I became an American groupie because the India of my youth was bedevilled by poverty and protest. Living in the US for the past two decades — and the George Floyd protests this week — have offered me a sharply different perspective
By Vasuki Shastry, who is a former journalist and IMF official who now works as an Associate Fellow in the Asia Pacific Program of Chatham House
John Kenneth Galbraith famously described India as a “functioning anarchy”, an ungovernable country which miraculously survived despite its complexity and dysfunction. Galbraith’s searing comment about my country of birth comes to mind as I sit near Washington DC and watch major cities go up in flames after the killing of George Floyd. Has America itself become India, a functioning anarchy?
At first glance, it might be absurd to compare the United States, an economic and political superpower, with a lower middle-income country like India, notwithstanding their shared label of being the world’s largest and second-largest democracies respectively. However, America’s great wealth and dynamism has singularly masked its failings and in meeting the real measure which matters — the responsiveness and ability of its democracy to deliver to its people, a large proportion of whom are minorities and poor. By this yardstick alone, the US is behaving a lot like India, a comparison which becomes magnified when one examines the brazenness of law enforcement, the venality of some of its politicians, deepening class and racial divides, and the indifference and apathy of privileged elites.