India’s Journey to True Freedom
This is a paper I recently wrote on India, their path to democracy, their progression to capitalism and the limitations currently stifling its success implemented by their government. I'm not even close to being done, but at least I'll know where I was and can proceed in the future when I have more time.
Imagine for a moment a warm breezy morning with a touch of humidity in the air that relishes no uncertainty that summer will soon be arriving. Now, envision just outside your front door children dash by chasing one another, bobbing to miss clotheslines draped with ballooning fabrics of teals, purples, fuchsias and cerulean. They weave and plait swiftly around swarms of neighbors who appear to be equally enjoying the celebration they’ve shirked their daily responsibilities for. Businessmen and women normally fully clad in clean crisp business attire are masquerading in what must be their most casual of clothing, mostly in white. As you peer down the narrow cobblestone street you notice there are more and more people filling the corridors and avenues around you. If you look even closer, you’ll notice tables covered with bowls of colored sand at each end. As you avert your eyes back to the mischievous children who are growing more and more numerous, you spy they’ve already acquired globs of multi-colored sand in their fists preparing to aim. Within minutes of your observation, the whole town would kick off the celebration of a holiday so indicative of India’s vibrant and flourishing culture.
This holiday is meant to represent Spring, which is a season full of new beginnings, rebirth, light and zest. Holi, or the “Festival of Color” has a spirit exemplary of India’s exotic and colorful expression of life. Much like our Halloween or Mardi Gras, this festival was originally meant to be a vivid display of ardor to receive the blessings of Hindi Gods, although it is no less brilliantly captivating, the objective today is to truly enjoy yourself with exuberant fun and frolicking. Children and adults alike participate in this riot of color tossing handfuls of colored powder at their neighbors and friends. There are often numerous forms of high jinks and teasing to show playful affection, even among adults. There is no shortage of merry song and dance to go along with water balloons, bright saffron mud baths, and turquoise smeared faces. Indians walk away from this week of celebration with the promise of warmer days, rejuvenation, and blossoms of color everywhere.
Holi is just one example of India’s rich and charismatic culture heritage and spiritual mysticism. They’re history and endurance weaves a tight and intricate tapestry that tells the story of fortitude, ingenuity, steadfastness and perseverance. Mark Twain once wrote “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!” India has formed a people peppered with unique national traits like art, inventiveness, spiritual mysticism, tradition and national identity. With life expectancy rates at 69 years of age and a 61% literacy rate, India’s quality of life as a whole is among the top in the world (CIA.gov). However, just like India’s assorted culture, their people and their environments are also different. The citizens may live in the affluent and modern areas, or they may live in crowded stacked housed along the hills of Mumbai. This obviously affects all aspects of their life, from their cuisine to their education. Five different Indians may speak different languages, be of different racial backgrounds and worship different gods; however the philosophy for most Indians as a whole is the Doctrine of Karma which states all actions you exhibit come full circle back on you (india.gov.in). India’s National Motto is: “Truth Alone Triumphs,” which explains how paramount their morals are to their national identity (india.gov.in).
They are surrounded by large amounts of water and extensive mountains which gives them a geographical border against communist or dictatorial influence from neighboring states; however their borders are not impermeable. As India is a gateway to Asia, its borders are tempting and its domination an irresistible hunger for some. India has fallen victim to control under many for the past 1000 years. Actually, very few dominating powers were able to resist. The Aryans, the Persians, the Iranians, the Parsis sought shelter and supplies in India. Their rich lands were looted and inhabited by the Mongols for quite some time (Diamond, L). As the Mongols practiced tolerance and respect for those of different religions, traditions or beliefs, India may have acquired some of this open-mindedness and acceptance towards an array of backgrounds (Diamond, L). Rich Indian spices and word of their diamond minds also attracted the likes of Vasco de Gama, the French, and finally the British. The French had colonized a small portion of India, but Britain had bigger plans for their expansion project by taking over India’s government, dividing territories, and assuming full control over the country. This continued with little change until widespread discontent among the Indians resulted in a revolt. Although it was easily put down, it was still a cause for concern (india.gov.in).
Regrettably, the British began implementing high taxes for the peasants by a new class of landlords. Because Britain was so industrialized already, there was little need any longer for handmade Indian goods which cost more and took skill to produce requiring the worker to be paid more. Throughout their rule over India, their treatment towards these indigenous people became worse and worse until they were treated lower than second hand citizens. Indians were allowed no freedoms a citizen is usually entitled to like holding political or military office and the freedom of religion (india.gov.in). With the leadership of Indians like Gandhi and others, the Indians were eventually able to gain independence from Britain. This forced them to throw aside their differences long enough to fight and plan for the future.
This was not an easy take due to the former caste systems in place. In order to correct this, they had to place into the constitution certain provisions like successfully abolishing the "untouchability" undemocratically practiced prior to their independence; prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth; and forbid trafficking in individual and also forced labor. “They go beyond conventional civil liberties in protecting cultural and educational rights of minorities by ensuring that minorities may preserve their distinctive languages and establish and administer their own education institutions (india.gov.in).
Democracy is defined by former president of Harvard University as “a small hard core of common agreement, surrounded by a rich variety of individual differences” (Copeland, L). One of the most unique facts about an extremely diverse nation like India is their ability to unify under a common government ran by the people. Since the Republic of India gained their independence from the UK in 1947 they have developed a constitution which outlines the structure and guidelines for a parliamentary based democracy and most political offices are elected (cia.gov). India has accomplished many gains since that time in the areas of science (including space technology), socio-political, agriculture, and economy (india.gov.in).
Cradled between the Middle East and Asia where democracy is rare, India’s ability to remain a democracy over the past half of a century is remarkable in itself. The success at free elections and rule of law demanding human rights in a constitution is not so easily done everywhere. India’s constitution sought to remedy many of the issues that had been plaguing India while under British colonization. It exists on six fundamental principles: ensures peace, equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights such as habeas corpus (india.gov.in).
As the seventh largest country in the world, India faces many challenges regarding economical globalization. Seymour Lipset argued that a strong economy is essential to a successful democracy and that the richer the economy, the greater chance they would have for sustaining a viable democracy (Diamond, L). India is currently located amid the bottom third of states in terms of human development as set forth by the UN (Diamond, L). He also seeks to argue against the accusations that democracy is a luxury by stating that democracy provides more accountability by the government based on the sheer dynamics of re-election. Democratic governments tend to be more efficient at handling the detection of problems with in the country, creating oversight to decide the course of action, and also monitoring to ensure the problem’s solution is enacted and kept in place until there is a problem no longer (Diamond, L).
“India's diverse economy encompasses traditional village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range of modern industries, and a multitude of services. Services are the major source of economic growth, accounting for more than half of India's output with less than one third of its labor force. Slightly more than half of the work force is in agriculture, leading the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to articulate a rural economic development program that includes creating basic infrastructure to improve the lives of the rural poor and boost economic performance. The government has reduced controls on foreign trade and investment. Higher limits on foreign direct investment were permitted in a few key sectors, such as telecommunications. However, tariff spikes in sensitive categories, including agriculture, and incremental progress on economic reforms still hinder foreign access to India's vast and growing market.
Privatization of government-owned industries remains stalled and continues to generate political debate; populist pressure from within the UPA government had restrained needed initiatives. The economy has posted an average growth rate of more than 7% in the decade since 1997, reducing poverty by about 10 percentage points. India achieved 8.5% GDP growth in 2006, 9.0% in 2007, and 7.3% in 2008, significantly expanding manufactures through late 2008. India also is capitalizing on its large numbers of well-educated people skilled in the English language to become a major exporter of software services and software workers. Strong growth combined with easy consumer credit, a real estate boom, and fast-rising commodity prices fueled inflation concerns from mid-2006 to August 2008. Rising tax revenues from better tax administration and economic expansion helped New Delhi make progress in reducing its fiscal deficit for three straight years before skyrocketing global commodity prices more than doubled the cost of government energy and fertilizer subsidies. The ballooning subsidies, amidst slowing growth, brought the return of a large fiscal deficit in 2008. In the long run, the huge and growing population is the fundamental social, economic, and environmental problem” (cia.gov).
Economic success, whether essential for a democracy or not, it is definitely a key asset in its success and growth. After finding their independence in 1947 India didn’t see it necessary or practical to operate under a free market capitalist economy (Diamond, L). Diamond makes claims that the only reason Indian democracy has even sustained as long as it has is because of the strong desire for it by the people. He states that India’s “long-lingering ideological devotion to socialist principles of state intervention and economic autarky” had slowed their economy down to where they were barely growing. There were a number of issues with red tape and bureaucratic issues in their economic structure that were holding them back, but probably their biggest impediment was that new foreign investment was strictly prohibited. He state however that their general quality of life improve, but I maintain that is because of the strong back bone of their democratic government and its successes.
In 1991 Indians finally decided to liberalize their economy. Today, they are the fourth largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) (india.gov.in). The only countries ahead of them are the USA, China, and Japan. Many even predict they will pass Japan up in the next ten years to claim the number three slot. Due to globalization and international growth, they have also been able to exhibit strong increases in their earning potential and prospects for growth in all areas of business. They are one of the few world markets that are able to do this (india.gov.in). “Indian economic growth has been among the fastest in the world in the recent years (india.gov.in). This has caused a boom in “entrepreneurial talent” across the country in the last two decades (india.gov.in). Some claim they’re on their way to being a super power.
The Indian Economy grew at an annual average growth of 7.6% for the duration of the Tenth Plan and has set an objective goal of “9% for the Eleventh Five Year Plan”. One of the landmark structural changes achieved by Indian economy is that today services sector contributes more than 50% of India's GDP, which is a universal distinguishing characteristic of any industrialized or developed economy. For the financial year 2006-07, the share of services, industry, and agriculture in India's GDP was 55.1%, 26.4%, and 18.5% respectively (india.gov.in).
One of the noteworthy features of economic growth in India is the quick increase in the rate of investment in the economy. Investment, in general being a “forward looking variable”, reflects a high amount of commerce sanguinity (india.gov.in). The sharp increase in investment rate has sustained the industrial performance and reinforces the viewpoint for growth.
The rapid economic growth of the last few years has put heavy stress on India's infrastructural facilities. The shortage on infrastructure front such as power shortfall, port traffic capacity mismatch, poor road conditions, and low telephone penetration threaten to derail Indian success story. Apart from addressing the above problems some other steps such as labor reforms and administrative reforms need to be taken urgently if we have to sustain higher levels of economic growth. The government also needs to ensure that the economic growth is equitable as lopsided economic growth may result in social unrest and may undo all the good work achieved as a result of economic reforms.
India’s version of democracy is stifling their economy by placing contrary restrictions to the free market system in place. The free market can exclude those in society who are not accepting of it. The market, once introduced, but accepted by the people or they are left out of the loop as far as supply and demand are concerned. Essentially, some or even many people may be excluded from participation. Jumping into a new economic situation too quickly can leave the country feeling ill prepared. Discuss how the labor system affects families, including women and children. If these people feel excluded from the system economically, it will lead them to feeling left out politically, socially, and then eventually culturally. This can lead to the stripping of civil or political rights. For a country that’s used to systems being run and provided for by the government, they may not be able to take on these systems through private entities for quite some time and will suffer until then. Few companies or entities are large enough to handle an entire country’s needs as well as the government, at least at first. This system may allow for those already with money to rise much more and very quickly, disallowing those without funds to start to rise above where they are currently and will most likely be trampled by these high dollar businesses. This could widen the gap of income already present in India and may lower the quality of life.
Free market, in the name itself proves that it is open to all. All can participate, even if not at first, it will adjust to cover all and in turn the demand of the consumer will also adjust accordingly. A free market system is ideal in a democracy because it allows for the people to decide what is best for them. Traditionally, tyrannical and authoritarian governments tended to strongly discourage and ban free market systems because it takes the power away from them. Hence we see socialist systems where the government provides and rules. “Despite the global meltdown that impacted most emerging market economies, Mukherjee said that India’s GDP growth of 7.1 per cent for the current year would make the country the second-fastest growing economy of the world” (IBEF).
Alan Corenk said “Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear.” This, to me seems unfounded. Based on a recent comprehensive study of attitudes towards an array of values called the World Values Survey taken between 1999 and 2001, some interesting data was found. I only just argued above that democracy was the most efficient form of government for the rights of the citizens and the balance of the economy; however it is often found that democracies provide far too many checks and balances to expediently get anything accomplished. Because of this factor, many projects and plans get tied up in the red tape of bureaucracy until their affect has tarnished (Diamond, L).
Based on the results of this study, many countries, including a great deal of democratic regimes have stated their government officials need more freedom to do what they need to do. 39% of Asians (including India) endorse the need for a “strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections” (Diamond, L). Another 52% of the same populous feel a “greater respect for authority” would be a “good thing” (Diamond, L). This figures seemed very high using a national level of analysis with regards to India, however this included 11 nation states in Asia. This would not be an accurate count of how democratic states feel towards these questions. With India being only 1 of 11 it is very hard to take an accurate pulse on this issue with only this material to base it on. With recent moves in the economy, my predictions would say India is happy, if not hopeful towards their democratic government domestically.
“Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion--when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing--when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors--when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you--when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice--you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that is does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.”
By Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged
Chatterjee, Aneek K. "Democracy and market economy in India: an interrelational study" Department of Political Science. Presidency College, Kolkata, India. 2 Mar. 2009.
Diamond, Larry. “Spirit of Democracy”
Sharma, Shalendra D. Development and Democracy in India. New York: Lynne Rienner, 1999.
Sivaraman, Satya. "DEVELOPMENT-INDIA: Democracy In Conflict With Free Market Policy." IPS Inter Press Service. 24 Jan. 2009. 02 Mar. 2009 http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=40900.