THERE is convincing proof that poverty in India (or in other countries for that matter) is not because it is the God’s wish or a natural phenomenon or that it cannot be remedied within the existing frame work. I observed that this question of frame work is raised as an important issue always by those whose organizational base is weak or non-functional. They always use the excuse that matters can be corrected only when a mass or grass-root agitation can be built up. They expected me to help (under their supervision) to build up such agitation. I was reasonably unimpressed with such bottom-up approach (without in anyway deprecating the necessity or effectiveness of mass/popular movements), as I was fully convinced after observing the history of freedom movement, partition holocaust, and recent upheavals in India that people can be roused mainly on communal, religious or ethnic issues and not on political or economic issues, especially where the attack to the system is through creeping invasion with local support. However, it has been repeatedly noted that people, even without political mobilization, give their adverse verdict within the current venal system of governance. Leaders and cheer-leaders, of course, are oblivious of this fact.
Every nation has four basic interdependent, with complex interconnections, supports/props/pillars Viz. Culture, Politics, Economy, Military. A nation can be strengthened or weakened effectively only by a sequential efforts at these supports. Thus, if culture is to be debilitated, politics must first be debilitated; for debilitating politics, economics must be debilitated before that; and for debilitating economics, military must be debilitated first of all. This is a universal truth unrecognized by the economists and other liberalized thinkers. They cannot afford to. Decline and fall of USSR started with withdrawal of military power projections in Afghanistan and now rump Russia has been reduced to a non-strategic, non-effective nuclear power, with a crippled economy, without any power projection willingness or capability. Western jazzy culture has more or less over-run Russian traditional cultures. Modern economics and its complementing oligarchic democracy were used to debilitate USSR economy. How crippling modern economic concepts and practices can be has been demonstrated once again in September 2008 by the collapse of the great American showpiece investment Banker Lehman Brothers! This Banker took away thousands of crores of investments of the Indian banks and financial institutions, when it became bankrupt; but its sponsors and patrons became richer with massive ill-gotten wealth.
All systems and factors, which keep a country going in its existential route, operate in varying degrees in debilitating military and perpetuating poverty in undeveloped or developing countries. Culture, religion, national and international politics, trade, articulated national ethos, defence capability and lastly, but not the least, the judiciary and the administration, especially, the apex courts and the central secretariat of the country, all play their unassigned roles. Economics is used as the cutting edge for ensuring delivery of unending stream of poor, deprived and dispossessed humanity to smoothen the path of profit-propelled private enterprises. Economics also decide the extent of poverty which can be accepted by the society under the overwhelming veil of media coverage for numbing the senses. Since a militarily strong nation cannot be kept poor, the heart and sinews of the nation – the armed forces – are kept marginalized in poor countries, so that people can be made to internalize the concept of powerless nation without much freedom of action in national interest issues. Lack of strategic capability in national security and sovereignty issues is so acute that a Prime Minister, like Dr. Manmohan Singh, could openly claim that what applies to India cannot be expected to be applied to America or vice versa or another Prime Minister, like Atal Behari Vajpayee, after promising a decisive outcome, could keep the Army standing in the international border for one whole year and after punishing two General rank officers (one Corps commander and an Air officer commanding in chief of the major operational command) who inadvertently crossed the LOC, a line lying wholly within Indian territory, shamefacedly withdrew the Army to peace locations without achieving a single demand made to Pakistan. Although, we shall examine military prowess and all other factors but economics of mobilisation turns out to be the most critical factor. This needs to be critically appraised to get answers to the question as to why India is poverty-stricken amidst plenty, what is essential, necessary, feasible and practicable, even within the existing State and power structures, and without too much violence to the economic framework.
The mythology of western economic and technological superiority and their conceptual purity has struck deep roots in India . The economically and militarily powerful nations have been able to impress the Indian elite, and through them the Indian vocal gentry, so much that even ordinary people have also started accepting that India is poor as India does not have enough money. An incident will make this point very clear. When a charismatic young leader from Bengal built up a movement and a party from scratch and won eight seats in Parliament (House of the people) in 1999 elections from Bengal, a communist fiefdom, her reputation was sky-high and she got media and popular encomium in great abundance. She got the cabinet post of the important portfolio of the Indian Railways. I was reasonably impressed with her performance, especially, as she was from very humble roots. I called on her to congratulate her and commiserate with her for taking over the charge of the accident-prone Railways. She was ebullient and all go. I mentioned that it was necessary to increase the manpower of Railways and improve the living conditions of the Railway men; she readily agreed and elaborated in great lengths her ideas on the problems of railways. I had heard all those stereotyped ideas from other people, but the sincerity manifest on her face was palpable and I could guess why she was so widely acclaimed. But when I suggested that she immediately take steps to make every single Railway level-crossings manned within a year and demand immediate tripling of the Railways budget, she was aghast. Fortunately, at that point of our discussion, her senior, apparently friend, in her erstwhile party and the then Chairman of the powerful Public Accounts Committee (or Estimates Committee, I am not too sure now) of Parliament walked in. The minister explained the gist of our discussion and my ideas. Both were silent for a few minutes and then in one voice they uttered, “Where is the Money?” My answer was as prompt, “Print it”. The minister gave me such a look of compassion and pity that I thought a Leonardo de Vinci or Michelangelo could create another memorable painting or sculpture of “Pieta”! We always hold dear a theory that an individual who does not have above average IQ (intelligent quotient, especially, spiritual IQ) or OLQ (officer like quality) and social consciousness cannot do any long term good to the society or to himself/herself. This young leader had possibly disdain for scholasticism or ecclesiasticism, had no worthwhile economic idea and though made a splash for some time, had a first shock in municipal elections in west Bengal in 2002 and nemesis for the fledgling party came in 2004 general elections to parliament. To my mind IQ has three components: (a) Animal, (b) Functional and (c) Spiritual. Animal IQ is concerned with survival and procreation. Functional IQ is concerned with the use of fire, natural and human created products, wind, water and energy in different innovative ways. Spiritual IQ is concerned with the use of spirituality, imagination, intellect, cooperation, selflessness, self-sacrifice etc. These can be likened to the Hindu concept of five elements, viz. earth, water, wind, fire and sky. Earth, water and wind can be considered as related to the animal aspect of IQ; fire as that belonging to the functional aspect and sky implying the spiritual aspect. All creatures shave a mix of all these different aspects of IQ.
Greatest impetus for writing this book came from my abiding faith that destiny of mankind cannot be decided by part-time bit actors on the world stage, however much they strut, fret, huff or puff to impress the innocents. I always take heart from the incisive statement of our guide in Hiroshima in 1999, Mr. Lawless of Atlanta, USA: “How frail are prophesies of the mighty!” While recounting the horror and senseless murder of the innocents in Hiroshima in that fateful day in August 1945, he, interalia, mentioned that the attacker had claimed that ‘not a blade of grass will grow’ in Hiroshima in 76 years after the explosion of the first Atomic Bomb. Mother nature and human ingenuity proved to be more powerful than the mightiest in the world: first scorched and stunted maple tree flowered in three months, and the first Tram from the city centre to port was made functional by the Japanese within one and half days after the catastrophe!
The horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not have any effect on the big powers and they are demonstrating their great capacity for mischief by brandishing arsenals of nuclear weapons, missiles and computers of bewildering variety, while still cowering in the corner in fear that India can easily convert Indian ocean into an Indian lake, where access and transit of all other states will be at the whims of India. The outside powers are resting comfortably for the time being in the knowledge that the current crop of leaders in India has no stomach for any decisive action in economic or national security matters. This book is an attempt to bring some sense to the aspiring power elite so that they act as per the potentials of India.
Although it will be claimed that poverty has been a way of life in India for centuries but then Indian people did not have opportunity for exercising free options. Hence, my examination of this problem will be restricted to the post independent period, particularly, for the last about two decades. The question why must India wallow in poverty in the midst of abundance of economic resources needs to be thoroughly examined from analytical and rational perspectives.
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