Book Review: The Indian Renaissance by Sanjeev Sanyal

This book by Sanjeev Sanyal should be a must read for all Indians, especially the youth to truly get inspired and understand our country’s economy in great depth.

The Indian Rennaissance: India’s Rise after a Thousand Years of Decline by Sanjeev Sanyal is available both in paperback and hardcover.

The book by Sanjeev Sanyal called ‘The Indian Renaissance’ is truly inspiring. India had a very chequered history since ancient times. We had a rich culture and economy, but that painfully declined with the constant invasions. Before Christ, India goes back at least a good 4000 years. Our philosophy predates the Greeks by few thousand years. It is not that we were purely religious in our outlook. Instead, even the secular studies in India in the field of science, astronomy, metallurgy, was equally spectacular.

Angus Maddison has researched into the history of world economics and it is an accepted fact that India was contributing to almost 35-40% of the world GDP consistently from the beginning of the common era to the 17th century when the Britishers or rather the East India Company landed. Even the Islamic invasions did not dent the strength of the Indian economy. Along with China, India was contributing more than 50% of the world’s GDP. There is no controversy regarding these figures, but unfortunately, these figures and facts are rarely mentioned in the history which is taught to our students. It is telling that UK had a contribution of only 4% of the world GDP during the 18th century, which swelled to 30% at the time of our independence while we were reduced to a pathetic 2%.

It was the biggest loot and plunder of our times and the amount of money which was taken from India during this period of 150 years in today’s money is about 10 trillion dollars. So much about the romantics who think that the British rule was great for India. The author however says that the degeneration started about some 1000 years back with the beginning of the Islamic invasions. A civilization remains alive and throbbing if it constantly looks outwards. India was a great sea-faring nation since times immemorial. The land and the sea trade made it a very prosperous nation. However, the docility of Indian culture and its people allowed invaders and colonials to plundering this peaceful country. In any case, about a 1000 years back, when the Islamic invaders started to plunder and occupy the country, India stopped looking outwards and instead turned inwards. It became a closed society and stagnated.

And then, in 1947, when Indians finally regained independence, we were left desperate and poor by the ravages of the colonial rule and loot. It was a great opportunity, which was totally bungled. The model termed as Nehru-Mahalanobis model of economics that was based on 5 year plans was adopted. It did not encourage the private sector at all. Another major area we became deficient was primary education. We peculiarly invested in tertiary education like the IITs, IIMs, and other higher studies, which left us with a very educated group of middle class people but without employment. This had very important implications for our economic trajectory. The government controls were vicious; and the economy hugely stagnated instead of revving up. We ran into huge international debts with no way of recovery. Then came the truly most important event of independent India, when the combine of PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh started the process of liberalization in 1991. That was a huge moment and the importance of this event has been clearly emphasised in the book.

Sanjeev then writes very impressively on the great Indian middle class and its evolution. Most industrialization produces a middle class which becomes strong gradually- politically and socially. The middle class of Western countries was in place by the 19th and 20th century. However, in India, there was already an educated middle class at the time of liberalization which spurred a growth in the service industry. The economic growth after that was almost exclusively in the service industry. Call-centres is one of the primary examples. The service industry includes communications, outsourcing, transport, tourism, hotels and so on. There was this huge spur in the service industry which was a different trajectory from the rest of Asia, who were more into heavy industry. Heavy industry requires capital and labour, and we were grossly deficient in the former. The country made the error of solely concentrating on higher education, ignoring the primary education. This policy led to the creation of an unemployed middle class, many of whom migrated to greener pastures. A massive brain-drain happened in our country. After 1991, the process is now slowing down. In fact, it may be reversing too, though in a small amount.

He then writes very excitedly about the major population or demographic changes which are going to take place in the next few decades. This is the story of immense hope for the country. The most important demographic change in the next 20-30 years is that our average age will be in the 30’s. That is going to be a huge advantage to India. Every country goes through 3 phases as far as demographics are concerned. In the first phase, there is a high birth rate and a death rate. In the second phase, the young working group forming the major labour force becomes prominent. In the final phase, the old people would increase and the average population age increases. The last has happened to most western countries and is soon going to happen to the Asian giants like China and South Korea. The ageing population affects the economy of the nation in a big way with loss of productivity and increasing healthcare costs. Primary education has come back as a big force in the country; and when this is combined with the demographics in the next two decades, our country is poised for a huge leap in the infrastructure and heavy industrialization. We are going to run into a shortage of the work force, he predicts. Foreign workers might be engaged to augment our workforce. Our engineers are in for some good times in the future.  Urbanization will increase and the high rural population presently comprising 70% of our country will reduce. There are other economic aspects described in a very racy manner like how we are now in capital excess. Our gold reserves have exceeded our debts and the capital is no longer deficient, something which was sadly our story for almost 5 decades after the independence. The book is of great hope as we look forward to a huge increase in our prosperity and economic progress.

There is everything positive going for our country now in terms of education and demographics and we should not bungle it up. He calls for a major reform in our archaic and stifling laws; and for decrease in the corruption. The cities should be prepared for the massive urbanization, industrialization, and infrastructural issues. Bangalore and Kolkata, he cites as two examples as how cities should not be planned. Gurgaon expanded randomly without an infrastructure in place. The caution is well placed and meaningful. The author is very authentic in his information and statistics and reads in a very easy and clear manner. At no point, does one feel that something romantic is being dished out to us. This book should be a must read for all Indians, especially the youth to truly get inspired and understand our country’s economy in great depth.

  • rajesham rangu

    The author’s theory of India is pervert and jingoistic.No progressive thinking Indian will agree with the author.

    1. The author writes ” India was contributing to almost 35-40% of the world GDP consistently from the beginning of the common era to the 17thcentury when the Britishers landed.” But during this very period 90% of Indians were languishing under the slavery of caste system. Why can’t he see it?

    2. The author wrote about Islamic invasions. But why no mention about Aryan invasion? When you are giving a wholistic picture of India, Aryan invasion is also to be discussed. It’s effects and ill effects on India are also to be discussed.

    3. The author says that the degeneration started about some 1000 years back with the beginning of the Islamic invasions.
    I am sorry. This is only half truth. In fact it is circumvention of the truth. All Indians well educated in our history will accept the truth that degeneration started with the the Aryan invasion. It is the introduction of Caste system that degraded India.

    The present day Manuvadis ,instead of accepting the truth and denouncing manusmriti, simply shift the blame to Islamic invasions.

    Unfortunately the author and reviewer are propagating these chauvinistic views. There is no need to write any new book on these issues. RSS people have already written many books. This is one amongst them. This book and the views it propagates are not at all welcome in modern India. It is a shameless attempt in propagating the pervert views of modern day Manuvadis.

    • Hi Rangu with a Fake Name, It is very sad. We are caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. Child-loving Christian priests, bearded mullahs (with lice) like Zakir Naik, Dalit chauvinists and Dravidian supremacists who stopped worshiping Ravana when it was realized Ravana was an upper-cast fair-skinned north Indian Manuvadi Brahmin. My friend, India will soon become a Hindu Rashtra along with Sindh, Balochistan, Jessore and Khulna. Christlamists and fake-Dalitvadis have no future in the new world order.

    • Dr M


      What a gold mine of information & data about a typical brain-damaged sickular!

      Nice usage of typical hindu-hating buzz words/phrases : “pervert:, “jingoisitic”, ‘progressive’, ‘languishing under slavery of caste system’, ‘Aryan Invasion’ ‘Manuvadi’, ‘Chauvnistic’, etc etc!

      Observations for the non-brainwashed!
      1. Brain-damaging slavery reduces any great civilization commercially to zilch! Greatness of our Indic Civilsation was its vedic core that sustained the civilsational values through the hundreds of generations of loot, rape, plunder and disinformation campaigns done by foreign traders turned invaders! Yes, we are imperfect, which is why we were not able to eliminate the memetic virus inside our brains – look what wahabis do or commie china does nowadays – will go to the depth & any extent to ruthlessly eliminate dissent & threat – The military machine is just a mukota whereas all minds are slaves in all those places. The same insidious brutality can be seen in the urban and rural naxals in India!
      India has to recover its economic glory but this time, be very vigilant with against all the traitors from within who dilute and destroy the Indian Identity to satisfy their foreign paymasters!
      2. High time all Indians decisively reject that most cunning justification of all the invaders against the indigenous folks in India – called the Aryan Invasion theory & now camouflaged as Aryan Migration theory! These cunning sepoys have been battling TRUTH is so many ‘perverted’ ways – truth as in scientific evidence which is conveniently buried and shrill emotionally manipulative ‘manuvada’ theories floated so everything can be whitewashed. High time Patriotic Indians brought out more intensity to detoxify Indian minds!
      3. All patriots should know where to put efforts to cleanse these toxic memes that infect our academia, polity, governance and NGOs -that invasions were great and that “caste System’ truthfully invented by the cunning brits is the most convenient scapegoat.

      The ‘caste system’ is a human darwinian biological behaviour of globally widespread tribalism mentality that seeks privileges and resources to itself. It has NOTHING to do with the varna traditions. We see it in EVERY modern human organizations and associations. Just that we really need to open our eyes to see!

  • PRex

    What a poorly written review! Clumsy writing and poor grammar to boot. I feel sorry for the author (of the publication under review of course). Surely Sanjay Sanyal’s book didn’t deserve this treatment?

    • Dr M

      Good attempt at review of review!
      Encourage & show where all the reviewer failed with a more sophisticated review. Show what he has missed out. Show what all Sanyal had which Gopal missed! Show how the take away from this Gopal’s review left out key aspects of Sanyal’s book.

      Otherwise, your attempt would be like those sick sikulars who just vomit allergic to anything robustly IndiaFirst which is what Sanyal’s book is…..