This post is in response to this post by Gaurav.
Now, I know that when it comes to speaking on India I am a little out of my depth, but here are my own two cents on the matter.
I think there are four specific reasons for most of the trouble in the country today -
Too large a population is arguably the biggest bane this country is facing today. Most of India's problems can be traced down to this single core issue. Issues like poverty, illiteracy, crime and other evils all owe their existence to the single fact that there are too many people in this country.
I agree that a larger population means a larger work force, and therefore you do require a certain minimum number of people in the country to be able to perform all the jobs that need to be done. But any addition to the population over that limit is always a bad thing.
One of the reasons that places like Canada, Australia, the Scandinavian countries etc have such a high quality of life is because there are fewer people living there. Larger population means distributing the wealth and resources of the country amongst more people, and thus each person would obviously get less.
In developed countries, a child a guaranteed education because there are few enough students for this to be feasible. In India, currently, it isn't. At least it's very hard to see how it could happen unless we start reducing the population. But I'll get back to education later.
Even the functioning of the Government is based on the amount of people living in the country. In developed countries it's easy for the Government to grant various aids to the public because once again the population is small enough for it to be able to do so. Thus in Europe a man may be jobless and unemployed, but he can still be ensured of living a decent life. He can still be confident of getting the necessary medical treatment should he require it.
Ultimately, the fewer people you have to care for, the better you can care for them.
The levels of corruption in this country would shame even the most unscrupulous of individuals. (It apparently has no visible effect on the politicians though!) From something as insignificant as a traffic ticket to something as large as a Government deal, corruption raises its ugly mug everywhere. It's difficult to get your driving license made without paying off an agent to do it for you. And someone who does indeed try to do it would only be scoffed at!
The trouble with the corruption in the country is that it exists not just in the bureaucracy but also in the general populace. When a driver is stopped for a traffic offence, he fishes out a bribe to pay the cop even before the officer can open his mouth to ask for it! I once tried to insist on being given the ticket, but was instead almost threatened by the officer to grease his palm. Finally, since he didn't have the ticket book with him and I refused to be cowed down by his intimidation, he let me off with just a warning.
While some people may feel that the plethora of religions existent is this country are a good thing, I feel they are the cause of some of the biggest problems in the country. More people have probably been murdered in the name of religion than for any other single cause. And after all religion is nothing more than something man himself has invented!
A classic example of the horrors perpetrated in the name of religion was the bloody butchery of thousands of Sikhs in the riots in 1984. Going even further back, who can forget the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives that were claimed during the post independence partition? Countless individuals on both sides of the India-Pakistan border savagely done to death all because they belonged to a different creed. Innumerable women raped on both sides of the divide, and even children barely old enough to stand were not spared the slaughter. For a heart-wrenching description of the Partition, I would recommend Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. It's one of the best (and most touching) non-fiction books I have read.
We don't even have to go all that far back in history. The riots in Gujarat in 2002 were evidence enough that the inter-religious hatred is still prevalent in this country.
Priests are being murdered and nuns raped all because certain people are under the impression that these missionaries are trying to forcibly convert the tribal populace to Christianity. I don't agree. Even if they are indeed trying to convert people, they aren't doing it against anyone's will. And even if they were, that isn't the slightest justification for murdering them.
Although it is considerably less prevalent in today's India than in the past, the caste system continues to spread its evil tentacles, especially around the lower strata of society. I find it totally impossible to believe how people in this country can treat two persons differently just because they belong to two different 'castes'!
The final point can actually be thought of as directly resulting from the first point - excess population.
4. Illiteracy and Education:
Illiteracy is a major concern in India and until it is eradicated one cannot expect the country to progress very much.
As long as the poor remain illiterate, they are going to remain poor. There is no arguing that fact. The country may be largely agriculture based - but who says a farmer should remain illiterate? Farmers in developed countries aren't. No matter who you are or what you do, basic education is necessary.
Another important feature is using education to improve the mindset of the population rather than just to disseminate knowledge. An average Indian will not think twice before expectorating on the road or littering in public. The average Indian kid will finish his candy bar and throw the wrapper in the park. (Actually, the average Indian kid will probably never eat a candy bar or visit a park, and itself is the bigger problem.) It is a common sight to see someone, driving his two-wheeler, lean over and send a nice big globule of saliva out onto the road, not even caring for the fact that it has probably also splattered all over the poor individual following him. (Imagine a big corpulent man on a motorcycle way too tiny for him doing the spitting and imagine me as the hapless victim and you'll have exactly what happened on my way home from college today!)
Bottom line, cleanliness in this country is non-existent because no one cares about it. It's funny how when the same Indians go to Singapore or someplace like that (where even dropping a single piece of paper in public can prove to be rather heavy on the pocket) they all of a sudden exercise great caution with how they get rid of that candy wrapper!
A few days back I saw some slum children stand behind a wall and hurl stones at people passing by on the other side. One of the stones actually hit an elderly lady. So what for them was fun was actually a major grievance for someone else. Why do you think they were indulging in such an act? Because they weren't educated. It's simple.
I'm not saying that education is going to get rid of all the evils of today's society - because it isn't. But I do feel things will get a lot better if the entire population were educated.
Is India better off as a single nation?
This was the main question raised by Gaurav in his post. And it is indeed a rather tough question to answer. What would have happened if India had been several small states instead of one big one? It's hard to say.
My own take on this is that India on the whole would indeed have been better off as 8-10 smaller nations. It's fairly obvious that not all of these smaller regions would be better off than they are now. But on the whole I feel it would have been a good thing.
There is an extremely unfair distribution of power in India today. This inappropriate concentration of power in the wrong places could have been avoided if the country were split up into smaller states. This would perhaps have led to better governance.
There would certainly have been a few bad points though. For example, two of our neighbors - Pakistan and Bangladesh - do not seem to be fairing much better than we are. Besides, the fact that we have so many regional languages is the main reason for English remaining an official language almost 60 years after the exodus of the Raj. A person from Madras and one from Calcutta would naturally have to converse in English since it would be the only language that both of them were comfortable with. I can't start to imagine what I would have done here had English not been so widely spoken.
I do not plan to remain in this country for more than another year or so, although I know that I'll be back again sometime. I don't know how much improvement one can expect in the situation here in the immediate future but I do hope there's a start. The four problems I mentioned above need to be tackled and quickly. India needs to reduce its population with immediate effect and educate it. That should take care of most of the other problems.