If I hadn’t visited in India a couple of times before our current stay, I would have had different views about the country before we arrived. One of the things that I knew prior to landing here in November 2016 was the huge difference that one could observe between the various states. Not only does the population and language vary from state to state, but also a lot of government regulations have been implemented on a state-level and not on a National one.
I’ve conducted a session here about the Netherlands a while ago, mainly to give people some more context about our country, the people and our culture. Understanding our culture gives them a better view on why and how we behave in various situations. Somewhere during my story, I was bragging about the European Union and what good things it has brought us. It made me think about India, and what the situation is, when comparing it to the EU? Thinking about it for sometime, it made me even an even bigger supporter of the EU! Despite the European bureaucracy and some of the disadvantages of having a free trade of goods and movement of the people in the union, we’re actually on the right track. First and foremost: it has made travelling in Europe easier. You don’t have to present your passport while crossing the borders. Furthermore: we now have one strong currency in Europe. Paying with the Euro in each country of the Union actually has saved me a lot of money in transfer fees.
The EU was formed in 1993, which was a result of the Maastricht Treaty. During this Treaty, an event held in Maastricht (Netherlands) in 1992 with all the European Leaders, resulted in a document that was signed to form the Union a year later. Now in 2018, a lot of policies are being dealt with by the EU. Their span of control is larger than one actually thinks. Things like consumer protection, labour rights and competitive laws are some of the many policies that are now being managed on a European Scale. One of the most recent policies that has affected a lot of people (and still does) is the scraping of the high roaming tariffs, which has made it much more easy (and cheaper) to use a mobile phone in all the countries within the Union. Another thing that has been done by the EU is the ban of smoking in public places. The countries itself are responsible for defining and implementing specific local regulations on this subject, but the European Parliament has had a role in defining the general goals and guidelines.
The session with the people here in India inspired me to think about a comparison. Are there similarities between the EU and India? If any, what similarities are there? One would not believe it, but India is much larger if one would only look at the population. The EU has a little over 500 million people, whereas le India has more than 1.3 Billion. One of the similarities that I’ve found are the various languages. The EU has 24 official languages, ranging from English (UK) to more uncommon languages like Dutch (The Netherlands, my country) and Bulgarian (Bulgaria). The Constitution of India designates Hindi, English and Marati as the official languages. But there is more, as India has 22 official languages, ranging from Punjabi (Punjab) to Malayam (Kerala)!
I now want to elaborate a bit on the comparison. Obviously there are huge cultural differences. It may surprise you, but I personally observe larger differences between states in India than actual countries in Europe! Take a plane from Pune to Kerala and you’ll end up in a completely different world. It’s only a 90-minute flight and almost everything is not the same: they have a different script and language (Malayam), food (delicious though), religion (Kerala has a large population of Muslims and Christians) and other laws. Liquor, for instance, is widely available in and around Pune, while Kerala is a semi-dry state; it’s only possible to buy alcohol in government-approved outlets or 5-star hotels. But please keep in mind; there are also a lot of so-called ‘dry days’, where they don’t serve or sell alcohol at all. Compare this to any 90 minute flight in Europe and you won’t find that many differences. Unless one takes a plane from the north to the south of the UK the language will be different, but a lot remains the same: identical script, religion and definitely the same liquor laws if one is not flying to one of the Nordic countries where stricter alcohol laws have been implemented.
I’ve tried to find some data about the different policies per state, but it has been very hard to find reliable articles. So I need to reflect about the differences between states based on my own experiences and some additional info sourced from google. Having been here now for quite some time (16 months), I’m positive that my views are in sync with the reality, but I do apologise for any misinformation.
The differences per state on policy levels are huge. I have learnt that some of the Indian taxes are dealt with by local governments. They run their state as a separate country, with only some ‘small guidance’ from the National government, that’s my take on the situation. While the differences per state are huge, there are some regulations and policies that have been implemented on a national level, especially to protect certain groups of people.
It is in this area where one could find the most striking differences with the EU. While consumers are protected in almost each area in the EU, in India this as been non-elidable for decades. It’s pretty easy to find some scary examples. Take our new and fancy kitchen machine for instance. We bought this very convenient piece of electronics here in India and the differences are striking. What happens when you put in fruits in the mixer in the EU and you want to turn the machine on without having the top on? It’s very simple; the machine wouldn’t work, because we want to protect our people for getting injured. In India things are different, and I don’t think the regulations vary from state to state. Our machine works, even if you don’t close it at the top. So little kids could put their hands inside, resulting in serious injuries. Another example: truckdrivers. In Europe, transportation between countries has been regulated very strictly, with a lot of rules and policies. One of them is the mandatory tracking of the hours by a tachograph. If drivers are being caught without using their tachograph or they have been on the road too long without taking a break, the fines are pretty high. This policy prevents drivers from being pushed by their bosses, to go for yet another mile to reach the destination on time. The result: less accidents with truckers. So, what about India? I went online to find some policies, if any. The result: Indian truckers only earn around 12.000 INR per month (150 Euro) and are being pushed by their bosses to work long hours, which results in a lot of accidents. If I spent more time I could easily find more examples.
Let me now adress the point I was trying to make. I’ve written about the liquor bans in 3 States in my earlier blogs.It’s actually very odd to give local governments so much power to handle fundamental rights. I’m not talking about the law itself. I would have accepted a total liquor ban in every state in India if the policy had been approved by majority of the parliament.
My advice for the Indian policy makers would be to look closer at the European model and actually do two things. First I would be to implement more policy’s to protect consumers and to create safer products in a more equal playing environment. Second tobe to bring a lot of local policies to the National government. It would not only make local politics less bureaucratic, but would also get rid of a lot of weird differences between states.