Sir: Tim McGirk rightly attributes ("India turns its back on Western ways", 29 September) the slowing down of India's economic reforms to the climate of xenophobia generated by nationalist politicians. However, it is pointless to blame the opposition parties, for they are merely articulating the fear and apprehension of voters. Mr McGirk should also have emphasised that in India it is the ordinary people, not the Western-educated upwardly mobile elite, who have been forced to pay the price for economic reforms.
Since economic reforms were introduced and the food subsidy abolished at the insistence of the World Bank and the IMF, food prices and the cost of other essentials have soared to an unprecedented level. While economic liberalisation has transformed the lives of India's rich and powerful by giving them access to an unlimited supply of Western-made consumer goods, it has done little to improve the plight of the poor and destitute. Economic liberalisation, instead of creating economic parity and price stability, has resulted in a phenomenal increase in the cost of living, thereby making it extremely difficult for an average Indian family to make both ends meet.
After initial hiccups and teething problems, economic reforms would no doubt generate steady growth and prosperity in the long run. But such prosperity, as the Western experience of the past two decades has amply demonstrated, is likely to be accompanied by fragmentation and atomisation of Indian society leading to moral corruption, permissiveness and social decay. It is the fear of social disintegration, not anti-West xenophobia, which has abetted the virtual collapse of India's economic liberalisation programme.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex
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