"Is India living through a new “gilded age”? This question was being posed by scholars and observers in the early years of this decade, coinciding with the latter days of the previous government: a period characterized by rapid growth, rising inequality and rampant corruption scandals.
Positing the premise most sharply, as early as 2011, were Jayant Sinha, at that time managing director of an investment fund and, today, a Union minister, and Ashutosh Varshney, political science professor at Brown University. Writing in the Financial Times (FT), Sinha and Varshney drew a striking analogy between contemporary India and the US in the latter part of the 19th century—the era of the “robber barons”—a time similarly characterized by a heady cocktail of growth, inequality and corruption.
It should be noted that important ideas are often independently discovered. Writing about the same time, economist Michael Walton of Harvard Kennedy School similarly drew the analogy in a 2011 research paper put out by the Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bengaluru, which had circulated in manuscript as early as 2010. Sinha-Varshney, meanwhile, inspired further analysis, including by this author, writing in the International Herald Tribune a few months later in 2011."
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