We all know about the half-empty glass also being the half-full glass. It's about your disposition that makes you see the water in the glass either way. That, however, isn't the case with mobile phones in India. According to official figures - and we're guessing that by 'official', it means mobile companies - India has 900 million cellphone users. A reality check in the form of figures released by the department of telecommunication says something else: we have 300 million mobile users. So who is this phantom 600 million? They are literally the ghosts of mobile phones past - cellphones that are no longer in use. Thus, and let's tuck away our celebratory ringtones for a minute, India's teledensity isn't 75% (three out of every four persons), but 50% (one out of every two persons).
India's ease with numbers is legendary. No one jacks them up or makes them sing a different tune like we do. The recent chin-scratching over how many poor people this country has became more a battle over deciding a nice spot to draw the poverty line rather than about head-counting to help. The biggest parlour trick, of course, is the one about India's 'demographic dividend'. The banner reads: 'We have the number - 1.2 billion and counting - to take over the world, and 63% of this number are under 30. So watch out!' But out of this sea of potential workforce, how many are really capable and qualified to do the work?
Everyone loves a Great India Success Story. So to point out anything that doesn't quite match the script smacks, at best, of churlishness, and, at worst, sedition. Our defence to these charges would be: isn't it more helpful if we take into consideration unpleasant truths, which, minus the hype, would be less unpleasant, and build our fancy house on solid ground? Hello? Oh, we've been speaking to a dead line.