Subcontinental drift

Published: Friday 30 November 2007

our worst suspicions have been confirmed. Recent research shows that since its separation from Gondwanaland, the Indian subcontinent has been moving at a more rapid pace than its siblings--South America, Australasia, Antarctica and Africa. Which means, in effect, that all of us here have been drifting faster than most of the world, in no recognizable direction.

All the non-geological evidence have been staring us in the eye. On all possible counts, a rapid pursuit of the line of least resistance may justifiably be identified as a salient element of the national character. For the past 60 years, we've motored along quite comfortably, for instance, generating mountains of statistics and reports on poverty without getting around to doing anything significant about it. Like good back-seat drivers, of course, the political establishment has had the luxury of blaming others for not landing up at the right place at the right time. Two decades of colonial rule has been a trusted and serviceable alibi over the years, but after over half a century, more vigilant judges will look at it somewhat askance. Of course, new face-savers are bound to present themselves. In a tight corner, the high priests of liberalization and reform can even claim that the trickle-down effect will solve the problem, unless it already has. That's what comes of having drifted, albeit at a fair clip, for millions of years.

Drifting has its downsides though. Ever since settled agriculture became the dominant paradigm for human civilization, drifters have been looked down upon. Throughout the world, including in this rapidly mobile part of the globe, nomadic people have been given short shrift, with states trying their best to tie them down to fixed addresses, often with disastrous of consequences. India could well discover that its geologically determined deficiency is a serious obstacle to its global ambitions. For a while now, India has been clamouring for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Unfortunately, other 'superpowers' are not taking these appeals seriously. It's a fair bet that before the policy of drift on the major questions of the day is reversed this will continue to be the case. It's time, in other words, to start making a difference on issues like livelihood security, health and education, with equity as a not-so-distant goal to drift towards.

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