to build the flyovers and roads are going to his companies. Everyone also knows that Assam is seismically active. You really think his government which is paying his companies is going to be making sure all the concrete and rebar is done right.

The recent earthquake in Turkey or the 2008 Sichuan earthquake shows what happens when builders take shortcuts with concrete.

3. The pasmanda thing is interesting, but I don't see how substantive it can be. The BJP has been riding the tiger of radical Hinduism (we built bronze airplanes 8000 years ago!) and has been fortunate that Sonia Gandhi has lived so long. The rhetoric has been about moving from a secular India to an explicitly Hindu India.

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1. You are passing judgment by looking at a fragment of India. There's plenty of transit investments going on and it is available online on the Indian Govt's Urban Affairs Website. I also forgot to mention, Rail upgrades (capacity, rolling stock, signalling etc) and new projects Rail projects that's under construction. It is definitely not what you describe.

2. Delhi Metro is rated for upto 7.1 Richter and it is quite well made. Regarding Sichuan and Turkey, they were both rated at 7.8 and 8 respectively, very few structures can tolerate quakes that high. Besides Richter is logarithmic scale so every .1 is a significant increase in potential damage to a structure.

3. It is very substantive. Pasmanda is about 60-70% of Muslim population. If the BJP even manages to get 10-15% of Pasmanda vote, they will split the opposition vote by 4-5%, enough to win 20-30 Parliament seats (Typical margins are 2-3%). The thing about polarization is it is not just the BJP that benefits from it. The Opposition parties whose who campaign spiel is "BJP bad, Hindutva bad" consolidates that votes to them. Riots are deliberately provoked (by both esp in UP) just to build that atmosphere of fear to bring about that consolidation.

4. BJP already have a strong Shia and Ahmediyas following. Some of Modi's most ardent supporters are Bohras and Ahmediyas, and he visits their mosques. Last General Election he also got substantial amount of votes from Muslim women.

5. BJP isn't all talk about Pasmanda either. Last year in Madhya Pradesh local body elections, they fielded about ~400 Muslim candidates (Pasmanda + Shias). 92 won and they defeated 25 Hindu Opposition candidates (Congress). They are definitely testing their strategy. BJP has upped their recruitment in Muslim majority and dominated areas and they are going after Pasmanda beneficiaries.

I'll leave you with this adage:

Caste unites what religion divides, religion unites what caste divides.

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1. What is in the plans... vs. what is actually happening.

I can't speak for Delhi. But definitely Guwahati is not going to a bold transit focused future. It is moving towards a "Let's become LA" future.

2. In 1950, Assam had an 8.6. Suspending miles of concrete roads above the city is a bad idea. In Turkey and Sichuan, many buildings failed because they were built out of concrete without sufficient reinforcement. Rebar is expensive.

Mamaji owns the companies building all of this. They didn't have to make a competitive bid. There is no way his government is going to aggressively inspect to make sure they aren't cutting corners. In fact, he has every incentive for that company to build as cheaply as possible because then he can pocket the savings.

Earthquake intensity mixes with building quality. In 2001, the Nisqually earthquake just south of Seattle was a 6.8. 1 person died... of a heart attack. This

10 years earlier, the 1991 Uttarkashi earthquake in North India was also a 6.8. But it killed anywhere from several hundred to several thousand people. The difference was the building quality and the building codes. Unreinforced concrete, masonry, or reinforced concrete with poor quality control crumbles easily in earthquakes.

Lots of concrete flyovers built on the cheap are setting Guwahati up for tragedy.

3. As for the political economy of BJP, I think the BJP is bad when they put people like Umar Khalid in jail for "sedition."

Or the 2020 Delhi riots where the Delhi police stood by as Hindu mobs went to ethnically cleanse some neighborhoods, often with sitting BJP members leading these mobs. From an American perspective, this just looks like the Tulsa race riots.

It is good if the BJP is genuinely moving to be more multiethnic and multi religious, but that is always qualified. The British empire was multiethnic and diverse religiously, it elevated many disadvantaged minorities.... BUT British people were always first and those elevated could never be considered equals.

Is the BJP willing to say that low caste Muslims are equal to Hindus? To actually give them a fair shake when they do something that is against Lord Ram? Or are they just saying that these people can be minorities who are graciously allowed to live in Bharat so long as they know their place?

4. I think the rampant historical corruption of the Congress and many other local parties has allowed the BJP to make a "Things are terrible, vote against the current terrible people" appeal to disadvantaged groups. It is odd how Indians almost a decade after Congress was run out of power still cite them as hopelessly corrupt, suggesting that the BJP was able to push on an open door when it came to electioneering.

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3. Khalid got nothing to do with grand political strategy. But since you bought up Khalid, abuse of LE and Judicial incompetence is unfortunately normative in Indian politics. For every UAPA, there's a State Govt that invokes Sedition Act. It's not just the BJP, the opposition is also equally (worse I contend) when it comes to abuse of power. Mamta Banarjee sent Bengal police to arrest a bloke in Goa over a comment on facebook. Shiv Sena (which was part of a coalition with Congress) arrested two girls over a post that called their then leader's son, a Penguin. NCP another alliance member of the Congress, imposed Sedition on a Marathi actress because she posted a poem vaguely criticizing Sharad Pawar. Heck, AAP Punjab another opposition party, tried to use Sedition act to arrest an MP, who was arrested by Harayan Police to prevent his arrest by Punjab Police. I can go on and on. But my point is you are fixated on Muslim issues that you don't see what is normative across the political spectrum.

As far as Pasmanda is concerned, they are equals and considered OBC in many states (again some of them got recognition by BJP). They aren't excluded from social programs and on the other hand hunted down by the cadre and enrolled in them. Scholarships have been improved and Haj subsidy has been improved to incorporate them better. The only ones who are getting the stick end of all this is Upper caste Muslims - urban Muslim elites who had free access to generous Govt programs. I'd contend they are the oppressors and not the BJP.

4. Well, it is not like the BJP is sitting idle. Modi has used technology extensively to push through welfare. Previously under Congress Govt, for every Rs. 100, barely Rs. 10 rupee went to the beneficiary, under Modi that number has gone up to Rs. 50-60. Impressive, but yet more work needs to be done. Additionally, one thing people don't realize is, his use of technology has brought dignity to his beneficiary. You don't need to constantly see a Govt official and get a dress down just because you are eligible for welfare/seeking pension etc. BJP Cadres, dresses down the official and makes them come to the beneficiary. That's transformative for these folks who only got promises and never saw any of those promises materialize. It shows in approval ratings.

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Matthew - your knowledge about Assam is on point.

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The hindutva point is very serious. PM Modi is following the footsteps of hitler and you can see this from his actions....it's hindering the development of india very very much

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Feb 6, 2023·edited Feb 6, 2023

Your last line has an optimism that I do not share. India has always been, and is condemned to always be, a country of great potential. India as a whole largely fails at the basics- basic healthcare, basic education, basic infrastructure, basic manufacturing, basic governance. It focusses all it's efforts on delivering for the shiny top, whether it's space programs or IITs. It's the product of a caste mentality that elites don't see the need to lift the many, not the few. India is a Singapore floating on an Africa. Perhaps in a few years it will improve into a Germany floating on top of a Africa, but that's about it. There are also stark provincial differences. The deep South of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, have managed to create inclusive identities that subsume caste, and deliver broad human development. Punjab has remittance income. And Gujarat and Maharashtra have an advantage in manufacturing and entrepreneurial culture. But the demographic, cultural, political core of India is the Gangetic plains, which is stagnant and reactionary and post-feudal. This is a part of the world where standards of living rival that of the worst parts of subSaharan Africa. That said, there is time. India's sweet spot of demographic S curve of low dependency ratio is going to be smoother and longer, less sharp and short than China, which was artificially shortened by one-child policy. India will enjoy low dependency ratio till 2050s, and has been enjoying the boosted growth for a while now. Indian infrastructure is improving. There is increasing understanding basic governance needs to improve, though the system of a few thousand IAS officers governing a country of a billion hasn't changed. There is increasing political impetus to improving health and education. But until there is a widespread cultural renaissance that breaks feudal caste identities and molds them into a collective identity, particularly in the Hindi heartland, there won't be a collective uplift. What is needed is a sharp focus on making and exporting clothes, toys, furniture and basic circuits. Massive literacy/numeracy campaigns. Rural roads, health centers and schools. Everyone in India needs to finish 1st grade, before thinking about increasing the numbers of the few who graduate college.

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Yawn, that's what countries are always like before they industrialize. Then they industrialize, and everyone talks about how their culture made it inevitable from day 1.

Read Ha-Joon Chang's "Kicking Away the Ladder"!

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In a federal system there should be convergence. In India, it's the Southern and Western states that seem to be following a Southeast Asian growth pattern. (Southern ones are culturally similar too). Bihar and UP have only fallen further behind, gap is widening, and are massively mismanaged, yet are the largest states. Migration from these states to the South and West fixes some of this, but not all of this. India shouldn't be considered one development story, but really a continent masquerading as a country. It's many different stories, like Southeast Asia or Europe. Culturally, linguistically, politically, on every parameter, it is so.

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You could say the same thing about China. Guizhou and Gansu are sharply less productive and wealthy than Zhejiang or Jiangsu. Gaping regional disparities haven't stopped China from developing, growing richer, and massively reducing poverty. There's seems no law of economics that must prevent India from doing the same.

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This is true on some level, but getting less and less true over time. Power and policy is being ever more consolidated at the Centre, and so you can't consider development in some parts without considering the others like you could if the various states were actually separate countries. More productive southern states are weighed down heavily by the less productive Hindi belt, and can't make their own trade policy to capitalize on their productivity. Kerala and Tamil Nadu also actively hindered by the Centre for political reasons. It like if the 2010s Eurozone crisis was the baseline economic situation.

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Well Southern States always had a head start. Take Tamil Nadu (the most southern state) for example - that State already had a decent school system and 2 universities at independence. Whereas UP, started with 1 with 20x population and barely 10% literacy rate and Bihar had pretty much nothing. Northern States were cleaned wiped of any wealth and intellect by the Brits.

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Feb 14, 2023·edited Feb 14, 2023

Northern states were also wiped out by the disastrous freight equalization policy which deindustrialized mineral interior/northern states and essentially subsidized the development of coastal southern states.

The government is trying to do some industrial policy now Delhi is still an economic dynamo - UP is getting a defense corridor which might bootstrap some manufacturing, Punjab needs to be weaned off subsidized agriculture into more value addition or start to emphasize more on industrialization. The state is not poor but seems stuck in stasis.

Bihar has recently started getting the basics of infrastructure right but has no industrial policy. Bengal has been destroyed by leftist policies and the TMC is trying to neoliberalize a little but they've lost trust with the industrialist class due to Mamata Bannerjee's politics and policies.

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Feb 6, 2023·edited Feb 6, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Great post. There are a lot of things people can easily do if they want to but it seems like even political representatives are not that serious about the country's development. India has a sufficient number of intellectuals, good leaders, and even people with better understanding and solutions to its problems. The country is lost in religious politics, biased news/people, and potentially unskilled youths. People and leaders are not ready to face data-based realities and overcome their false beliefs. Everyone seems to be lost in the pride of their cultural past instead of doing something about the present. There are so many things we can easily do to educate and upskill youths and to make them economically productive. India has a deeper penetration of smartphones and the internet and we all know a lot can be achieved using this advantage. Political will as you mentioned is not missing but as long as one party is enjoying the benefits of power they don't do much, just enough. India currently has all the political and other advantages to solve its problems but it seems that there are too many incompetent people running the country.

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Hi, there. A very interesting piece and your point that India's path is the big issue seems absolutely clear. I was however really surprised that your analysis made no mention of climate change, where as elsewhere you have made it clear that you see this as a huge issue. Given the size of India, surely it is a crucial issue for the world as to whether India's development path heads to zero carbon or not.

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I do know there has been a big push for solar power investment by the Modi government, perhaps in other energy types as well. since it doesn’t have natural energy resources India has great incentive to ramp up renewables production.

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What about wind, I wonder? I would imagine you would want that too for a more resilient system.

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Wind as well, but in specific states particularly southern one.

The one thing I would criticize India about is inefficient use of Coal. Man those Coal thermal plants are really really inefficient and State Govts farmer centric free electricity programs which are extremely wasteful is powered by coal.

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Indian Leadership or most Indians are not into Climate Change.

This is due to the fact, when many are hungry, have no food on the table - what would they do?

Climate Change is not important from Indian-Perspective.

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So are most Indian unaware of the impacts on climate change? Surely news of the devastating flooding in Pakistan due to climate change would have got some attention in India? And of course climate change will significantly effect food security in India and probably already is: https://www.preventionweb.net/news/climate-change-poses-biggest-risk-food-security-india. Given the relative small carbon emissions of most Indians, I would have thought climate justice would be at least on the political agenda as it is now in Pakistan.

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I wonder why you buy into this whole Climate Change propaganda,

there are plenty of bigger problems than abstract, vague climate change non-sense.

Why not go feed the people and curb hunger in the World? Can you do that?

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The flooding in Pakistan killing 1,000 people and leaving many without homes is hardly abstract. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/27/pakistan-floods-death-toll-nearing-1000-say-officials

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Read your own scientist, Freeman Dyson's take on Climate Change.

No idea, why you bought everything narrated by your own media.

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As some-one who has studied physics and chemistry, and is well aware of the science, I don't rely on media for my views.

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Nobody cares about Climate Change in India, Pakistan.

Climate Changes every day, everyone knows that in the World.

Firstly, India and Pakistan are focused mostly on Poverty.

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Weather changes every day, not climate. That is why it is called climate and not weather. Climate change will increase poverty and reduce live expectancy in India and Pakistan through temperatures that do not support life, flooding, drought, pests and more. So if India and Pakistan is focussed on poverty, they should focus on climate change. Pakistan's politicians seem to understand that: https://una.org.uk/news/pakistan-floods-we-need-climate-justice-now. I think Indian politicians won't be far behind.

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Feb 14, 2023·edited Feb 14, 2023

Ignore the user above you.

Climate Change is abstract, sea level rise is not taken as a serious issue, but environmental degradation in India is concrete (smog, plastic filled rivers etc).

Indian People are pro-environmental policies in general - electric cars, plastic pans, solar panels etc - but they have to be done in a way that does not disrupt GDP growth. Indian government and elite strategists are pro-renewable primarily because they hate the fossil fuel import bill.

India is rapidly moving up the ranks in terms of solar power installation and is now neck and neck with germany (it was almost nowhere 10 years ago). The government has announced a green hydrogen policy and banned single use plastics nationwide. There is a nascent electric vehicle ecosystem that is maturing rapidly. Around 10% of all vehicles sold as of last month are EVs - 30-40% of 3 wheelers, 10% of 2 wheelers, 1.5% of 4 wheelers. India is the poorest country to have a competitive domestic electric car and 2 wheeler industry.

Climate justice is not a domestic politics issue - environment degradation is an issue in north india particularly - it's seen as an east vs west issue mainly be the elite - essentially "we are trying the best given our resources, if you think we should do more put your money where your mouth and invest in EVs/renewables in India is instead of complaining about us because our historical and current emissions are nothing on a global scale"

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But do you think climate change is less abstract since the Pakistan flooding? If climate justice is an issue for Pakistan, isn't it for India? Your final sentence seems to have a climate justice flavour to it!

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Feb 14, 2023·edited Feb 15, 2023

Not really. This part of the world - specially east India and bangladesh have a long history of flooding and natural disasters for hundreds of years before this climate change narrative caught on in the west. This is nothing new for us, only the spin being put on it is new- and it is not being considered very authentic by these countries.

Not all disasters are caused by climate change and, as the recent earthquake showed, we need to be prepared for every type.

The people of India and bangladesh place the blame for disasters squarely on their governments and expect accountability from them rather than letting them scapegoat someone else - which has led to significant improvements to local disaster management capabilities over the last 2 decades.

Pakistan's elite is an expert at rent seeking using narrative shaping in the western press - they've successfully extracted billions using some pretext or the other, all while doing absolutely nothing to socially or materially uplift their people.

They get GSP+ benefits from the EU for e.g (India doesn't, not sure about B'desh) by signing on to human rights commitments that translate to nothing on the ground - decades later they still have easily the worst human rights record in the region after the taliban and are the only south Asian nation with legislated inequality for minorities. We notice this.

Climate justice is merely the latest buzzword after CPEC, the war on terror, afghan jihad, pivot to china, seato/cento etc to extract some poorly shepherded dollars from the rest of the world - now that the elite is on the verge of running the country into the ground with it's irrational ideological islamist policies.

India and Bangladesh don't take Pakistani narrative building very seriously, they have a reputation of breaking promises, hypocritical moralizing and acting in ill-faith. Their military intelligence gives english language journalists regular briefings on the messages they are allowed and not allowed to peddle in the media for the month. Our countries ignore everything that comes out of that country's so-called "intelligentsia" and instead ask why they are not taking responsibility for the disaster first and foremost, and are instead scapegoating climate change. 300 people were killed in floods in Assam last year too - you didn't see us whining, blaming and begging the rest of the world.

Pakistan's elite just wants to beg for some dollars with zero accountability to tide over the recent currency crisis and then hope the world forgets about it as they've forgotten about the country's state sponsored terrorist groups and the mosque imams in sindh who are orchestrating organized abduction, rape and conversion of underage minority girls and have photographs posing with imran khan, military generals and bilawal bhutto.

Pakistan has had previously zero environmental initiatives in the last 50 years barring a tree planting drive and any money put in will go into a black hole like all previous funding extracted by older pakistani narratives. They have no reconstruction plan or project based accountability - and that is intentional - they will happily use any money they get from the world to repay chinese debt they used to build fossil fuel plants.

The difference in the climate justice narrative between us and them is this : we don't want reparations, but we don't want pontifications either, we want growth in the short term because it solves myriad problems, and if western capital and technology can enable greener growth then that's a win win for us, but ultimately the west also has a poor history of doing the right thing in this region so have low expectations and expect whatever policy they come up with to be poorly thought out, hypocritical and/or self serving.

EDIT: Today, after $10B dollars were pledged by the world for flood relief using the climate change narrative - the pakistanis announced they'll be quadrupling coal power production. So much for that.

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Thanks @akuma. That is hugely informative if somewhat depressing! The only thing is that there is scientific methods that have been developed to attribute weather events to climate change so we can say whether particular events were reasonably possible without climate change. So we are moving from spin to science even if it is not always believed!

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Feb 6, 2023·edited Feb 6, 2023

I second this. Is there a story for India's rapid industrialization that doesn't take us globally over +2C? And how does India support its population if we do cross those thresholds? Sort of hard to predict the future without thinking about these issues.

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Given how bad pollution already gets there, it's entirely possible that industrialization is the best path to environmental improvement. Those billion+ people already exist so switching them to mature clean energy options is part of the solution, even if per capita energy use increases. I'm not sure we stay under 2C without their contribution to the solution.

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Feb 11, 2023·edited Feb 14, 2023

"Is there a story for India's rapid industrialization that doesn't take us globally over +2C? "

Maybe there is a story using renewable energy, EVs and green hydrogen - which the indian government is starting to invest in in a big way.

In either case India's not going to stop industrializing just because you care so much about +2C. You can choose to invest in technologies that are part of the solution, or sit back and and criticize on the internet.

"And how does India support its population if we do cross those thresholds?"

The same way it always has while westerners were predicting India's demise throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. If India could avoid droughts and famines in the 1950s when it was poorer than subsaharan africa and a history of famines under european rule and <$100 GDP/capita society it will manage to do so as a $4000 gdp per capita society which has been a major net exporter of food for decades even after providing 800 million people with free grains and pulses every month.

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Feb 6, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Hi Noah! A detailed and well explained post. I agree that India needs to go much deeper into electronics manufacturing. What other products do you think that India should manufacture more of? One category that comes to my mind is white goods/durable goods like air conditioners, washing machines, and refrigerators. Rising incomes in rural and small town India combined with increased access to water and electricity will create the necessary conditions for rapid adoption of these products as the market penetration of these products is still quite low.

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Yep! In fact I think India will eventually *make* every kind of product for its domestic market. The electronics thing is just about exporting...

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Yeah, I think an area people don't really push for is traditional/cultural products, if you think about the tourism industry for example, what is it that fascinates people when they go to certain countries? It's things that are unique and tied to that specific country. I think a focus on manufacturing goods involving communities across the regions of India, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, is a great investment. Arm them with the equipment and knowledge and watch their work come to life. E.g. embroidery, block printing, pottery, etc. I believe similar things have been done with coffee and chocolate in places like Brazil and Ghana. The poverty gap in India is incredibly alarming and until this is addressed little progress can be made in the advancement of India.

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Feb 6, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

My small company licenses software all around the world to software companies, my customers from India requests the most in tax-related paperwork compared to rest of the world, which needs annual updating. Luckily I only have a couple of customers - I can only imagine the burden if I have hundreds...

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Feb 6, 2023·edited Feb 6, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

This is an excellent post, Noah. Given that I slant left of you - partly because of my background in CPE/IPE of Development and exposure to Robert Wade at a formative age - I'm always pleasantly surprised by your development econ posts. Although you don't mention the Dev State literature here much, aside from Chang, the focus on agglomeration in exactly key and a big part of what Wade means in Governing the Market when he calls out many economists for misunderstanding that trade, per se, isn't the big deal - it's the "internal articulation" of the economy - the formation and diversification of supply chains internal to the economy. That's a reason why ISI was an early success, despite collapsing under the political logic of rent-seeking in most cases, and absolutely a reason why the Keiretsu and Chaebol systems (and similar setups in China, Taiwan, and other Tigers) were so successful.

If you don't mind a suggestion on a couple possible other concepts to explore - maybe some Albert Hirschmann and/or Peter Evans's Embedded Autonomy would be great supplements to this series. (Or, if you already have articles on them in the archive, lmk.)

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I read Exit, Voice and Loyalty. What other Hirschman should I read?

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I'll second Passions and the Interests, but not the main one I had in mind.

In line with this post and and Ha-Joon Chang, I would strongly recommend "The Strategy of Economic Development" where he lays out his "linkage" approach to development. It's probably the "OG progenitor" of the theories of Chang, Wade, Rodrik, and many other Dev Scholars who have pushed back on the Bank/IMF for being too cookie-cutter and insufficiently sensitive to local contexts. I didn't read Hirschmann until much after I had read the others, and was shocked at how many of the insights were found in the linkage approach.

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The Passions and the Interests.

His chapter in The New Authoritarianism in Latin America (edited by Collier) is excellent (actually, the whole book is worth reading).

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Narsimh Rao, Vajpayee, MMS and Modi needed to dismantle the decades of Nehruvian socialist failure. Modi is at least getting on with it faster. I always chuckle when non-Indians read about India and the comments are full of "durr Modi bad, whatabout my poor designated victim group".

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Thank you for this series. It is the main reason I subscribed. I'm a little sad that this is the last one. I'm sure there will still be occasional posts about developing countries, and I look forward to reading them.

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Great piece, Noah. I think it's also worth mentioning that India's *digital* story is as important to understanding its economic trajectory as the 'industrialisation' question you've highlighted above. More here:

https://tigerfeathers.substack.com/p/the-internet-country

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I agree with much of your analysis of India, but ...

A necessary condition for a low-income country to achieve the World Bank's "upper middle income" status is a reasonable quality primary education enabling the majority of the population to leave the farm and become productive urban workers.

Your post refers to the post-2000 increase in primary school completion in India. However, most South Asian countries severed certification of graduation from learning. There are two convincing sources of evidence that this is the case in India:

* For nearly two decades the NGO Pratham has organized very large (500,000 sample size) in-home surveys across India of children ages 5 - 16. The key questions of the protocol (ASER) are ability at Grade 5 to read a short Grade 2 story and do simple division. The all-India results in the 2018 survey (the most recent pre-COVID) were as follows: 50% could read the story; 28% could do the division.

* The World Bank has initiated a "learning poverty rate" statistic to measure the ability to read of children ages 10 - 14. In 2022, 56% of Indian rural children are estimated unable to read a simple early grade story. This result is consistent with the ASER outcome. Incidentally, the share unable to read in Bangladesh is 58%, in Pakistan 75%. On the other hand, only 15% in Sri Lanka are unable to read at a basic early grade level.

Whatever the sins and errors of Mao's reign in China, the Chinese were serious about universal basic education, a necessary condition for post-1976 development. The present "learning poverty" rate in China is 18%, same in Vietnam.

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Upper middle income is defined as around ~$4050 GDP per capita right now.

India is currently at around $2800 GDP per capita - up from $450 GDP per capita in the year 2000. Making the case that India can't reach the $4050 mark in the next decade seems like a stretch - we can probably hit that number simply due to efficiencies gained due to infrastructure debottlenecking, efficiencies from digitization of government services, tech startups achieving scale and steady modest growth in services exports and manufacturing. Clearly the society is doing something right if it is making rapid progress on all fronts.

On the education front - problems are abundant - but a significant problem that has been solved - India is now around 95%+ youth literacy rates - which is up from around 75% in 2001, tertiary education is skyrocketing (31%, up from 10% in 2001) - and the male/female education gap is practically resolved. Now that coverage is less of an issue the focus needs to shift to quality.

Here the government it trying to de-emphasize tertiary education expenditure and bring in more private players by encouraging harvard/stanford/oxford/NUS types to set up campuses in India to bring in some competition.

It needs to refocus on primary schools and vocational skills training institutes for the semi-education and bring in the competition needed to improve the education outcomes for the bulk of society instead of focusing on the cream of the crop. Whether that is by education vouchers/privatization or increased government spending on primary schools - that will need to be figured out by experimentation.

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I think you are dramatically underestimating how much India's terrible education system is a long-term drag (and limits upside). Years of schooling is not a particularly useful metric here, because half of Indian students learn approximately nothing in school.

Basic literacy and numeracy remain extremely low, despite very high school enrolment, and this is not a cohort effect (https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/fewer-children-out-of-school-but-basic-skills-stay-out-of-reach-study-119011900784_1.html).

To be clear, China's literacy rate was also extremely low (something like ~25% of the population at the end of the civil war) but rose extremely quickly on the back of effective student education. India's next generation will still be barely literate and numerate. Now, half a billion literate people is still more than almost any countries, so there's still tons of room for growth here, but I don't think we can expect a China-level of consistent growth for that reason alone.

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I do think education is important, and I tried to emphasize that in my article!

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Feb 9, 2023·edited Feb 9, 2023

Well, there's good news on that front. The Education Sector is getting it's long overdue reform. About 2 years ago, Modi Govt introduced New Education Policy. That policy got rid some of the bureaucratic quagmire in higher ed, streamlined the process to setup private universities and foreign universities are now able to setup their campuses in India. For schools, they decentralized curriculum and changed how students are going to assessed. AFAICT, it is getting rolled out in BJP states plus some regional party states. Education spending is back to 3% of GDP after an abysmal 1% of the previous Govt.

It is a promising start.

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This is a great point and something that I felt was missing from the article. Bad education contributes to the kind of rigid class stratification that Indian society experiences, which keeps so many people impoverished. A major risk for India not turning that around is a lost generation -- many of these undereducated people are unemployed and not looking for work - youth unemployment has skyrocketed in the last few years, estimated at almost 30% (and definitely higher in populous but underdeveloped states like Bihar and UP).

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It's a problem but also not 1 that can't be solved within a generation (just educate the kiddies more).

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India is in fact doing a good job sending more and more kids to school, at least for basic education. Drop-out rates have plummeted over the decades.

Yet the problem isn't getting kids to school. It's what they (don't) learn while there.

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Exactly; the key point here is that, based on current trajectories, we're only going to see a moderate improvement in literacy and numeracy over the next generation, and certainly not to the levels required for society wide industrialisation and modernisation.

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Modi Govt introduced New Education Policy about 2 years ago. This was the first new framework after 3 decades. Funding for Education has also reached about 3% after an abysmal 1% in the previous decade. If they maintain the pace and push through the reforms, it will bear fruit sooner rather than later.

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Feb 6, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Great post. I wonder, however, if Indian companies tried their hand at exporting goods but repeatedly were beaten by their Chinese counterparts. Heck, many consumers have gotten used to imports from China (and other countries) hence Indian companies don't see much of a point. There's also a dearth of knowledge because most Indians who acquire valuable skills generally migrate to a different country.

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Chinese goods are getting more expensive...Bangladesh and Vietnam are successfully underselling them! All my clothes said "Made in China" a decade ago, now they all say "Made in Bangladesh" or "Made in Vietnam"...

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I do not understand why so many people in comment act like Modi is some minority hater despite the fact that school re-enrollment, health condition, funding of minority development fund has been highest in Modi era.

They just have little bit problem with Muslim being too religious but not the people.

BJP itself uses same DNA that Hindu and Muslim are same people of the land.

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Enjoyed this post

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Great post! But I'm a bit confused about land reform. In the story of Haiti that you discussed, one of my take-aways was that fragmentation of property rights and intensive farming led to erosion and under-investment, which ultimately contributed to economic stagnation. How does this square with the land reform prescription that Studwell advocates, and that you seem to recommend for India?

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