Friday, December 17, 2010

India vs Egypt

Amira Nowaira, in her column in The Guardian, writes on the eve of the Egyptian elections:

Egypt's contradictions may be a source of infinite amusement, but also one of genuine distress. Where else can you find a state of emergency that stays in place for 30 years? The word "emergency" implies a brief, intense situation that should disappear as soon as it is dealt with. But 30 years?

And where else can you find a presidential candidate casting his vote for another instead of himself? This was what the 90-year-old Ahmed El-Sabbahi did in 2005, when he proudly declared that he gave his vote to Mubarak.

More seriously, where else can you find a banned organisation like the Muslim Brotherhood getting high-profile coverage in the media and a sizable representation in the 2005 parliament? If the organisation is illegal and banned, why are they all over the media, giving interviews and making statements?

Where else can you find a nation with more than 50% of its population under the age of 15 that is ruled mostly by septuagenarians and octogenarians? Whenever the ruling NDP tries to indicate its endorsement of the nation's youth, it is actually referring to people in their 50s. One must admit, though, that the NDP deserves marks for consistency at least, for if power is still in the hands of octogenarians in the prime of life, then the 50-year olds of the NDP are green youths still being groomed for their future.

Well, the ‘emergency’ in India lasted much less than 30 years. Also, I don’t think I’ll be able to cite examples of any Indian politician casting his vote for another opponent. But, to that question about octogenarians ruling a country where 50% of its population is less than 15-years old, I believe I can provide a strong counter-claim.

In Tamilnadu, we have a 85-year old Chief Minister who has to be taken around on a wheel-chair. Competing with him is the Governor who is also 85 years old and who can barely get up from his chair..

According to a report, the average age of the Indian Union cabinet is 64.4 years which is almost two-and-a-half times the country's median age at 25.9. This is far greater than most of the developed economies where the difference is only a decade or so. Even the Chinese leadership is more youthful with an average cabinet age of 61.2 years.

The only way we can correct this geriatric tradition is by adopting the system suggested by Italo Calvino in a short story -which I had cited in an earlier post.


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