Fri, Feb 08, 2013 - Page 9 News List

India, China and Egypt: turning demographic bombs into assets

The nation that best educates and empowers its growing youth population may be the one that leaves its competitors behind to thrive in the 21st century

By Thomas L. Friedman  /  NY Times News Service, NEW DELHI

Indeed, some of India’s disaffected youth are turning to Maoism in rural areas.

“We have Maoists among our tribal populations, who have not benefited from the opportunities of modern India,” Tharoor said.

There have been violent Maoist incidents in 165 of India’s 625 districts in recent years, as Maoists tap into all those left out of the “Indian dream.” So there is now a huge push here to lure poor kids into school. India runs the world’s biggest midday lunch program, serving 250 million free school lunches each day. It has also doubled its number of Indian Institutes of Technology, from eight to 16, and is planning 14 new universities for innovation and research.

However, this will all be for naught without better governance, says Gurcharan Das, the former chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble India, whose latest book is India Grows at Night: A Liberal Case for a Strong State.

“The aspirational India has no one to vote for, because no one is talking the language of public goods. Why should it take us 15 years to get justice in the courts or 12 years to build a road? The gap between [youth] aspirations and government performance is huge. My thesis is that India has risen despite the state. It is a story of public failure and private success,” Das says.

That is what he means by India grows at night, when government sleeps.

“But India must learn to grow during the day,” he said. “If India fixes its governance before China fixes its politics that is who will win. ... You need a strong state and a strong society, so the society can hold the state accountable. India will only get a strong state when the best of society join the government, and China will only get a strong society when the best Mandarins go into the private sector.”

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