CHURUMURI POLL: Too much democracy in India?

The ultimate irony of the former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s statement in New Delhi last Friday—that India would have clocked much higher rates of growth than China had it been “slightly less democratic“—is that only in a democracy like ours could he have said so. Had he advocated “slightly less dictatorial” policies in a benign dictatorship (say, of the sort he headed or the one that exists in China) he would have been behind bars by now. Q.E.D.

Mahathir is not the first, nor alone, in seeing democracy as an impediment, not as an enabler, in the path to untrammelled growth that industrialists, businessmen, economists (and not a few politicians) are enamoured of. The former Singapore strongman Lee Kuan Yew, the presiding political deity in the “Sikkapatte Important Company of Karnataka” , has often said that “western concepts” of democracy and human rights won’t work in Asia.

“With few exceptions, democracy has not brought good government to new developing countries…What Asians value may not necessarily be what Americans or Europeans value. Westerners value the freedoms and liberties of the individual. As an Asian of Chinese cultural backround, my values are for a government which is honest, effective and efficient,” Lee is quoted as saying in a 1992 speech.

All of which is just a roundabout way of saying that “We, the People” do not know best, and that they, the leaders, are somehow the repository of all wisdom. Which is all very well if you are running countries the size of Malaysia and Singapore, but India? Indeed, positing government by the people against China’s growth in the absence of it, and pining for a “benevolent dictator” is the favourite sport of those tired of corruption, delays, bureaucracy, etc.

It can also be safely concluded that it is this very lot which thinks a) that things would have been far better if the British were still around, b) that Indira Gandhi‘s Emergency, all things considered, was a good thing for India at the time, and c) that Narendra Damodardas Modi is the next best thing.

And so it goes, that had “reformer” Manmohan Singh not been weighed down by the tugs and pulls of coalition politics, the FDI in retail decision would have sailed through. That the Lavasa lake district project in Maharashtra, the Vedanta mining project in Orissa and the Koodankulam nuclear power plant project in Tamil Nadu would not have been held up at the altar of public opinion. And so on and so forth.

The problem with this view is that it democracy is seen only as a means to an economic end; everything is a slave to numbers.

At the other end of the spectrum are the likes of Arundhati Roy, who believe that contrary to the Mahathir Mohamads and Lee Kuan Yews, India in fact is no democracy at all; that having elections every five years do not make a democracy. Which claim again, like Mahathir’s, is loaded with irony because she would have never been able to say so were India not a democracy.

Three and a half years ago, the veteran editor and author T.J.S. George wrote on churumuri:

“There is nothing that China has achieved which others cannot. The difference is that China has the national will to achieve it, and the leadership to turn that will into action. We may say that the authoritarian system facilitates quick execution of plans unlike in a democracy.

“Is that an argument we want to push when authoritarianism is so palpably constructive as it is proving in China, and democracy so chaotic as it has become in India?”

Questions: do we have too much democracy? Or too little? Is democracy becoming a hurdle to India’s growth and development? Is listening to all the “stakeholders” such a bad thing?

External reading: How to run a very b-i-g country by world’s greatest expert on everything

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

51 Responses to “CHURUMURI POLL: Too much democracy in India?”

  1. Narasimha Says:

    I know first hand what is happening in China and second hand from my Chinese colleagues. Freedom is far more important than anything and people will not realize it unless they have lost it. Freedom doled out by the Chinese dictators from their Red headquarters is no freedom at all. What China is letting companies like Nike do in their country is worse than slavery. Chinese are doing the same thing in some African countries now where they are establishing Oil companies or Natural Gas companies.

    The kind of of discussions that happen openly on Churumuri here would have terminated Churumuri long back in China.

    India is definitely not a high-quality democracy I agree like UK or USA where a average man can protest against cops saying ‘I pay for your salary, you work for me’. ಆತರ ಮಾತಾಡಿದ್ರೆ ಅಡ್ಡಡ್ಡ ಮಲಗಸಿ ಹೂತ್ ಬುಡ್ತಾರೆ ಪೋಲೀಸ್ನೋರು ನಮ್ಮಲ್ಲಿ But at least we can discuss things, make fun of politicians, draw cartoons about them etc.

    In USA for example all the social freedom is balanced by “ruthless” and “brutal” fiscal conservatism. You can throw up you legs on pavement and scream “I am coming honey…” but when you go home you pay the rent otherwise you will be on the street.

    It is not the system with a lot of freedom that is the problem in India but it is the selfishness of the people not just of the politicians. There is lack of enforcement of rules and regulations in India.

  2. chris Says:

    “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!”

    I love to continue to live in India rather than living in Singapore….

  3. Sapna Says:

    I’d any day choose India’s democratic freedom over Chinese development..

  4. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    Democracy makes us all feel really powerful while making us mostly helpless. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Imagine what would happen if every wish of the mob….err….public translated to action as quickly as it would like to.

    Inertia in a democracy for major policy making is good, especially when everyone seems to be pointing at China as the model to follow regarding everything. I distrust bandwagons and people who jump on them. This whole “China model” of development smells like one.

  5. Narashardula Says:

    Freedom is in China? How China controlled its population. Great killer instinct. Murderers!

    Read here :

    Concerns deported refugee’s forced abortion case is one of many
    Finally, the tragic story of a Chinese woman who claims her baby was murdered after being forced home from a detention centre in Australia.

    In a videotaped interview, the woman claims Chinese doctors killed her baby 10 days before it was due because she did not have state permission to bear a second child under China’s one-child policy.

    She says despite her pleas to Australian immigration officials that she be allowed to have her baby here and then go home, she was forced to fly back to China eight and a half months pregnant.

    Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock has ordered an investigation.

    A rich and powerful country with 1.2 billion slaves.

  6. pdk Says:

    Wikipedia: “Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.[1] Ideally, this includes equal (and more or less direct) participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law.”

    Looking at it like that, we aren’t much of a democracy. But we elect representatives to parliament through free and fair elections and they form the government and propose, develop, pass legislation into law. So we are a parliamentary democracy.

    But how is that working? Not too well, but not too badly either. Laws get passed which the electorate was not asked about at all. Like FDI in multi-brand retail, get passed without even going through parliament. Sometimes it works well, as it did with the Nuclear Liability Act, but even here the ruling govt can tweak things after it leaves parliament, under pressure from local and foreign sources: Why the Nuclear Liability Rules need to be modified – Analysis – DNA. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all: else we wouldn’t have been at this stage in Koodankulam or POSCO.

    Our democracy too has the characteristic flaw of democracy everywhere: lobbyists and people seeking to wield unfair influence over the elected representatives. Till this changes, a minority will seek to profit at the expense of the majority electorate. Too little democracy.

    People don’t engage with the issues – we are busy with KBC, cricket the opiate of the masses, entertainment disguised as news, movies and everything related to it. Thus even at the local city level, we hardly allowed to take part in decisions that affect us, our city. Even if we are allowed to, I don’t know if we will take part. Too little democracy.

    Same case in other democracies. Proof : the Occupy movement.

  7. Vinay Says:

    Democracy is not a problem. Enough with the conventional “wisdom” about how it is the biggest impediment for India!!!

    With the amount of diversity we have in terms of culture, language, race and customs, a unitary centralized dictatorship will spell the death knell for the nation.

    What works in China will not necessarily work in India.

  8. SK Swaroop Says:

    Please tell me what have we achieved in 64 years of so-called democracy? Talk about the real basics – social equality issues, poverty, infrastructure, education and the means and ability for over a billion people to live a decent life, not your fringe benefits. You say “give me liberty or death”, but liberty at what cost? If we stop being self-righteous and look at basics, it is not so black and white.

    Democracy needs a certain basic level of education, maturity, the will to make sacrifices and the courage to value the greater good of a nation over selfish interests. Most voters in India have none of these qualities, the votes are decided by a few litres of arrack or a new TV set, and the leaders actively exploit these behaviours.

    India is not a developed nation, we are in no position to demand Swiss style open democracy for all when 60% of our people live in extreme hardship, while our great leaders live off their ill gotten bribes – money and opportunity looted from the common man. We need a system to accelerate our economy and improve living standards.

    Who the heck cares about your fringe benefits like extreme freedom of press (fat lot of good that has done us) when our food bills are skyrocketing, the real inflation is in double digits and our economy is being squashed by our “democratic” government’s red tape, bribes and pathetic infrastructure? Fact is that India is neither people friendly nor business friendly.

    In short, our so-called democracy is a failure, the system is not robust enough to manage such a diverse population – as can be seen from our current situation.

  9. Satya Says:

    Indian democracy may be a little more liberal than required for better functioning. It requires some corrections here and there to make it function better. That does not mean that we must do away with democracy. The worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship.

  10. vaidya Says:

    Take a project A, ask 10 people whether they want it done, and how they want it done. Then try to build consensus for that. Eventually you’ll end up going by the middle path which will not please anyone entirely nor offend anyone enough to cause trouble.

    Agreed, this might be a very simplistic way of looking at democracy, as simple as the grasshopper-ant analogy for capitalism, but there are inherent issues in democracy. One of them is that you start off with saying you want people to govern themselves which means you assume people know what they want and how they should be governed. Do a poll around the country and ask how we should deal with Pakistan or whether India should have closer ties with the US and Israel.

    The other issue is that you elect someone for 5 years and leave it at that. Very obviously he can promise you something now and can go about doing something else for those 5 years. There is no accountability until he comes back for the next election. Of course you can vote him out, but then you are electing someone similar again who’s going to think I’ll try to maximize my gains over these 5 years. It’s a system that works when there are better alternatives to turn to when you are not happy with the current one. When you are picking between 2 rotten apples, what are you going to do?

    Development is a very subjective thing. It is easy to lump it into GDP growth rate, but how has that helped us remove poverty, avoid starvation or even take good care of the environment? Of course, we can see it in China – the large scale rape of the Himalayas from the side of Tibet and in other places.

  11. Anitha N Says:

    @Vinay, you said:

    With the amount of diversity we have in terms of culture, language, race and customs, a unitary centralized dictatorship will spell the death knell for the nation.

    What works in China will not necessarily work in India.

    I say,

    With the kind of diversity we have in our demography, with the kind of need we have in keeping this diverse set of population employed, a unitary centalized kind of trade what FDI purports to bring in will spell the death knell for a large section of our population.

    What works in USA & other European countries due to their smaller population base, will not necessarily work in India.

  12. Venkatarama Muthuswami Says:

    Too much of democracy? My foot!
    What we have developed here is a kind of convoluted demon-crazy rule, where rule of law can be malleable and judicial diktats are just a matter of choice so long as you can commend some kind of power accompanied by pelf!
    We have already long ago allowed the FDI investment (Foreign Direct Individual) to come run and mismanage things.
    Our political parties – ancient and not so ancient – are all a bunch of self-seeking freewheelers. We the normal trax paying citizens – young, able bodied ones and those especially senior citizens – are all suckers.

  13. narayana, narayana! Says:

    Democracy per se is not the problem. It is the “Indianised’ way of working in India that’s the problem: caste based candidate selection, criminalization, nexus between politicians and business, spineless bureaucracy, indifferent people who do not even go to vote, plus the lifestyles of Maharajas of the past that still hold sway over the power-holders’ imagination that has turned our country into a kleptocracy for the few. Poor suffer, middle class suffers but who bothers? Do we protest? Do we seek change vigorously?

  14. dr ramesh Says:

    There is a big difference between india and china, india is multi cultural,multi caste and multilingual,but china is more or less homogenous. So run a country like india democracy is the only fuel. And india has suceeded in it. But the only adverse effect of democracy is ,it breeds inequality, which requires reservation of various types to correct it. Less demcracy has spoilt the chances of development in myanmar,vietnam,cambodia,nepal and pakistan.

  15. Vinay Says:

    SK Swaroop:

    And what happens if the dictator is a retard, or just a nasty guy?

    All the people who sing praises of “China’s model”, seem to assume that we will get some “benevolent dictator” to rule us. What if we get a pol pot, or a Mao? Someone as evil of them?

    Or someone as stupid as Rahul Gandhi??

  16. Super Nan Maga Says:

    I dont care to compare freedom in china,singapore,US and their democracies, what matters to me is India’s democracy. Its a failure.

  17. Melange Says:

    A “Democracy” requires a certain maturation in the sheeple that participate in it. If the average man or woman is monumentally ignorant and his or her life abysmally miserable then the form of governance / government doesn’t really matter.

    It’s not the people’s fault. They never had anybody that really cared. All their “TALL” leaders turned out to be narrow minded pygmies who masturbated at their own reflection. The people are just pawns to be used by the cleverer and evil amongst them.

    For a lot of people Democracy doesn’t get any better than some food, cash and booze. The thing that is funny, scary, sad and true all at once is that the food, cash and booze people vastly outnumber any other kind.

    The question shouldn’t be about too much democracy, it should be about the quality of the people participating in it.

  18. Rohith Batni Says:

    There were plusses and then there were minuses in what Tan Siri Mahathir Mohamad has commented upon India and Democracy. And I quote him here – “Forcing some countries to accept democracy is something that should not be done. When you kill people so that they can accept democracy…the people who are killed do not enjoy democracy” – he’s absolutely right in my thinking because what kind of administration and what kind of society people want is upto them to decide, and not for another country to decide whose democratic setup has apparently helped it (in some respects).

    But then the biggest minus noticeable in Mahathir’s speech (if he indeed spoke in that way) is this part – “You need a much stronger central government and less powers to the provincial governments, because there will never be an agreement between the Centre and the provinces. This makes it difficult for the government to promote any policy” – clearly drawing words out of his experience, perhaps, in ruling a diverse, if not as much as India, country like Malaysia for two decades. From all this it is clear that Mahathir has clearly understood what a democracy means, but then he probably feels going against it is what will work in India. That is clearly not going to be the least bit of a solution.

    Interpreting Mahathir’s words in another way could mean “reducing government” to reasonable limits where the public enterprise has scope to offer its creativity to help make those respective “industries” more efficient and more profitable for every individual in the society.

  19. Narasimha Says:

    For those who argue Indian democracy is a failure I have a question: Would you also like to make it a ‘hell’ by failing us the freedom? So curtailing freedom would make us rich? Why did USSR fail then? Why is Pakistan a failure? I say China is also a failure but no one knows what is happening inside China. If it was really a rich country in the sense its common people are rich it would have long become a democracy.

  20. Amar Says:

    I agree with Narasimha. Democracy in India gives us freedom in many ways which we probably won’t realize until we lose it. However, the main problem is the lack of enforcement of our laws, rules and regulations.
    The grassroots of corruption are in government offices. Govt employees have no fear of losing their jobs, or income after old age. Plus, they get to have a discretionary power over the requirements of the common man, A recipe for greed to sprout and become a disease.

  21. Lamberdar Says:

    India’s problem is not too much democracy but too much corruption, inefficiency and lack of accountability on the part of officials and politicians who remain untouched even after committing serious offenses because of lack of effective laws.

  22. SK Swaroop Says:

    Vinay, show me where I have ever asked for China style dictatorship. I will be the last person to demand that. I don’t want China’s model in India because it will never work. Even with full military power, a mad dictator like Mao Zedong will never be able to control India, we are too diverse.

    What I’m saying is that our version of democracy is not democracy at all. It’s an ugly blot on the name of democracy, a nation run by the most crooked and corrupt, because today only such people are even eligible to work in government.

    Democracy is a failure in India. Communist rule will never succeed. We are too diverse for that. The only system that will work is a quasi-autonomous one. States or regions allowed to govern themselves without central interference, as opposed to our centralised roots in the license raj where PM’s office has to nod every time one sack of rice has to be sold in Karnataka.

    States will run like private companies accountable for their every action, even districts and villages need to be made self sufficient and managed as such. Toss out the current (and completely broken) regulatory and legal system inherited from the British Raj days. Do what America and France did, throw out the old, create a new system suited for this country.

    This will never work in India today because we have no leaders with integrity, who work for the well being of the nation. All these stories about our leaders being answerable to the Indian public is just that – stories.

    As for Singapore, the system there works because they are a very small country. It is easy to manage. Don’t compare Sg or CN or US with India, it’s apples to oranges.

  23. Nastika Says:

    There is nothing wrong with democracy in India – the problems are,
    1) Qualification &
    2) Transparency

    Since there is no qualification criteria to become MP & MLA, even ‘unqualified’ are selected for the jobs. Results are open for everyone – they run amok with tax payers money.
    Politics is 2nd job (or part time job) for all politicians. Only criteria for become politician is they must have money & time from their 1st job.

    You don’t to cut your hand because your finger is itching.
    The solution for starters is,
    1) Have qualification (education & experience) for becoming MP, MLA.
    2) Make public all the documents generated or modified in public office. Put meeting minutes, memos, tenders, plans, notifications, orders on Internet. If any document is not public, reason must be provided as to why it shouldn’t be in public.


  24. Vasu Says:

    Democracy is a farce and it succeeded only in ancient greece. There again the slaves and other outliers who were excluded from the whole process. it was the elite who finally dominated. A benevolent dictatorship is far better for India. The problem is the dictator should be benevolent enough and not someone like hitler, stalin, mao or pol pot. We need someone like Mahatir momahamad. He was also extremely corrupt, stashed away millions from the Malaysia’s natural resources but in Malaysia corruption is concentrated by only the core family and group. In the farce called indian democracy there are way too many corrupt politicians who want to make the best out of their terms. We aam jantha can only wish and pray in this game of chance. A long term rule by Rahul Gandhi would be the best alternative now. We can maintain the farce of democracy as well as continue the dynastic politics.

  25. Vasu Says:

    Having good educational Qualification is no guarantee for good and clean governance. Highly educated Chidhu and Manmohan are all the most corrupt. Vedanta corp has sold of indian natural resources in their futures market. Highly qualified people are behind this. Through RTI act you can get all the information you need – tenders, meeting minutes etc. That wont solve anything and these qualified people know all the loopholes of the system.

  26. Venkatarama Muthuswami Says:

    Aside from democracy or whatever, we have even got a skewed sense of nationalism.

    I am a world citizen, born in India. As we live in a borderless world, with everything – good or bad – moves criss-cross and fast paced, we need to be realistic what is growth and development and what can bring social justice and equity in opportunities for wealth generation and sharing.

    I know very well Walmart does not need India, but we need Walmart or its organizing skills, administrative acumen and capacity to delivering results. Walmart does not offer free lunches. The choice is ours to be made intelligently, not allowing ourselves to be suckers by the stupid and self-seeking politicians.

    It is also our choice to live in a city called Chennai, known for its filth, shit and garbage with potholes with some semblance of roads in between.

  27. Shankara Says:

    晚上好 to you all. Let me comment as an ex-Malleswaram Bangalorean and current Singaporean. I came and settled here after a long journey that took me to many countries, cultures and systems of government. After graduating from UChicago in 1992 work took me to London, Basel, Rotterdam, Dubai and east towards HK, spent a few years in Shanghai and then settled in Singapore and took up citizenship in 2006. I’ve seen the gamut from textbook democracy in Switzerland through centrally planned systems like China and the UAE.

    The successful countries got there not because of democracy or dictatorship. They have systems that work in their context for their people. In the absence of a Swiss style open democracy they have had leaders and a government with the will and resources to execute long term projects to shift the country into a different, more appropriate type of economy. Above all it requires intelligent leadership and a solid long term strategy.

    China, Dubai and Democracy:
    China shifted from an agrarian society, there was heavy investment in basic infrastructure, manufacturing and upstream R&D. It is a commie country but the world’s factory. Dubai on the other hand was fast running out of natural gas, they had lots of money but didn’t spend it wisely. As a result they are in trouble.

    Having lived in China and the UAE I can say that Swiss style democracy will never work in these countries for now and the next 40-50 years. The people are not ready for it. They, however, are fast changing. China will not remain communist for too long. The Sheiks in UAE will not remain in power for too long.

    About Singapore:
    Countries like Singapore realised this quickly and adapted. When we were under British rule as a sleepy port town, we had nothing. It was mosquito infested swamp land with no real industry or agriculture, except opium smuggling and a small port. People lived in third world conditions, disease and poverty was common. In the 1970’s after independence there was a grassroots level push towards education for all, basic housing, cleaning up the country, and boosting the economy through industry. In the 1980s and 1990s there was a series of shifts towards an economy which used the growing pool of highly educated residents and immigrants. The focus shifted from manual work to more upstream R&D, banking, value added services, an excellent port, an airline hub, and a system that made it easy to do business. There was a big emphasis on technology to aid this process. The banks started getting computerised in 1972. The post office savings bank POSB was the first. The development model is successful because of the pragmatic approach and courage to face problems head on.

    Today Singapore is a hub for finance & banking, shipping, R&D and business. It is a developed nation with good public transport, infrastructure, facilities and conveniences.

    The journey from humble beginnings:
    The country is here today because of a leadership with long term strategic vision and a clean and open government. People here do complain about the authoritarian government, yes, but that too is changing very rapidly. The ruling party nearly lost this election, their worst performance since independence. Instead of going crazy and squashing the opposition, they reached out with a series of engagements and feedback sessions, gathered inputs on how they can improve and are already implementing some of the short- and long-term projects for infrastructure, housing and the economy.

    Singapore was and remains largely Chinese. Still, English was chosen as the official language in the face of large opposition. Today there are four official languages, but English still remains the national language. Why? This is the only way to ensure equality among people without bias towards a particular race or religion. This is also the only way to ensure easy access to overseas trading markets.

    Personal examples:
    Today I can walk up to my MP twice a month in open sessions, and share my problems with him. His secretary makes notes and emails me with followup actions. He knows he will be voted out if he doesn’t respond to the peoples’ needs. That is accountability.

    I have written in to the land transport authority (LTA) about a traffic congestion problem. In two months time they had surveys and in five months time we had a pedestrian overhead bridge. That is responsiveness to peoples’ needs.

    Today my 9 year old daughter takes the public bus to school every day without any fear of being kidnapped or having her wallet stolen. Today my 14 year old daughter visits her friends or goes for a movie and comes back home alone at 11.00 or 12.00 at night by public transport without fear of being troubled by eve-teasers or criminals. That is security.

    I have gone to the police station for some work a few times, and every time I have been treated with courtesy and respect, the work was completed efficiently and without a single cent in bribes. It’s the same with any government office. That is clean government.

    When I was applying for my daughter’s passport there was a problem. The passport officer and her supervisor personally called me and worked with their counterparts to ensure our case was resolved quickly without any hassle to us, they even called me after she got her passport to check if everything was ok. That is a service oriented attitude.

    Before my daughter joined the local school, they only had three second-language choices, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. They quickly recognised the number of people from other communities and now we can choose from Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi and Urdu in the local schools. This is change management and adaptability.

    Political Leaders:
    How are the leaders chosen? They are the cream of the crop and they need to have clean records. The current PM Lee is a Math/CS graduate from Cambridge, a fellow at the Kennedy school of government at Harvard and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard. The deputy PM Tharman Shanmugaratnam is an economist from the London school of Economics, and a Masters in public administration from Harvard. The minister for information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim is a PhD from Stanford and a post doctoral fellow from Cornell. These are just three examples, the rest are equally qualified. The system ensures only the best and brightest minds are in any position to run the country. This is responsible government.
    There is a national policy of identifying smart kids and sponsoring their overseas grad and post grad studies.

    Yes we have also had scams here, every country does, but action is taken quickly. The recent Singapore land authority (SLA) case where two senior execs cheated $11.8 million was in court and the man got 10 years in jail. Compare this with Kani being released yesterday running back to her DMK coterie to create more scams with her daddy and brothers.

    In short, what makes or breaks a country is not democracy or dictatorship, but the integrity, intelligence, vision and strategy of the leadership, listening to the people and acting for their best interests, ensuring a fair and transparent system, and most of all, the ability to adapt and embrace change. Yes, by all means, choose a system that is not ruled by an iron-fisted tyrant or a greedy looter, but choose something with intelligence, and not just because “democracy” sounds cool.

    To the Singapore haters, you are entitled to your opinion, but in many ways this is a truer democracy than India (as I have listed above). The system has to work and show results, otherwise what’s the point?

  28. pdk Says:


    A “Democracy” requires a certain maturation in the sheeple that participate in it. If the average man or woman is monumentally ignorant and his or her life abysmally miserable then the form of governance / government doesn’t really matter.

    Feature not a bug. Proof: the word ‘sheeple’ was not coined in India.


    Would the fact that Singapore’s population is less than Bangalore’s have something to do with it too? They were less than 2 million in the ’60s. Easier to hold people accountable, easier to push things through. India is more than 200 times the size of the current population of Singapore.

    I personally think we as a country will chug along, taking small steps sometimes, big strides sometimes, sometimes going backward a bit.

  29. Vaidya Says:

    @pdk: regarding Singapore, it is not just the size but the population diversity and national history (i.e., none, nothing to cling on to). Also this is the reason we will never be able to manage India like Singapore, we are too diverse, our roots are too deep and we are too set in our archaic ways. Nehruvian socialist central command and control system has been a failure since Mr. Cha Cha’s grandoise schemes were hatched.

    There are much larger countries run efficiently with low corruption and a clean system. The top cleanest countries are:
    1. New Zealand, 2. Denmark, 3. Finland, 4. Sweden, 5. Singapore, 6. Norway, 7. Netherlands, 8. Australia, 8. Switzerland, 10. Canada.

    These are not all small countries. Clean & progressive systems have been established. There is no excuse for India.

  30. Nastika Says:

    @Vasu, ‘benevolent dictator’ is just a utopia. Practical version of it is Gandhi dynasty rule. You can’t live perpetually in a dream (benevolent dictatorship) and expect a prince (magic) to save you from the tyrant (democracy). You have *make* deal with the tyrant and tame it.

    Govt is a monopoly which needs to satisfy its shareholders. If you think it over, qualification for the job & transparency makes sense.

    Give me a break, RTI is not transparency – its just one small baby step. Some X is qualified and might be corrupt now. The reason is the colleagues he keeps now. Get colleagues of his caliber and make them answerable for their actions.

    PS: Question you have to ask is why a General Manager in a corporation is not corrupt (to the corporation) but a cabinet minister is (to the Govt).


  31. Vijay Says:

    Shankara:”..the Singapore haters, you are entitled to your opinion, but in many ways this is a truer democracy than India (as I have listed above). The system has to work and show results, otherwise what’s the point?”

    Singapore a democracy? Yes, there are general elections in Singapore, like they had under Saddam Hussain, and like Saddam Hussain and Bath Party, it is winning alomost all parliament seats.

    Read “Singapore’s Ruling Party Wins Election” (

    Read also what a Singapore born Tamil Mr Nair, a lawyer. now who escaped to USA and was granted asylum says in:

    Living in the West I have visited Singapore many times, and each time, I have seen the citizens there terrified of the government. The government, the PAP Party rules its masses with an iron fist. There is always the 20 lashes with a bamboo stick. Immigrants like Mr Shankara will be tolerated, and allowed to live in Singapore as long as they work within the straight admin jacket so strongly administered by the government.

  32. pdk Says:


    I agree with your point about roots and our set ways, without placing the blame on Nehru, since he was just tapping into the current thinking at that time. The best economic minds were in favour of the policies of that time.

    Of those countries, only 5 have populations exceeding Bangalore. Switzerland : 7.8m, Sweden 9.4m, Netherlands 16m, Australia 22m, and Canada 34m. Not too big. The size must have something to do with it, thought it may not be the only reason.


    PS: Question you have to ask is why a General Manager in a corporation is not corrupt (to the corporation) but a cabinet minister is (to the Govt).

    Nice distinction – plain corruption vs corruption to the govt. In any case, some names come to mind. Global Trust Bank, Satyam, Enron, Global Crossing. A big portion of the black money stashed abroad is from commercial enterprises – tax evasion etc(see this and this ). This is then converted into legitimate money by exporting rags “worth” crores of rupees. There is this interesting factoid: Exports to Bahamas, of all places, has jumped 1000-fold from $2.2 million in 2008-09 to $2.2 billion in 2010-11(link), because of tax sops for exports.

    If you meant to single out only general managers (i.e., not owners) as non-corrupt against their corporations , I’m sure lots of companies fire people regularly for indulging in wrongdoing against the the company.

  33. Shankara Says:

    @Vijay, your comments on Singapore are about as accurate as saying the US is ruled by a negro king from Zambia, their national religion is voodoo and their lives depend on appeasing the sky gods.

    While I admit there are flaws here, you’re just grasping at straws through the comparison with Saddam Hussein, it holds no water. Try harder.

  34. Venkatarama Muthuswami Says:

    Notwithstanding any dissents, Singapore model of management deserves appreciation simply because the country can ensure security of life and property, social-justice in terms of opportunities to live; it is efficient and largely corruption free.

    Singapore has been successful because of its size and leadership attributes. The country believes in meritocracy. Certainly there are lessons to be learnt period.

    However, whether a similar model can be replicated or adapted elsewhere will and can remain only a difficult question.

  35. Venkatarama Muthuswami Says:

    Let us not fight with Mahathir Mohd who can keep his views. No problem.
    The real problem is within here – finding fault, argumentative and failed to learn from history.

  36. Faldo Says:

    In my opinion, the problem is not so much the existence of democracy or the lack of it but the relative absence of enforcement of law as well as appreciation of lawful procedures. Not too mention that India is still largely a poor country (or many sub-countries rolled into one country) with a lot of diversity. With more reform and better access to resources, people would begin to better appreciate the institutions of the state and participate more meaningfully in building the nation.

  37. Nastika Says:

    @pdk, you are quoting exceptions in corporate world to find corruption. Likewise, you will have quote exceptions in Govt to find non-corrupt.

    If owners can fire GMs, the what stops voters to fire their representative after maximum of 5 years? The reason is transparency – there is no information on what their representative in five years. If voters (like corporation owners) can have full information, then they will do what the owners do. (When I talk of information, I mean information such as how mush was spend on tarring the road in front of their house, what is representative’s plan for next 5 months & so forth).


    Reading the comments I get a feeling that,
    (1) There is no hope for this country
    (2) I must make hay when the sun shines, ie, I must get a into position where I can indulge in corruption & loot the maximum money possible.
    (3) Read (1) again.

    PS: One of friends, who is a salaried software professional, feels that big problem with IT is you can’t make black money. I guess that is the general aspiration, regret of citizens of India.


  38. pdk Says:


    There are a large number of dedicated people, in bureaucracy, in govt who toil away silently.

    If you think corrupt corporations are exceptions, I have nothing much to say.

    As to transparency, we will get there. RTI was a small step in that direction.

    Black money can be made in the IT industry too. Onsite trips, fudged bills. Not everyone may do it, but people do. Somewhat similar to Kiran Bedi claiming first-class (or whatever) fare but travelling on a discounted fare.

  39. Vinay Says:


    Nastika is perfectly right. You talk of onsite and fudging bills? What percentage of people does that, or gets a chance to do that?

    You don’t know the first thing about the IT industry. Only someone who has absolutely no knowledge will do an “equal equal” between our babus and the IT industry. Or are you one of those bitter men pining away for the “good old days”, who takes a perverse pleasure in berating IT?

    Less than 0.1% of IT employees would even get a chance to do such fudging. Can you claim the same for babus in our bureaucracy?

    Of course there are people who toil away silently. But they are a minority. An insignificant minority.

  40. pdk Says:


    You don’t know the first thing about the IT industry.

    Nice try. I do.

    Whether 0.1% or not, I was just pointing out that it is possible to earn a bit on the side in IT too. I did say, ‘Not everyone may do it’.

    You think it is an insignificant minority, I don’t.

  41. Vinay Says:


    I find it hard to believe that you do know how things work in the IT industry.

    How many people get a long-term “onsite opportunity”?

    How many of those are required to submit bills? You do know that many companies offer a fixed perdiem?

    How many of those who satisfy both criteria above are actually able to “fudge bills”?

    In my experience, this is very very rare. It is all hearsay – people hear about someone doing it in some company, but no one has really seen or encountered anyone doing it.

    Just accept the fact that IT is a million times cleaner than our babudom and bureaucracy, can you? I don’t understand this perverse pleasure that some people take in berating IT and trying to do an “equal equal” with the horribly corrupt bureaucracy.

    The IT industry can be criticized on many counts. I can myself list several points of criticism. But frankly, it is disgusting when people try to do an “equal equal” with the bureaucracy.

  42. Faldo Says:

    @PDK – did not want to jump into your crossfire but could not help it :)

    While I agree that wrongdoing possibly exists in many corporations including those in the IT world, I think you might want to make a distinction when you talk of corrupt corporations as it might imply that you are painting entire corporations as corrupt.

    @Vinay – Wrongdoing in IT firms need not be limited to fudging bills. I am sure you know that there is a huge potential for fraud or unethical use in virtually any domain that IT is used in. Any information that an IT company handles for its clients could be misused. In fact, many IT companies are regularly required to have their employees sign specific agreements or take courses that alert them against unethical behavior.

  43. Venkatarama Muthuswami Says:

    As we see democratic world around, it seems that “democracy” as a philosophy and system of management is probably the best of the worst we managed to develop to manage ourselves. Some of the good models incl. that of Canada, UK, Swiss, to some extent Singapore, Scandinavian countries, USA, Germany and a few others. All these good ones have one thing in common: citizens can see the rule of law, equally applicable to all, and most importantly seen equally enforced.

    The moment you have different set of laws and rules to different communities of people and different religious groups, like what we see in India, it can NO LONGER remain democracy.

    One may offer hundreds of explanations for our model – sixty years of such a democracy has only helped us to continually divide us, based on caste, creed, religion, and what not, and breed needless hatred among us. In the process, we seem to have lost our human values and we also forget how to value the values.

    What an achievement!?

  44. pdk Says:


    I understand. Internet crossfires are very tempting.

    My IT-related replies were in response to Nastika’s specific claim that black money can’t be made in the IT industry.

    As to corrupt corporations, I gave links which stand on their own.


    TCS offshore:onsite ratio is 70:30. TCS strength is 2 lakh people. So 60,000 people get an onsite chance, just from TCS. But I don’t know why you wanted that figure, because long-term people don’t need to submit bills since they are long-term and are paid salaries.

    The short (< 6 months) trip people need to submit bills, though as you say many companies pay a fixed per diem. I don't know if the companies break up trips into long-term/short-term in their public filings. So can't get you the figure of short-term trips. But they would be more than just 200 per year (0.1% for TCS).

    As for ability to fudge bills. Bill fudging was common knowledge among some drivers and restaurant employees (mostly Indian) in parts of Tokyo, New York, say ten years ago. They were very understanding about it and co-operative in provide blank bills. Things may have cooled off a bit, but I'm not sure it doesn't happen at all, nor that it is not happening in other industries involving short-term travel to other countries.

    As I mentioned above, I was responding to the specific claim that black money can't be made in the software industry.

  45. pdk Says:


    To clarify my point about ‘corrupt corporations’. I was talking about people (usually) at the top of the hierarchy, owners, people in the external interface of the corporation doing things which are good for the company but involving wrongdoing (bribery, regulatory capture, deception etc).

    Keeping that in mind, those links I mentioned would be mostly for employees/owners acting against their own corporations, and not to show that corporations can be corrupt.

  46. sanjeeva Says:

    It is not democracy which is a hurdle in the growth of the country. It is the misuse and mis-interpretation of democracy, which is a hurdle. Our country has myriad rules, acts, regulations and what not and with all these, culprits and criminals get away scotfree and innocents get punished. Why? Simply because all these rules are misused and wrongly interpreted. It is the same with democracy.

  47. Faldo Says:

    pdk – Thanks for clarifying. Corruption does occur in some form or the other wherever the opportunity presents itself. The magnitude may vary but I agree that no sector has remained untouched.

  48. Doddi Buddi Says:


    Actually you are becoming desperate in countering Vijay’s point. PAP has given wonderful progress to Singapore but let’s face it: it is a dictatorial regime. Thanks.

  49. richardw Says:

    @shankara – Well made post sir as to why you “chose” singapore over other countries. Since, I have not seen Singapore I was waiting for other members to refute/counter your (really, well made) points and see how the discussion proceeds. But, the fact that none of them have, has only made your view point stronger!! Nice articulation in that post there!

  50. thecurioustamil Says:

    the present form of govt is irritating to some groups who have lost power under this system. they are itching to overthrow the system and to bring back their age-old exploitation. their hatred for democracy is expressed in one of the following manners: 1. ridiculing democracy for all our ills, and extolling tyrants, dictatorships and despots 2. pretending that the poorest of the poor are not heard under the present system and therefore trying bring ‘real democracy’ – read maoist dictatorship 3. subverting the powers of the parliament through unelected bodies – courts, commissions, ‘civil society’ organizations, etc. anyone who believes that an indian dictator will bring in prosperity is a crook or a fool; given india’s sociey, the dictator is not going to be from a scheduled caste; there will be immediate efforts to ‘restore’ the ‘lost glory’ of the country – essentially restoring the earlier upper caste rule. then the miseries of the lower cases and lower sections will be conveniently covered up – like the chinese hid their slums behind facades. “those willing to exchange liberty for security deserve neither”. the very first commentator was absolutely right – it is our selfishness that is ruining our country. probably the only time we showed selfless sacrifice was during the struggle against the british.

  51. G N Raja Says:

    I am forced to write here since Sankara has written something about Singapore which unfortunately is just another way of presenting lies by presenting it with a special angle camera. I have also been from Malleswaram, landed in Singapore on India’s 50th Independance day, got a PR (permanent residency) desperately given to me by the Singapore govt., as they prey or IITians and the like desperately, stayed there for an year and 3 months and am back in Bangalore and living a happy life.
    I never went to Singapore like many Indians there to get “beggary allowance”. I did not go there because PR lets me buy a silly HDB flat and resell it hopefully at a higher price. I went there for some specific personal reasons. While my personal issue was “cured”, certainly it was not because of the facilities in Singapore but well “Singapore matha” if I can use such a term in place of “Bharath matha” happened to solve it. While I will never hate Singapore, I dont think what Sankara says is true.
    No doubt you have a clean city, no doubt you can travel safely and efficiently on metros and roads (aircon/no aircon!? buses). No doubt the police there are humans not goons like they sometime are in parts of India and no doubt getting the PR was just a 3 hour effort while getting a passport in India is a nuisance!
    These dont define LIFE. Sankara thinks that “all that glitters is gold”. Singapore is just a dot on the map. It is probably one fourth of what Bangalore was in those days. Todays Bangalore has become much bigger, while Singapore can only extend into the sea or can trick and cheat Malaysia of Johor at best.
    Singapore policies can be effected when you choose whom you keep and whom you dont. While we create reservation to fight social discrimination in India, the same reserved Indians go to SIN to live at the lowest level of SIN’s social (“caste”) hierarchy called as Work Permit WP. A Sankara would have gone there like me with what is called Emplyment Pass EP (as we are better qualified). When I apply for the EP, the government notices that I have special qualifications and asks me to take PR (permanent residence). If I stay in that country SIN and do “jalra” (shake a leg) with PAP and its UNDEMOCRATIC views I graduate to being a Citizen. So these are their 4 castes. A WP is almost a slave. Can be thrown out at the whims of the employer. WP are mostly the worker category. I have seen WP’s struggle hard and become PRs and they think they have reached nirvana. There are EPs in my time who got PRs and then drifted to US. These folks have nothing for SIN or US or any place. They are sucker nomads. Like Sankara they will choose their place depending on their current wants. Maybe Sankara does not want his daughter to date an American! Who knows? So get some facilities of the West and also stay in culturally more eastern SIN. Is that his choice I dont know?
    Can we make India a SIN? That is a disrespectful statement to India. I dont think SIN is any model for genuine countries like India. SIN has districts and cities and what not in their silly model of a country in the place of a large park! In India I cant throw out a citizen since he is not so good like SIN can shunt out its WP or EPs. Only PRs and Citizens have a permanent right to live in SIN. Even a PR like me who has expended his 5yr multiple visa is technically not a resident of SIN.
    SIN is a form of Corporation which provides for a place to live as well. You are controlled by varna ashrama not necessarily by birth but certainly by genetics. Meritocracy is a joke that they use. If 100 seats are there 20 Indians even if they have the best brains cants take it as it is yet RESERVED and only a max of 10% seats go to Indians. So it is the same reservation as in India. Just like the best SC/STs take the reserved seats in India, so do the best Indians take the 10% reserved seats in SIN.
    While you can do a host of things other than chew gum or possess opium, you can hardly think beyond what the government permits in SIN.
    Any Indian beggar might prefer SIN since it will provide some basic security. Beggars dont ask for for freedom. A LMC (lower middle class) will like to settle in SIN since he/she has been trained to think SIN is superior and adds prestige when they return to India. Middle class Indians settle sometimes in SIN since when they left way back in 80s or 70s were actually LMC in India. However if in today’s India I have an apartment worth 1cr, why will I want to take one in Bishan where my neighbour might be a taxi driver (I am not casteist!) who culturally will come back and let his music system blast my head out. Even if I had a flat at 50L in India, why will I want a 2BHK HDB flat with a Malay cooking meat at my doorstep or a chinese keeping it in a undefinably ugly way. No doubt Malays are the cleanest overall in SIN followed by Indians and Chinese will make the dirties Indian puke.
    Sankara might have reasons to stay in SIN today. He might relocate to India tommorow and go to Brazil next week. He has the right to do that. However his view on Singapore is something only a fool will agree. Certainly I am not the one telling you that America is ruled by a Nigerian. I am only telling you that Sankara has the ability to sell snow to the eskimo and if you are a fool you will buy it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: