How little I know about the country I grew up in. The past year travelling around Europe has been a bit of an eyeopener. Even the poorest European countries seem to have basic infrastructure which is so woefully missing in India. I always used to think my lifestyle was normal and would cringe at the label of “third world” being applied to my country. But now I realize how privileged my life has been and how much of a struggle it is for so many millions living on the same sub-continent. How different their lives are and how little we can relate to each other.
The past couple of weeks have been bumpy. Riding in the suburbs to work along miserable roads, I cannot help but wonder where all my past taxes went. Supposedly in transfers to poorer states, from which millions emigrate to the metros which crumble as their infrastructure cannot support the pressure on them. A large part of my taxes have leaked out of the budget through corruption. Which leads me to wonder – would a majority of Indians have been better off if they weren’t under one sovereign state? Wouldn’t the need to compete with neighbouring states have made them demand better accountability from their policy makers? Wouldn’t industry have been more competitive? Perhaps not, given that the independence of India from colonial rule hinged on a united front and evolution from then on for many of the smaller states may not have been feasible without the support of a central government. But it is obvious that the system of governance and transfers, has not been efficient so far. And whether the independence of states would even offer a solution. It is of course a controversial topic and when I broach it with people, they react with anger.