I recently returned from a trip to India, the second largest country in the world with 1.1 billion people. The capital city of New Delhi is now one of the top five most populous urban areas with an estimated 18 million people.
The number of people, however, does not take into account the thousands of rural residents who come to the city every day in search of a better life. The new arrivals set up ramshackle housing next to railroad tracks, major highways, and along stagnant riverways.
It is hard to believe that India is moving up the ladder of economic success with a growth rate of 9% a year after seeing these rural poor live in absolutely abysmal conditions. And yet they come.
From a western perspective, New Delhi, with its 18 million people, has the appearance of being in a state of complete chaos. Traffic is horrendous, pollution clouds the sun, construction has made the city a huge dust bowl.
But people are on the move using every form of transportation. I saws BMWs driven by corporate bigwigs, horse, mule and cattle drawn carriages carrying everything from sugar cane to car parts, the moroized three-wheeled rickshaws weaving in and out of traffic with reckless abandon, rusted out bicycles from the 1950s, and the ever-present motocycles of the younger generation.
Put all these forms of transportation together and the result is gridlock. From a business standpoint, there must be millions of rupees in lost productivity each day as the Indian people sit in traffic. But surprisingly, I saw few incidents of road rage, just the determination to get moving.
Indians don’t complain much, although they could easiluy be upset with their country and its many downsides. Instead they just hope that their life will improve in the new world economy. India is clearly a country on the move and many of the young people are convinced that they are riding the wave of a new prosperity.
Like neighboring China, India is a success story of the global economy, except for the hundreds of millions who have not made it up the ladder yet.