Why does India, the world’s largest democracy, love the idea of dictatorship?

As per a recent survey, 55% of Indians support autocracy while 53% think military rule is good. Have Indians always nursed a secret fetish for the iron fist?

India introduced universal adult franchise to its citizens in 1950. The country had seen the departure of the British only three years before, mass famine stalked the land and less than one in five Indians were literate enough to sign their own names. Taking all this into account, the General Election of 1950 was one of the modern world’s miracles. To put it into context, the richest country on the planet, the United States of America, only gave its African American citizens full voting rights in 1965 – 15 years after India’s first election based on universal adult franchise. Vagaries common in the neighbourhood, such as army rule and blatantly rigged polls, did not find a place in India.

Yet, Indian democracy also has its flaws – quite a few of them, in fact. A recent survey by the Pew Research Centre, for example, revealed that most Indians might actually be tiring of their seven-decade old democracy. Of the Indians surveyed, 55% backed autocratic rule by a strong leader unfettered by legislatures or courts, 53% supported military rule and 65% found technocracy – a government run by unelected experts – to be a fine idea.

This might be an uncomfortable fact – but is it really a surprise? From significant support for Indira Gandhi’s Emergency to elections fought on giving the country a supposedly strong leader, Indians have always had an authoritarian bone or two in their body.

Pectoral politics

The 2014 Lok Sabha election saw the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra Modi make a rather interesting pitch on why he should be elected prime minister: he had a chest that measured 56 inches. It is unknown if this is literally true, but making pectoral size an election issue was an unmistakable metaphor: Modi was saying he is a strong leader.

Even as a few Indians expressed concern for India’s democracy given Modi’s authoritarian tendencies, for most Indians this was not an issue. For other voters – as the Pew survey brings out – it was actually an appealing attribute , something that added to Modi’s allure.

While Modi might have made use of this to his benefit in 2014, this tendency to favour strong leaders is hardly new. It is barely remembered now, but quite a few middle class Indian cheered on Indira Gandhi when she suspended Indian democracy in 1975. The Emergency was supposed to free Indians from the lumbering juggernaut of democracy. The train were to run on time, black marketeers were to have been destroyed and inflation curbed.

Congress precedent

The 1977 election that saw Indira Gandhi crash to a defeat is supposed to have been a great reaffirmation of democracy. Yet, this triumphant narrative might border on being simplistic. Gandhi’s vote share in South India actually increased and she still got a larger proportion of the vote in 1977 than Modi did in 2014. Anger in the Hindi belt against Indira Gandhi, it seems, rested not only the suspension of democracy but draconian measures such as forced sterilisation and the departure of Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram.

While Indira Gandhi is – rightly – reviled for the Emergency, even her father, held up as the man who cemented Indian democracy wasn’t above a spot of autocracy himself. Jawaharlal Nehru, in fact, set the terrible precedent of dismissing state governments for blatantly partisan reasons using Article 356 of the Constitution. In 1959, Nehru placed Communist-ruled Kerala under Article 356 for the express purpose of helping the state unit of the Congress.

Rajiv Gandhi didn’t disappoint either. His government passed the anti-defection law in 1984, which took away the power to vote from individual legislatures concentrating power in unelected party high commands. This is a highly unusual move in a representative democracy where, ideally, legislators should vote as per their constituents’ needs not the whims of the party boss. Notably, Pew defines autocracy as a decision taken without “interference from Parliament or courts”. The anti-defection law, in effect, legally enshrines a lack of interference from Parliaments.

Martial law

As worrying as the support for autocracy is, even more so is the preference for military rule in the Pew survey. Again, this is more than backed up by events in present-day India which has seen a sharp rise in the use of militarism in politics. The Indian soldier is now frequently used as a rhetorical tool in political discussions. Declaring that “soldiers are dying on the borders” is device often used to shut down debate. This has meant the appearance of army men in the media. Television discussions often have the presence of one or more retired, moustachioed officers.

More alarming, even serving soldiers now play a media role. The Indian Army took the unprecedented step of staging a press conference with Major Leetul Gogoi, the officer who used a Kashmiri man as a human shield in April. Later, a news channel was even allowed to interview a member of the army team that carried out the 2016 surgical strike into Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

Technocratic nightmare

Interestingly, there is a strong correlation between countries that chose autocracy, military rule and technocracy. This is unsurprising. All three are driven by a disdain for the pushes and pulls of electoral democracy.

Yet, this is chimera. There are no shortcuts which leave out popular democracy. While experts are certainly important, too much reliance on them could also be disastrous as the 2008 financial crisis showed in the United States. Unsurprisingly, technocracy has wide support from the Indian middle class – 65% supported it in the Pew survey – given that an an engineer or economist is a more familiar figure than a low-caste politician from the mofussil.

Thus there is unusual support for a proposal in India to reduce democratic control of the police and hand over some power to a committee of experts. Another variant of this tendency to use expertise to override popular sovereignty is a Haryanan law that bars the illiterate from contesting panchayat polls – upheld by no less than the Supreme Court. For a country that prides itself on being a democracy in spite of poverty and illiteracy, this is a shameful abdication of its core values.

India’s democracy is hard fought and a remarkable exception in a largely autocratic neighbourhood marked by bureaucratic and army rule. But as recent developments and this survey show, there is little room for complacency.

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.


The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.