I came across a question on Quora asking rather obtusely – “India: What are some things you hate about India?” and I thought about it long and hard for about 15 minutes and wrote this as an answer there. I repost the answer here (because I find Quora extremely unwieldy and outdated.)
I think hate is a strong word. The question should rather be phrased as things you dislike about India. Either way here is my answer. Please note that the points are not in any order of hierarchy, I think each of these points is extremely important.
1. A heavily patriarchal society
India is one of the most patriarchal societies on the planet. A large contribution to this comes from the primary dominance that this concept holds in the various religions that form core tenets of this country. What are the consequences of the heavily patriarchal mindset?
- Overall negative mindset towards the female gender : A large portion of the population considers the female gender to be a matter of property. Before she is a woman, she is a daughter, a wife, a sister, a granddaughter. She must be protected to protect the sanctity of the family image primarily, not because as a woman and as a human being she deserves basic human rights like the other sex.
- Marriage as a legal sale of the female: A shockingly large number of woman are brought up in an environment where they are made to believe that their ultimate goal in life is to get married. I have been in the company of several members of the opposite sex who have been pursuing bachelor degrees for the sole purpose of becoming marriageable in today’s society. And this is a predominantly middle – upper middle class environment. The situation in the vast majority of India is much worse of. Women are considered burden, to be married off as early as possible, since they are not expected to earn money nor are they often allowed to. The Country’s secular law itself has a lower age limit of 18 for the woman to get married compared to the male’s, which stands at 21. Why this disparity? I do not even bring into question the marriage acts via the religious laws which through loop holes can even legalize child marriage.
- Dowry: As a continuation of the previous sub-point, the female is considered a liability since birth, a lower form of some kind, which means that marriage does not just act as a sale of the woman, the proprietors of the marriage (which is generally arranged) will charge for taking in this liability. Inhuman as this sounds, it is highly rampant in urban as well as rural environments. Defenders of the concept will talk about its original purpose which has been perverted, while I dispute that very argument, it is by itself irrelevant to the fact that dowry is one of the most widespread and perverse evils propagated in this country in the name of tradition.
- Female Infanticide: India has a pathetic statistic when it comes to female infanticide, a few statistics are provided here. India: What are five things girls hate about being in India?
- Moral Policing of Girls: The moral brigade is always on the roll, looking for the opportunities to restrict freedoms of the females with arguments that will make the dead turn within their graves. From the assault of innocent girls at nightclubs for doing “morally obscene” things to making rules that are obstructive in nature. As mentioned in this post. India: What are five things girls hate about being in India?.
- Eveteasing, Apathy of other females: Eveteasing is extremely rampant, a by product of this patriarchal society. It is acceptable to stare or intrude the privacy of a girl in public. Another troubling issue is the apathy of many girls themselves. I have seen girls advising another girl not to enter a temple because she was on her periods, or to keep her mouth shut about such a “small thing” as being eveteased. More than anything, I feel this trained self axing of ones own feet is amongst the biggest problems in Indian society today.
2. A society divided on Caste.
India constantly bears the brunt of a highly regressive caste system, a discriminatory system that segregates on the basis of birth. While mistakenly considered to be endemic to followers of Hinduism, modern sociological research has repeatedly shown that caste permeates across religions, and created subcastes in different religions. It is also common for denial of caste prejudice among the educated middle classes, which for one directly shows a manifestation of caste based bias.
- For a decent sensitization to caste based prejudices one can watch
India Untouched a documentary on caste discrimination. Another great documentary movie is Jai Bheem Comrade by acclaimed documentary makerAnand Patwardhan on the same topic. Ambedkar makes for some good reading on historical caste based oppression but is not quite up with the times of today’s globalized India.
- Intercaste marriages are as taboo as ever. Often friend circles of most people happens to be of similar caste (this is less prevalent in urban settings where immigration can make this nigh impossible).
- Jobs are segregated on the basis of caste, as pointed out in the Mandal Committee report and consequently also briefly in the Sachar committee report, that traditionally “brahminical” jobs (that is office bearing jobs) have a statistically abysmal percentage of oppressed minorities of caste and religion. In many places the “dirty jobs” like cleaning drainage canals, collecting garbage, cleaning horrifyingly dirty places are always ending up predominantly belonging to lower caste people with the percentages polarisingly shifted in the reverse for better jobs.
- Anti Reservation Rhetoric : This is one of the perfect examples of a lack of understanding of not just the basic concepts of what underlies merit, (I provide an introduction here What exactly is Merit?) and a denial of millenia of caste based oppression upon which they themselves rose to the convenient privilege from where they can access Quora unlike over 90% of the country’s population.
- Political Victim Complex of Fairly affluent lower castes : The sad part is that the representation of the lower castes in the political sphere is often by people from this small minority of professional victims who make pathetic points in defense of reservation without providing actual arguments for the argument of affirmative action, rather engaging in senseless rhetoric about sentiments of the people and similar rhetoric.
3. Intermixing of Politics and Religion and Law
The Indian model of secularism is a very unusual model in the sense that the religion is not separate from politics and law, instead embraced by it. Instead of keeping church and state separate, we have church rules the state, but which church rules you depends on which church you were born under or which church you convert to. I have philosophical problems with said premise, in that the law does not take equal standing for all in such a case, since religions can pass regressive laws which do not require the consent of the people following those laws but rather the people in positions of power. Also such laws are not equal for all “religions”, and further questions of how does one differentiate between a religion and a cult also arise. The entrenchment of religion in political process is also no secret, vote banks are often formed on the basis of religion. The directive principle of the constitution to form a Uniform Civil Court is all but forgotten.
4. Abysmal lack of basic Physical Infrastructure
India for all it’s high growth rate has had abysmal improvement in basic physical infrastructural facilities and accessibility for the same to a large mass of the people. As has rightly been termed by Amartya Sen in his latest book, India is looking more and more like Islands of California entrenched in the endemic drought of the Sub-Saharan countries. In terms of all major social indicators other than the Gross Domestic Product, India lags behind even its South Asian neighbors by a long way, (infact it is second worse better only to Pakistan).
- Abysmal primary education system that contributes a massive dropout percentage.
- A Public distribution system in a state of despair.
- Lack of basic health care facilities.
- Lack of connectivity to border states.
- Absence of a stable electricity supply to approximately half of the country.
- Bad state of water accessibility – a majority of the country depends on groundwater for access to a basic resource.
India is called the country of the spiritual plane. To each his own I guess, but if the name of movies need an extra K or released on a date whose digits add up to 3, for people not starting businesses or surrendering their lives to the concepts of vaastu and astrology, something is seriously wrong. India currently officially allows for undergraduate and graduate courses in Astrology (as allowed by the University Grants Commission). A nice article by Jayant Narlikar on Astrology in India An Indian Test of Indian Astrology. India also has a blasphemy law that is so badly framed it is easily prone to misuse as has happened in the recent case with Sanal Edamaruku who was slammed with a blasphemy case for debunking a superstitious myth.
When people in positions of power, and respect in the spheres of politics, entertainment, education and perhaps almost every other sphere engage in such a cognitive dissonance they lay the platform for a superstitious state. This spirit is directly contrary to the constitutions directive for us in Article 51A(h) in the constitution to develop the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry and reform.
6. Bureaucratic Roadblocks and Repeated Circlejerks
It takes an amazing number of permits in India to start up the smallest of businesses. I feel India has a large problem of too many checkpoints. The problem of India is not the corruption as is always harped about in the media. Its the number of avenues provided for corruption. Each new person one goes to to get another paper signed is another probably money greaser, reduce the number of roadblocks and you reduce the inefficiency as well as avenue for corruption in one stroke. Too many cooks spoil the broth goes the saying, India has the case of too many cooks trying to make the spoilt broth palatable. It is not working.
7. Apathetic Media
The Indian media is extremely apathetic to the voices of the poor and under privileged. What product they produce is (perhaps due to the very nature of their flawed business model) simply to whet the appetite of the Indian Middle Class and upper Middle Class populace. There is almost next to no coverage of events affecting the poor, and village dwelling majority of the country’s population. Investigative journalism is practically non existent, with most leaks coming either from the government or enemies of the political party in power themselves. News is openly paid for (in the TOI marketing style) and quality journalism is practically non existent.
8. Alienation of Tribals and demonisation of the poor.
This is the so called Tribal belt in India.
This is an image of the power plants in India.
As can be seen in the image, there is a high density of power plants in this tribal region. Large tracts of tribal lands have been taken from them because of the non implementation of the 9th schedule of the constitution, to make way for Coal mining, power plants and other such land grabbing initiatives that only benefit the urban populations in the cities at the cost of the only available resource to a vast majority of tribal societies in this country – Land. The tribals, for whom there has been little effort to integrate into the mainstream political scenario, whose only protection stated in the constitution in the form of the 9th schedule has not been correctly enacted upon, and who are effectively out of the caste system and the affirmative action process to raise their consciousness in the society, have consequently been demonized and carefully put out of the public eye.
Combined with this the middle class and especially rich peoples’ prejudices on the inability of the poor to vote cleverly, while only voting on the basis of caste, religion or gender (often putting the blame on their illiteracy), while engaging in exactly the same kind of biases despite being “educated” puts into question this very notion of blaming the poor.
9. Blaming the Government in power for everything.
People in this country love to play the blame game especially without introspecting at all. They are also prone to mass influencing, especially by the television media which sadly is the trend setter in the nation. In a sense the media has a symbiotic relationship with its viewers, in feeding what the viewers find “entertaining”. Among these past times of the people is blaming the government for everything.
There is regular blame on the government in power regarding inflation, but little effort on the part of the criticizer to find out what is causing this inflation. Enormous amounts of import of nonsensical items like jewelry in the form of gold and high demand of energy resources like Coal in a GDP obsessed country which applauds the entry of large scale MNCs to come and practically legally usurp our dwindling coal resources are amongst the reasons for a high inflationary rate.
(This answer is an answer in progress.)