To find out what people thought of themselves is an interesting exercise and one that the International polling firm GlobeScan conducted for the BBC World Service (reported by the Times of India today). The survey was conducted from 5–15 December, 2006. 

So, what did we think of ourselves? Well here are the statistics:

While it warms my heart that the majority of people feel proud to be Indians, I was surprised to see that more than half of the Indians polled actually believed that our justice system treats the rich and poor alike. Well I am not sure who was really polled, whether they were mostly politicians and beaurocrats, the middle-class, the rich, or the poor and the illiterate. They couldn’t have talked to the poor because the poor and the lower middle-class in this country do not feel that the system is just. Just talk to any cabbie or a paan shop wala or even your maid and they will tell you their stories. And though these people may not be highly educated, they are quite aware of what the government is not giving them. They are definitely politically aware and know exactly what they do not have. And considering that the majority of our population would fall into the poor and lower middle class I wonder whether this survey can be of significance as the self-image of the whole of India. The majority of the people in our country simmer with the injustices meted out to them by the rich and the powerful.  

And if more than half of those polled feel that being a woman is no barrier to success…it is obvious that the pollsters have not polled rural India. And only 55% of people felt that the caste system is a barrier to social harmony? Where are the other 45% living? In the poshest suburb of Delhi?

Take a look at this:

As high as 45% of the people felt that India’s economic growth has benefited them. Well, considering that the number of India’s poor have dropped considerably, this seems okay on the face of it. However, we have a funny way of calculating poverty figures. According to official figures, (2005) if a person earns more than Rs 600 a month he is considered above the poverty line. Now I wonder how many of those who earn even Rs 1000/- a month would think that they have benefited by India’s economic growth?

I am very conscious of the fact that as an English speaking, educated urban Indian I cannot speak for the rest of India.  I wonder why GlobeScan presumed their sample was representative of India? True, they said the survey was conducted in Delhi, but what were the income levels of the people? What was their background – urban or rural? If they had said something about the type of people polled it would have given a more realistic picture.