A Personal Comparison of Two of the World’s Largest and Oldest Democracies

One country was discovered by a lost traveler who accorded the natives with a title originating from a subcontinent nation in the opposite hemisphere. Fast forwarding from the Native American genocide and ousting of the British rule, it took America a four year long Civil War to bring an end to slavery and 150+ more years to accept women’s voting rights to finally gain the first roots of a true democracy.

The pre-partition land that extended beyond the River Indus (Hindustan) has a rich history of Vedic scriptures, ancient sculptures, and spiritual wisdom of its own, whilst also inheriting customs, religions and conventions (dowry originated from the Europeans) from all those who invaded that said land, such as the Turks, the Afghans, the French and the imperialists that were the last to leave — the British. It took India a Satyagraha movement led by Gandhiji (in addition to other notable movements such as the Dandi March and countless lives lost at the hands of British generals, particularly in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre) to dispose of the British empire that was already heading towards bankruptcy from WWII. Several wars and bloody partitions, politically charged inclusion of minority parties, castes and sects in the general representation allowed India to finally achieve some semblance of the same pluralistic outlook as the US. India is, of course, a much younger democratic state than the US but neither are ideal democracies by all standards, for they are also modern republics and if they succeed in one aspect of governance, they falter in another. Then again, with present day nations like Egypt struggling to achieve that same democratic governance with a lesser degree of patience, America and India have surely come a long way.

Each country has its set of wonders and woes when it comes to ethical governance, security, education, healthcare, environmental preservation and a host of other factors that ascertain quality of life.

Till present, I have had spend a considerable portion of my life in two democratic states, and experienced my own version of their pros and cons upfront. I haven’t sourced any external site because it is best to take any news on politics with a pinch of namak. Unless, of course, you prone to high BP and/or are news anchor Arnab Goswami.

Here is my quick recap in 5 paragraphs or less. Cue “Let’s See How Far We’ve Come” by Matchbox Twenty.

One country does better to live up to its tenets of democracy and deter crimes with stringent regulation, tough law enforcement and an effective national emergency helpline because of the high value placed on the life of its citizens. Yet the nation needs amends in areas of gun control to curb violence and address mental health issues of the not so sane, and friendlier immigration policies to encourage innovation (and tax revenue generation) from the insanely bright. Moreover, as the full effect of the economic stimulus continues to be ascertained, many of the country’s working class residents still struggle with having access to affordable healthcare, education and housing and are unable to relinquish themselves from their self-created debt.

The other democracy has made tremendous progress to reduce poverty and build a working economy of many bright and honest thinkers after six decades of independence in spite of the looming threats from domestic insurgents and spilling over of neighborly terrorist activities. Yet, it is still coping up to prevent its decay under its heavy mold of corruption and modus operandi of bribery and at the very least, provide food, space and shelter to its billion plus populace.

One government’s administration is criticized for its policing advise to foreign nations and loss of precious lives and resources from troop invasion into the temperamental, terror ridden regions. Meanwhile, the first African-American head of state paddles his much-needed socio-economic reforms and healthcare policies at the expense of the drowning pool of deficit, with due Chinese interest, and so generously bequeathed to him by his (lone) star predecessor. Even then, the star-spangled nation claims its presence as an unofficial “role model” of governance for other democracies and nations, striving to be democracy.

The other democratic administration is often mocked for its lethargic response to pending cases of injustice and even an inadvertent sneeze from the first-ever turbaned head of the state is misconstrued as a “break of silence.” Even then, the incumbent PM has made unparalleled strides to restructure India’s economy, notably as a Finance Minister in the 90s to liberalize India at par with the alluring West, whose brand-naming culture spread faster than the service of fast food chains that cropped up from the same hemisphere. Today, the Indian economy may not be as strong as a BRIC* but its development is certainly a marvelous feat when compared to the crumbling status of some of its subcontinent neighbors. India may struggle with its developing means but its greatest asset will always be its unity in diversity.

With overlaps of Columbus’s Indian coinage of American natives and the British expulsion, there is one more interesting overlap between India and America, this time, shared by the present-day heads of both nations.

The current President of one nation channeled his way to victory by preaching “Change” that parallels the Gandhian approach of “Be the Change you wish to see in the world.” The current Prime Minister of the other nation represents a political party that has been ruled by the Gandhian name (not genes) for generations. The latter is all thanks to Indira Gandhi, daughter of India’s first Prime Minister post British independence, who herself happened to be India’s first female Prime Minister.

*BRIC is an acronym developed by British economist Jim O’Neill in 2001 to indicate the rising economic strength and rapidly growing development of four key nations — Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Politics 101

Democracy is a form of governance where people directly participate in the law-making process or elect state officials to represent them (Greek roots: demos– people, kratos– rule/power)

Republic is a form of governance where the affairs of state are NOT ruled by a private ruler/monarch but fall under the purview of the general public (Latin: res publica- public matter)

A nation can be governed by both forms (US and India), either (UK as a democracy but not a Republic and Russia as a republic but not a democracy) or neither (North Korea).

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