India is one of the very few countries in the world that are getting younger, not older, every day. Almost all other countries, particularly in the west, are getting older, so old, in fact, that they are worried how long they will last as countries, like old men and women counting their last days. Russia is one of them, Japan is another. India will outlast them all, though India is much older than them as a country, and existed as a country even before Russia and Japan did.
India is also getting richer every day, though most of us who habitually count our rupees and paisa every day, and struggle to make both ends meet, do not realise it. India’s per capita income is now in the region of almost 50,000 rupees per year. Fifty years ago, it was barely a thousand rupees. This 50-fold increase in two generations has completely changed the face of India. This, plus the fact that we are getting younger, has provided us with tremendous human and material energy, without which no civilization can sustain itself.
In most other countries, particularly in the west, things are different. In Japan, the population is getting older, with the result that the country has to import workers from abroad to do its work. Land cannot be farmed and lies fallow because there are no able-bodied farmers, villages are being abandoned because most households have simply too many old people who cannot fend for themselves, and have to receive outside help. So, one by one, villages are being left to rot, as old people, most of them in their seventies and eighties, move to cities. There are just not enough strong men to work in the farms, just as increasingly there are not enough factory workers to run factories. Soon, there will be only cites in Japan, no villages, and of course, no farmers. Japan will produce cars, TV sets and mobiles, but not rice or apples or pumpkins, all of which will have to be imported!
In Russia, once the mighty Soviet Union, things are a little different, but the end-result is the same. There the main culprit is alcohol, not old age. Russians are dying of alcohol, and they are dying so young that the average life-span of a Russian is closer to 40, than say 70, as it is in India. This is true of men as well as women. The population of Russia, like that of Japan, is shrinking, because Russians are dying too young while in Japan, there are not enough Japanese to go round. In forty years time, the population of Russia, will be only half of what it is today and in another fifty years, it will be about a quarter. In fact, there will be no Russia left, only a few cities like Moscow and Petrograd. Marx had said that capitalism will disappear because of its internal contradictions, but it is not capitalism but Russia that is set to disappear. Remember, Marx was not a Russian; he was a German Jew!
Things are different in India, thank God. As I said, we are a young country and getting younger by the day. Stand at any street corner of a bustling city like Mumbai or Delhi, and you see nothing but a constant current of young men and women, chirping away like mad, as they once used to do in Europe, before the last war. In the sixties and seventies, London and Paris were young cities, full of young people who were responsible for spearheading the IT revolution that changed the face of these countries under the leadership of people like Margaret Thatcher and others. But that is not the case now. England is importing young workers from Europe and also from Asia, for without them, the country would simply not function. The queen herself is now a very old woman but she refuses to give up and poor Charles is still waiting for the crown!
It is the combination of growing wealth and equally growing number of young people that has given India its edge. Money does talk and packs its own muscle. Just go and visit any factory or big office in Delhi or Mumbai and almost every body you come across is young and often so young you wonder whether he or she is really running the show.
There was a time when most big companies in India were being run by men who were past their prime. And the companies were old too, making old stuff like jute bags, cement and cotton textiles. Now the companies have transformed themselves into modern state-of-the-art production centres under modern and young managements. In fact, this is precisely what India has become—modern and young, and ready to face the world.
The high rates of GDP growth since the early nineties have also had their impact. A whole new middle class has come into being, which, for the first time, has money to burn. Gone are the days when a postman’s son became a postman, and the daughter of a schoolmaster remained a schoolmaster. Now daughters of schoolmasters join the IAS on their own merit and the sons of postmen run call centres. Salaries that used to be in three figures are now counted in five figures. When a man taking home five hundred rupees a month suddenly begins to receive pay-cheques of fifty thousand, as millions now do, he starts seeing things in a different way. This is what happened in the United States a hundred years ago when Henry Ford doubled and tripled the wages of his workers overnight. He brought about a revolution that changed the face of America. The same thing is happening in India.
Of course, there are millions of families that are still rooted in poverty and where a square meal a day is still a distant dream, but they too will one day join the long march to prosperity.
All this should have happened long ago, had not leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru failed to see the light and misled into following the disastrous Soviet formula. If not, by this time India would have become the strongest and richest nation in Asia, and possibly among the five leading nations of the world including America. Unfortunately, the Nehrus and the Gandhis are still there, still controlling the levers of power, but their days are over, and the levers of power are not all that important now.
If we have to avoid the fate of Russia and Japan, we have to hand over power to the young, and trust them to steer the ship of state in the coming turbulent century!