Industrialisation without employment

If multi-party parliamentary democracy means giving the people a wide range of political choices, then there is plenty of it in India. The Indian citizenry can certainly have its pick from numerous political parties, small and large, with a variety of labels. But if voters have to choose with regards to actual content, particularly regarding economic policy, there is hardly any true choice anymore. Indeed, there has been a breathtaking convergence among political parties – less apparent in their rhetoric, but unmistakably clear in their deeds. One could be led to believe that this is the result of the inevitable compromises of coalition politics. But when the same economic convergence takes place in the states of India, there is little room left for any illusion about what is truly going on.

'Economic growth', 'industrialisation', 'development' – these are grand terms that politicians use with abandon. But in the midst of this rhetoric, a simple, crucial question remains unanswered: If a high growth rate necessarily entails a certain type of industrialisation, is this industrialisation then synonymous with development? If development requires giving a different content to industrialisation, we must be able to specify it as part of a new politics.

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Himal Southasian