Submission #16

Submission information
Submitted by neeraj
4 March 2016 - 4:14pm
An inefficient outlook
Economic policy

As handouts drained the budget and restrictions hampered growth, there was an almost culpable lack of attention to the country's infrastructure (with the solitary exception of the railways, whose development has been a rare triumph). The country's overcongested roads, ports, bridges, and canals have fallen into disrepair, and few have been upgraded beyond the standards of the 1940s; goods sit (and sometimes rust or rot) at the docks because the harbors can no longer cope with the volume of cargo they need to handle; irrigation and power generation have made little or no progress (and power has actually taken several steps back, as demand has long since outstripped capacity, and ubiquitous power cuts have made the euphemism "load-shedding" a familiar cliché.) Communications was the worst of the list; the woeful state of India's telephones right up to the 1990s, with only 8 million connections and a further 20 million on waiting lists, would have been a joke if it wasn't also a tragedy- and a man-made one at that. The government's indifferent attitude to the need to improve India's communications infrastructure was epitomized by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's communications minister, C. M. Stephen, who declared in Parliament, in response to questions decrying the rampant telephone breakdowns in the country, that telephones were a luxury, not a right, and that any Indian who was not satisfied with his telephone service could return his phone - since there was an eight-year waiting list of people seeking this supposedly inadequate product.

Shashi Tharoor

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