India Now & In Transition, edited by journalist Atul K Thakur, is an inquiry into possible future, based on current happenings. The book, divided into four sections, namely ‘Economics and Development’, ‘Security and Foreign Policy’, ‘Society and Culture’, ‘Language and Literature’, has 37 essays, dealing with wide ranging of topics. Some of the topics covered in the book include Congress’ terminal decline, situation of Kashmir, how Modi won Banaras, corruption, human rights, problems of Kashmir and North East, GM crops, Subaltern voices in ‘Hindu India’ etc. What kind of transition is India making? As Sunil Khilnani says in the forward, “India is in the throes of unprecedented historical change is a cliché of the age.” Thankfully, the contributors of the book include some of the sharpest and most engaged public commentators and analysts of our time. And they go beyond cliché, and delve deep, juxtapose the past with the present, and try to conjure up an India which has the good, the bad and the ugly elements in equal measures. India is not arriving. It has arrived. Liberalisation has happened. Middle class’ number have swelled. India’s GDP growth rate makes international headline. India has sent space mission to mars. Soon, bullet train will happen. Smart cities will happen. Transformation of rural India will happen. But the very same India has failed to solve the problems of Kashmir, North East and Left-Wing extremism. Despite, the road built by the Centre, despite the economic package, and despite democracy, the wounds of North East, Kashmir, Left Wing Extremism continue to fester. Democracy, development, economic package can’t work if it is accompanied by AFSPA, heavy deployment of Arm forces, which instill fears among the very people who participate in elections, and ‘fourth generation warfare’. As Wajahat Habibullah, says in the essay “Kashmir Today and the Way to the Future”, “Until each citizen can live free from fear, democracy can only be notional, no matter how elections are conducted or who participates.” What ails the North East? Ethnic strife? Division among various tribal groups? The Centre’s high-handedness? Do all these problems require AFSPA which is nothing but a permission to extra judicial killing? Rajeev Bhattacharya present a very disturbing picture of the region where “vested interests cutting parties, bureaucracy and even militant groups” have ensured that India’s ambitious Northeast Vision 2020 stay grounded. He wonders, “It is difficult to accept that a country that has sent a space mission to Mars would have no answer to get rid of bad governance and the anti-people character of the state administration in the Northeast.” There seems to be no solution in sight for ‘Left-Wing Extremism’. There are many who will object to this term. Problems of the real other can’t be brushed under the carpet of this term, ‘Left Wing Extremism’, which reeks of ideological bias. Who are these so-called Left-Wing Extremists? Do armed Maoists and Naxalites represent those who have been left neglected by the great economic reforms? What kind of solution will work for the ‘biggest sufferers of the state’s insensitive handling of natural resources’? The present government seems to have shed even the minimum pretentions of its predecessor. Fourth generation warfare is talk of the town. And this will worsen the crisis. As Atul K Thakur puts it, “India now is being ruled under a new system, which is not in a mood to let democracy go on the same track that it has travelled on for the last almost seven decades.” If you are interested in economic reforms and how they have transformed India, you must read two essays: ‘Indian Economy: Looking Back to Go Forward Differently’’ and ‘Whither India’s Economic Reforms’. In “Indian Economy: Looking Back to Go Forward Differently’’, written by Jayati Ghosh, analyses how economic reforms and high economic growth have resulted in gender-based differences in labour markets, newer forms of caste-based discrimination in big cities, poor employment generation, poor employment generation and persistent agrarian crisis. ‘Whither India’s Economic Reforms’, written by Jaithirth Rao, laments that India has not done enough reforms, and wheels of reforms had slowed down during the second term of Manmohan Singh Government. Ministry of disinvestment still exists. “The silly socialist word in the false preamble to India’s Constitution” also exists. “Hapless citizens of India have been showered with a new set of rights.” He sees these new set of rights as clever socialistic embrace through the backdoor. India has failed to solve the problems of Kashmir, North East and Left-Wing extremism What he chooses to ignore is how big corporate houses started owing and controlling different ministries despite these new set of rights and despite ‘socialist’ word in the Constitution. He talks about how farmers are encroaching on forests. But he remains silent on agricultural land, being acquired by the rapacious corporate houses. In Can India Afford Not to Eliminate Corruption, former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian made an important observation, “It needs to be understood that the active assistance and collaboration of the civil servant is imperative in this process of determined and reckless money-making that the political executive has reduced itself to. Officers are assessed with great care to see who will collaborate and eventually conspire; who will be Squamish and needs to be sidelined ruthlessly.” He goes further and talks about how the civil services have been broken into three categories – “the majority who would quietly implement orders without looking left and right, the relatively few who are totally upright and dare to express their views, and the chosen few who become partners yielding power and collaborating closely with the others”. Of course, these observations will not be music to ears of his fellow bureaucrats who are demanding amendment in the Prevention of the Corruption Act in the wake of the court’s verdict on coal scam. Agrarian crisis, transformation of rural India, impact of economic reforms, human development, different models adopted by the different states are some of the other topics covered by the book. This book is must-read for those who want to keep themselves abreast of what is happening in India, and how they will transform the country. This book should also be read to understand how the thinkers, writers, academicians of our time think about ideas that are defining India. Pankaj K Choudhary is a journalist and literary critic based in New Delhi. He can be reached at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, August 15th 2017.