The last 20 years of liberalised growth might have created 'two Indias' in his own words, but renowned French economist Guy Sorman believes those very years have also given the Indian poor a real hope of being able to better their lives.
The prolific author, known to be a strong defender of free markets, however, rues the fact that India's bureaucracy has failed to keep pace with the transformation post-liberalisation, creating severe bottlenecks in development.
In India recently to release his new book Economics Does Not Lie, published by Full Circle, Sorman said for a free market economy to succeed, a number of institutional reforms needed to be initiated simultaneously and stated that liberalisation had done some wonderful things to India.
"In this country, the bureaucracy still belongs to old India and it is ill prepared to facilitate the transition from the old to the modern, so is the system of imparting technical education," Sorman told PTI in an interview.
Reacting to mounting criticisms in India that post-liberalisation society has perpetuated gross inequalities, Sorman said while he is sensitive to the widespread poverty, the answer does not lie in reverting to the old system but in reforming the existing one.
"Well to the people who criticise the reforms, I say they should compare the present with the India of 30 years ago when nothing was happening, so nothing was to be hoping for," he said.
"A large number of people are moving from India no 2 to India no 1 in hope of a better future. For the first time in India poor people think that their children can have a better life. This hope has tremendous psychological effects," Sorman said pointing out the example of fishermen in Tamil Nadu benefiting from the telecom revolution.
"The revolution of Internet and cellphones reaching remote villages is an example of trickle down and of technology helping escape exploitation by intermediaries," he said.
Besides the ill-functioning bureaucracy, Sorman also laments weakness of the technical education system in India, which he says needs to be strong to equip people from the countryside to be able to find a place in the cities.
"If you want to have sustained growth, you don't only need to bring a man from the countryside to the city, you need to bring an educated, technically-equipped man and need a kind of technical education system which you don't have in India".
"What more is needed is the creation of income generating revenues in rural India for landless people".
China might be the flavour of the world economy with its galloping growth rates, but Sorman believes India has a better bet at the future given the stability of its democracy and the vitality of its open society.