WHEN India won independence 65 years ago, its leaders had a vision for the country’s future. In part, their dream was admirable and rare for Asia: liberal democracy. Thanks to them, Indians mostly enjoy the freedom to protest, speak up, vote, travel and pray however and wherever they want to; and those liberties have ensured that elected civilians, not generals, spies, religious leaders or self-selecting partymen, are in charge. If only their counterparts in China, Russia, Pakistan and beyond could say the same.
But the economic part of the vision was a failure. Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the independence movement, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, left the country with a reverence for poverty, a belief in self-reliance and an overweening state that together condemned the country to a dismal 3-4% increase in annual GDP—known as the “Hindu rate of growth”—for the best part of half a century.
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