Are we a low trust society?

Dr Prabhu Dev
3 min readJun 9


Trust is like blood pressure. It’s silent and vital to good health. Trust begets trust! Trust is Reciprocal. Trust is the glue of healthy societies and the grease of economic prosperity. It takes years to build and only minutes to ruin. Its presence often goes without notice. But its absence is hard to miss. A single lie is enough to create doubt in every truth expressed. Hypocrisy is no crime, I’d rather say, it is an art.

Is India a low trust nation?

India is a land of castes! Every caste acts as a significant minority! It has resulted in fractured societies. Such societies are characterised by low levels of trust between communities. Caste Spirit makes one knowledge-proof and change –proof. Caste System controls governance, Judgment and Justice. Caste spirit over rules everything else including mandated requirements even ethics!

I love my country — its culture, diversity and people. While we are largely proud to be Indians. But there are times when we feel ashamed. our values — those moral thoughts and behaviours we used to hold dear, like decency, civility, honesty and respect, as well as caring, optimism, empathy, and tolerance ruled! This country was a beacon of idealism and progressive values to people the world over.

But that was then. And now… refers to the current “changed value system”- anger, rudeness, hate, greed, lying, selfishness, intolerance and callousness. Political conflict has become filled with insults and invectives. These “emotional viruses” can easily spread among a vulnerable population through a process known as “social contagion.” Words of rage and hate can easily be forerunners of violence.

PEW study- India’s trust index is 54 and that of the USA stands at of 58. It is still lower than the majority of developed nations. That puts us in the bracket of a low trust society. Low-trust societies are generally characterized by a high rate of corruption as well as crime. According to the business thinker late C. K. Prahlad the loss of opportunity caused by corruption in terms of investment, growth and jobs for India is over US$50 billion a year. This is what a low trust costs us as a nation.

Many of us would take offence at being called hypocrites, and for good reason. I can’t be the only one to notice the oxymoron that my country has become. Saying a thing and doing something different, not meaning what you say and not saying what you mean! We indulge in acts of hypocrisy that collectively add up to an epidemic. We hope to wash away our sins by thrusting few rupees down the slit-eyed Hundis of our temples.

Trust is hard to define, but we know when it’s lost. Hypocrisy is nothing new in India. In fact, it is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that it is perceived as the way of our life. Many say it is in the genes! A Hypocrite wears a mask each moment of his life. Hypocrisy has acquired a sense of fluidity.

Hypocrisy Is Just a Matter of Scale. It is unlimited!

· SC protects Right to Information for us, but claims immunity for itself from RTI

· In a marriage the girl has to be a virgin. It’s ok with boys- Boys are boys’

· All Indians are created equal but ‘no’ says Reservation policy

· Indian state is free from religion. There is no uniform civil code!

· We talk of women empowerment but sacrifice our daughters and mutilate them

· We condemn corruption but give and take bribes

· We preach and not practice

We pretend to have virtues that we do not possess. We all suffer from a positive self-image and are loathe to admit that we often behave immorally. Hypocrisy allows you to appear principled without principles.

The decline of trust must be addressed on individual and institutional levels! We need to be worthy of trust. To establish trust we must act with high integrity and competence in our personal lives and work. Adopt Transparency not only about our goals, but also about our methods. Adopt best practices and processes.



Dr Prabhu Dev

Former director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology, Former VC of Bangalore University and former chairman of the Karnataka State Health Commission