What is it that India has but US doesn’t?

Back in 60s India and US were poles apart. US was a superpower then and continues to be one (though that adjective has to be properly qualified). But what attracted a majority of my IITB69 classmate to go there was to directly jump from middle class (or even poor class) to a rich lifestyle (and mind you dollar was worth only 8 Rupees then). Other reasons such as higher education not available in India, research opportunities etc. were given. Those were not and are not wrong even now but the dominating motivation was as state above.

India and Indians, poor as we were in our dollar reserves, could not afford to import lifestyle products for everyone. The craze was there and was satisfied through smuggling and other ultra vires means. If one was to draw a list of things that US had an India did not then the list would have been a long one.

India did have its culture (a varied one unlike mostly homogeneous one in US), a cosmopolitan population (with multiple religions living together), skill in two or more languages that each person could speak, multiple cuisines (one or more per state), Mahatma Gandhi (who inspired Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King in their own struggle) and much more.

But as usual no one said these things with pride. As it is, Hollywood had reached all corners of the world, multinationals too had spread far and wide whereas the world was ignorant of India. What was known about India was British Raj, the elephants and the snake charmers.

Things have changed a lot in the last 50 years. The world has become global (in trade, trends and technology). The IITans and others who went to other lands in 70s and 80s showed with their hard work that they were as good as the natives. This fact was acknowledged and the India brand was born which in turn continues to pay rich dividends.

India eventually opened up in 1991 and the insular financial landscape went through a sea change. The hitherto restricted and heavily taxed salaries in private sector zoomed. Today an IT professional earns far in excess of those in other sectors with equivalent capabilities.

There were three more notable developments. Massive import of consumer goods (entertainment, white goods, cosmetics and many other areas) was allowed. Second one could now go to other countries and exotic locales for vacationing. Finally, the cars – ultimate in mobility and status – were here from leading international brands to choose from. The multinationals had been long eyeing the Indian market for the size of its middle class which was bigger than population of most countries and they came in hordes.

The rising ¬†wealth of the middle class allowed them to buy these products and that in turn attracted more foreign companies to set up shop here. Today, India’s economy has become highly consumer driven (like US) and any dip in the demand for consumer products becomes a cause for worry in the business and political circles.

Thus, while we have ways to go relative to US in terms of per capita income, we can enjoy most of the comforts that are available to an American. When you examine the differences, if any, at current time between India and US one cannot fail to notice that in India a professional can afford to hire a maid, a driver etc. which are difficult and very costly in US. The support system (relatives within and outside the family) too is much better in India.

But I am not writing this to identify these mundane items in which the two countries differ. It is a major difference between our constitutions that I am referring. Unlike UK, both India and US do have a constitution to which all laws have to comply with. Constitutional amendments may be made to add a new provision.

The main and positive difference in Indian constitution may have come from the accepted norms of humanity prevalent in 1940s when Indian constitution was authored. But I think the foresight and people centric views of the constitution authors that made the critical difference. That difference was and is gender equality! The supposedly leading country in the world does not have gender equality!

US constitution was written more than 200 years ago. That time neither women nor slaves had any right to vote (and possibly ownership of property too). It took 1922 for the bill called Equal Opportunity Amendment (ERA) for genders to come to US Congress. It took another 50 years for the amendment to pass the US Congress (both houses).

Those years feminism was at its height in US and elsewhere. The middle class women were aggressive in demanding the amendment. But the working women were not because they felt that their special privileges such as maternity leave would be curtailed as a result of the amendment. They also feared that they may be drafted in army.

In US a constitutional amendment requires 2/3 of states to ratify it. A time frame of 7 years to 1979 was set for such ratification. Initially many states ratified the amendment and the number rose to 35, 3 short of number required. Then 4 states went back and rescinded them. The deadline was extended to 1982 but failed to meet the required number and hence the amendment remained still born.

The possibility of ERA coming through have been revived with two more states ratifying it recently some 35 years after expiry of the original extended deadline. In one view this leaves ERA one state short of requirement. This is because it is not clear if states had a legal authority to rescind their own earlier ratification. It is also not clear if the amendment can be revived at this stage.

So, in a nutshell, India continues to have that lead over US in a very fundamental right citizens of every country should have.  And we also know that India had its woman prime minister a very long time ago (even before UK had one) while US is yet to come to terms with having a woman president.

Most of the information on ERA can be found in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Rights_Amendment#Feminists_split

First blog post

First blog post

For a long long time I have been planning to have all my blog articles in one place and knew that there is nothing better than WordPress to do it. I have 50+ blog articles to my credit so far but written as FB posts and emails to select friends, ex-class mates, ex-colleagues and relatives. In near future I would like to bring all of these to the current blog site but will have to figure out how to populate them here with the retrospective dates. I assume this is not an uncommon problem among WordPress blogging platform users and there must be a well defined way to do it.

I have used WordPress platform extensively in the past to build websites (on GoDaddy hosted domains) and thereby I am familiar with the menu structure of the platform. I am told that a majority of websites in the world are built using WordPress and by an even larger share blogs are hosted on it. I fully understand why this happens because WordPress simplifies the process and allows websites to be built within hours and has all the bells and whistles needed for building a website as also for writing blogs. I hereby thank WordPress for making the platform and hosting available for free to me.