By Varun Bindra
India and China share similar histories; both were liberated from imperialist rule in the mid-1940s and both have experienced a period of economic prosperity since the late 20th Century. However, one core difference between the two nations will allow China to continue to prosper while causing India’s economic performance to stagnate: their governments. On paper, India’s democracy seems much more enlightened than China’s one-party Communist state. In fact, many would agree that it is. However, while India’s model has allowed for better civil and human rights, its democracy is holding the nation back from the economic prosperity attained by China. And while democracy has allowed the West to undergo rapid economic development in the 19th and 20th Centuries, the democratic model cannot be effectively emulated in India for a few reasons.
Firstly, a great portion of India’s population is unfit to vote, particularly in rural areas. In many rural areas, the majority of citizens are illiterate and uneducated. Therefore, they are more susceptible to bribes for votes and advertising campaigns. After all, villagers in rural India lack facilities such as the Internet and other means of assessing a politician’s qualifications and comparing it to that of other candidates. As a result, many villagers will vote for any candidate whose name or advertisements they have heard or whose bribes they have accepted. Consequently, due to India’s uniformed populace, voting often results in the election of unqualified politicians who do not have the nation’s economic interests at heart.
Corruption in India is a separate but related issue. India’s uneducated populace often unknowingly elects corrupt leaders. A Transparency International report estimates that 50% of public officials in India have had first hand experience with corruption. As a result, India has scored a dismal 3.1 on a scale of 1-10 in the organization’s transparency index. India’s score puts it behind nations such as Sri Lanka, Greece, and Zambia. India’s corruption could be avoided by adopting a one-party political model like China’s in which knowledgeable government officials appoint officials instead of potentially illiterate constituents.
Furthermore, India’s democracy leads to stalemates in parliament that halts economic policymaking. India has long affirmed that it is the world’s largest democracy. It is also, however, the world’s largest bureaucracy. In fact, Hong Kong’s Political and Economic Risk Consultancy ranked India’s bureaucracy a 9.21 on a scale of 1-10. India’s score was the worst of any Asian nation. This bureaucracy prevents the nation from passing new legislation to improve economic performance in a dynamic world.
Undeniably, democracy is the best governance system for the majority of nations. However, India faces a unique set of circumstances, including an uneducated populace, bureaucracy, and corruption that render democracy unproductive in the nation. In fact, democracy is holding back India’s full economic potential. If India aspires to become a rising economic superpower such as China, it may have to surrender its democratic values for single-party rule. China’s single-party rule, after all, has freed the nation from bureaucracy, the perils of an uneducated populace, and (to a certain degree) corruption.
Varun Bindra is a tenth grade student at the Singapore American School. Along with a keen interest in current events and politics, Varun’s hobbies include writing, debating, and participating in Model United Nations. You can read more of his political opinions/analysis at his blog www.powerpoliticsblog.wordpress.com