New Delhi: India is home to 1.21 billion people (2011 Census statistics) and has more than 50 per cent of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65 per cent below the age of 35. Right now, its median age is 25 years and it is expected that in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan. By 2030, India's dependency ratio should be just over 0.4. But surprisingly, data compiled from the United Nations, Encyclopaedia Britannica, respective national governments and The Economist shows that India remains a gerontocracy with the average age of the Cabinet in India being 65 years, the highest among a group of 10 countries studied. So the gap between the average citizen and the average policy maker in India is an astounding 40 years, the highest amongst the countries studied.
China's median age is 35 years but its Cabinet rank's age is 63 years. Brazil's median age is 28 years but its Cabinet rank holders are 56 years old on an average. Russia remains the only BRIC nation that is not a gerontocracy. The median age there is 38 years but that of the Cabinet-rank leadership is just 47 years.
The policy makers in the United States, whose median age is 37 years, hover around the 60-year mark.
That way the difference between the people and their leadership is the narrowest in the case of Germany and UK but that has got to do more with their median population ages which are amongst the highest at 44 and 40. Their leadarship age is about 52 years.
Japan also has an ageing problem. Its median age is 45 but still its Cabinet-rank leadership's average age is considerably lower than India at 57.
This comparison throws up many questions. Do Indians like to put their faith on experience and wisdom than on the spunk of the youth? Is the majority of today's young Indians moving away from politics? Do political parties accord due importance to their youth and students' fronts in terms of factoring in their voices and opinion while taking a decision or do they just treat them as a nursing ground for future political workers?
While it is obvious that very few Indian leaders have the meticulous grooming that US Presidents in their 40s and 50s have since their late 20s when they start working for presidential campaigns, it is also a fact that unlike in the US, in India, political parties nominate leaders which obviously complicate things a little further bit.
But there are merits and demerits in concentration of power that happens in a US-style presidential system. A parliamentary democracy with its cabinet has built-in checks and balances. But what appears crucial for a country's march forward is the shared vision between its people and its leadership. With a 40-year age gap, evolution of such a shared vision seems extremely improbable.