It is not to say that everything is right with the West. But it goes without saying that they have been more successful in practicing what they preached. Take for instance rule of law and impartial enforcement of law. Right from the violation of traffic rules and parking rules to serious violations of building rules and tax evasions, India has failed to enforce the laws and its penal provisions consistently and impartially. The degree of consistency and impartiality of enforcement of rule of law is far superior in western countries than India. Equally high is the degree of accountability fixed on the law-enforcement machinery on their failure to perform their duties. A lot of our plight in cities with traffic congestion, irregular parkings, stinking residential areas, overflowing drainage lines, unauthorised constructions, unreliable water-supply system and a whole lot of mis-governance owes to this Indian psyche of ?indifference towards irresponsibility?.
Second major cause for concern is our permissiveness towards corruption. Increasingly seen as a ?way of life?, it has not spared any institution in India. So much so that it has ceased to be a stigma in public life to be accused of corruption. Transparency International has ranked India nearly 138th in the descending ranking on transparency. They have established direct correlation between a country'scompetitiveness and transparency. Most of the western countries have developed because of their strong institutions and zero-tolerance towards corruption. On the other hand every single aspect of an Indian'slife has some element of corruption involved in it. It is a vice where both the ?giver? and ?receiver? are equally to be blamed. Corruption exist because corrupters exist, and vice-versa. And while talking of ?corruption? it is not just the government that is to be seen, but the larger public, corporate sector, media, service-providers, businessmen, hoteliers, milk-man, fruit-vendor?it is indeed a potent cancer? ?omnipresent? and ?omnipotent?.
Our record on gender equality has been deplorable. ?We? have failed in giving ?them? education, health care and participatory role in political decision making. Indian women enjoy very little space in socio-economic and political arena. The pernicious system of dowry has converted her into a liability to her father. She has very little say in her own marriage and child bearing. Sexual harassment is of high incidence. Contrast this with the quality of life and esteem women enjoy in Western societies.
Indians are very vociferous about their civil rights but very weak in their civic consciousness. Freedom is often construed as freedom to follow one'sinstincts and impulses. We have very poor hygiene consciousness, and litter our lanes with garbage and answer the calls of nature in open with least restraint. We have very little consideration for the rights of others when we readily block the roads, stop the trains and throw stones at the buses to vent our public outrage. We let our students play politics in their campuses and ruin their studies. We keep our loudspeakers at highest decibels without caring for a sick or old man in the neighborhood. We let our cattle free on the roads to wreak havoc on the traffic. We are abysmally poor in our management of money, material and manpower. Compare each of these characteristics with those in Western countries.
Indian ideologues should not fall victims to ?paradigm-paralysis?. ?Paradigm? is a shared set of assumptions that has to do with how we perceive the world. But when any data falls outside our paradigm, we find it had to see and accept. And when it becomes acute, we would be in a state of ?paradigm-paralysis?. If there is a prevailing tendency amongst us to denounce everything Western, we are failing in our understanding. Western culture has its positive points, just as India has its unique and great heritage. We have to learn a lesson or two from the West if we have to save ourselves from our infatuation with the West. Our success as a nation would be in selecting the best from both and in moulding a national character that would strengthen our society and equip us to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
(The writer is a social thinker and activist and can be contacted at [email protected])