Pressing rewind: How India became Third World again


Both as a nation as well as respiration, we’re back to being Third World again. No matter how many Howdys we’ve got and moonshots we make, or how much geopolitical heft we’ve gained, describing what lies outside our doors and windows as ‘saare jahan se achha’ would require a lot of pluck, straight face and magic mushrooms.

If a few decades ago, India’s Third World tag was globally advertised by poverty-stricken faces, filthy streets and power outages that embarrassed many of us both here and abroad — and periodically turned into ‘heartwarming’ slum aesthetics in films like Roland Joffé’s 1992 City of Joy and Danny Boyle’s 2008 Slumdog Millionaire — today, it’s manifested in the fare the country offers as civic features and amenities to its citizens. And as anyone with a pair of nostrils, lungs and eyes will recognise, it is dire.

This tag is not just about how our go nments treat its chosen people, whether in Kalkaji or Kashmir, but how we ourselves choose to live in our surroundings. In a recent interview, French novelist Michel Houellebecq rightly observed, ‘God didn’t build cities, he made the countryside. Man built cities.’ Man also maintains cities. In India, for the most part, people have simply chosen to outsource that too to god.

The searing air pollution levels that have turned north Indian towns and cities into seasonal gas chambers, the regular deluges that Mumbaikars have simultaneously come to tolerate and gnash their teeth about, the complete anarchy on the roads that almost every Indian city embraces as part of its intrinsic ‘traffic culture’, all seem far removed from the environmental concerns of the First World. It is more connected to our toleration and celebration of filth. More than giving a damn about carbon footprints and climate change, crop stubble-burning or the dumping of toxic industrial waste is an extension of our throwing out garbage onto the streets, chucking plastic and spitting from cars, and the habit of public urination.






In India today, the very rich have the option of spending a substantial amount of their time in cleaner, easier, less stressful, less polluted environments abroad. Public amenities like streets, parks, views, facilities, not to mention museums and libraries are there to be utilised by the rich and not-so-rich alike the moment they step out of home.

In Gurugram, Mumbai or Kolkata, no matter how lavish your home may be, the moment you step out, you face ‘unavoidable India’ that you manfully keep out.

The poor have borne such surroundings as part of their lives. Going into a mall is going to Davos. But sandwiched between the rich and the poor lies the middle-class(es). They experience the First World through media and movies. Many of them go on vacations to these places, while some of them have ‘experienced’ life abroad while pursuing higher education or work. As India is unable to provide the quality of life swiftly enough, if ever, that they are keenly aware of being available, these middle-classes aspire to join — or have their children join — the hordes of non-resident Indians we glimpse in stadiums these days, who had earlier left India for economic reasons.




But today’s urban middle-classes are getting more restless to have a better life by leaving India, rather than to find better opportunities. It is another matter that immigration to First World environments today is harder than it was before. So, it is possible that while queuing up to ‘get out’, many Indians will become more vocal about, what many still condescendingly call, ‘First World problems’.

Which is why, regardless of how we may blanch on hearing that there could be people among us who aren’t in love with India, we want our kids to settle in a nice, clean, uncrowded place, preferably with a window looking out at a park rather than a parking lot, that in all likelihood will be in the First World.




 译文来源:阿巴森      http://www.abaripsen.com/48726.html     译者:Joyceliu



What to say , the first world countries were the country who formed alliance during 1st world war and Second world country who got added in Second World war. India has to be 3rd world country because it has not joined any group in any of the world war




130 crore is very high population. All nations in asia-pakistan,afghanistan,india,nepal.bangladesh,indonesia,burma suffer from huge population.Unless nature or war wipes out 90% of population,nothing will change.



Amey Kapoor

Smart indians have already left India.Anyone left behind is basically incompetent.BJP wants India to compete with only Pakistan



Robin Pandey

If we put a Chaiwala as PM, what else is expected ?



Kis Ore

Did India improve under Cambridge educated PM ?



Anthony Barbosa

Sri Lanka is ahead of us. I won''t be surprised if Pakistan also moves ahead of us.



Kis Ore

You may move to Srilanka and settle there as NRI. Not Required Indians



Anthony Barbosa

NRI stands for Non Resident Indian. NRIs can live in India since they are Indians who are non resident. How can Indian become NRI in Sri Lanka? Think.



Anthony Barbosa

Maybe it is time for the present go nment to resign if they are not able to do some real work on the economy. Even they should be worried by now. Nothing they do economically, works for the country.




Just a few have been touched by economic development where masses remain in abject poverty.Development at any cost has consequences.



Chandra Y

having grown up as a poor country in the last generation, we probably adjust to anything and accept bad circumstances. We are still happy.The contrary personality is not to accept anything, if it can be improved further - which is western.It will be up to the next generation to motivate everyone to bring cities up to at least second world.



Gopal Sriniwasan

A huge population almost 2/3rd of them in absolute poverty living in swamp and squalor with no access to clean drinking water, basic education, hygienic food.In the name of Human Rights, individual freedom and personal liberty Human Development Index was completely ignored by the planners and the go nment in Power. Political parties used poverty and unemployment as an alibi to capture power and a few oligarchs cornered the massive state resources leaving the vast majority to their fate



Shiva Shankar

Let us talk only about post-independence India. The country was very poor when the British left, and had a population of about 330 million. Today, the national fertility rate has fallen to about 2.2, much lower than that in several states. This is the result of higher literacy and reduction in poverty over the last quarter century. I speculate that, if our country had NOT gone “deep Soviet” because of Indira Gandhi, poverty and illiteracy would have been reduced a generation sooner, with a corresponding decline in population growth. If, today, the country had 750 million people, it would still be crowded, but much more liveable. Ideological economics of unschooled, stubborn, and dictatorial leaders have lasting consequences - in this case, very adverse ones.



Ramesh Shah




Sonti Svln Sastry

We have to go for EV no other waywe have to stop burning of agri waste population should be controlled irrespective of religion.every one should atleast plant 10 treesone use plastic should be used be used to make petrol and diesel to used in the place coal until we devolop solor sector these are some measures



Baiju Bhaskaran

Although a good article,it is written without knowing fully the truth. The pollution problem in Delhi is 90 percent natural made. The pollution in Delhi is caused by temperature inversion which happens few times in a year.During this time the nano particles get stuck up in the atmosphere. Our environmentalists put the blame on stubble burning,bursting crackers and coal power plants which is 100 percent false. These three does not produce nano particles. Nano particles are produced only by vehicular exhaust and construction dust.This is the reason pollution did not occur for centuries inspite of stubble burning and bursting crackers. It also did not happen during decades of coal power plants. The real smog and pollution of delhi started only in the last twenty years due to increased construction and vehicles.The only solution is to ban construction and private vehicles during the period of temperature inversion. For erratic traffic it is only the people who has to be blamed. When this go nment tried to solve the traffic issue by increasing the fines,instead of welcoming it people made it a political issue.



Umesh Bandaragal

good observation and analysis



Goswami Boy

Just picking on the world ''Third world''. It is independent of development level. First world is west. Second world is Russia and allies. Even now, as per original terminology, China is part of third world. It will remain third world even if it fully develops. It was not about development, but about cold war era alignments.



Aditya Sinha

The biggest issue is Population growth. Sanjay Gandhi was right when he started aggressive crackdown to control population. If Congress (which has ruled most) kept Sanjay Gandhi’s crackdown going our country would had been much today.




l please take a moment to appreciate the beauty with which this article was written. not just the current or previous govts, but the country and it''s citizens, as a whole, are responsible for the current state of environment.



Kaushlendra Tripathi

Complete failure of central and three state go nments in solving a simple problem. That all go nments are of different dispensation and NONE cares is the moot point. With such apathy, we will not see a liveable let alone loveable India in next decades . Most Indian adults will live and die in this THIRD world state.




True story and Sad to see the ignorance from all of us (citizens) and there is no point including another word “Governance”



Anil Kulkarni

We tom-tom about our so-called demographic dividend, but in reality huge population is the biggest curse that India has continued to suffer, more so after independence. Congress which ruled India over most of the first 6 decades, is the most to blame for disregarding population control in the garb of "secularism" and so-called personal liberties. All this was done to remain in power forever. Now, with a huge population, and yet no uniform civil code in place, we will go more backward and poor, since, the largest part of the new population that is being added, is of poor, who only demand freebies and politicians continue to splurge public funds, just to garner votes.



Amey Kapoor

I agree with you.Hindu population from UP Bihar is growing like cockroaches.



Mohanqp Thomas

1500% right. Population is the biggest curse for India.



Mayank Malik

It''s a shithole country




Don’t call Pakistaz that, it might hurt someone’s feeling and they might blow up.




talk with few people from any state in north india and you will find why india is third world nation.



Aishvaraya Gupta

India is the worst country in the world.. worst quality of life.. drama politicians & corrupt bureaucracy & judiciary... population exploding like ants


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