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Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization



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January 14 2019 Is India a Flailing State Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization Lant Pritchett Harvard Kennedy School Introduction The premise of the recent Indian novel Q A is that the hero an uneducated working class waiter in a downscale restaurant has won a billion rupees in a game show that requires answers to twelve questions of increasing difficulty The novel them weaves in and out of the hero s life with vignettes that reveal how he came to know the answers to each of the questions The novel opens with the hero having won the game show but does not have a million rupees but rather is being beaten by the police in a Mumbai police station as the producer of the game show short on cash has decided to pay off the police to extract a false confession of cheating rather than pay out the winnings This is not unusual As one reads the novel in each instance in which the hero s life intersects with agents of the government from police to hospitals to orphanages he is treated with the same mix of venality and casual brutality This is especially striking for two reasons First the bad behavior of the government is not a theme of the book nor is it ever remarked upon rather these descriptions are there to provide verisimilitude of a real person s life to make the book seem realistic and in Preliminary Version For Comments Only 1 touch with the true India Second the novel was written by an active duty member of the Indian Foreign Service To understand the Indian state today one has to read fiction that acknowledges it is fiction because its non fiction the streams of government reports and commissions and documents produced by official agencies including of those foreign agencies working with the government are truly fiction Because of the incredibly spectacular intelligence cleverness and competence of the top tiers of the Indian government in particular the national services such as the Indian Administrative Service it has managed to project the myth that



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