Friday, May 08, 2009

For Those Who Choose to Ignore the Facts – There are a Lot of Good Things in America that India Must Follow

During this election to Indian Parliament, I was following closely the campaign of Dr Shashi Tharoor, Congress candidate from Trivandrum. In fact I did all I could sitting in US to help spread the word of his candidature. As the election campaign progressed, his opponents (read communists) came up with so many allegations against him with the intention of maligning his image. One such allegation raised by the communist in Kerala against Dr Tharoor is that since he has stayed in America for long he is “Americanized” with American values and hence not fit to represent the people of Kerala. 

Lot of people in Kerala especially majority of communist sympathizers views America as an evil country. For them America is the cause for all the problems in the world and all American values are things to be opposed. But what they fail to understand is that if US is the one of the strongest and developed countries in the world, it could achieve that because it has established a system in place that is far superior than most of the countries including India. I believe there are lots of good things that India and Indians can learn from US. 

I have written earlier of some qualities of America and Americans, I feel the Indians should follow. One was the way the Americans respect all jobs, another one was about the willingness/eagerness of Americans to go back to school at any age and another one was the health consciousness of majority of Americans. To add to the above list two more good qualities of Americans – corruption in day to day life is almost non existent here and the way people respect and obey the law of the land.

In the last eight years I am in US I visited India three times. Out of the three times I landed in Trivandrum airport two times I was forced to pay the customs officer to clear my bag even though I was not carrying anything that was not permitted. This was in sharp contrast to US wherein the last eight years I never had to pay even a single cent to any one as bribe. No one will ask you nor do we ever think of bribing anyone. If you violate a traffic rule, cops will give you a ticket based on the violation but what about in India? In most of the cases the police will harass you till he gets some money from you. I got a drivers license, car, house and so many things without paying any penny here while I may be forced to run from a pillar to post if I am not willing to pay bribe if I need to get any of these things in India

Now assume a city corporation in India makes a new rule – You are not allowed to smoke inside any closed public place including bars. If such a rule becomes a law do you think the people coming to the bar will restrain from smoking sitting inside the bar (that too after drinking)? The people may smoke more cigarettes sitting inside the room to protest against the rule and in that process gets the satisfaction that he or she is above the law of the land. 

Now in sharp contrast this is what I have seen in City of Tempe, city where my school Arizona State University (ASU) is located. The City of Tempe council has passed a rule that smoking inside closed public places is banned in Tempe. Since that rule became a law I have not seen a single person smoking inside the bar. They go to the patio or outside to smoke whatever be their level of intoxication. So for them the law of the land is to be respected. For most of us the law of the land is to be broken. 

Continuing with the same story - the bars in Tempe started losing customers as those who prefer to smoke while drinking started going to bars in the neighboring cities. The bar owners in turn incurred huge loses. If such a situation happens in India what will bar owners do? They will protest against the government taking out possession blocking the roads and thus causing maximum discomfort to the common man. What did the bar owners here do? They contacted their local elected representatives and tried to change the law. But the support for the law was so strong that the effort of bar owners failed. Still the bars in Tempe follow the same rule and guests and owners are fully co-operating with it. 

In the last eight years I have never seen a protest anywhere near the school blocking the road or causing hardship to the people. If a group feels that a particular rule has to be changed they have a system in place like contacting the local elected representatives, getting necessary issues to put the issue in ballot etc to change the rule. What do we do in India particularly in Kerala? For small issues, conduct bandhs and harthals, destroy public property and create umpteen hardships to the people. For anything and everything the government in power does the opposition parties will oppose even without considering the merit of any of the policies. 

Corruption free society and a society that obeys the rule of law – these are the two pillars for a democracy to succeed and a nation to progress. America has to a large extent succeeded in both and hence it is one of the most developed nations in the world. 

So communist friends in Kerala, understand one thing – there are also good qualities in nations like America that we should follow and the earlier we start following them the better it is for us. If we choose to ignore these good qualities and oppose America blindly our democracy is never going to mature. Thus Dr Tharoor who has spend majority of his life working in US understands these good things in US and I feel this experience will make him a better MP and an administrator if elected.

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Blogger Miles said...

You are on the right track here, but don't think there is no corruption. It's just done at such a grand scale we don't notice it in day to day life (done by big business for big money issues – read about stevia regulations for instance. I think stevia is used in India so maybe you are familiar with it…). Utah bar owners had an interesting response to a similar law regulating alcohol and tobacco in bars – all the bar owners simply turned their bars into “private clubs”. Once the establishment has a private club status, it is no longer bothered by those “alcohol regulations” and “silly smoking bans” on public places… no need to break the law, just find some loop holes to get around it.

May 09, 2009 1:16 AM  
Anonymous Sarath said...

I think you will get similar results if you compare any young evolving culture (like in u.s) to an old much-more evolved (evolution is not always for good) culture like in India or most of the countries in the eastern world. I think we passed that stage in the evolution of a civilization where things were fair and the law of the land was the final word in most cases. Remember 'maaveli naadu vaaneedum kaalam' ?

May 09, 2009 3:12 AM  
Anonymous Sarath said...

I am curious to know, if there was any law here which was changed by the people 'contacting the so called representatives'! Most of these laws would be framed with influence of some strong and rich lobbies. Maybe decades down the line people here would realize the futility of blindly abiding by the system and start reacting more strongly!

May 09, 2009 3:24 AM  
Blogger Vishnu Gopal said...

Actually the whole of India has a similar non-smoking law: you can't smoke in public places. Every place where I've been (Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Kerala) I've seen it strictly enforced. Bars now have a separate smoking area for all those smokers. If the police catches you, then you either pay a fine or (a usually lesser) bribe.

While you're right about corruption, the example you chose to illustrate it sucks.

May 09, 2009 6:00 AM  
Blogger scorpiogenius said...

Communists are against US because the US follow a policy of zero-tolerance to Communism and Communist nations. Thats the main reason why Karat, Bardan and Kerala commies cant stand the US.

The reasons you mentioned are known to all our leaders, but they want to keep the anti-US policy alive just to acquire some cheap political mileage. Common man can be tricked into believing that US is like a bourgeois, they are the reason behind our sufferings, they cause all miseries in the world and our lives would get better by opposing them. On the other hand, these hypocrites' children and learn earn their living in USA, Germany, UK and the so-called capitalist countries.

The qualities you've attributed to US is there in all western nations. I've to agree to every point you've made, and our nation needs to take a leaf out of the US in those aspects. The West treats humans as humans...We've 1 billion, so we underestimate the value of life...and property.

But still we can be proud as Indians for the time being. Im betting on our Economic rejuvenation to solve some of the evils in society. Corruption, in turn comes out of social factors related to economic instability. Improve the infra, let more people get jobs and attain financial security, then some the above mentioned social diseases could be effectively treated. Social Equality and justice only follows economic stabilityKerala has some unique social problems, and I cant elaborate them here in a simple comment. We'll take out one weed at a time, and that needs stern political willpower. Now we've the bell and we know the wild cats... So, who is going to tie the bell?

May 09, 2009 8:52 AM  
Anonymous sh.k said...

You are trying to give the right message, but the examples you have given are not impressive.
Its very clear, you are extremely angry with the politicians in India (except those in the Congress party).
But its not the politicians only who are to be blamed.
Take the case of bandhs. Suppose some party declares a bandh, but none of the media reports it. No flashing new in those 24hr news channels. All the people will come out as usual and work as usual, nobody can do anything. Also suppose the media reports it but people dont care. They come out saying I want to work, I want to study etc. Will this ever happen ? No.
In our country, bandh is like sex.
Its fun. People enjoy a holiday. Most enjoyable when most unexpected. They sit in front of the idiot box the whole day and become idiots themselves.

But will all these change? It may. Like the communists say, the only thing that doesn't change is change itself. Lets be positive and try to make a change.

(My experience in Trivandrum Int. Airport is different than yours. I have landed there about 20 times in the last eight years. I never payed any bribe)

May 10, 2009 6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

scorpiogenius is correct in one statement: the US follow a policy of zero-tolerance to Communism and Communist nations. It is true. There is an absolute zero tolerance for all communism, well, except for China. But that is different - the Chinese really do make a lot of cheap stuff that we like here. As long as all the fancy little electronic gadgets are waived in the face of the common man here, he will focus his attention on them and not even notice what is going on behind him. Think about it and think about what Brijesh is saying... On another note, I could write an entire book on how the US is actually one of the least "free" nations. Good that I am born with the gift of laziness with just the right amount of political disinterest, otherwise I would make a lot of people angry by showing them the truth... In the spirit of laziness, I leave you with only half of a popular quote: "Those who don't know, don't know they don't know"

May 11, 2009 12:42 AM  

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