Future Past
Wednesday, 27 July 2011

¶ Is India the land of the future? The lengthy report on the business empire of Gautam Adani, by Jim Yardley and Vikas Bajaj, that begins on today’s front page chimes in with many other stories that we’ve been hearing about India — such as a recent account of the disorderly growth of Gurgaon, outside Delhi. What these stories have in common is a direct advance from pre-industrial rural economy to roaring industrial and post-industrial development sprouting in all directions, paid for entirely out of private pockets and unhampered by existing infrastructure. Governments at all levels either mute their criticism and respond with studied inaction to the inevitable nastiness that piles up at the margins of these boomtowns, or, like the Gujarat of Narendra Modi, they accommodate and applaud the big entrepreneurs, embracing their Gilded Age contempt for the little people and for the democratic processes that serve them so poorly. (Mr Modi described his most recent election victory, in 2007, as a “referendum” on his leadership. In our view, referendum stands at just a hair’s-breadth distance from acclamation, the one and only tool at the disposal of mobs.) An India composed of billionaires’ fiefdoms is a frighteningly medieval prospect, but political India appears to be mesmerized by it.