Saturday, May 22, 2021


Pandemic Exposes Deficient Institutions 

 When life is returning to near normal in the developed world, India is battling an aggressive  second wave of Corona pandemic. Suddenly, from the position of major relief provider to the world, by virtue of its vaccine and pharmaceutical prowess, India has become a recipient of relief materials and an object of world-wide sympathy. 

Mass agony over unprecedented but many avoidable deaths due to shortage of  medicines, ventilators, oxygen cylinders and hospital beds, as well as apathy of a section of hospitals, have found graphic depiction in the local media. Government's challenges have been further compounded by black-marketing of medical essentials and flooding of even spurious drugs. Popular confidence in institutions has also faced a setback following derailment of the vaccination programme. 

Meanwhile, Head of the key vaccine manufacturing company has sneaked out to London, betraying his promises to the people and the country to ensure universal access to vaccination. His actions have also raised a serious question mark over the state policy of depending upon profit-drive private ventures for supply of critical essentials during national emergencies. 

Resentment against large sections of political class has also been brewing over what appears a callous approach on their part and somewhat insensitivity towards human lives. On the other hand, there have been exemplary instances of brilliant and selfless contributions by fairly large sections of people from civil society as well as significant number of state functionaries. But sections of politicians, across party divides, have appeared more anxious to make a political capital, including individual publicity, out of human sufferings, rather than managing the situation.  

Indian state’s inability to avert or deftly manage a crisis of this magnitude has caused a lot of concern among its own citizenry as well as its well wishers internationally. This is especially in the wake of a few media reports hinting at the possibility of China exporting the second wave of pandemic through suspected weaponization of the virus.  Hence, challenges for India at this juncture appear quite formidable, especially given large size of the country and its burgeoning population. These are going to generate massive pressure on its not so developed infrastructure. 

While, there have been tactical failures on part of the existing dispensations but the present state of affairs can be attributed to failure of successive dispensations to explore innovative ways to effectively address some of the existential issues threatening the country. As a great civilisation, India has been deriving lot of prides in its glorious past and it also nurtures extra ordinary ambitions about its future. However, there is an urgent need to build necessary psychological wherewithal to find newer ways to pursue its aspirations. If a similarly sized China can make extra ordinary advances towards to economic, technological and military advances, there is no justification for a democratic India with a longer civilisational roots faltering in this direction. 

Better and Not Perfect Institutions    

Few years back in my inaugural write up on Indocracy at my blog, I had written that ‘the world has never been a perfectly fair place. And it is unlikely to be so even in future. But it can always be fairer and better than what it is. This is the sentiment that must have driven all great civilisations, societies and states. None may have ever been perfect.’ 

Our failure and pain at this juncture has been beseeching us to chart out a new course of action to bolster our national self-belief and national self-esteem. Instead of obfuscating the issue with emotional outbursts, the real test of leadership would lay in its ability to harness the spirit of national cohesion and sense of collective pain towards building robust governance institutions. We must aim to build stronger capacity to prevent and deter such calamities - when man made or inflicted by nature- in future. 

No society has ever achieved a perfect and permanent solution to all its challenges.  But resilience and vigour of a nation or its people is reflected in its ability to generate, respect and conscientiously pursue powerful ideas, imaginations, initiatives for their comprehensive and sustained advancement. This is what has differentiated great societies from the rest. The idea of Indocracy envisions concrete and scientific principles and practices that can build a robust political -governance framework which can push individual and institutional excellence, with a sustainable synergy between the two. This is critical for larger security, stability and accelerated all round progress of India, as per its own unique goals, challenges and priorities. Details of these specific innovations shall be spelled out in due course but this piece only intends to throw up a rationale for such an innovation.  

Deplorable Plight of South Asia

South Asia or Akhand Bharat or the civilizational state of India has been at war with itself for far too long. It is irrelevant, who is to blame and who is responsible for such a plight for one-fourth of the mankind. This region has thrown up great leaders at regular intervals but probably it needed a large galaxy of high quality leaders, thinkers and doers who could reverse the course of downhill momentum that the Indian civilization has been facing for far too long.  Brilliance of large variety of them who have come up in recent centuries, has probably been insufficient given our size and intensity of challenges.

[Source: Web; Pre-Islamic India, or Mauryan India or pre-Mauryan India, consisting of  whole of modern day South Asia depicted in the map or probably more, exercised profound influence, as a civilization, over South West Asia to East Asia, including Eastern Turkistan and modern day Tibet, going all the way to entire South East Asia. Buddhist influence in China as well as Japan and modern day Koreas too has been profound]

India's glorious past way back in the distant history, as well as initiatives to rejuvenate and resurrect it as a civilization, have also been accompanies by a series of sustained failures and lapses. Very often we appear to have refused, as a society and  state, to learn lessons from these. The modern-day South Asia or undivided civilizational state of India accounts for just 3.5 percent of the total surface area of this planet with nearly one-fourth of the total population of the mankind. 

Such an anomaly is simply not viable unless, the region was extremely prosperous in the past with people migrating to its from every other part of the world, in search of a better existence. But the Indian subcontinent  has been collectively on decline for far too long, notwithstanding multiple efforts and stellar contributions by visionary leaders and reformers. Our current state of affairs, as depicted by the following table, sums it up quite aptly:


West Asia

Central Asia

South Asia

South East Asia

East Asia

Major Countries

Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Oman, Syria, UAE, Jordan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Oman, Qatar, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain +

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan

India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives

Indonesia, Malaysia,

Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei, E Timor

China, Japan, Mongolia,

South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan

Total Area

5.994 mn sq km

4.003 mn sq km

 5.2 mn Sq KM

4.546 million Sq Km

11.84 mn Sq Km

Total Population

313.428  million

72.96 million

1.84 billion

655.298 million

1.6 billion

GDP (PPP/Nominal)

US$ 9.063/3.383 Tn

US$ 1026/300 bn

US $ 12.752/$3.598 Tn

US$ 9.727/3.317 Tn

US$ 37/25.6 trillion

Human Develoment






Japan:0.919; S Korea:0.916;

China: 0.761; Mongolia:0.737

GDP Per capita in US $

From Qatar US $139 K, UAE 70k, Kuwait 68k,  Saudi US $57K , Oman 48k to Yemen 2.3k

US $ 21,701

US $ 1956.6

US $ 5017 (Exch rate)

US$ 16,000 (Nominal)

     [Source: Compiled from various credible sources, including UN annual reports]

  Even if we hold Pakistan responsible for inducing strife in the region, or waging covert war, to destroy aspiration of people of South Asia, as major civilization with an exceptional pool of human resources, we cannot escape the blame. This is especially after comprehensive military victory handed over to the country by its armed forces in 1971, following a substantial one in 1965. 

Instead of finding excuses, India's leaders should have found ways and means of addressing the challenges posed by either Pakistan or China as nothing is in the realm of impossibility. This is especially for the high quality human minds, driven by integrity, that India boasts of.  As natural leader of the region and inheritor of the legacy of the greatest and scientifically the most advanced humanist civilization on this planet, India needed to build institutions and values that could have handled both external threats and internal discords better and yet optimised collective potentials and strengths of its people.   

Institutions Must Optimise Collective Strengths and Potentials of People:

A closer look at the greatest societies of past, and even present, suggests that they owe their success to their better ability to harness the strengths of their people towards their common objectives and goals. They could empower a much larger, but not necessarily the entire, component of their citizenry and created far bigger space for individual excellence and innovation, and yet married these to their collective goals and objectives. They did it more effectively than others in their context. They built such behavioural norms as well as formal institutions, either consciously or unconsciously, that fostered greater collaboration and fairer competition. 

 Empowering people should not be about doles or charities to help them survive without contributing in real terms. It is more about building such physical, cognitive, technical and social skills and capacities that enables citizenry to contribute effectively to collective national productivity and prosperity. Some degree of coercion may have been necessary and even unavoidable for such goals but no society can consistently progress on the basis of coercion alone.

 In absence of appropriate social values, behavioural norms and institutional practices, that adhere to wider norms of fairness and justice in each context, formal rules or laws cannot sustain real cohesion or collaboration among people. Hence, the quality of progress of societies and civilizations have been dependent upon their ability to build a higher quality of mutually empowering equilibrium between individuals and societies or communities. 

 Progress or evolution in this direction has never been unilinear or consistent. Some have done better than others. But this has not necessarily been due to factors within their control. Very often, external variables or elements of nature or adversarial or supportive faces have played an important role. But erosion in institutional capacities has often resulted in prosperous, stable and culturally advanced societies capitulating to less civilized marauders, and the latter's deployment of instruments of deception and guerrilla or similar strategies of war. 

But can a great civilization or society accept perpetual under-performance blaming external forces? If Pakistan has been a spoiler or external forces have been hostile, what has prevented popular and charismatic leaders from creating conditions that can bolster our national capacity to address these elements?

 It is a fact that robbing herds of nomadic groups plundered and pulverised a much prosperous and advanced civilization on this subcontinent. They neither had any experience or exposure or any orientation to provide high quality governance that a larger and stable society needed. Hence, most of India and Indo-Asia region, has faced severe setbacks, distortions and degenerations, notwithstanding few exemplary initiatives to resurrect and rejuvenate governance institutions. These have not been sufficient for undoing the setbacks to our collective progress inflicted over centuries .It was again bad governance that pushed the entire region into colonial subjugation. It is again not fare to bracket entire Muslim community in this category of external marauders.  Very large sections of Muslims on the subcontinent has been indigenous inhabitants and they were probably driven more by egalitarian and humanist ethos of the faith rather than criminality, murder and loot that continue to be practiced in the name of Islam.  

Indocracy: A Futuristic Perspective on Governance: 

 Instead of  attempting to find follies and virtues in the past, and condemn or deride people of any identity, India needs a sincere intellectual inquisition to explore a more reliable route to an optimally secure and yet consistently progressive social, political, economic and governance order. If viewed from the prism of contemporary sensibilities, none of the societies of the past would appear perfectly harmonious, humane and yet progressive. Nevertheless, ancient India was way ahead of the rest both in terms of material prosperity and social amiability, as well as scientific temper and intellectual ambience, at least in its own context. 

What caused the eventual decline of India can never be conclusively established. But it is clear that some of the institutions, failed to safeguard the region from external invasions or threats as well as internal decay and degeneration. The blame cannot be placed entirely at the door of the so-called invaders or their perceived descendants. A great society and state must be resilient enough to anticipate such threats and prevent or deter these or quickly come out of such setbacks. It has not happened in case of India. Even if majority of the so-called invaders displayed complete lack of ethic of governance or commitment to  collective interests of the people,  the current discourse on governance must avoid this issue. 

In the prevailing context, we need serious and scientific exploration for better governance order. In the process, we must examine the efficacy of some of the existing instruments and processes of governance towards fostering higher degree of social amiability, trust and cohesion. Anything that breeds conflict and fractures societies or pushes them into under-performance, needs to be remedied. The hallmark of great institution is their capacity to protect people from not only their needs and wants but also from forces of nature and hostile adversaries.

 Indocracy is not an attempt to go back to the past. It is probably far more about learning from the failures and lapses of the past in the context of India as a civilization. It is a scientific attempt to explore ways and means to build more vibrant and robust societal and governance institutions that foster excellence and harmony both. One can never be perfect in this direction. But entire progress of societies and states has resulted from conscious investment of ideas and efforts in this direction.


[To be continued……]


Monday, May 17, 2021



[Indian democracy needs serious strategic innovations to restructure its institutions with a clearer and appealing national vision to protects its people and society. Indocracy envisions a series of smaller but interdependent ideas in this direction.] 

I remember as a young person, hearing a cliché from one of the wise elders of the community. He used to often quip, especially when he struggled to persuade people, that ‘four Indians walk in the same direction only when they carry the fifth one on their shoulders.’ 

Average educated middle class Indians have built a reputation of being highly disagreeable, and at times even discordant. Yet they are not violent. This is especially compared to people of most other nationalities. Given the extent and magnitude of mass poverty, illiteracy and poor state of criminal justice system, India still appears a less violent society.

 This point was driven home quite convincingly by a famous international comedian during one of his live shows, whose video had gone viral a few years back. Mocking the docility of an average Indian, he had mimicked how an East European and West Asian terrorist could send shivers down the spine through sheer menace and intimidation in his voice. But none would take such a terrorist seriously if he happened to be an Indian. To the bursts of laughter of his audience, he had mimicked an imaginary Indian terrorist who started his demand for ransom with respectful and polite greetings to all in a soft voice, addressing elders as “uncle” and “aunty”. It sounded more like a disgruntled complaint, if not a request. When his captives expressed their inability to pay the ransom, he offered to settle down with whatever they could afford. The giggling response of the audience suggested that they might have dismissed the very idea or possibility of an Indian being a serious terrorist. 

 A relatively much smaller percentage of Indians being charged with violent crimes, anywhere in the world, corroborates such perception. Members of Indian diaspora have universally been acknowledged as industrious, enterprising and hard-working.  It is no surprise that family values, upbringing and social norms of educated middle class India has helped produce some of the top global CEOs. From Africa to Europe and even West Asia and Orient, Indians are usually known as clever but docile traders, professionals or academics. But it remains a mystery why such bright Indians, who must be in plenty in India, can’t bring about serious change at home? 

 Nevertheless, stereotyping of all Indians is avoidable, given the size of the country and it’s heterogeneity. There could be some serious, and a times even substantial, exceptions. There are large number of Indians who are not entirely immune to violent human instincts, especially if they face a weaker and helpless prey. But there can be no denial that, on an average,  Indians are less prone to extreme violence. This can largely be attributed to wider pacifist-humanist traditions of India, which have endured ravages of its long but tumultuous civilizational journey.

 It shall be no exaggeration to suggest that it is predominance of such values that may have enabled India sustain democracy amidst humongous diversities and contradictions. And yet it has made significant strides towards economic advancements and technological innovations. But these appear far too sub-optimal compared to its vast potentials. Democratic India continues to battle dysfunctional institutions, which have crippled advancements of its people, society and state.

 India’s progress on parameters of governance and national security has remained inconsistent and erratic. Most accomplishments have been driven more by a few instances of individual brilliance and leadership initiatives rather than institutional resilience. Fragile regulatory capacity of the state has undermined the integrity and quality of both political and economic competition, impacting the wider culture in these sectors. Challenges have been further compounded by dynamics of globalisation, where societal fissures, weak institutions and adverse geopolitical equilibrium have enhanced the vulnerability of the world’s largest democracy. 

 Involvement of Indians in corruption scandals almost anywhere and everywhere reflects a darker shade of its social reality. Transparency International rated India as the most corrupt nation in Asia in 2020. The same year, media reports disclosed that India also accounted for very high component of bad corporate debts, amounting to Indian Rupees 20 trillion or US $300 billion or so. This is by far the highest quantum among the top ten economies. Many also believe that the figure may not reflect the actual rot as a large component of such corporate debts may have been restructured or written off or not reflected properly. 

Several corporate leaders have maintained during private discussions that there may not be a single major procurement by some of the bigger corporate organisations, where substantial sums of money may not have found its way into some offshore personal accounts or payoffs in kind. Beneficiaries of such kickbacks may not necessarily be politicians or bureaucrats. In many cases, these could be top functionaries of these very private sector entities. Banks and people are there in any case to absorb losses emanating from such underhand payments or siphoning of funds. 

Accomplishments of certain sections of Indians in the realm of corruption scandals has been genuinely spectacular. Going way beyond Indian shores, some have earned distinction from Far East to Dubai to Africa, Europe and even parts of North America. What is frightening that such trait is taking over as the wider character of sections of Indian elite. They cannot entirely be blamed.  Very often, financial corruption appears the sole or even an unavoidable route for not only upwards economic and social mobility but sheer survival.

In the context of average Indian’s obsession with cricket, one of the retired senior police officers, whom I knew, often used to observe that it did not matter who was playing the game, ‘the key bookie or “match -fixer” was more likely to be an Indian than anyone else.’ It arouses a question: has underhand deal-making become personality trait of  sections of the successful Indians? 

 Some degree of malignancy or rot in corporate world  has been a global phenomenon. It has not spared even some of the most stablished and transparent democracies. It is widely believed that the challenges in India have been multiplied by the clout wielded by syndicates of organised crime like money launderers, drug-cartels, bribing networks, betting and extortion rackets, and fake currency dealers and others. Most of the have been pretending as dignified businessmen and they have succeeded in diversifying their venture into legitimate commerce.  Informal estimates suggest the total volume of dirty money annually generated in India could be running into at least a few hundred billion dollars. Flow of this money gets protected and some of these gets channeled into bona fide businesses. The entire phenomenon rests on serious subversion of governance institutions. 

It is quite logical for these forces to exploit the loopholes or deficiencies of the criminal justice system and other enforcement arms of the state or sabotage and even manipulate these, wherever possible. These forces with their clandestine but formidable clout, are, quite logically, believed to be the biggest impediments to institution of transparent, sturdy and efficient regulatory capacity of Indian state, including a robust criminal justice system. 

But sadly, significant sections of compromised Indian elite, across all divides, with serious skeletons in their cupboard, have willy-nilly been their collaborators in a common cause. Many keen observers of India’s private sector have also argued that corruption being a way of life, it has been nearly impossible for leaders with integrity to come up in most domestic segments. These include  not only industry and commerce but even politics,  media or bureaucracy. Hence, large segments of social and leadership space of India has been polluted beyond points of redemption. 

 Inherent strength of some of the civilizational values of India have thrown up innumerable  instances of exemplary leadership, excellence and innovation. But the existing institutions of state and governance have failed to sufficiently harness these into a wider culture of empathy and integrity- driven social order that is capable of throwing up high quality visionary leadership in all sectors. Institutional fragility, especially in absence of a clear national vision and extreme diversity, seem to have been breeding conflict, discouraging excellence and innovation and retarding wider national cohesion. These have been gradually eating up some of the strengths of India that have endured centuries of foreign occupation and exploitation.

 India’s failure to effectively contain or manage the fall out of ongoing Covid pandemic has rudely exposed the deficiencies of its state institutions. Exemplary tales of individual sacrifice, integrity and unconditional altruism -  as manifest in liberal donations for relief funds, free distribution of medicines, oxygen and essentials by all sections of society have been accompanied by apathy of large number of  hospitals and malignant sections of officialdom. Rogue entities and criminal individuals have not hesitated to make a profit out of mass misery. Black-marketing of essential medical supplies, sell of spurious medicines, extortion from patients, including demand for speed money for funerals, duping people in the name of medical services etc have been far too rampant even during Corona pandemic. 

Assault on hapless citizens by sections of arrogant police personnel has been a common sight during the lockdown even though sections within them went way beyond call of duty to help the distressed and needy almost everywhere. All these are manifestations of extreme good and extreme bad coexisting together, with state institutions appearing either a mute spectator or encouraging the latter through their omissions and inabilities. 

 Covid may be an extra-ordinary situation, where failures have appeared far too glaring. But over the past several decades Indian state has been failing its people by its inability to provide a consistent and equitable access to security, dignity and opportunities. Failures in this direction have not been marginal, or tactical. And at worst, these seem to building a spiral of their own. A mere change in regime, or tweaking of some rules, appear unlikely to stem the expanding rot in society and growing malignancy in the state.

 Indian democracy, at this juncture, needs serious strategic innovations to restructure its institutions, with clearer, newer and unique national vision. There is need for an inbuilt synergy between the state and the society for both to mutually empower and flourish. Indocracy has been an attempt to advocate a series of smaller but interdependent and integrated ideas in this direction. A few of these are available on this blog and elsewhere, but more are likely to come up. 

                                                                                                                         (To be Continued)


Thursday, May 13, 2021


 A digital platform named PGurus has started a series of weekly interactions with me on Indocracy. I have always maintained that as the largest democracy, we cannot harp on our ancient glories. Instead of talking about past, we must appreciate our contemporary challenges and plan for future. 

Indocracy is not about past or present of India. It is more about what India ought to be. Of course, no one can have a perfect prescription. It has to be an intellectual journey where many brilliant minds with integrity need to come together. 

Contents of this interaction are self-explanatory. I urge viewers of this blog to post their views. 


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