Book Recommendation

Rise of the Red Engineers: The Cultural Revolution and the Origins of China's New Class (Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific)

All the top leaders of the Soviet Union from the 1960s till its fall were engineers. All the leaders of China since the early 1990s till now are engineers. In the Soviet Union beginning from the 1930s and in the PRC (People’s Republic of China) beginning from the 1970s the newly trained engineers infiltrated first the lower, then the middle and finally the top levels of their respective government.

Where else do you think this might happen in future? India.

Engineers naturally have a monopolistic position in the important IT sector of India. But they also are rapidly monopolising India’s banking sector and Indian bureaucracy. People whom Indians regard as great scientists are also often times engineers, for example APJ Abdul Kalam. People regarded as great success stories by the youth in India like Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella are engineers, big Indian companies like Flipkart were founded and run by engineers. In fact the most well-paid PhD scholarship available in India which “funded” by the Government of India is for engineers.

I have nothing against engineers, most of my Indian friends are engineers (I have counted) but there is a lack of interest in knowing why and how engineers came to play such a leading role in India and what could be its consequences. Since I am unaware of any work on this topic from an Indian perspective I found the book titled “Rise of the Red Engineers” by Joel Andreas which deals with the same phenomenon in China. The book is very interesting and I recommend reading it.

Monopolising of diverse and important institutions by people having only one type of qualification is not good for the society and there needs to be a long term solution for it. But I would like to propose a short-term fix- pass the Women’s Reservation Bill. There has been a strange historical accident in India. More and more women are going to colleges and universities and getting degrees, now more than ever but because India is also a very patriarchal society there is hardly any social pressure on women to choose what they study in colleges. But that societal pressure is tremendous on men and so most end up selecting engineering. So, while men have become increasingly unidimensional, women in India represent a more vibrant and eclectic set of concerns and interests. So, if the Women’s Reservation Bill is passed, with more women representatives in the Parliament, the march towards political hegemony by engineers will be hampered and the elected women can work towards greater representation of women in other institutions which in turn would reduce the monopolistic tendency of engineer and stop India from becoming another USSR or PRC.


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