India is Broken: A People Betrayed, Independence to Today

Indian American Economist Ashoka Mody embarks on a deep and rigorous examination of India’s political and economic evolution from 1947 to the present. This meticulously researched book presents a compelling narrative that chronicles the country’s transformation from a nascent independent state brimming with optimism to what Mody perceives as a profoundly fragmented modern nation. His critical analysis spans several decades, charting the pivotal events and policies that have shaped India’s socio-economic landscape.

Historical Perspectives and Analysis
The book is organized into four distinct sections, each dedicated to a different era in India’s post-independence history. Mody begins with the early years of what he terms “Fake Socialism,” moving through periods of intense political upheaval and economic turmoil and concluding with the recent phase of “Hubris” under the administration of Narendra Modi. Mody’s detailed account of the Nehruvian era and its impact on subsequent economic policies sets the stage for understanding the complex interplay of leadership decisions that have influenced India’s trajectory.

Mody uses a chronological approach, delving into the implications of each prime minister’s policies and their long-term effects on the nation. His critique is not limited to economic policies but extends to political decisions that have perpetuated systemic failures and corruption, which, according to Mody, have reduced India’s potential for real progress.

Economic Disappointments and Political Dynamics
Central to Mody’s narrative is the profound disillusionment with India’s economic progress. He argues convincingly that the initial promise of establishing a socialist economy aimed at reducing inequalities was never fully realized. Instead, subsequent governments have often implemented policies that exacerbated disparities and hindered sustainable economic growth. Mody is particularly critical of the phases of economic liberalization that, rather than democratizing opportunities, have predominantly benefitted the elite, leading to increased inequality and social discord.

Integration of Cultural and Social Insights
A distinctive feature of Mody’s work is his integration of cultural elements into the broader economic and political narrative. Through references to Indian cinema, literature, and personal vignettes, he paints a vivid portrait of how ordinary Indians have perceived and been impacted by macroeconomic decisions and political changes. This method not only enriches the narrative but also provides a more nuanced understanding of India’s complex social dynamics, connecting economic policies directly with their human consequences.

Contemporary Leadership and Democratic Erosion
The latter part of the book provides a critical examination of Narendra Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister. Mody discusses how Modi’s centralization of power and the erosion of democratic norms pose serious risks, steering India towards what he describes as an “electoral autocracy.” This section is particularly provocative, offering a timely critique of current political trends and their implications for the future of India’s democratic institutions.

Mody approaches India’s complex history as a series of interconnected stories, each illuminating a different aspect of its economic and political life. This method allows readers to grasp how historical events and decisions have shaped the current landscape without getting overwhelmed by technical details. Each chapter builds upon the previous one, crafting a coherent and engaging narrative that captures the essence of India’s challenges and transformations.

“India is Broken” serves as a reality check against India’s lofty narratives. He does not shy away from pointing out that India’s singular economic failure is failure to create well paid jobs. In Mody’s words, India’s persisting moral failures are in its globally uncompetitive education, gender inequality, broken social justice system, rampant environmental degradation, and political degradation. In sum, Ashoka Mody’s “India is Broken” is not just a historical account; it is a compelling critique and a significant contribution to the literature on Indian political economy. The book, perhaps, calls to action for policymakers, scholars, and citizens alike to recognize and rectify past mistakes in hopes of steering India towards a more equitable and prosperous future. It also serves as a cautionary tale for those in the region and beyond seeking to emulate the Indian model or cultivating New Delhi as a partner.

“Dying rivers could choke not just the economy but an entire way of life.”- Ashoka Mody

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