If Indonesia can, why not India?

‘In November 2018, on my return to Perth from Indonesia, after attending Science and Mathematics International Conference (SMIC 2018), hosted by Universitas Negeri Jakarta, I wrote an article, Are Indians quietly watching their country die? (https://dbpost.com/are-indians-quietly-watching-their-country-die/), which was published in Dainik Bhaskar, a reputed Indian online daily, on 13 November 2018.

My article was inspired by several young Indonesian academicians, with whom it was such a joy to interact during the conference. Young Indonesians come across full of life, humility, intelligence, good citizenship and optimism. I am deeply impressed by their happy demeanour and a bright outlook towards life, their eagerness to learn and to improve themselves and their country. Various studies indicate the Indonesian youth are amongst the happiest people in the world (http://www.thejakartapost.com/youth/2017/02/13/indonesian-youths-among-happiest-in-the-world-survey.html).

A young bright academic, Ali Sabeni, immediately responded to my article as follows:

Wow, I can’t believe that an engineer is talking about a country’s issues … Honestly speaking, Indonesia has similar problems as India – population, education and unemployment, and the biggest problem right now is the religion. Our country has many religions and we live together without any problem. But at this point of time, as the presidential elections are to be held soon, some people create propaganda, using religion. And talking about education, although our university ranks at 300th position in the world, we are optimistic that it will improve in the future.’

This was not the first time that someone was surprised about how an engineer could write books and articles on non-engineering subjects. One of the reasons could be the engineers themselves, but it is only a matter of perception. Engineers do and have written books and literary pieces in all ages. In China, engineers are at the helm.

Recently, after reading another article written by me in Dainik Bhaskar, dated 7 December 2018, India’s high population is killing her (https://dbpost.com/indias-high-population-is-killing-her/), Ali sent me the following thought-provoking feedback:

… I have read your post; you teach me that we should care for our nation wherever we are. Population is our country’s problem too. But, gratefully, Indonesia has started to take care about this issue. Our government has launched a campaign with a tagline “2 kids are better”. This campaign is active and visible everywhere – on the television, on newspapers etc. And I think it will have a positive impact … like my sister said “Let me have one kid, one but with a good quality”.

If Indonesia can do, why can’t India?

I am not aware if young Indians are talking about their country’s population issue in the public forum or on the social media. In my honest and reasonable opinion, an unsustainable high population growth is the root cause of most of India’s issues. Public discussion about population control in India is seemingly a taboo. No Indian television debate touches this issue!

I am baffled when young people, who slog every day in ever-worsening traffic conditions and keep inhaling polluted / poisonous air every day, advise me that I should not rant much about India’s population issue solely because my readers may become bored reading the same old stuff; instead, I should change the theme of my writings. It is extremely disappointing to see that many educated and grownup Indians have virtually given up on any hope for improvement in the living conditions in India.

There is nothing more dangerous for any country than when its people simply give in without even putting up a decent fight. No wonder, the wealthy people and the influential politicians in India have either sent their children abroad to study and settle down there, or currently are in a planning phase to do so. Similarly many young Indians too aspire to leave the country for greener pastures.

Indians may have given up but, with my Australians stripes, I shall never give up on this burning issue. I shall keep ranting and not remain silent, that is what Australia has taught me – never give up without fighting – especially if it is for a just cause and for the greater good of the people. In this case, my fight becomes all the more significant, as it is related to the country of my birth, which comprises nearly one-fifth of the humanity.

It is an Australian in me – hardworking, just, tenacious and resilient human being – who is making me fight. Perhaps, my Kashmiri Pandit roots also reinforce my fighting character. My ancestors in Kashmir shared some similar characteristics to the Australians. Refer to my article, Why should India care about Kashmiri Pandits?, published in Dainik Bhaskar on  22 November 2018 https://dbpost.com/why-should-india-care-about-kashmiri-pandits/.

For the benefit of the readers of this post, a snapshot about Indonesia and how it compares with India in numerous ways, particularly in terms of its size and diversity, is presented below.


Indonesia is:

  • The world’s largest archipelagic country, comprising 17,504 islands over both sides of the equator.
  • Area wise, the world’s 14th largest country by land area and the 7th largest country in combined sea and land areas. The total area of the country is 1,904,569 square kilometres, extending 5,120 kilometres from east to west and 1,760 kilometres from north to south.
  • Population wise, the world’s 4th most populous country, with over 261 million people, also the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. Jakarta is the country’s capital and the second most populous urban area in the world. Java is the world’s most populous island and contains more than half of Indonesia population.
  • Economy wise, the world’s 16th largest economy by nominal GDP and the 7th largest by GDP at PPP.
  • A founding member of NAM (Non-Aligned Movement), ASEAN, APEC, East Asia Summit, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the OIC.


  • Indonesia’s national motto is ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’, which literally means ‘many, yet one’, i.e. in essence, Unity in Diversity.
  • Indonesia declared itself independent on 17 August 1945, just two years before India. In spite of major internal political, social and sectarian divisions, Indonesians were united in their fight for independence.
  • Indonesia shares land borders with Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor, and maritime borders with Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Palau and Australia.
  • Indonesia consists of hundreds of distinct native ethnic and linguistic groups. The largest and politically dominant ethnic group is Javanese.

Politics & Government

  • Indonesia is a presidential, constitutional republic, with an elected parliament. The country has 34 provinces, five of which have special status.
  • Sukarno, the country’s first president, moved Indonesia from democracy to authoritarianism in the late 1950s. He balanced the opposing forces of the military and the Communist Party of Indonesia.
  • The President is the Head of State, the Head of Government and the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s armed forces. The President is the Director of Domestic Governance, policy-making, and the foreign affairs.
  • The President appoints a Council of Ministers; minsters are not required to be elected members of the legislature.
  • The President may serve a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms.
  • People’s Consultative Assembly is the highest representative body at national level. Its main functions are to support and amend the constitution, inaugurate and impeach the president, and formalise broad outlines of state policy.
  • The Parliament comprises two houses – (a) the People’s Representative Council, with 560 members, who pass legislation and monitors the executive branch; and (b) the Regional Representative Council, with 132 members, who look after the matters of regional management.

Religious diversity

  • In the first century CE, Hinduism and its influences arrived in the archipelago. The first historically recorded Indianised kingdom was a Sundanese kingdom, Salakanagara in western Java, established by an Indian trader who married a local Sundanese princess.
  • Buddhism arrived around the sixth century.
  • Islam was introduced by Sunni traders of the Shafi’i school of jurisprudence, as well as the Sufi traders from the Indian subcontinent and the southern Arabian peninsula. Generally, over time, Islam overlaid and mixed with the non-Islamic cultural and religious influences, which resulted in a distinct form of Islam in Indonesia as compared to the Middle Eastern Islam.
  • Islamic thoughts in the country can be broadly categorised into two streams: (a) ‘Modernism’, which closely adheres to orthodoxy while embracing modern learning; and (b) ‘Traditionalism’ which follows the interpretations of local religious leaders and teachers at Islamic boarding schools.


  • In Indonesia, education is compulsory for first 12 years.
  • Indonesia has two types of schools: (a) State-run, non-sectarian public schools, supervised by the Ministry of Education and Culture; and (b) Private or semi-private religious (usually Islamic) schools, supervised and financed by the Department of Religious Affairs. In addition, private international schools are also there, which are not based on the national curriculum.
  • In 2015, Indonesia spent about 3.59 percent of GDP on education. In the same year, the school enrollment rate was 90 percent in primary education, 76 percent in secondary education and 24 percent in tertiary education.
  • In 2016, the literacy rate in Indonesia was 95.22 percent.

One notable thing about Indonesia is that its youth are aware about the country’s issues and are working consciously towards addressing them. They are awake. A country belongs to its youth. When youth are awake, the country is awake.

Are the Indian youth also awake?’


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