I have been seeing media blitzkrieg by Free Basics sponsored by Facebook for last couple of days. At no other time in the history love for poor Indians has been expressed in such effusive manner as British had done with enormous propaganda money on why white men must help poor child-like Indians and hold India as a colony.
In the beginning for the British, it was simply the better science and technology in the form of musketry, canons, navy and divide et impera organization that triumphed over opium soaked Maharajas, Nawabs and Nizams and caste torn and scientifically novice masses.
In approximately 300 year long history of British in India, first 100 years they traded, next 100 years they looted and then last 100 years they emasculated India. With exception of three Indian Princes, Tipu Sultan (tried modernizing his army to western standards) of Mysore, Sawai Jai Singh (laid emphasis on scientific learning) of Jaipur and Sayajirao Gaekwad III (patronized education of masses) of Baroda, 700 or so Indian Princes and Zamindars fought useless wars, indulged in inane luxuries, taxed heavily and brutalized Indians alongside British causing 50 years of severe famines and ruining a race.
India was center of Imperialism and was so important to British that they fought Napoleonic France to stop its march through Egypt to India, they entered WW I to save crucial Berlin-Baghdad railway line and they sided Turkey in Crimean war to block Russians reaching India. India was the reason for Imperialism and it only ended with India’s Freedom, which then triggered freedom for many nations. Yet, this Imperialism was a natural march of history which effortlessly rode on the back of scientific progress and industrial revolution in the West and not a conscious crime attributable to British.
Even today all life is war and in the new world, the victories of industry and trade are often as decisive as those on the battlefields. India is once again the epicenter^ where “Digital loot” has already started and “Digital Imperialism” is on its way, where rest of Commerce and Jobs within a nation or among nations will be controlled by the party holding people’s information.
India is the epicenter because in the digital “Imperial Race” to get next 1 billion mobile users in consumerist orgy, the only place left to get them is India, as other place China has successfully retained its strategic control and protected its future wealth by blocking Facebook, Google and many such services since very beginning. China also gave timely support to build its own local alternatives and is engaging with rest of the technology world at its own terms.
India can not do the same because in our 70 years of freedom we totally ignored our primary education system because of which large swathe of our country is still riddled in caste, superstitions and religious insularity. We also forgot to build our own base for scientific discoveries and inventions*. We hardly have any Nobel prizes or product labs or product exports.
India’s rulers are behaving in the same old manner of past. Our Shahjahan (Mr. Modi) is busy announcing one mega edifice after another, whereas his implementation team is riddled with hindutva brigade, who is busy digging 3000 years of history for pride, who cares if we had Pushpak Viman then, do we have it now? Our Shahjahan is busy courting the very same agents of digital imperialism and ‘encouraging’ them to set up their factories in India. He is traveling around the world shopping warplanes and doing nothing about scientific establishments** to build our own. It’s not enough to be seen at ISRO for Mangalyaan launch, it is about giving and supporting grand vision of next frontier to ISRO. He is doing more of the same with expansion of IITs to produce more Indian coolies for digital imperialism. My heart cringed, when he proudly declared in Madison Square garden that he will supply manpower to world, well in old Imperialism we have always fought others’ wars in Africa, France, Singapore etc. All civilizations have their faults (swachhta !) but great civilizations are not evaluated on correction of those faults but by having and achieving a bold vision. But then he is no Vivekanand.
Our capitalist Princes are by and large showing same signs of opportunism and none chasing any transformation agenda. Mr. Tata is partaking equity in itsy-bitsy clone consumer startups^^ where he is late as digital imperial investments have already taken firm hold of Indian eCommerce. None of his investments are in core science and technological discovery. Mr. Pai is busy squeezing monetary advantage of demographic dividend and training people for labour market whereas he can also be the founder of an Indian Stanford. Mr. Ambani is my all time favourite who always built wealth with closeness to power elite (lets not forget swanky parties in eighties), working in and around large government initiatives (2.5 lakhs crores in digital india), offered himself to be first ally in digital imperialism with Facebook and never doing anything cutting edge. Mr. Ambani is one man, who can be our Elon Musk but he won’t step up. In fact, our corporate elite always wait decades for ‘free land’ or ‘right’ government incentives or both before starting in renewable energy or defense production or Internet-for-all or anything.
While we may all collectively gloat, I gather that appointment of Sundar Pichai at Google and Satya Nadella at Microsoft are strategic moves by Imperial planners to confuse/ contain backlash which Google and Microsoft are also likely to face (Share prices of $32,000 for East India Co then or $762 for GOOG now, are not possible without usurping monopolistic prospects). In contrast, we have found it convenient to rally against the White poster boy of Facebook, while Digital Loot is already in full swing with Android, IOS, WhatsApp, Gmail*** etc. as we debate.
No denying that we need Internet to uplift our poor but in the long term, it has to be our Internet. India has to have serious investment and inventions in Science and Technology.
(Author’s views are personal and have no reflection from the organization of association)
Original article at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-just-free-basics-stupid-deepak-agrawal
^ 36 other nations on Free Basics are no more important than loose change in a capitalist’s pocket.
* Sorry Mr. A S Kiran Kumar, ISRO is one island of proven scientific excellence but beyond obvious pride in ISRO, it has no impact on the lives and scientific capability of masses.
^^ If all our youngsters can think of are, online prasad and parantha startups or 1857th analytics sweatshop in Bangalore or majority of so-called technology trained manpower serving white masters on late night calls then, while we may tinker immediate unemployment problem, we should also understand that our science and technology education infrastructure is not working.
** China has been able to build a military equipment complex from scratch in 20 years and is now an exporter too. Those who believe naively in just-beuatiful-and-global world, do not realize that military might is still the only might.
*** Gmail is preferred email system with masses, government officials and even departments in India.