Here is an article from today’s New York Times about the rise of India’s entrepreneurial class and their close ties to the government.
The Indian government is embroiled in an ongoing corruption scandal that involves everyone from the prime minister Manmohan Singh on down to the lowly local dog catcher.
One quote from the article that I don’t quite agree with is; “India in the 21st century is now often compared to the United States during the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, when robber barons dominated the American economy.”
Certainly it is an apt comparison in that there is an oligarchical aspect to 21st century Indian industry. One could compare Carnegie to the Tata Brothers, or Guatam Adani to Henry Morrison Flagler, and I would not object.(Those of us in the US ought to familiarize ourselves with the Tatas, as I believe we will here more about them soon.)
Perhaps I am naive, but I’d like to think that worker’s conditions are better in 21st century India than they were in 19th century America, especially after the Bohpal disaster. Although scenes like the one in The Shadow Lines give me doubts when Ghosh writes;
I saw that there were a number of moving figures dotted over those slopes. They were very small at that distance, but I could tell they had sacks slung over their shoulders. They were picking bits of rubble off the slopes and dropping them into their sacks. I could only see them when they moved; when they were still they disappeared completely – they were perfectly camouflaged, like chameleons, because everything on them, their clothes, their sacks, their skins, was the uniform matte black of the sludge in the pools.
But that portion of The Shadow Lines takes place in the past, approximately the 1940s.
Obviously in a country as huge and populous as India, there is going to be a disparity in terms of wealth. And certainly I agree that there is an oligarchic quality to Indian industry, and that industry is linked to the corruption of the government, but I’d like to believe that India is not two hundred years behind the US in terms of working conditions.