November 4, 2012 in Asia
By Aniket Maitra
Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) is a mega city in Eastern Indian with a population of over 14million.
As a Singapore Airlines flight arrives in Kolkata’s Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Terminal, nothing in this government-run airport has changed for years. The first thing you notice when you get off the plane is that stairs lead down on to the tarmac of the airport with a pathway dileanted for you to take a bus to the main terminal. In most cases there is no airbridge between the airplane and the airport. When you arrive at the airport you see dull yellow signs pointing to immigration or the bathroom and when you claim your luggage, the conveyer belt looks like it hasn’t been replaced in decades. There is a sense of mediocrity that hasn’t kept pace with the modernity that we here about in India. That’s because modernity has occurred without the help of the public sector.
Globalization has had its stark impact on India. In 1991, India removed economic barriers and began the process of the economic liberalization to outside markets and welcomed in a plethora of foreign industries.
Take a look at any modern-day private urban business and you feel as if you are in New York, London, or Singapore. The Chinese restaurants behind glass doors have air-conditioning, dim-lighting, a “classy” flute version of an Enrique Iglesias song in the background, and the presence of middle or upper class clientele. The menus are all in the English and the attire at these restaurants is implicitly Western.
The roads haven’t changed but the cars have. The most popular car 15 years ago might have been a small Suzuki Maruti (a small Japanese hatchback) or an Ambassador Classic (a car based on an English design that hasn’t changed a bit since the 1950s). Today, everything is available: Ford, Chevy, BMW, Audi, Porsche, Hyundai.
The place where modernity is most obvious is the malls. There is no difference between an American mall complex and an Indian mall. Toy stores, chocolate fountains, Tommy Hilfiger outlets, and that shop with bath salts. The language spoken often is English and when you go the movie theater, you can find a commodity never heard of in India before this globalization trend, nachos.
Just walk about 300 feet from the malls and the other side of the India is seen. It is the one a security guard from mall returns to. A one room home that an entire family shares in which the door is a curtain and the door to the outside world might be a small Philips tv. There are no iPhones in the pockets of these people, there is only the sight of the 7% GDP growth rate that has forgotten about them.
While economic growth and modernity might be the pillars of a prospering society, an imitation of the West cannot occur with 30% of the population left behind. This 30% includes those unable to afford food due to hyperinflation occurring throughout the nation and unable to afford houses in megacities like Mumbai and Kolkata due to a real estate market that thrives with a growing middle class. While it appears that the private sector really can’t take care of the poor, it appears that the job must be taken care of by governments spending more on social services and imitating something else about the West: making governments functional and for the people.
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.