The 2013 Global Peace Index (GPI), which was released on Tuesday, will not make anyone in the government happy. It has ranked India, the world’s largest democracy, among the 25 least peaceful nations to live in. The country was placed 141 among 162 nations, having lost more than two lives a day or 799 persons to internal conflicts in 2012. Worse, at the bottom of the heap along with India are traditionally politically restive countries such as Pakistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, Iceland emerged as 2012’s most peaceful country in the index and the Central African Republic the least. However, India has improved on its 2011 rank by three notches. The poor ranking has been due to the high number of internal and external conflicts, easy access to small and medium weapons and the scale of terror. The GPI is a global thinktank that works on the relationship among economics, business and peace and has been doing this exercise since 2007. Countries are given scores on 22 indicators that measure internal peace as well as external peace (these include military expenditure as a % of GDP and nuclear weapons capabilities).
For India, the report’s findings are certainly nothing to write home about. But living in denial about them would be a mistake. The country may not be qualitatively as violent as say Afghanistan or Iraq but the warts are evident. The two recent attacks by the Maoists, the insurgencies in Kashmir and Northeast, the violent civil society movements in many other parts of India over natural resources have made the country extremely volatile in the last few years. Add to this, the reaction of the State against protesters has left many doubtful about the quality of India’s democracy. Over the years, the government has tried to buy “social peace” in the rural areas with public works and subsidised food. But even that could not achieve positive results thanks to a below par delivery system. In the metros too, the supposed oases of peace and growth, the young have taken to the streets on many issues, corruption being one of the main ones. One reason why this has happened — and will be repeated in future — is because the State has not been able to match their expectations.
India needs to dramatically improve its quality of governance to ensure peace, a basic requirement for growth. To do that the government needs to seriously think about a bottom-up approach governance. This should not be too difficult to implement since we have the panchyati raj institutions in place. In addition, people must feel confident that no matter what the challenges are, the State will not be partisan, it will be a fair judge. The people are losing faith in the State and this is not a good sign. India needs to grow, but let us not forget that it needs to grow harmoniously.