The Two Worlds
Justice Markandey Katju writes about why there exist stark differences between the developed and underdeveloped world, and what conditions lead to countries falling in these two categories.
In this world there are really two worlds, the developed world, like North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and China, and the underdeveloped world, which is the rest, including India. Let me describe the difference.
Presently I am in California, and I went for an evening walk on the road. What did I see?
Outside the house where I am staying, there are 3 refuse bins, one for garbage, another for compost, and the third for recycling. Every Tuesday, three trucks of the local municipality come to take this away.
Cleanliness is very important in the developed countries, and this is something which distinguishes it from underdeveloped countries.
In underdeveloped countries like India, cleanliness is only within one’s house (and often not even that). In India, most people only keep their own houses clean, but don’t mind throwing filth outside their house. That is why there are heaps of garbage lying on almost every Indian street and public place. If one is travelling in a car in India, one will throw a paper wrapping out of the car and on the road without thinking twice.
This will never happen in America, not out of fear of any punishment, but simply because since childhood, one has been taught by their parents not to throw litter or garbage on the road or in a public place. In fact, in the West, even within one’s house one can’t throw litter anywhere. In every house in Western countries there are litter bags/cans where one has to put garbage, and this is taught to everyone since childhood.
If one goes for a walk on a road with a dog, and the dog defecates, one has to pick up the defecation with one’s hand (for which gloves are always carried) and throw it in a garbage can. Similarly, one cannot urinate on the road in America, as this will entail a fine; CCTV cameras are everywhere.
Why is there so much emphasis on cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene in Western countries? That is because these are highly industrialised and organised countries. If a worker or employee catches some disease that disease may spread to other workers and employees, and even the managers, due to which the entire factory operations may come to a standstill. That is why companies exercise empathy to sick employees, and they tell such employees to work from home.
There are strict rules in the West which have to be observed, and most people observe them not out of fear of penal consequences but because since childhood they have been taught that without observing these rules, life will become very difficult, if not impossible.
For instance, while on a walk one can’t cross a road anywhere he/she likes. One must come to the pole having a button which they must press, and only when there is a green light can one cross. This rule is to reduce the chances of accidents.
One can’t park a car anywhere, but only in a vacant earmarked slot.
Now, these rules are not for harassing anyone, but only to enable people to function properly, and live without accidents.
In India too, there are rules, but often no one observes them. For instance, if one is a VIP and is speeding beyond the prescribed limit, one may just tell the police who one is, and the matter would be dropped.
There are rules both in America and India, but while they are followed strictly in America, they are often flouted with impunity in India. For instance, building rules, such as those of the Home Owners Association, are strictly followed in America, whereas half of Delhi, as other cities in India, is illegally constructed against the municipal building rules by bribing the municipal officials.
Anti-pollution laws exist both in America and India, but whereas they are strictly followed in America, they exist only on paper in India. Factories and tanneries in India find it much cheaper to bribe the pollution inspectors than to set up effluent treatment plants.
Western societies are highly integrated societies. In other words, most people are connected to others and are dependent on each other. So, there is more brotherhood and camaraderie in them than in societies of underdeveloped countries.
Corruption is almost non-existent at the level of the common man in Western countries and exists only at very high levels e.g. a multi-national corporation giving bribe to a minister of a foreign country to get a contract. But if you are stopped by a policeman on a highway for speeding you dare not offer him a bribe, as you would do in India. In all likelihood, the policeman will only tell you in a polite way that you were exceeding the speed limit, and should be careful, and will let you go with a warning, but will not give you a ticket( unless your driving licence shows you are a habitual defaulter. But if you offer him a bribe, it will be a much more serious offence, and then you will certainly get a ticket, and may even end up in jail.
Similarly, you cannot try to bribe an income tax (called internal revenue) official in America, whereas in India this is a regular thing.
Western societies are dynamic societies, and punctuality and discipline are vital for their smooth functioning. On the other hand, in India one often finds officials and magistrates sitting at any time they like, causing immense suffering to the people.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.