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India Ranks Low on Index Measuring Small Acts of Kindness to Strangers

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Aug 30, 2021

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Image Credit: Getty Images

India ranked poorly in a global assessment of how kind people from different countries are to strangers — basically, how likely they are to perform small acts of kindness without any monetary benefit.

Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study involved 8,354 participants from 34 countries across the world and ran a series of experiments on them to assess their social mindfulness.

Social mindfulness refers to being aware of how our decisions may impact those around us by limiting, or altogether eliminating, their choices, especially when it comes to finite resources. The concept refers to our ability to recognize the needs and wishes of others, and “focus making decisions that recognize our shared humanity and interdependence,” an article explains.

The researchers believe our social mindfulness is also an indicator of our — and, by extension, often our countries’ — attitudes towards immigration and social justice issues.

Unfortunately, India performed quite poorly in the assessment, finding itself almost at the bottom of the list that was led by Japan, and followed by Austria and Mexico.

Nonetheless, despite the significant variations in performance between different countries, the researchers are wary of attaching any “value judgment” based on their assessment.


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“Among the explanations for these differences could be the level of trust that societies place in strangers, education levels, economic prosperity (or lack of it), or the prevalence of religious values — but further studies will be required to understand more,” a report by Science Alert notes.

Research suggests that Indians — who often take pride in the philosophy of atithi devo bhava, or treating guests the same way one worships their god — are, gradually, becoming kinder to strangers. According to data from the World Giving Index released in 2016, India’s rank in the global generosity list jumped to 91 in 2015 from 106 in 2014. According to the report, 401 million Indians had helped a stranger in 2015, by participating in volunteering efforts or by making financial donations.

While India had again slipped to the 124th position in 2018, following the pandemic, it has emerged at the 14th position as people across the country mobilized to help fellow citizens during the health crisis.

Yet, India may not be extending the same kindness towards non-citizens. According to the Migrant Integration Policy Index, which assessed 52 countries on their migrant inclusivity in 2020, India performed the poorest — scoring 24 out of 100, far lower than the average score of 50.

“Migrants move seeking better livelihoods and education, so an increase in immigration rates is an indicator of a country’s growth and development trajectory. As India develops in the coming decades and takes on a leadership role in the South Asian region, integration of immigrants and their issues will only become more important,” an article on Scroll reads.

It is, perhaps, time then that we evaluate how we treat strangers, especially those who don’t share our national identity, given how India is reported to send out the world’s largest number of emigrants, too.

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Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an associate editor with The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, and a painter by shaukh. She has her own podcast called #DateNightsWithD on Spotify. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.

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