Differences down under: India & Australia


By Kushagra Bhatnagar

The article is about the experiences of an Indian who moved to Australia. The differences he witnessed in the functioning style of both the countries’ governments and societies.

Australia: I migrated to Australia in 2008. Since then I have been observing the Australian way of life rather minutely in comparison with the Indian way. There are stark differences between the two societies, and we all know most of them. Each one of us has their own way of explaining away the differences especially when the Indian side appears to be weaker, which it is in many cases.

However, I am not going to discuss the most commonly known real as well as the perceived differences. I am taking up the difference in the way the governments of the two countries handle regulations. The glaring difference exists in the fact that many businesses in India are completely unregulated while those same businesses in Australia (and I suspect in most of the developed world as well) are strongly regulated. Let us study a few of them one by one.

It is no discovery that two of the most unregulated breeds in India are commercial drivers and builders/developers. The commercial drivers whether for taxis, auto-rickshaws, trucks or buses are hardly under any kind of regulations. With total impunity, they feel free to cheat customers, behave rudely with them, violate traffic rules, not to speak of occasional rape of some hapless woman. No government has so far been able to rein in these people. Why? Because this crowd forms a strong vote bank.

Any effort to control their conduct is perceived to be politically unwise. This may or may not be true because no one has tried it. This needs no passing of bills in parliament; this needs no presidential ordinance; this just needs those in power to enforce the law with a stern hand.

Now we have some muddled minded rulers in India who had issued the dictum that the taxi/auto-rickshaw drivers are free to do what suits them. The police cannot book them for refusing a fare, for misbehaving with a customer, overcharging and even for drunken driving. Anyone residing in the national capital Delhi would vouch for the misery commuters have to suffer at the hands of the misbehaving lot of taxi/auto-rickshaw drivers. So in effect, the only law for this lot is that there is no law.

In sharp contrast in Australia, all the commercial drivers are strongly regulated. While an ordinary citizen has the chance of getting away lightly for traffic offenses, the commercial drivers have zero chance. One error and he loses his license, making him unemployable as a driver. I know for sure that even in Dubai and Turkey the commercial drivers are subject to tight discipline. Even the slightest over speeding will have the driver’s license taken away for a few years. Second offense and he loses his license for life.

Likewise, the builders/developers in India also enjoy the luxury of working in a regulation-free environment. Name any aspect of bad, irrational, unruly, unethical, customer unfriendly, outright cheating, fraudulent business conduct and you will find this lot is guilty of it.

They enjoy complete, unrestricted freedom of whatever business practice each one of them wishes to employ. Why? We cannot explain this nonsense by trying to link this with the politician’s’ fear of losing an election. This lot does not exist in numbers that are large enough to become a vote bank. So why the inexplicable liberty? Possibly the black money. We all know that property market is the largest creator of black money. It creates black money and it also consumes black money.

A great proportion of parallel economy thrives in the property market. Who are the people with enormous amounts of unaccounted money? Of course, the politicians. Hence, it stands to reason that they have a huge stake in the property market. This is why irrespective of which party is in power or out of it, this lobby continues to make merry at the expense of the customers. If I as a politician invest billion rupees in property market, I will jolly well make absolutely sure that the people who handle the market remain protected at all times.

Again in sharp contrast the builders/developers are regulated with strong rules in Australia which do not permit any discretionary powers to the bureaucrats or politician which can be misused. We all know there is a thin, practically invisible line between discretion and discrimination.

(The article was first published at http://indiantimes.com.au/)