India Scores Badly on the Global Peace Index
Saturday, July 04, 2009 at 09:51 AM EDT
India slipped 15 points on the Global Peace Index (GPI) ranking, from 107 in 2008 to 122 (out of 144 countries) in 2009. Whether one gives any credence to these rankings or whether one accepts the definition of peace as stated by them, what I can say from my personal experience is that as a citizen I have perceived a deterioration of â€œpeaceâ€ over the past two decades. At one time I perceived India to be peaceful and safe. I guess I was protected from the kind of violence in society that one read about in the newspapers (gender violence and crime) and I believed that as long as one kept away from the underworld and otherwise led a clean life one was relatively safe from crime and violence. In any case there was nothing in our daily lives to graphically remind us of a violent worldâ€¦there was no checking at parks and malls and cinema halls, no bomb blasts and no terrorism. And no cable television.
There were wars though. As a child I remember rushing to hide under tables, running to safety at the sound of the siren, blackening our windows to prevent enemy planes from seeing city lightsâ€¦but well, 1971 passed.
As time went on I realised that India was not as safe as I had imagined. There were incidentsâ€¦like the time I was caught in a serious stone pelting incident (I was in a cab) when the news of Sanjay Gandhiâ€™s accidental death spread. There was the time when I was stranded in a car on a burning streetâ€¦in the midst of the 1984 riots, the day after Indira Gandhi was shot. When we were in Bangalore Iâ€™ve seen trouble because of the water sharing issue. Every year it seemed to be getting worse. Riots and bombs, riots and bombs, riots and bombsâ€¦and cable television was bringing it live into our homes.
Still, many of us think of India as a peaceful country. But this is not what the world thinks. Here is the map:
How the GPI is calculated
The best and the worst
Why does India score so badly?
India scored alright on factors like political stability, military expenditure as a percentage of GDP (less), our fair electoral processes, and freedom of the press.
Is the GPI an accurate barometer?
I think when it comes to measuring peace (which I see as something affecting a peaceful, law-abiding citizen) then whether a state is totalitarian or not shouldnâ€™t make a difference. Even if China is communist and Cuba has a dictator and Singapore is totalitarian I shouldnâ€™t think it matters as long as the citizens are protected from random senseless violence. And perpretrators of such violence are put behind bars. India is democratic but I do not see those who indulge in rioting being punished. I do not see us fighting terrorism and naxalism effectively.
What do the peaceful countries have in common?
Economic prosperity, a high literacy rate and equal opportunities for all go a long way in removing frustration from the minds of the people.
There are those who believe that the lack of religiosity is important and say that countries with the most atheists are more peaceful. Well, religious fanatics who believe in conversions do divide people and sow the seeds of violence. India is a religious country, with more than 90 percent of its population religious. If one compares it to Sweden, one of the most peaceful countries of the world, 85% of its population is atheist/agnostic. The USA though has a lot of religious people â€“ 59% of its population.
Which is then the most critical? Personally I think that economic prosperity and strong governments which come down hard on criminals irrespective of their political and religious leanings are the critical factors.
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