NEW DELHI: India has the "dubious honour" of being the second most ignorant nation in the world after Mexico, according to a survey which posed questions on issues like inequality, non-religious population, female employment and internet access. South Koreans followed by Irish are the most accurate according to the survey.

The survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, a London-based market research firm, polled 25,000 people from 33 countries and found that while people "over-estimate what we worry about", a lot of major issues are underestimated. This in other words can be concluded that the survey results do not give clear picture about ignorance about various issues because some of the important issues like literacy rate; poverty, health and farsightedness have not been included in the survey.

"Mexico and India receive the dubious honour of being the most inaccurate in their perceptions on these issues, while South Koreans are the most accurate, followed by the Irish," the survey said. The rankings of the nations were based on the "Index of Ignorance" which was determined by questions about wealth that the top one percent own, obesity, non-religious population, immigration, living with parents, female employment, rural living and internet access.

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Most Indians "underestimate" how much of their country's wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1 per cent, the survey said, adding that the top 1 percent actually own an "incredible" 70 per cent of all wealth. The survey also found that most Indians "hugely overestimate" the proportions of non-religious people in the country to be 33 per cent when the true figure is under 1 per cent.

While Israel significantly underestimates the proportion of female employment (by 29 percentage points), people in countries like India, Mexico, South Africa and Chile all think of more women in work than really are, it said.

India fell in the list of nations, which overestimate representation by women in politics. Countries like Columbia, Russia, India and Brazil all think there is better female representation than there really is, the survey said.

However, the Indian population seriously underestimates the rural population of the country and thinks more people have Internet access than in reality. In India the average guess among online respondents for Internet access is 60 per cent - an overestimation of the true picture of 41 percentage points, the survey added.

As a matter of fact Indians know the problems, which face the country. They know that corruption; dowry, gender bias, caste system, child labour and other social evils still exist and continue to erode the image of society. They need to be overtaken by better education and eradication of illiteracy in the country. The opposition parties are still criticizing the Haryana and Rajasthan governments because they laid educational qualifications for fighting Panchayat and local Body elections in their respective states even when the apex court had endorsed this step.

One can say that Indians are not ignorant but they are impassive and indifferent which could not be reflected in the study. Also the ignorance the survey speaks of is something that the media should be blamed more. Media prefers to let all these issues slip by and generally focus on entertainment, films, sports especially cricket and politics.

But coming back to the concept of indifference. Most Indians are an indifferent lot, they do not care about health, education and well being because they feel it does not concern them or they are bound by religious and societal dogma. They have a couldn’t careless and chalta hai attitude in life. But slowly more and more Indians have started to realise these concerns and are now taking responsibility to change their life style for better living and focus on good governance and self-reliance.

It is the inability of an average Indian to articulate that makes him look stupid. Besides, a lot of Indians prefer not to take a stand on their opinions, lest they offend their peers that has caused public look ignorant. There is a need for them to speak the truth and must give their opinion frankly.

Our economic and social system wants us to be moneymakers and not intellectuals. We are neither interested nor have time to look into ourselves or enhance our knowledge base but instead are behind degrees or courses, which will grant us better pay and allowances. This may be because the society is cruel to the helpless or maybe they want to impress others, which gives them false hope about their status and standard of living. Indians therefore will have to change their mindset and lifestyle to start living in reality rather than in a make belief world.

(Dr P.K.Vasudeva is a retired senior Professor on International Trade)