May 16, 2004

The "Return" of Class

It's no accident that the ruling alliance lost heavily in Andhra Pradesh and in Tamil Nadu, precisely the states that wooed information technology giants such as Microsoft to set up shop, turning sleepy "second cities" such as Madras, Bangalore and Hyderabad into new-tech boom towns. That's because while the rich got richer, the fortunes of the poor, such as the farmers of Andhra, declined year by year. The gulf between India's rich and poor has never looked wider than it does today, and the government has fallen into that chasm.

- Salman Rushdie on India's New Era

Posted by Abe at May 16, 2004 11:04 PM


I'm not sure what you're trying to point to with this, but I was just driving through a suburb of Bangalore, Electronics City, a couple of months back and I was awestruck by the divide. There's a new four lane highway from Bangalore to Krishnagiri, which basically means that there's at least 6 lanes of cows, oxcarts, people and parked cars and buses in both directions in every lane. The typical Indian driving insanity.

The great sadness was the onslaught of economic progress which had literally carved through the dense ghettos to build this new highway and sweatshop boomtown. The highway was lined with high tech compounds like HP, or Novell, and hosts of other regional, national and international businesses that were either freshly built or being built. These were all gated compounds with barbed wire fences. Little islands of rubble, homes and shanty towns remained between the construction of the highways and the new gated sweatshops. Picture the little triangular groves of densely grown trees and weeds that we often see remaining from where a field or forest is being converted into a strip mall; now replace the dense forest growth with densely built, and overly populated earthen homes erupting out of the fresh rubble and construction. Some islands were no bigger than a semi truck or an SUV --and still populated by multiple families. At sunrise people were taking bucket baths on their front and back porches, which where now highway, rubble and fences. Legions of pedestrians flowed in and out of busses and factories and everywhere. The pollution was horrible. Sure India is experiencing a high tech growth spurt, but this seemed to be a dark underbelly of the boom. One of many, I suspect. There's a lot of wealth in India, but it's just not well distributed.

I think that's exactly what Rushdie was trying to highlight. All I was trying to add was reference a bit of historical context. Rushdie essentially highlights a classical marxist class dialectic. The sort of analysis that became unfashionable in the 90's "boom" times. Hence a return to "class".

Vandana Shiva had a nice article on Z Net not too long ago in which she talked about the widening class divide in India, superhighways, etc...i commented on it on my blog, but natch you should check out the original story, too

Rob - what is your blog, any url for that article /p post.

I need to turn back on the url field I fubared it in an early blog spam prevention attempt....

sorry, im a nort...the url for the article by Shiva is here:

and my blog is here:

but, really my commentary is banal...stick with the Shiva article :)

while i agree with rushdie's sentiment, he got one detail wrong: the bjp carried karnataka (the capitol of which is bangalore, the epicenter of the indian tech-boom). you can see the results on the bbc page with the election breakdowns for 2004 and 1999

also, in a more general sense, the south indian states of karnataka, andhra pradesh, kerala, and tamil nadu traditionally don't vote bjp, as you can gather from the 1999 regional voting records on the bbc page above. if i am not mistaken, their victory in karnataka is the first time that they won in any of the southern states ( )

but i'm not an expert on politics, and especially not indian politics. in any case, as a person of kannadiga descent, i am proud of the economic advances of the region, yet i realize that the majority of the populace has been left behind. i hope that the new government will maintain the benefits of the new indian economy while being more responsive to the needs of the underserved. i'm extremely happy that india has voted against unbridled globalism and hindu makes me feel confident wrt the upcoming US elections....

jhc (

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