Anti-sedition law under attack in India and why Americans should care

Many thanks to CPJ for this report.

With new focus on sedition law, India poised at juncture

Although it is the world’s largest democracy, India has retained its colonial-era sedition law. But with a national debate ensuing after the arrest of 25-year-old political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on the antiquated sedition charge and others, members of the Indian government have been forced to do some soul-searching.

Government ministers formally initiated a review of the law, news accounts reported on September 14. The law, which was introduced by the British in 1870 to guard against rebellion, states that anyone who “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India” could face life in prison. The legislation falls under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.

Read rest of article.

Why is this important to Americans?

Bottom line is that the cartoonist in question attacked government leaders and institutions for corruption. And for pointing out the growing nature of corruption in India, the cartoonist was jailed.

Corruption directly affects jobs across national borders. Take the situation in India.

India has bought $12 billion in goods and services from the United States January-July of this year. (Exports to the United States from India are at $24 billion for a trade deficit.)

Here are the top-10 items the U.S. exports to India (2011 numbers):

America’s exports to India amounted to $17.7 billion or 1.4% of overall US exports.

  1. Chemical fertilizers … $3.1 billion
  2. Civilian aircraft … $1.7 billion
  3. Diamonds … $1.7 billion
  4. Telecommunications … $652.1 million
  5. Other petroleum products … $581 million
  6. Non-monetary gold … $500.5 million
  7. Organic chemicals … $487.6 million
  8. Other industrial machines … $443.2 million
  9. Other chemicals … $411.3 million
  10. Steelmaking materials … $372.3 million

Source: Worldsrichestcountries.com

To be true, India’s protectionist trade policies prevent more U.S. (and European and Chinese, etc) imports. But corruption is also a major issue.

India is ranked in the half of “More corrupt” countries according to Transparency International. (#95 out of 182 countries.) It shares a score of 3.1 with Tonga, Swaziland, Kiribati and Albania. That makes India “more corrupt” than Liberia and Panama.

The simple point is that less transparent/more corrupt countries make it difficult for companies to do business there. U.S. law forbids the payment of bribes under very tough penalties. Other countries are not so particular about bribery. (See the “Bribe Payers Index” from Transparency International.)

Reports about how other countries deal with individuals who attack corrupt practices is important to Americans. It gives them — and particularly American businesses — a better idea of what kind of government/social system they are dealing with.

American support those who fight corruption overseas is good for the American economy. American companies can compete well against firms from other countries in terms of quality and skills. Having to compete against corrupt government officials and institutions makes it difficult for honest companies to do business overseas and grow.

And let us remember that most of American international trade is done by small-medium enterprises. These same companies are the driving force for the domestic economy.

Bottom line:

  • Enhanced anti-corruption efforts around the world means opportunity for more jobs for Americans.
  • Anti-corruption activists in other countries often criticize government leaders and institutions.
  • Laws that provide for jail terms for government criticism weaken anti-corruption efforts.
  • Weaker anti-corruption activities around the world mean fewer American job opportunities.

Therefore, more publicity and support for people like cartoonist Aseem Trivedi helps fight corruption in India and could mean more jobs for American exporters.

It would be nice to see more reporting on this.

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Filed under Connections, India, International News Coverage

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