India and Germany, a study in contrast.

Over the weekend, I visited the exquisite German territory of Swabia. The Swabians are said to be obsessed with order! Some may find the attitude and state of mind of Germans amusing, but these are the very reasons Germany is what it is.

Strangely, even immigrants from Asia and Africa become ‘German' in their thinking and habits, if they have lived in this country long enough.

Mindset and Rule of Law

The 2011 report by the World Justice Project concludes that the German Government's accountability is ‘ strong' (ranking 5th out of 66 countries) and corruption is ‘minimal' (ranking 12th).The country's civil justice system ranks second, characterised by accessibility and efficiency of courts, and lack of undue influence. Much of this is attributed to the German mindset.

India, in contrast, ranks poorly. There are laws in place; the problem is execution. This is clearly reflected in the unsatisfactory performance of public administrative bodies.

The civil court system is ranked 48th out of 66, mainly because of deficiencies in access to justice, particularly in the areas of court congestion, enforcement, and delays in processing cases.

Corruption is rampant (ranking 51st), and order and security, including crime, civil conflict, and political violence is of concern. Since the rule of law works efficiently, Germans are the most litigious society in Europe, perhaps in the entire world.

Germans file lawsuits over preposterously trivial matters. It is a country in which the powerful — even the President of the country — can be called to account. Germans gripe all the time. They criticise what the government is supposed to do, but is not doing. Thus, they keep the authorities and institutions on their toes.

The fact that Germany seems to have successfully windswept the global financial crisis, does not mean that Germans are stress-free; there is no place in German dictionary for complacency.

An annual report ‘‘The Fears of the Germans” conducted by a well-known German insurance company reveals that the level of fear in Germany is increasing every year. Germans are scared of old age, the rising cost of living, health care, , tension caused by immigration, and much more. In fact, the general level of fear is close to the highest ever recorded in 20 years of the study. It's not just rule of law, but a state of mind that creates a progressive nation.

Functioning of Bureaucracy

The German administrative system is fair and decisions are taken quickly. The bureaucrats are unyielding, and never bend the rules.

The federal government and all states have ombudsmen who take citizen's complaints and make sure that the laws are enforced and unmitigated, where appropriate. In contrast, Indian bureaucracy is user-friendly, but amazingly inefficient.

Comparing the political debates in the two countries is rather illuminating. The speeches of German politicians are generally less contentious and more all-encompassing. A celebration of German technology and freedom is the autobahn that the world looks at with envy — where obeying the rules is the best way to enjoy one of the world's most unique driving experiences.

(The author is former Europe Director, CII, and lives in Cologne, Germany. blfeedback@thehindu.co.in)

(This article was published on May 29, 2012)
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