India, The Free-est Country In The World

Yesterday, whilst watching a show on BBC Knowledge about Russia, I had an epiphany…I realized that the western concept of freedom is not really freedom, the third-world concept of it is…Why do I say this? Because in one of the segments, the presenter asked some chic young people in St.Petersburg about what democracy and freedom meant to them after years of communist rule…In unison, they all said they hated the term democracy because it did not really mean freedom…They gave the example of Germany which despite being a democratic and free country, controlled its citizens like robots through numerous rules and laws…To them, a country is really free like Russia when its citizens have the freedom to flout rules and laws imposed on them…If they are caught, they have the freedom to bribe the relevant authorities and get out of the jam…If this is what true freedom is, then India is the free-est country of them all…What say you?

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30 thoughts on “India, The Free-est Country In The World

  1. You’re going to get a lot of disagreements here from Indians who say that India’s freedom is a sham and that our secular nature is also fake.

    But I for one agree with you. One of the reasons for Indian’s freedom is the incompetent government. Note that in Germany, Hitler was very competent at what he did. I would prefer to have an incompetent idiot over a fanatic any day.

    Incompetent governments can’t control or monitor what people are doing because it requires a lot of discipline. And discipline is something we Indians lack (luckily) – unlike the Chinese and we all know the state of the government there.

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    • Bhagwad, I agree that incompetent or even indifferent governments mean freeer people (good people and bad people – all). Not saying it’s for the best, but it does happen.

      Like if Homosexuality or Premarital-sex are declared criminal offenses, one might escape punishment either due to indifference of the concerned authorities or by bribing.

      But the freest in such a system is the Moral, cultural and you-hurt-my-sentiments Police. I can’t get over the fact that till today one has not heard of any of the offenders in Mangalore having been punished.

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    • Interesting that Germany has been brought into this discussion. Germany had more than its usual share of corruption scandals in recent years, including one involving Volkswagen in India. They have a system of trade union representation in management – and the executives routinely bribe these reps (with money and women) to get their work done.

      In the US, the township can stop you from drying your clothes outside if they consider it unsightly. (That the electric driers leave an unslightly carbon footprint is another matter). And even minor home renovation requires their permission. Big corporations have lobbyists to puncture holes into laws — the small ones have to abide by the law.

      Me: “Big corporations have lobbyists to puncture holes into laws — the small ones have to abide by the law.” – well said…

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  2. It is a misconception that one needs to be democratically “free” to bribe. Bribing was rampant during the communist regime. Those who could pay got whatever they wanted. And I have lived in Germany. Forget Hitler’s time. But today’s Germany has laws and rules like every other democratic country, and is probably better at implementing them. I didnt get the impression that the citizens were being controlled like robots. Sudden freedom can often make chic folks myopic .

    Yes , we have bribes in India. Not everyone bribes though. Simply because they dont have so much money left after the business of living. Every country has them . You read what gets reported. And not every country has a free press. India continues to be looked upon as a free and democratic country, because, we arrive at decisions, right or wrong, through a voting process. Not through a gun barrel in your face. See, a society learns slowly, by making mistakes, learning, experiencing. We’ve had stability and the benefit of time, and at some point we will learn and get there . Many things for which bribes were inevitable earlier in my twenties, are very cleanly available now. Eg. Telephones.

    BBC probably ensured lively reactions after filming the “chic” young people in Russia, giving their comments. They should have talked to ordinary people. And I’d love to know if they made any comments about the US and UK.

    The difference between Russian freedom and ours is that between a stone thrown by a huge pull of a slingshot in a single instance and a person sitting on a riverbank, doing increasingly accurate throws of a stone into the water, respectively. The former depends on chance, no logic. The latter on practice.

    I am quite happy on the River bank.

    Me: I agree with you…What comes out of this is the knowledge that the definition of freedom is not the same everywhere…

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    • Loved Suranga’s comment. Yes, thats what I believe in too. Though I could not have written it nicely as she has. Specially the part where she has written about the diff between Russian freedom and ours.

      Me: I was just reading some articles on the net about Russia and democracy…It seems that most people including the young don’t like the Western concept of liberal market and democracy (this could explain why autocratic Putin so popular)…They associate market reforms with unemployment and poverty…They are so used to living under autocratic rule (since the 15th century) that it will take many years for them to change their views…For more http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/email/russians-don-t-much-like-the-west

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    • I agree with Suranga.
      “You read what gets reported. And not every country has a free press. India continues to be looked upon as a free and democratic country, because, we arrive at decisions, right or wrong, through a voting process. Not through a gun barrel in your face. See, a society learns slowly, by making mistakes, learning, experiencing.”

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  3. Free-est of all – Oh !! Yeah !!!

    But we shld interview a few Indians too, to know what is their idea of freedom – we might get much weirder answers. 🙂

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  4. Living, marriage, children eating, drinking water, swimming, working, even sleeping has attached responsibilities, so has freedom. But the biggest responsibility that comes with freedom is to make sure it isn’t taken away.

    I think seeing how we are a very young Democracy, we aren’t bad at all. We have our bad moments, but we also have our Pink Chaddi Campaigns 🙂

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  5. We are a democracy is the best that has happened to us.
    We are the greatest bribe givers,hence feel relieved as all of are so.
    We will regret the day we lose our democracy, if we do.

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  6. “”It seems that most people including the young don’t like the Western concept of liberal market and democracy (this could explain why autocratic Putin so popular)””

    Hi…..whats wrong if a leader is autocratic??

    Putin is a remarkable politician……..a true patriot…..an awesome leader. He single handedly turned around the fortunes of a demoralized Russia!!
    Read:
    http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2008/09/2351

    Freedom that many here claims that India have….my question is For whom??
    Freedom in India is an illusion…..and people with money do have lots of freedoms in India.

    If u look from another angle…. common people( farmers , peasants , workers,urban poor) in “oh-so-dictatorial” Cuba have MORE FREEDOM than here in India

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      • The problem is that if you have a system which allows an autocratic leader to come up, the chances of getting a bad autocrat are much higher than those of getting a good one.

        For every one benevolent dictator, you’ll have five or ten thugs who spoil everything. This is why even a good autocrat must be pulled down. The risk is too high that his successor will screw things up.

        Look at the roman empire with its string of poor emperors compared with just 3 or 4 good ones. No wonder Caesar was murdered on the senate floor. Brutus and the others realized what a dictatorship means, even if the dictator is a good one.

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        • “The problem is that if you have a system which allows an autocratic leader to come up, the chances of getting a bad autocrat are much higher than those of getting a good one.”

          Hello,

          i agree.You are right.

          i guess when it comes to “autocrats” we need to deal with in a case by case manner. Also , we need to define “autocrat” better . We tend to consider any leader labelled by the west as an “autocrat” as an autocrat!!

          Incase of Putin , India needs a leader like Putin!!

          “”For every one benevolent dictator, you’ll have five or ten thugs who spoil everything.””

          i agree.

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  7. Interesting post. When we talk abt freedom we should make it clear freedom to do what.If you mean freedom to get good basic education and freedom to get basic health care for most of the ppl India lags behind very much. Russia and China are better while western European countries are much ahead. If you mean freedom to flout rules especially if you have power and money Russia and India may be neck and neck.If you mean freedom to attack the policies of the ruling Govt thru media India will be ahead of Russia and China.
    Russia never had a real democratic form of Govt.In the post Soviet era power was transferred from the Communist Party to few oligarchs and business tycoons. The youth who expressed their opinion in the BBC programme are obviously belonging to the current ruling families of Russia and they naturally like the life now as they are the undisputed princes there.Poor ppl it seems prefer the Soviet era where they could be sure of the next meal and their Women folk need not sell their body to eat. May be slowly Russia will change to a more representative democracy.

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  8. We just can’t know the psychology of an entire nation through words of a few.

    All media houses have their points to prove – to that end they select & tutor their audience, & even have the audacity to edit what’s said.

    If we’re sensitized to this reality, we might stop debating issues based on how they’re brought out to us.

    As case in point, I’ve seen news channels highlighting educated young Muslim females who claim to wear burqa and love it. And equally frequently I have seen Hindu females being attacked by fundamentalists for not wearing what they would consider decent dressing, which educated Hindu females would rightly detest.

    But how frequently are those cases highlighted where Muslim females are tortured or killed for not wearing Hijab in India? Or how many cases have been brought to the fore wherein educated Hindu English-speaking females actually find wearing Salwar Kameez a matter of ‘personal freedom’?

    Does this mean that there are no Muslim females who are coerced into wearing burqa or deprived of education for fear of their mixing with boys and people of other religions? Does this also mean that just like wearing the burqa, wearing something more traditional cannot be a matter of personal choice for Hindus?

    But then this manner of news presentation creates a very skewed understanding of ‘freedom’. The moment someone sees an educated lady clad in burqa – “Ah, she’s enjoying wearing it. I’d watched educated Muslim women claim that they don’t feel uncomfortable in burqa. So she must be an independent, assertive God-fearing, modern woman”. But when we’ll see an educated Hindu female wearing salwar kameez/saree, our subconscious assessment would be: “Ah, there goes a traditional lady. Why’s her dressing so dated?”

    Plus, as was somewhat discussed above, lack of freedom is not always sourced in state coercion. Tradition plays the same role.

    50% of those sitting in arguably the most powerful country, and yet denying evolution are as much trapped in orthodoxy and their fear of God as are those wearing burqas and yet proclaiming to be free despite being trapped by familial expectations, tradition & communal affiliations. And yes, both parties are in denial of lack of freedom.

    But the victims of the former, for instance, are children of the parents who’re denied vaccination (somehow denying evolution goes hand-in-hand)
    http://bit.ly/avqiVn
    http://bit.ly/bo1xtJ
    Guess, BBC just wanted to show Russians in poor light. 😉

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  9. Something to think about…

    I read somewhere that where there are the least number of laws, the people are the free-est there.

    That doesn’t mean that everyone can just behave anyhow. But rather it means that instead of the govt. imposing laws, the individuals themselves should self-regulate.

    This seems to be a desirable situation, but will work only if people behave responsibly.

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  10. Bones – IMO, Russia’s set of problems are in many ways as challenging and complex as those faced by us in India. Though their standard of living may look better, I believe underneath is tremendous inequality – a big problem in a culture used to the sameness created by communism.

    Btw, you have been tagged.

    Me: Thanks for the tag, I’ll work on it…

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  11. ” We live in a country that gives car loans at 8 % and student loans at 12 %” – forwarded by sms.

    What is the only way to be able to do what you want in India? Being rich, Being a politician, Being a crook or Being a bureaucrat.

    What is the option for a poor, hard working young person (unfortunately from the Upper Class) to become any of this? What are his chances of being able to get a decent education and a job through that? How many scholarships do all these thousands of colleges present in India and many more opening give to students? With the highest number of millionaires in the world, why is it that I have yet to meet a single person studying through scholarship funds. And this after studying with some of the best and brightest minds in the country – most of whom have left for abroad.

    What are a youngster’s chances of becoming a politician without being a crook?
    What are a youngster’s chances of being a bureaucrat?
    60% reservation+20% for Jaan Pehchan and what is left is 20% for the rest of the country.

    India isn’t free by a long shot. It is just hopeful of being free and like a carrot dangling ahead, we will keep running after that hope.

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