It is shocking to read of ‘dowry deaths’ of young wives in India, a country that aspires to become an advanced nation as soon as possible. The latest one, of Somera Bibi, being burned alive and described in a Calcutta newspaper, occurred because she was too dark-skinned for the bridegroom’s family and they decided, after the event, that the dowry had been too little to compensate.
Although India has a lot going for it — many technology colleges and universities, a large English-speaking population — the world’s business and scientific language — and a highly individualist culture withal, yet it also has a Hindu culture, with a deeply impressed caste system, the product of thousands of years of an agrarian society, It will take many generations before it truly acquires the culture of advanced countries.
Hinduism is probably no more deeply impressed than, say, China’s Confucianism or, indeed many other agrarian-based cultures all round the world, such as in Africa and the Middle East. But whereas Confucianism has lent itself to an authoritarian state control of its 30 provinces for over 2,000 years, India’s 20 states are still barely controllable from Delhi. Whereas China’s caste system is relatively mild, India’s is applied strictly from birth and can be rarely changed during one’ lifetime.
If I were Indian, what would bother me is that in the next 20 or 30 years China is likely to monopolise most of the manufacture of consumer goods — and a great deal of producer goods that Germany now makes. It is still expanding its exports even in a world that is in the doldrums. Even if India were to maintain the acceleration of economic growth in the next 10 hears as what it managed in the last 10 years, it’s difficult to see how India can build up enough export trade to consolidate its standard of living, never mind increasing it.