This article is penned not to bash India, but to remind Indians that glossing over their country's problems is not going to help India in any fashion, but would hinder their progress.
Last year a work colleague of mine was quite happy about an upcoming trip. He was scheduled to go to Goa, India. For the life of me, I could not understand why he was so excited about a business trip to India.
"It's quite exotic and they are the new world power and think of the business opportunities and ..."
To the majority of people in the West, India was suddenly their new darling. Obama invited the Indians as his first State Dinner guests. Everyone does business with the Chinese, but no one likes them. India is "democratic" and so they are our new best friend. As for me, I had always maintained the impression that while India may, in some distant future, perhaps be a world power, right now they are a third world country.
Why? If you really boil down to specifics, Indians are no different breed of people than Bangladeshis, and Bangladesh is going nowhere fast. The problems of Bangladesh are the same problems Indians face.
Consider the latest Commonwealth Games (2010) fiasco. The Games may be doomed, writes Biswas. The athlete village that the organizing committee chief touted as being better than Beijing Olympics is "unfit for human habitation", according to team delegates. Construction delays, corruption, dangue fever, toilets backed up all do not point to a first world powerful country. At first, I thought it was just Western elites complaining about a pan system toilet but on second reading, their concerns seem justified. If you are holding a world class event your facilities should be world class. Apparently, the definition of "world class" in India is not the same as elsewhere, not to mention their shoddy construction standards which has seen a bridge collapse days before the event.
Why am I bringing up the Commonwealth Games? It's because it's a symptom of what ails India in general. Corruption. The same vice that is the reason for Bangladesh's backwardness is the reason for India's lag. India cannot even considering moving towards being a world power until its corruption bug is nipped out.
Consider the Indian Premier League (IPL) of cricket. When it was announced with such dizzy heights and the ridiculous sums of money, I was amazed. Can India, with 42% of population below poverty line cope with IPL? In three years, the IPL was exposed as a den of corruption with few individuals alleged to own shares in every team, laws being re-written so that conflicts of interest were overlooked (with the secretary of BCCI which makes rules also owning a team in the IPL) and so on. It only came to a head last year when the IPL fell foul of a government minister. And anyone who follows cricket knows that in the current, as well as past match fixing controversies, the trail of bookies ultimately end up in India.
Does corruption exist in the West? In the so-called "first world"? Sure it does. It may even involve very large sums of money. However the institutions in those countries, the laws, the court system etc. are remarkably powerful and free from this vice. When caught, you can expect all hell to break loose. In India, the BJP led rallies to destroy the Babri mosque resulting in riots that killed thousands of people and their leader became the Prime Minister and was never charged. In Gujarat, Muslims were slaughtered just a few years ago while the governing party and police stood by. After the murder of Indira Gandhi, thousands of Sikhs were butchered in the streets of India. Till now, the culprits are yet to face justice.
One does not have to go far to see India is far from being a perfect democracy with perfect freedom of speech. Last year, Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood superstar, expressed a view on Pakistani cricketers. Such was the ire of one political leader, Bal Thakaray, that his followers ransacked cinema houses, set fire to posters, vandalized stores with the police unable to do much. In the past, Thakaray has threatened cricket superstar Tendulkar and Bollywood supremo Amitabh Bachchan. Meekly, these people had to recant and make their peace while Thakaray goes unpunished. In a Western system, such a person would have been arrested as a goon, or charged as a terrorist.
Therefore, to any person who thinks India is now a world power, they are dreaming. I say this as someone who wants India and the surrounding countries to succeed, as they have a lot to offer the world. However, India has lots of problems, starting with corruption, female infanticide, a blind hatred of Pakistan etc. to name a few. India is no where close to being a world power. It is just like Bangladesh, except with a bigger army.