Washington: Noting that the ongoing assembly
elections in India reflects its thriving democracy, US
Ambassador-designate Nancy Powell has said that the country
still has enormous societal inequalities based on historic
caste systems of economic differences.
"I think India`s democracy is a thriving one... right now
they are engaged in five states voting, with over 200 million
residents in one of the states," Powell told Senate Foreign
Relations Committee yesterday.
"So that part of the democracy in terms of its forms and
its norms is well established. They are voting after a very
vigorous debate over policies, and particularly in these five
states of looking at the economic reforms, whether they have
answered the question that we would ask here in the United
States -- are you better off than you were at the last
election," Powell said referring to the ongoing assembly
elections in India.
Pointing that India has enormous societal inequalities
based on historic caste systems of economic differences, she
said: "I take a lesson from my time as a teacher of American
government and American history, of reminding myself that our
Constitution starts with the words about forming a more
"I think that India is in the process of doing that as
well. It has enormous societal inequalities based on historic
caste systems of economic differences," Powell said.
"But surely one of the engines that moves a society is
the commitment to democracy, a ballot box that allows people
to vote for their leaders and to vote for change, but also a
rising economy," she said.
She also said that though Indian has made an enormous
progress in the field of economy, the country is still not a
"I contrast my earlier time in India where they were just
emerging from a very, very closed economic system, one which
required enormous amounts of work to start a business -- or to
close one for that matter -- with the current system.
"It`s not perfect yet, it still takes a long time in
India. It`s still not a red-tape-free society, but all those
things are freeing up India," Powell said.
"I think we have seen over the 20 years of economic
reforms a tremendous number of people who have been removed
from absolute poverty.
"They`re into the Indian middle class now. They are able
to afford education for their children. They are dedicated to
that as one of the first things that they use their disposable
income for. But also a rising consumer network, better
housing," she said.