India, India, India!

Today at MRUniversity we release the first of our country sections, India. In nearly 50 videos we cover key aspects of India’s history, economics, politics and culture from the viewpoint of development economics. Among the topics are India’s Early Growth History, Gandhi and the Salt March, the Green Revolution, Food Crises and the Media, the Rise of Private Education in India, and the Economics of Bollywood.

Tyler and I will both be in Delhi on Thursday December the 20th to talk to students of MRUniversity and others about economics, development and the future of online education. Information on times and places to follow.

By the way, for those of you taking the Development Economics course the India material is bonus to be sampled at will – this won’t be on the exam!

MRU also introduces new features this week including user contributions of links, videos and other materials directly from the video pages, ordering of questions by votes or recency and easier ways to see and access related materials and user contributions.


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Please compare and contrast India and the Philippines vis-a-vis municipal waste. I believe garbage in the streets is about the same. The streets really look mean in big cities in those two countries, so much so that you feel like you're in some post-Apocalyptic world. I think they filmed the last Bourne Legacy movie in Manila precisely for that reason.

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My question follows with the slowing down of the US birth rate blogs going around. Although I think a low rate birth is a problem for a country, no very competitive modern economy has an above replacement fertility rate any more with Ireland and the US birth dropping. (I am using the CNBC latest more competitive countries as my guide here.)

My take despite a big drop in the birth rate in India, they are still ~2.5 per female which is above replacement fertility rate. Does this hurt economic growth short term as it limits female employment & opportunites and puts a lot of resources into feeding the population but help it long term (20+ years or so.) Interesting question because India economy seems to stagant the last couple years while China is moving forward at 7+%. It might be a class on development economics.

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Try to find some Bengali food while your there. Delhi isn't in West Bengal but most of the major cities seem to have some Bengali places. It's unique, tasty and in my experience hard to find outside of India.

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When you visit my country note the following :
1) Even the most well-educated people throw garbage on the street even when a garbage can is available
2) Hindu temples are kept clean ( for Indian standards) but the street outside will be a garbage dump. Cleanliness is reserved for God alone
3) whenever possible drivers break traffic rules
4) Many have the habit of driving at top speed on the wrong side of the road to overtake a vehicle. I was born and brought-up in India but even I find this terrifying
5) Except in the major cities drivers cannot wait for the red light to change
6) Spitting on the street is a common sight
7) Even the U.S educated academics have a feudal mindset: they expect the younger faculty to address them as sir/madam and expect the students to stand when they talk to them. In many institutions doctoral students do not sit while they talk to their PhD supervisors
8) the PhD defense examination is conducted in public and is a sham. Even if no question is answered the degree is awarded!!! In most cases the supervisor answers the questions for the student and one finds even the audience is allowed to answer questions. In one exam I heard people praising the candidate's thesis instead of asking questions

9) With exceptions, economics faculty do not want their kids to study economics . But they go ballistic when it is suggested that the economics programmes be shut down

Just curious: Pity if that is all you see.

I see a 350 million middle class created from a destitute, illiterate, malnourished, colonized country, with amputated bleeding borders. Most of us come from poverty and illiteracy, (just a generation or two ago), and grew prosperous mainly due to taxpayer subsidized education. No other country has done this in just 50 years without genocide, slavery, selling drugs and arms or by deliberately killing / shipping out its unwanted, unsightly and smelly to reservations, death camps or to colonize others' land. This happened while facing wars from Pakistan (and its US supplied arms) and attacks by China (since India gave refuge to the Dalai and fleeing Tibetans).

Nehru approached US companies and they were unwilling to work with newly independent India and wanted $, (from a country where even the State Bank could not pay employees for months as the British had wiped it out). Hence Nehru was forced to turn to Soviet technology as they accepted rupees, sugar, leather, tobacco, consumer goods,etc. as payment. India HAD to make everything locally and sure we put up with second rate goods. Result today: everything is made here, often of excellent quality.

Farm lands were devastated by UK' s colonial policy and life expectancy was 23! Yes 23! The extremely high infant mortality rate resulted in Indians having too many babies. The real issue today is over population: the 4 southern states are already on ZPG and sure, another 600 million need education and birth control right now.

I presume every American tells you to look only at the destruction in the Philippines or in Vietnam, the bombing of Iraq and the takeover of its oil fields, or the black slave trade which established US prosperity. Every Swiss and Austrian person tells you the cruel source of its wealth (dictators, drugs)? France tells you its wealth arose, after unbelievable cruelty to Haiti and equivalent? You do know Germany has several repeated fake PhD scandals and Harvard has people ready to write your thesis.

Does this excuse India's problems? Do we need to do much better? Of course.
A reduced population will solve many issues.

Well, according to Tyler's video, India had barely 140MM people in 1600.
That figure was close to 350MM people by 1947. A period of very significant population growth.
This clearly shows that life expectancy was not much higher in 1600 than it was in 1947. If anything it was probably lower.

By the way, am amazed how readily people accept "over population" as an issue.
The population has tripled since Independence. Yet, per-capita income has also gone up by a factor of 5.
More population also means more "life", more energy, more vigour, more tax payers.

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Slavery was hardly a cause of US prosperity by itself.
There was more slavery in South America which lagged way behind US.
Slavery is as old as human civilization. Yet, it seldom generated an economic boom wherever it was practiced

And there's the opportunity cost issue. Owners of slaves can't gauge the opportunity costs of the slaves very well, and this leads to inefficiency. A prima facie indication that slavery hurts the economy--it does not help it.

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Right, slavery helps enrich oligarchs with large land holdings but it isn't so great for establishing a modern economy based on industrialization and sustainable economic growth.

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Nice clips.
However I thought it was a tad curious why the period from 1870-1947 was excluded when you examined the economic performance during British Raj.

That was the heyday of the Raj. After all, formal British rule over a very large part of the country began only in 1857!
And economic performance during this period - post 1870 was a lot better than the earlier periods of anarchy (between 1700-1857)

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For (mostly) contemporary Indian art, please visit wonderfully written with good knowledge and perspective.

To know some Indian history, please read this brief page:

If you really want to know about the British Raj, read Churchill's Secret War, ( Mukherjee) Late Victorian Holocausts, (Mike Davis), Decolonizing the Hindu mind. (Koenrad Elst) and Dr Oldenburg's research on British laws which abolished of traditional women's rights, and made them resemble UK laws.

Well, the British also abolished Sati - which I suppose was one of the rights of traditional Indian women ;)

Sure women (and men) could enjoy their rights, if any, as colonized/enslaved folks!

R Mohan Roy had to beg and beg the British for this law: they refused again and again.

Dowry Murders by Dr Oldenburg shows UK's laws deliberately stopped traditional female inheritance. J Austen's stories show if a family had 5 daughters, not one could inherit the family home but even a distant male cousin could. One daughter had to marry him just so they could all continue living there. These laws were introduced and traditional stree dhan and women rulers inheriting homes, kingdoms, etc. abolished. Lack of money made women powerless.

UK's taxation made desperate farmers seek any source of money just to keep their land. Within a few years, UK had acquired huge tracts of land and many then joined the army for pay and sought not gifts but money as dowry, often to pay off land related taxes and debts.

M Kishwar's research states no dowry deaths/issues before colonial times and no common sati occurrence.

BTW, I have asked and asked: if sati had been common, surely many of us would have ancestors who remembered someone who underwent it. No one had any stories. Dr Oldenburg's research agrees.

BTW, millions of European women were burnt as witches, usually by the church, to acquire their property. (Records show what the US Salem 'witches' owned and who benefited from their deaths.)

Sati was indeed common enough in Bengal. So was the Thagee cult in many parts of northern India.
These practices were prevalent over 200 years ago and its unlikely that our ancestors will have memories of it.

Even the likes of Ram Mohun Roy were anglicized products of the clash of civilizations which happened in late 18th/early 19th centuries.

Regarding Kishwar's research on no dowry/sati deaths before colonial times - My point is this whole tradition of historical documentation and research did not really exist in India before the arrival of European civilization.

If you have not heard of famines during Mughal rule or of Sati deaths during Mughal period, it's because these were never documented by unbiased researchers. In contrast, even the worst statistics from the famines of the 1870s were painstakingly documented by colonial administrations with no spin put on them.

As Tyler rightly pointed out, any appraisal of British rule must ask the question - "Compared to what". Tyler's graphs clearly show that Indian economic decline clearly predated British rule. The most precipitous decline happened between 1600 and 1750s when there was absolutely no British involvement in administration. Even between 1750 and 1857, the British Raj did not really exist - what existed was a haphazard administration of East India Company which was one of the several powers in India. In truth, the much reviled colonial rule existed over the whole country for barely 90 years - 1857 to 1947. And for much of that period, economic performance was not too bad at all (especially when one compares with China - which was never formally ruled by a European imperial power).
India consistently outperformed China throughout the years of British Raj.

Famines or prosperity in various eras/ under various rulers are mentioned in various places/texts. You may have other facts which I do not know: My research resembles that on the tripod site.

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By the way, talking of women's rights.
Some 200 years ago, monogamy was not exactly the well-established, universal institution that it is today in India!
A lot of communities including the Nairs for instance had polygamous/polyandrous traditions.
It was only during the British Raj that traditional Hindu law (based on Dharmasastras) gained in prominence and monogamy became fashionable and the norm among all communities.

Polygamy among Muslims and polyandry among hill folks and many tribals is still not uncommon.

A court case mentions a Parsi lady with two husbands, so probably this was an accepted practice. (Never mind the difficulties some of us have with one.)

What is probably less today is southern matrilocal marriages and the tradition of the youngest girl inheriting parental property.

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