India Shining

What does Rabindranath Tagore’s body of work has to do with the decline of West Bengal’s economy? Apparently,a lot.

Written by EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE | Published: March 26, 2009 2:55 am

Sanjeev Sanyal’s The Indian Renaissance is a story of hope and change

What does Rabindranath Tagore’s body of work has to do with the decline of West Bengal’s economy? Apparently,a lot. For economist Sanjeev Sanyal feels that it’s important to understand the Bengali psyche to decipher the reason behind the decline of the state’s economy in the past four-five decades. “Kolkata was the seat of power of Asia  in the first few decades of the last century. What happened in the latter part of the century is common knowledge. However,in the last few years there has been a resurgence of sorts. If you ask me the fate of the state was sealed the day it was decided by the state’s intelligentsia that Rabindranath Tagore’s works can be performed only in a certain way. The resurgence of the state too can be timed back to day when this dictum was abandoned,” says Sanyal who was in the city to promote his book,The Indian Renaissance: India’s Rise after a thousand Years of Decline (Penguin),earlier this week.

Decline and resurgence seems to be the abiding theme of Sanyal’s book that “looks at the processes that led to ten centuries of decline of the nation and also examines the powerful economic and social forces that are working together to transform our country”.

Sanyal is bullish about India’s future as an economic power and has enough reasons for that. “By 2020 we will look at a literacy rate of 90 per cent in our country. We will also have a more initiated workforce by then. But more importantly we will have literate blue collar workers by then,” says Sanyal.

And that very fact will contribute to the rise of our economy,feels Sanyal. “The future of any economy depends on its blue colour work force. India’s economic growth,in a way,has been stilted because we depended too much on the white collar jobs,” he says the economist who is actively involved in environmental conversation.

In fact,it’s his environmental concerns that took him to the remotest corners of the country, where he observed something very heartening. “I have been to remote villages in Arunachal Pradesh and Rajasthan and the story is the same everywhere. It is true that every child in these villages,no matter how poor they are,attend schools. That,I feel is the most important thing. Primary education is integral to any country’s development,” says Sanyal.

This initiative,feels Sanyal,is a long-delayed undoing of the mistake that the thinktank of the country made over sixty years ago. “We spend the first few decades after independence funding the IITs when our focus should have been primary education,” he says.

Sanyal hopes that his book will help people understand and identify the obstacles that we still need to negotiate. “We have many big problems looming large. The rapid decline of the country’s population growth rate for instance. If we don’t do anything about it we might end up like China which will soon end up being a country of people in their 40s,” he says.

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