Diversity of India
When the word “Cultural” is used in reference to anyone or anything, it relates to the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a society. Considering this we could say we have cultural pockets of small India all over the nation appearing in the following diverse forms:
The inheritance of diversity of languages: The relationship between language and culture is perfectly embedded. In fact they are entangled. Peoples Linguistic Survey of India identified 780 languages of which 50 got extinct in past five decades. Officially there are 122 languages but 22 languages in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution give cultural pockets like Assamese, Gujarati, Konkani, Maithili, Manipuri, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu etc.
Religious diversity: According to the data on Population by Religious Communities of Census 2011, Hindu 96.63 crores (79.8%); Muslim 17.22 crores (14.2%); Christian 2.78 crores (2.3%); Sikh 2.08 crores (1.7%); Buddhist 0.84 crores (0.7%); Jain 0.45 crores (0.4%) are dispersed all over the nation forming cultural pockets.
Racial diversity: Most contemporary anthropologists categorize Indians as belonging to racial admixture. Mongoloids are largely confined to the North-eastern region whereas Negritos are found on the Andaman Islands.
Ethnic diversity: As per the 1901 census, the eight different ethnic groups found in India are: 1. Pre-Dravidian 2. Dravidian 3. Indo-Aryan 4.Turko-Iranian 5.Scytho-Dravidian 6. Arya- Dravidian 7. Mongoloid 8.Mongoloid-Dravidian. Because of this, India has been termed as an ethnological museum. A particular ethnic group shared a common culture, common language or dialect, a common religion, a common norm, practices, customs and history. Such multiple groups appeared as cultural pockets.
Maximising the Value of Diversity for India’s Continuing Economic Rise
The economic imperative is clear.The Modi government has repeatedly stated the ambition for India to become a US$5tn economy by 2025 and in order to achieve this, the government has focused on a number of supporting policies focused around reforms that have included attacking the black economy, financial inclusion and formal banking participation for the poor, a nationwide goods and services tax, an insolvency and bankruptcy code to help restructure industry and the financial sector, the rapid buildout of physical infrastructure including roads, railways and urban metro systems, opening sectors to foreign participation and investment and a series of social efforts to encourage female participation. These reforms were successful in taking the economy to an 8.2% GDP growth rate. However, a combination of global and domestic factors has resulted in India’s economy slowing down over the last two years from over 8% to under 5% growth in the latest quarter, with employment growth and industrial sectors slowing down significantly. The key challenges facing the government today therefore are firstly, engineering a rapid recovery, and secondly, launching the next wave of structural reforms to support India’s sustainable longer-term growth.
The key principles in support of diversity and inclusion have been laid out by the Prime Minister. Clearly, avoiding internal dislocations is critical to success. However, actively maximising the value of the human capital of the nation is the best way to avoid the internal dislocation and drive the rise up the curve. This requires the government as a whole to follow through on the principles set out by the prime minister in various speeches over his leadership tenure, namely:
- One nation, many peoples.“Nation is one. We will not work for Hindus or Muslims, we will work for the people of India.”
- Diversity an advantage. “[India] has a variety of dialects, dressing styles, food habits and beliefs. Despite this diversity we have learnt from our traditions to be united for the country for its welfare.”
- Acceptance of differences. “Every Indian can feel proud of the fact that India has embraced every cult of the world, every tradition and every ideology in some or the other form.
- Peaceful co-existence. “The calm and peace maintained by 130 crore Indians in the run-up to today’s verdict manifests India’s inherent commitment to peaceful coexistence. May this very spirit of unity and togetherness power the development trajectory of our nation.”
- Non-malignment. “My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly.”
- Non-violence. “Debate, discussion and dissent are essential parts of democracy but, never has damage to public property and disturbance of normal life been a part of our ethos.”
- Unity.“Unity in diversity is India’s strength. There is simplicity in every Indian. There is unity in every corner of India. This is our strength.”
- Opportunity. “I dream of a young India that is not constrained by any limitations whatsoever. I want the youth of this country to lead a life filled with hope and opportunity.”
- Meritocracy.“My government’s job is good governance for everybody. My government will make policies; if you fit into it, come on board, or stay where you are. My job is not to spoon-feed anyone.”
- Harmony.“We must decide whether Hindus and Muslims should fight each other, or against poverty. Only peace and goodwill can take this country forward”
- Personal security. We talk about the safety of values in the culture. But we have to understand the values of safety as well. We have to make it a part of our life. Safety of the society is ensured if we are conscious of our own safety.”
- Fairness for all.“All religions and all communities have the same rights and it is my responsibility to ensure their complete and total protection. My government will not tolerate or accept any discrimination based on caste, creed and religion.”
With these words the prime minister has set a high bar to hold others as well as himself accountable to. This provides the criteria for him to judge his team, his team to judge themselves as well as for others to judge the whole team. Clearly, a free press will judge transgressions openly, harshly and real-time. India’s highly sophisticated press corps will note any action and inaction as well as reaction and hesitation. In an open democracy, the bar is a high one indeed.
The underlying drivers of the benefits of diversity and inclusion are clear and compelling.National unity and social stability, underpinned by economic and political freedom for all Indians, is a fundamental pre-requisite in achieving both the economic objectives and the wider political benefits. The key factors for the government to focus on are as follows:
- Domestic Social Stability is the Key to Reducing Risk and Avoiding Economic Disruption.The history of India demonstrates that accepting its many religious and cultural identities is not an option for India, it is indeed a necessity for development. Episodic clashes and violence between religious and ethnic communities, have disrupted economic progress for decades and through much of its first phase of development and at times in the second. India’s struggle against identity politics was helped by the liberalisation of its economy in the 1990s when the government’s focus shifted towards unleashing its economic potential. This shift helped usher in a period of relative social stability which allowed India to progress rapidly.
- Preserving Goodwill and Political Capital is Needed for Major Structural Reforms. Social stability is also critical for the continued execution of major outstanding structural reforms like land reform, privatisations, and FDI liberalisation, many of which will lead to short term dislocations and the creation of perceived ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Prolonged anti-government protests are clearly a distraction for the government and one that saps political capital away from the reform effort. Engaging entrenched interest groups becomes more difficult in a hyper-polarised political climate where there are protests in the streets, and the perceived intentions behind reforms are seen through the lens of identity and power politics, thereby exacerbating divisions and undermining their implementation.
- India’s Soft Power is a Critical Factor for its Global Positioning. India’s inclusive, democratic and successively liberal capitalist model is a key driver of its soft power and has resulted in strong ties with key powers including the US, Europe, and Japan, as well as with the Middle East and others. Internal conflict and policies that are perceived as illiberal by the international community can play into the hands of detractors and create a narrative or a perception of diverging values, which in turn will reduce India’s soft power. Avoiding internal conflict therefore is critical to ensuring that this advantage is well utilised.
- Global Risk Perception Impacts the Foreign Capital Flows India Needs to Grow.India’s domestic savings alone cannot finance the 35-40% of GDP (or US$1 to 1.2tn per annum) it needs to invest in order to grow at 8-10% sustainably, and FDI’s share of fixed gross capital formation over the past decade has ranged from c.8% to over 30% annually. While global investment linkages into India are strong, increased risk perception could result in foreign capital stagnating or slowing down and coming at a higher cost to the Indian businesses which will be the key drivers of growth. As an example, FDI into China doubled from 1985-1988, only to remain flat in 1989 and 1990 as the international community withheld investments over concerns about risk, political stability and human rights, in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square Protests.
- Capturing the Demographic Dividend Requires Widespread Inclusion. Inclusion is key to maintaining India’s robust entrepreneurial ecosystem which has enabled entrepreneurs from various religions and communities to build world-leading businesses. India’s entrepreneurs have been able to succeed and help capture India’s demographic dividend in large part because of their ability to access capital and hire based on merit, rather than religion or community. Wipro, India’s 3rd largest IT services company, founded by a Muslim, employs c.200,000 people and generates c.US$8.5bn of revenue, while the Tata Group of companies with over US$100bn of revenue, were founded and are run by a Parsi family, of Persian origins. Maintaining an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem is therefore critical to ensure that India can both retain and attract entrepreneurial talent.