Friday, August 17, 2007

Shocking: India and China, Millions Now Thrive

Alert readers may remember that a young and beautifully woven Mao has pride of place on my bathroom wall. One day I'll post a picture of it. Believe me our hero looks plucky, pure and powerful. On the mountain. Tho' with a precautionary brolley, something that it must be said fellow seeker comrade Moses did not flaunt.

Please pay no attention to my priestly neighbour if she again runs from our house - having used the facilities - that this, and the huge Gorby (with kittens) in the kitchen, never mind the East German and Welsh Language items, makes ours a communist household. Heaven forfend! Though we are of course a nest of moderately militant atheist, humanist, internationalist, pragmatic socialists.

Dave Osler - also once thought to be a bit of a lefty, despite his rather bourgeois employment - worried recently about China's progress.

Certainly eggs have been repeatedly broken, sadly in their millions at times, during the People's Republic's omelette making. But these days things ain't all bad.

When I was just 17 I was lucky enough to go "on tour" to India, under the auspices of the British Council. Even back then things were beginning to pick up in the former colonies.

I saw a dying nine year old the size of a three year old. Which was a confirming of the expected experience for a child like me, rather than the sort of shock-horror that some of the "grown ups" with us seemed to affect. Didn't they read the papers or watch the news?

Then, strangely, I was uplifted and encouraged when I talked with a family of beggars.

The father with a monstrously mangled leg and a gaping hole where one third to one half of his face had once been. In other words maintaining singular eye contact meant a not so peripheral vision of the inside of his head. But his kids ... who were also career beggars ... were not deliberately maimed in any way. Progress 1975 style. Dad knew. Things could only get better. Their own kids are most likely begging on clever clogs blogs. Progress.

I saw a dying adult "privileged" to pass away, rather abandoned and solitary, but in a clean gutter. That was within Mother Saint Teresa's "Prem Dam" home In Calcutta. A former ICI base now dubbed "Gift of God". Mother Teresa was not in that day. Off on her travels I expect. But she had delegated to a keen crew. So that was fine.

The population of Calcutta then was 15 million. But only 9 million were "on the books". If you didn't have a lintel you were not counted. Though there was a lot of elective-for-comfort outdoor sleeping - according to our hosts anyway.

We mostly stayed with pillars of the Brit ex-Pat community. My host was in charge of Brooke Bond - Fray Bentos in India. Fresh from Daar-es-Salaam. We lived for ten days in a luxurious Penthouse on Shakespeare Street, A street which had run with random Bengali blood in partition times.

Fray Bentos incidentally were then making Corned Beef in India as well as in home town Uruguay and wherever they could blag some cows and bullocks. I'm not sure they still are doing this in India. The googling is showing Brooke Bond-Liptons being an Indian run company these days. But no sign of the current shredded-holy-cow-meat-division inc.

Anyway, in a turn of events that would surely challenge the would-be saviours of the sick bullock Shambo, "that Corned Beef ting" was going on in India back then, despite all the sacred cows and shiboleths.

The only challenge was to organise the shifts for everyone's various sabbaths and to arrange the correct slaughtering of Shambo's rellies in line with each sensibility. Then get the proceeds in the tins and to market PDQ.

But I digress. Only around 1% of the population of India then was middle and upper class and paid taxes. 32 years ago. Now the proportion is around 30%. Up 30 fold in one sense. Or down from 99 to 70% poor in another.

I'm digressing again. If China does as well in going quickly from 1% to 30% - and it probably will do, say three times quicker - then one half of a billion people there could be doing OK (and admitting it) by 2017.

More people than there are altogether in the US of A or Europe SORTED OUT from being in penury to being financially OK in 10 years to go with 300M in India in the last 30 years and likely another 300M there in the next ten years.

So do we deal with these absolute numbers? Or with proportions?

How long did it take in UK to go from 1% to 30% being financially OK? Or even having a vote? Clearly 100% being OK in 10 years would be better. But when has that happened anywhere?

I'm not approving of China's many growing pains. Still less a Maoist Communist.

But I'm just uncertain on the idea that we should respond with desperate despond to these kinds of numbers.

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