John Elliot attributes most of India's troubles to jugaad and the chalta hai attitude

John Elliot came to India in the early Eighties, as the country was beginning to break the shackles of the licence raj. Over the past 30 years, apart from a six-year stay in Hong Kong, he spent most of his time In India. Elliott has written for many magazines and publications. His blog, Riding the elephant is very popular. In his book, Implosion: India's Tryst with Reality (Harper Collins) is a different look at the mainstream India narrative. John says, “I look into issues and situations that have ensured that India was unable to realise its true potential. As the title suggests, I take a look at the gradual crumbling of key institutions in the country. I take a look at crony capitalism, dynasty politics and juggad …”

Juggad is often used to boast about the innovative Indian entrepreneur and engineer and there are plenty of success stories. However, the word also means a degree of indifference that creeps into key aspects of public life. It creates contradictions like a state of an art airport being built a long way from the city with no thought on public transportation to help passengers reach the airport. There are plenty of such examples. Cities often grow exponentially without a thought given on providing the citizens basic necessities.”

John attributes most of the key infrastructure fallacies the country faces on ‘ juggad and the chalta hai attitude’.“It has resulted in politicians using democracy and the demands of coalition politics as a reason for no work at the ground level. It is a dangerous precedent that must not be allowed to spread. Many argue that better laws are needed to fix most of the issues. In the book, I talk about the need for good governance and administration. As with any other country, India needs schools that function properly, hospitals that are stocked properly and cities and towns that are planned well. A mix of crony capitalism, corruption and indifference is primarily to blame for many of India’s issues.”John contends that while the availability of more opportunities post the opening up of the economy has freed the entrepreneurial spirit of the country, it has also given corruption a boost. “This is best explained in the scams governing the sale of national resources such as mines, coal and telecom spectrum that has haunted governments in India for the past two decades.” John argues, “I feel that many of the key factors that made India an attractive investment destination in the early 80’s is diminishing. The judiciary is no longer incorruptible, governments at the Centre are dependent on regional allies, the political class seems to believe in making more noise than carry out much needed changes. Relative political instability and a squabbling army is also cause for alarm. If India manages to fix these fundamental issues, it can easily fulfil the promise it hold.”

In his book, John also discusses the negative impact of crony capitalism on the environment. “Much of the boom in the early 2000s were aided by the availability of capital and crony capitalists took advantage of the situation, without caring much about the environmental costs. The damage has been extensive and I have dedicated a chapter to it.”

Though John says that his book stops short of offering solutions, he contends that good governance is key to making a change. “If key governance issues are fixed, it will ensure that the important institutions will function the way they should. It is also important that key posts in governance go to people who are good at their jobs, not as a reward for family loyalists. The present dispensation has rewarded loyalists with plum posts, thus contributing to the policy drift and the current anti incumbency mood in the country.” John says, “It is not a negative book. I also talk about the golden quadrilateral project, the Delhi Metro, the brilliant organization of the Kumbh Mela and Nandan Nilekani’s UID scheme. After my discussions, I concluded that one person with proper political backing will help sort out many infrastructure dilemmas.”

I take a look at the gradual crumbling of key institutions in the country