An economistís view
Ambika Sharma

The Indian Renaissance: Indiaís Rise after a Thousand Years of Decline
by Sanjeev Sanyal.
Pages 230. Rs 499.

THE book studies the economic resurgence of India and dwells on the significant changes which made it re-emerge as a power to reckon with in the 21st century.

The writer, Sanjeev Sanyal, who is working as a chief economist with the Deutsche Bank and stays at Singapore, has dwelt on the gradual evolution of India as an economic power after gaining Independence.

Sanyal presents an economistís view of the emerging Indian economy and the myriad factors which at times hastened its growth and at other times acted as a deterrent.

Describing the countryís first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as one nurturing an inward-looking approach, where there was little dependence on the outside world, the writer portrays his rule as one which kept India away from sharing the global developments.

Opposed to any innovation, India, which had gained Independence after much toil, then feared the advent of the outside world as contrary to its progress. Its economy was dependent on whatever goods and services were produced within the country despite much being desired in terms of quality.

Criticising this approach as one lacking direction it created shortages and production of substandard products. While it failed to give a positive direction to the nation, it led to the ingress of corruption with black marketers emerging. So stark was their presence that it led to the emergence of a parallel economy run by these hoarders. This led to an abysmally low growth rate which hovered around 3.5 per cent to 2 from 1950s`A0to late 1970s. It was dubbed as the Hindu rate of growth, the writer has also termed the chief advisor to Nehru, Mahalanobis, as an equal partner in this degradation.

This phase, which lasted till 1970s, was stiffly abhorrent to innovation and dwelt more on the state controlled systems. Under the excessive licensing regime, undue regulations restricted the growth, while monopoly of the state to control financial institutions were measures which were contradictory to the development of the country.

Instead of serving any purpose, it led to scarcities of food and kerosene which was attributed to the inefficient government control over the system. Despite the pervading feeling of nationalism after gaining Independence, corruption had made its presence felt and this was evident in various ways, including the Mundhra`A0scandal in 1951 which surfaced after the Second Five-Year Plan.

Candid assertions of politicians influencing loans with little stress to repayment created an unhealthy trend of non-performing assets rising. This prompted the need to introduce reforms and the consequent entry of private and foreign banks revolutionised the banking sector.

The year 1991 has been described as the watershed year when the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) made a surge in the Indian economy. Subsequent changes like the entry of foreign-owned`A0media`A0channels Star, BBC, MTV, etc., were neon signs of the Indian renaissance.

Dealing with an economistís view of how`A0India has evolved from a closed economy dependent solely on the indigenous goods to one alluring the Western world has evoked a mixed response. The writer has attempted to highlight all crucial events in the political and economic scenario right from the inward-looking policies of Nehru to the advent of big business groups and further the release of terrorists at Kandahar by the former Home Minister Jaswant Singh and even the announcement of the crucial Golden Quadrilateral Project launched by former Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee.

The book compiles several crucial events and is almost like history being revisited. Yet, the attempt to highlight all and sundry happenings and link their impact to the economy has added a tinge of monotony to the book making it incoherent at times.