Vantage point

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Tongawallah Example

Europe and America were also agrarian at one point of time. They too had millions of small farmers at one point of time. But gradually the agriculture there moved in the hands of the big farmers, because it gave economies of scale. The children of erstwhile small farmers started doing something else. Same story in South East Asia.

In india, this consolidation has not happened because leftists and quasi-leftists are of the opinion that 100 small farmers selling their land to one big farmers and getting into some other business is a wrong thing.

For people like them, the fact that "70% of the Indian workforce is still employed by agriculture" is a source of pride.

It should be a matter of concern!

Why is such a huge chunk of our workforce still engaged in a profession with low productivity? Prashant has mentioned that 95% of farmers do not want their kids to keep farming. but they have no choice. I think that their kids deserve to do something more productive as well.

But what will they do if not farming, leftists ask? They say that if these farmers are forced out of unproductive farming because of globalisation, then they will die like flies.

Did they die like flies in other countries? Maybe a few here and there. But would you maintain an unproductive status quo and be happy with abject poverty because of it?

Give the masses the freedom and they definitely will come up with alternate means of employment.

The status-quo-ist mindset advocated by leftists is born out of a deep inferiority complex. Deep down they feel the Indian masses are inferior and hence need protection. Indian libertarians on the other hand, do not suffer from this inferiority complex. We believe that the Indian masses, if freed from the state's illogical shackles, can prosper and make the transition into an economy which is not so strongly agrarian.

Look at Indians living abroad. I am not just talking about the white collared engineers and doctors. Even the blue collared people who reach foreign shores by illegal ways do very well. You do not see low-class immigrants living on welfare in Europe or America. they are hardworking and ingenious people who make something of themselves.

A lot is written about the WASP work ethic, but I think the Indian work ethic, born out of our history and our "culture" is a potential gold mine. Which is why most Indians, be they educated or uneducated, do well in foreign countries.

It is our inferiority complex, caused by colonisation and compunded manifold by a socialist polity, that holds us back.

Bottomline is, that the Indian workforce, if freed, can make rapid strides. There will be some growing pains of course, but we need to look at the bigger picture. We can not stay in the dark ages just because of a few suicides.

I will use an example I often give, and this one will perhaps satisfy Prashant. Tongawallahs (horsecart-pullers) ruled the streets of India a few dacdes ago. They were the only means of public transport. And yes, Prashant, a tongawallah is also unskilled. So when taxis, buses and autorickshaws came in, they obviously threatened to put the tongawallah out of business. I am sure a 50 year old tongawallah, who has just driven a tonga all his life, would have contemplated suicide. In fact I dare say some of them must have committed suicides. People who manufactured tongas, and their workers, would also have contemplated and committed suicide.

Would you use this as a reason to keep taxis, buses and rickshwas out, and continue using tongas? the exit of tongas benefitted everyone. It was a slow, unproductive means of travel, and had outlived its utility.

That doesn't mean that Indian-made-tongas were replaced by imported buses and taxis. indians started making buses and taxis too. And others, much more in number, started driving them.

Hope you get the point.