A Conducive Era for India’s indigenous DNA?

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Like many other nations, India’s economic status down the ages demonstrates a pattern of ages of great prosperity and prominence checkered with spells of poverty and despair. While the term ‘ancient India’ denotes different geographic boundaries during different times and the words ‘people of India’ actually refer to a melting pot of cultures, what emerges very clearly is that the Indian sub-continent has typically done well during times of domestic strength and stability, particularly when social and economic underlings have been patronized.

Could there be a geo-socio-cultural gene that enables India to excel under these conditions?

Many European nations – like Rome, Spain, Portugal and even Germany and England, seemed to progress on the back of conquests and challenges – they have crafted battleships and equipped battalions during imperial eras and led the industrial revolution with machines that can mass produce. They have grown on the strength of domination of their subjects, within their countries or colonies.

Countries like Egypt, India and China, on the other hand, have sparkled more in areas of culture, art, civil engineering, mathematics, medicine, etc., particularly during times when their countries were not impacted by war and administrations were tough but benevolent towards people at the bottom of the pyramid.

Looking as far back as the Indus Valley civilization, evidence suggests that the inhabitants enjoyed a conducive economic climate for 700 years, without any semblance of armour or fortification. Although they were master-craftsmen and proficient metallurgists, dabbling in copper, bronze, lead and tin, the tools they made were more to facilitate art and artefacts rather than weapons of war. Although there were distinct socio-economic classes, there seemed to have been cooperation and interdependence among them, rather than an intimidating hierarchy. Despite the apparently robust administrative systems, it appears that a lack of military power finally brought the civilization to its knees when middle-eastern invaders attacked.

Skip ahead to the Gupta and Chola Empires that ruled north-western-central and south of India, respectively. The Gupta period (between 4CE and 6CE), also referred to as the classical age of India, has set standards in literature, art, architecture and philosophy. The decimal system of notation and other contributions to the sciences of mathematics, astronomy, and metallurgy are other achievements of the era. When the Gupta dynasty were at their peak, under the rule of Emperor Chandra Gupta II, better known as Vikramamaditya, the kingdom was better known for its cultural and intellectual achievements than its military conquests.

The Chola dynasty, which is remembered as one of the longest ruling dynasties in the southern regions of India, is another instance of prosperity in structured and inclusive times. During their rule that extended over five hundred years, in the 13th century, the Cholas were ardent patrons of art, poetry, literature and drama, who invested generously in the construction of several legendary temples and complexes. Although the Cholas, as monarchs, held the central authority, carried out macro-level governance and made major decisions, the system of rule was such that each village acted as a self-governing unit within the massive kingdom.

Even the Moghul Empire under the rule of Akbar the Great flourished, supporting this paradigm. Akbar was a strong and able administrator and reformist and kept his people motivated by incentivizing those who had capabilities, despite their insignificant lineage. Emperor Akbar supported state workshops for the production of high-quality textiles and ornaments and liberally patronized painters, poets, musicians and scholars, while ensuring that industries flourished.

He is believed to have instituted an efficient revenue assessment and tax collection system which safeguarded peasants from excessive demands and also protected the state from loss of income. His government was collecting income of what today would be $10.6 billion annually by the end of his reign. In comparison, Queen Elizabeth I of England, who had an almost identical period of reign, was bringing in today’s equivalent of $163 million on average in each of her final years.

If these phases in history attest that Indians may have a DNA that thrives during times of domestic strength and stability, particularly when the social and economic underprivileged are supported, we may be entering a golden era.

Riding on technology, the administrative system in the country is growing stronger with each policy reform. The Covid vaccination drive, which was the largest of its kind in the world, demonstrated the effectiveness of India’s administrative system. The ability of the GST collection mechanism to accurately reflect the state of economic activity in the country is another.

At the same time, technology is paving a playing field for those who were hitherto socio-economically handicapped in their pursuits. MSMEs, who were challenged due to their inability to access formal sector credit, have been facilitated by AI-equipped algos. Students in remote towns, who were at a disadvantage in terms of education-delivery, will be carried forward with the advent of 5G and access to top-quality content.

These are only a few of the catalysts that could drive the economy forward rapidly during the current era of nurturing of the underprivileged, strong domestic administrative systems and the determinedness not to be dragged into global conflicts.

About the author: Sudip Bandyopadhyay
Sudip Bandyopadhyay
Sudip Bandyopadhyay is currently the Group Chairman of Inditrade (JRG) Group of Companies. He sits on the Boards of a number of listed and unlisted companies. His area of expertise includes equity, commodity and currency markets, wealth management, mutual fund, insurance, investment banking, remittance, forex and distribution of financial products. During Sudip’s 16 years stint with ITC as Head of Treasury and Strategic Investments, he managed investments in excess of $1.5 billion. He was responsible for the acquisition of strategic stakes in EIH, VST and several other companies, by ITC. Post ITC, he was the Managing Director of Reliance Securities (Reliance Money) and also on the Board of several Reliance ADA Group companies. He was instrumental in leading Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s foray, amongst others, into Equity and Commodity Broking, Commodity Exchanges, Gold Coin Retailing, and Money Transfer. Afterwards Sudip was the Managing Director and CEO of Destimoney, promoted by New Silk Route, with over $1.4 billion under management. Sudip has significant presence in business media through his regular interaction on leading business channels, business newspapers and magazines.Author can be reached at [email protected]

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