Development “Beyond GDP”

The gross domestic product (GDP) is a misleading indicator of development which should actually focus on improving human well being which depends upon many factors that are non-economic. Irrationally high stress of GDP growth as development indicator has not only created long term climatic and environmental issues but has also reduced people to the status of mere goods-producers and goods-consumers.

GDP is a Deceptive Indicator of Development

The GDP is just like a speedometerGDP is often compared with a speedometer: all it can tell is the speed, whether your economy is going faster or slower. The speedometer of your car doesn’t tell you everything – it can’t tell you about overheating or how much fuel is in the tank. Most important: the speedometer can’t tell you whether you’re going in the right direction.

Imagine if the speedometer could talk and respond, and you ask: Are we heading in the right direction? It responds: Let’s go faster! That’s a pretty dumb answer. Again you ask: Can we turn left? It responds: Let’s go faster! Again, the same stupid answer. True. Yet, just look around; everyone seems concerned only about speed of the economy. No one asks the question, “Are we going in the right direction?”

The basic problem is that the GDP is just an economic number – total market value of products and services bought and sold. It is blind to all things that can’t be sold though they increase people’s well-being – housework, raising children, volunteering, etc. Likewise, it doesn’t count peace of mind and social harmony, community relations, status of health and education, leisure or sustainability and environmental issues. However, the biggest deception of GDP comes from the fact that it gets boosted by harmful things like natural disasters, polluting activities, diseases, and crimes and wars. In fact, the more you senselessly spend or waste or destroy the more it grows. Therefore, rising GDP is no guarantee of development going in the right direction.

In reality, it is entirely possible for an economy to go faster and faster without getting anywhere closer to the desired goals. So, what is the right direction of the economy? This is a rather easy question to answer: just ask people and they pretty much say the same things. An economy goes in the good direction when all people benefit equally and everyone feels healthier, happier and more satisfied. Right direction also means it doesn’t create potential sources of trouble for the future, such as extreme inequality, social tensions and environmental disasters.

The Fetish for Economic Growth

The fetish for GDP has created long term environmental and social issuesWhen Adam Smith laid the foundation of modern economics through his epic, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), he would have never imagined that ‘economics’ would rule the future generations ‘colonizing’ all other disciplines of human inquiry. Today the whole Western world follows the ‘faith’ called economics and considers economic growth as the only ‘holy’ measure of national progress, and the rest of the world drags along in the absence of alternatives. So, now we have a global culture where people religiously think that ‘GDP growth is the only highway’ that takes people to the paradise of eternal happiness.

Gone are the days when talks of culture, art, history, morality, religion or spirituality symbolized the progress of societies and their people. Now per capita consumption alone decides how developed you are. The more you consume the more developed you are supposed to be! So Americans are the biggest consumers walking on the planet. Of course, they also create the biggest amount of garbage. And, they live in the hallucination to be most developed of all!

If along the way, nature feels tired of replenishing ever increasing demand for its resources or glaciers are melting with ever increasing pace or if societies are stunting with ‘hyper individualism’ or if arms and weapons are penetrating even in the peaceful societies – they must be seen as an unavoidable ‘collateral damage’ of the battle of economic growth! These ugly issues should be left to the creatures called environmentalists and social scientists; after all it is their job and that’s what they are paid for!

If Human Well-being is Multidimensional, Why not Development

Human well being is multidimensional, so should be developmentThe GDP is the fixation of economists and statisticians who have the nasty habit seeing even complicated things in terms of simple numbers. And, here they want us to equate people’s well-being with GDP. In fact, they have successfully fooled the world into believing that there is nothing in human life beyond producing goods and consuming them.

But now more and more people are coming out dissatisfied, all around the world. They are increasingly realizing that the GDP doesn’t measure any of the important things like health, happiness, welfare, human or social progress, or environmental sustainability. It is not even remotely connected with any of them.

Economists’ mono-dimensional concept of development has increasingly come under scrutiny in the recent decades. If you are a multifaceted and thoughtful person you must also be feeling uncomfortable with the too narrow concept of progress given by the economists. You must be wondering: if human life is multidimensional why not development? Have things like family and community relations, cultural traditions, spiritual practices, moral values, living in nature, leisure time, good health, and freedom from stress become unimportant in people’s lives? Is development merely multiplication of wants or continual transformation of wants into needs?

Is the Love Affair with GDP coming to an End?

So, is our love affair with GDP coming to an end? This is what one would conclude looking at the noises coming from recent World Economic Forum discussions and other international debates. As the business landscape changes, inequalities rise, climate change worsens, technology chops jobs, demographics shift and the world clamors for a new order, the GDP is fast losing its sheen. All goods have an expiry date, after which it is not wise to them. So, why are we still using a tool that was devised for a totally different purpose in the war torn world of 1930s and 1940s?

New Emerging Paradigms

Companionship and social relationships are also important factors of people's well beingWith the availability of much better survey data which allow for new types of economic and social measurement, more and more experts are looking for well-being indicators to gauge progress. The issue of sustainability is gaining momentum as climate change worsens. For instance; Andrew Simms, director of the New Economic Foundation, says, “Economic Growth has failed on its own terms. You cannot have infinite Economic growth in a world of finite resources. Redistribution of the existing wealth is a far better way to go. It is now a case of paradigm shift or bust”.

Nobel winner economist Joseph Stiglitz points out that development is meaningless in the long run unless it is sustainable, equitable and participatory. He emphasizes that it is not just income that matters but overall standards of living which means giving importance to economic as well as social, cultural and environmental dimensions.

According to Amartya Sen, the real objective of development is to enlarge people’s choices in all fields—economic, political and cultural. It means people’s well-being should be the focus of development, not economy. This notion of human development is closely intertwined with issues of human freedom and human rights.

Perhaps the time has come to reopen the post WW2 debate about how we should define the economy, and ensure that we come up right measures of human, social and environmental well-being to guide economic growth.

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Amartya Sen’s Capability Perspective of Development and Well-being

The capability approach of Amartya Sen doesn’t give importance to commodities or to pleasure one derives from them; it stresses on people’s opportunities to make use of them to achieve well-being.

Overview

Well-being of people depends upon a variety of factors other than economic.Currently popular economics correlates a people’s well-being with the level of their consumption of goods and services. However, this approach is always criticized by experts for taking a too narrow view of human well-being and for the obsession with material goods. If all people were identical, an index of goods consumption would be correlated with people’s well-being. But in reality, no two persons are same and there is considerable diversity among people. It means that they need different amounts and different kinds of goods to achieve the same level of well-being. Moreover, human well-being doesn’t depend upon consumption of commodities only; it also depends upon non-material things. Therefore, measures like per capita GDP are highly imperfect measure of people’s well-being or quality of life.

Nobel winner economist and philosopher Amartya Sen came up with a drastically new approach, the capability approach that put people at the center of development. The capability theory of development is wholly centered on people as human beings – what people are “capable of doing with what they have” is the central point of his capability perspective of development. In fact, the capability approach encompasses a lot of fields other than economics. Just like the attempt of Einstein to find a unified field theory behind all forces of physics, Amartya Sen’s capability theory can also be seen as unifying various areas that study human well-being.

The capability approach is enriching many ares of developmentThe capability approach encroaches upon several different areas – development thinking, welfare economics, political philosophy, sociology, and so on. Therefore, it is not surprising if Sen’s ideas have attracted a wide spectrum of people – scholars, activists, policy makers, social workers and government agencies. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has developed a range of alternative indicators of human development, based on the capability approach. They not only supplement the fashionable GDP model of development but also underline its serious shortcomings in using it as a sole measure of progress. The capability approach is equally applicable to study the developmental problems of the so-called developed as well as of the developing or poor societies.

The main reason why the capability approach is so versatile is that it is primarily a framework of thought, a mode of thinking about issues. Loosely speaking, it’s a paradigm. It focuses on the information that is needed to make judgments about people’s well-being. Unlike the traditional approaches which are restricted to monetary or material terms, the capability perspective goes into the wide gamut of non-material factors that also affect human well-being.

The most crucial aspect of Amartya Sen’s capability approach is that it introduced the ‘human element’ into the development debate. Sen does so by putting the focus on people’s capabilities, their ability to do and to be. The traditional approaches concentrate on income, expenditure, consumption or basic need fulfillment or on people’s desire or happiness fulfillment. Putting the focus on people’s capabilities, leads to entirely different policies as compared with the traditional approaches.  Sen stresses that in social evaluations and policy design, the focus should be always on what people are able to do and be, on their freedom to do so, and on removing the constraints that bind them in their lives. This would allow them to live the kind of life they value.

Development means Increasing People’s Capabilities

Purpose of development is to increase people's capabilities by increasing their real freedoms.Everything in Sen’s capability approach revolves around people’s capabilities to function, ie on their effective opportunities to undertake actions and activities that they want to engage in, and be who they want to be. These beings and doings, which Sen calls achieved functionings, together constitute what make life valuable. Functionings include working, resting, being literate, being healthy, being part of a community, being respected, and so on.

But Sen goes beyond achieving functionings, to developing capabilities deals with options, choices, opportunities (also called advantages) based on having ‘real’ freedom.  What is ultimately important is that people have the freedoms (capabilities) to lead the kind of lives they want to lead, to do what they want to do and be the person they want to be. What is important is that they should have the opportunity to function in a way that is in line with their own ideas of life. For example, every person should have the opportunity to be part of a community and to practice a religion, but if someone prefers to be a recluse or an atheist, he should also have this option (or freedom).

Sen’s capability approach rests on two things: functionings and capabilities. Let’s explore each carefully so that the distinction between the two is not lost.

Functionings

functioning of bicycle ridingIn order to keep things simple, let’s explore how a functioning is connected with availability of ‘commodity’ (goods and services) which is the traditional way to judge people’s well-being.

A commodity can enable a functioning but is distinct from it. A functioning is what a person manages to do or to be. For example, a bicycle is a commodity that helps transportation, but being able to transport using the bicycle is a functioning. If two persons own bicycles, we can’t say that they would be able to achieve the same functioning. If, for instance, one of them is handicapped, he would not be able to use the bike for moving around, while the normal person can. This also points to the crucial difference between the traditional resource based approaches that stop at providing the bicycle and the capability approach that explores if it resulted in functioning.

The commodity focused thinking is only concerned about a person having certain commodities; it is not concerned about the individual. But the capability approach focuses on the individual in order to know what functionings he can achieve with what he has. Therefore, in the capability approach, possession of commodities is important only for the purpose that they enable people to acquire functionings.

The conversion of commodity into functioning – doings and beings – is influenced by three types of conversion factors. First, personal factors (eg, health condition, sex, level of intelligence etc) influence how a person converts the available commodity into functioning. Disabilities drastically hinder this conversion. Second, social factors (social norms, gender bias, discriminations, etc) and environmental factors (climate, infrastructure, institutions, public services, etc) also play a role in conversion of the availability of commodity into individual functionings. Therefore, knowing that a person owns a commodity is not enough to know if the functioning is achieved. We need to know both about the person and the circumstances in which he lives.

More importantly, the capability approach does not consider the functionings that a person has achieved as the ultimate measure of success. It is concerned with his real freedom or opportunity that enables him to implement the functioning.

Capabilities

The functionings achieved  by a person may not be sufficient in determining a person’s overall quality of life or well-being. For this we need to know, the person’s “capability,” the functionings that the person could achieve. Hence, the concept of capability is closely related to the idea of opportunity, freedom, or advantage.

For instance, consider this statement – Harry did not go to Chicago and instead remained in Singapore. In the capability perspective, what we need to know is this: whether he got the visa and could have gone to Chicago but chose not to, or he did not have the money to go to Chicago, or if he was denied a visa to get to the United States. Therefore, extra insights emerge the moment we put on the goggles of the capability approach. Therefore, availability of options and choices are embedded in the idea of capability, that’s why capability goes hand in hand with the idea of opportunity and freedom.

Finally, it is important to note that in real life, two people with identical capability sets are likely to end up with different types and levels of achieved functionings, as they would make different choices from their available options. In philosophical terms, we could say that they have different ideas of good life – different desires and wishes on what kind of life they want to lead. The capability approach respects people’s own ideas of the good life, and this is why capability, and not achieved functioning is the appropriate goal. However, it is also clear that in real life, our ideas of the good life are profoundly moulded by our family, tribal, religious, community or cultural background.

Difference between Functioning and Capability

Let’s once again try to highlight the difference between functioning and capability.

Sen explains this by focusing on the difference between fasting and starvation. Consider a person who is a victim of famine in Ethiopia, and another who is sitting on hunger strike to protest against the US invasion of Iraq. Although both persons lack the functioning of being well-nourished, but what distinguishes them is the ‘freedom.’  The protester on hunger strike has the capability to eat – achieve this functioning – which the Ethiopian person lacks. Remember the concept of capability: the functionings that a person could achieve.

Impact of the Capability Approach

Capability theory provided the foundation for human development indexUnder the lens of the capability approach, policies are evaluated according to their impact on people’s capabilities. For instance, it asks whether people are being healthy, and whether the resources necessary for this capability – such as clean water, access to medical doctors, protection from infections and diseases, and basic knowledge on health issues – are present. It asks whether people are well-nourished, and whether the enabling requirements for this capability – such as sufficient food supplies and food entitlements – are met. It asks whether people have access to a high quality education, to real political participation, to community activities which support them to cope with daily struggles of life, to spiritual activities like Yoga that give them peace of mind. Such questioning never comes up in the commodity or consumption approaches.

For some of these capabilities, the main input will be financial and material goods, but for others people may have to count on social or cultural practices, religion or political participation, public facilities, social institutions, social structures, political practices that guarantee and protect the freedom of expression and so on.  The capability approach thus covers all probable factors that may have bearing on human wellbeing. Therefore, in the capability approach much attention is paid not only to the links between the economic, social, political and cultural dimensions of life but it also considers the dimensions of mental, spiritual and social well-being.

The capabilities approach has been used in the contexts of poverty measurement, gender issues, political freedom, and standard of living assessment. The most important attempt to make the approach operational was the creation of the Human Development Reports by the United Nations and the construction of the Human Development Index (HDI). The way countries rank in terms of development when measured by the HDI tends to differ, in some cases widely so, from those rankings based solely on income per capita.

Top Quotes of Amartya Sen in the video

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British East India Company: Rise and Fall Of a Rogue Corporation

The rise and fall the British East India Company (1600-1858) is the story of what happens when business greed weds political power. The EIC turned ruthless plunderer after its first territorial control in Bengal in 1757 and was behaving like a savage until its fate was sealed by the 1857 rebellion. Its sudden demise in 1858 was a befitting karmic justice, although it formally died in 1874. Today’s global multinational corporations are no different, but good that they don’t keep private armies now!

Overview

Colonial British not only plundered India, but also destroyed its culture systematicallyWhen someone talks about the British conquering India, it gives the erroneous impression that the British government sent its military to occupy India and colonized it. However, the reality is far more unusual. It was a company of greedy British merchants that took first territorial control in India, in the Bengal province in 1757. And in less than fifty years it had stamped its authority on the Mughal king sitting in Delhi. By 1857, the company’s territories expanded to include what was the entire spread of the Mughal Empire in its heyday. Along the way, the British government steadily tightened its grip on the Company through changes the Company Charter and finally used the uprising of 1857 as an excuse to bring India under the control of the British parliament. However, the purpose of occupation remained the same – plunder of India to enrich Britain which continued until the British left India in 1947.

Despite centuries of Islamic oppression, India was still a prosperous society by western standards and contributed 25% towards global GDP. The image on the left above tells  what was reported in the British parliament in 1835; it also shows the wicked English thinking.

Founding of the British East India Company

East India Company arrived in 1608 at Surat coast.Throughout its life the East India Company (EIC) justified the fact that its birth in 1600 resulted from the nexus of business, state and church. In September 1599, a group of 80 merchants petitioned Queen Elizabeth I to start a company.  It was born next year as the ‘The Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies’ when Queen issued a royal Charter, giving them a monopoly for 15 years over “trade to the East”.  So, it did not come up as the usual family partnership, the norm in those days – but as a joint-stock company that could issue tradable shares in the open market to other investors. Such mechanism is capable of realizing much larger amounts of capital. The Charter also gave the company the right “to wage war” where necessary, although it did not mention anything about holding territories overseas. The Company was also informally called Honorable East India Company (HEIC) or often John Company. Later in 1708, it merged with another company to officially become the United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies. [read more about it later]

Several European companies were trading to the East IndiesEven at birth the EIC had 125 shareholders and a capital of 72,000 pounds. It was a huge sum for a rather poor country like England in those days. The Company was owned entirely by the shareholders and managed by a governor with a board of 24 directors. Being a dividend paying company, maximizing profits for its shareholders was its chief motive. Thus, it is not surprising if the Company officials turned into ruthless plunderers after gaining territories in India.

The money-power relation has always worked the same way. Even today, we see the corporate-government nexus working to maximize corporate profits around the world. More often than not, even when there is functioning electoral democracy, it is the interests of the mega corporations that shape government decisions. Public uprising is perhaps the only way to tame and shame such companies, as was shown in the events of 1857 in India.

Nevertheless, the EIC impacted several historical events such as the Boston Tea Party (1773) and the Opium Wars (1839-1860).

Two Phases of the Company

The East India Company’s period in India between 1612 and 1858 can be conventionally divided into two historical periods.

  • During 1612–1757, the East India Company acted as pure trader and to facilitate its operations set up townships in several locations in coastal India with the consent and implied non-interference of native rulers. Its rivals were the trading companies of Holland and France. By the mid-18th century, the EIC had set up three “Presidency towns”: Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta.
  • During, 1757–1858, the Company steadily acquired control over almost all of Mughal India. However, the Company also increasingly came under British Crown’s oversight while gradually losing its mercantile privileges.

European Trade with East Indies

Europeans had been trading with the East Indies societies for centuries and spice trade was an important part of commerce. For the traders of the time, East Indies generally meant the region in the East direction including India, China, South Asia and East Asia. European traders knew of the riches of East Indies societies and wanted additional routes of access than the existing land routes (Silk Road and others) that were dangerous and expensive. That significantly raised the cost of items from the Eastern lands. However, until 15th century, those were only the known routes and were controlled first by the Arabs and later by the Turks.

vasco-da-gama-routeHowever, in 1498 the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama found the sea way going in the East direction and became the first European to reach India by sea. He landed in Calicut on 20 May 1498.  Discovery of the sea route meant that European merchants could bypass the hostile land route and trade directly with the East Indies via the sea way. Trading through this new and cheaper route boosted the economy of the Portuguese Empire. It gave Portugal a commercial monopoly on commodities from the East for several decades. It would be a century later before other European powers were able to challenge Portugal’s monopoly and naval supremacy.

India – A ‘Colony of Exploitation’; not of Settlement

First passenger train ran in India between Bombay and Thane in 1853If the imperial British could not impose the myth of terra nullius (a Latin expression meaning “nobody’s land”) – as they did in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Cape, and the Caribbean – it was due to India’s large population and sophisticated social, political and economic structures. As a result, the EIC could not achieve the absolute level of control over the resources of land and labor. Therefore, for the British India was a ‘colony of exploitation’, rather than one of settlement. India’s value lay primarily in the profits that could be made by controlling its internal markets and international trade, manipulating farm production and, above all, collecting tax revenue. Therefore, they had enough to plunder in India to cover the cost of all their military and administrative expenses and yet enrich Britain, but did not ultimately settle in India.

1608 – Arrival of EIC in India & Its Expansion

First EIC ship arrived at Surat in 1608The British traders entered quite late into trade with the East Indies. When its started, the Portuguese and the Dutch were well established in this region. The first Company ship ‘Hector’ arrived in India at Surat in 1608; it was Company’s 4th voyage. It was an era of multinational competition. They defeated the Portuguese in a maritime battle in 1612. In 1615, Sir Thomas Roe met the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir (1605-1627) as emissary of King James I and gained the right to establish a factory at Surat. In return, the Company offered to provide choicest goods to the Emperor. The Mughal court possessed a wealth and magnificence to overshadow anything that Europe had seen at the time, and India’s natural produce and its artisans was coveted all over the world.

The original object of the EIC was to break the Dutch monopoly of the spice trade in the East Indies. But in 1623, the British traders were massacred at Amboina in Indonesia by the Dutch; thus, conceding defeat they decided to concentrate on India.

It 1639 the Company established its first permanent base in Madras. Next it settled in Bombay in 1668 and then in Calcutta in 1690. These three settlements intended as trading outposts where merchants could warehouse imported and exported goods.

In 1717, the Company bribed a weak and short-lived Mughal Emperor to give them a farman in Bengal—a decree that gave the Company the rights to trade duty free in return for a small annual fee to the Mughal court. This made it impossible for other European powers to compete with the British there. This privilege was also resented by the local Bengali rulers because it deprived them their revenue share and because it was granted by a distant and powerless Mughal ruler sitting in Delhi with barely any authority in the province. Despite persistent protests from the local nawab, the British increased their trading presence in Bengal. It made military clashes eminent.

An important event took place in the Battle of Madras in 1746 where the French soldiers came equipped with rapid firing guns. It puzzled the local Nawab and he soon retreated despite a much bigger army. This was the first battle in South Asia in which European weapons proved dramatically decisive. In future, superior military technology would play decisive role in the British expansion. By around mid 1700s, the combined military strength of Britain and France had surpassed the Mughal Empire.

By the 1740s rivalry between the British and the French was becoming acute. The French had made a base in Pondicherry, less than 100 miles from Madras.  However, in the 7-year war between 1756 and 1763, the EIC effectively stumped out the French threat. This laid the foundation for Colonial monopoly of East India Company in India.

The EIC retained Monopoly by Bribing the Government

EIC's monopolistic policies made it agent of British ImperialismA new public discourse emerged towards the end of 17th century: “that all British subjects had an equal right to trade to the East Indies unless prohibited by act of Parliament.” Thus, a group of wealthy merchants, not associated with EIC, was allowed to form a company – a rival of EIC. However, it could hardly stay in business and had to be merged with the EIC in 1708. In the coming decades, the EIC did everything it could to keep off attempts of Parliament control on it, given the immense profit potential in the East Indies. Thus, it paid the government an extra amount of interest-free £1,200,000 in exchange of renewal of charter until 1726. Then again it contributed liberally for renewal until 1766. Then yet again it loaned liberally to secure the charter until 1783.

In brief, the EIC repeatedly bribed the government to maintain its monopoly of trading in the East Indies.

First Territorial Control – the Battle of Plassey, 1757

A key factor that helped the British occupation of India was that the Mughal Empire was declining after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 and India was a fragmented country without a controlling central authority. Many local rulers started acting independently and often clashed for dominance. In such an environment they all noticed emergence of British military power which gained further importance after the Persian Nadir Shah defeated Mughal ruler in 1739 and plundered Delhi and emptied the treasury. Some rulers came forward to forge formal alliance with the British and others were forced to accept British authority. In 1740, the Nawab of Bengal became practically independent of Delhi. His death in 1756 his grandson Siraj ud daula became the Nawab of Bengal.

Defeat of Nawab of Bengal gave first territorial control to the CompanyNawab, Siraj ud daula was irked by the British who had built Fort William in Calcutta without his permission. He decided to challenge the increasing power of the British. So, in 1756, Siraj attacked the British Fort with an army of 30,000. Around one thousand British settlers evacuated, along with the military commanders, leaving around one hundred men behind. Nawab’s soldiers easily conquered the fort and locked remaining British men into a small basement. It resulted in deaths of most prisoners but around 20 survived. The incidence was reported by a survivor in a highly horrifying manner. It created a stir in Britain and the angered public demanded recapture of the Fort.

Loss of Calcutta meant a serious financial setback for the Company promoters because the province of Bengal was the most advanced industrial (textile) region in India. In 1750, on the strength of Bengal India accounted for 25% of world economic production contrasted to England’s 1.9%. Indian textiles had penetrated so fully in the British society that Indian names – such as bandana, calico, taffeta, and chintz – had entered into English language. Moreover, apart from textile manufacturing, the fertile soils of the Ganges River Basin in Bengal assured outstanding agricultural production.

Robert Clive started the British Empire after battles in 1757 and 1764British troops led by Robert Clive were depatched from Madras. They quickly retook the Fort William. But few months later in 1757, the Bengal Nawab returned with a large army, along with offer of military support from the French. He met the British at Plassey. Clive indulged in treachery and bribery. He made a secret pact with Nawab’s closest aide, Mir Zafar, who agreed to betray Siraj ud daula during battle and, in return, he would be made the Nawab. What followed was a sham battle and sensing betrayal Siraj fled. Mir Jafar kept his promise and Clive fulfilled his side of the bargain. Siraj was soon found and killed. Clive immediately plundered the Siraj’s treasury, leaving the new Nawab, Mir Jafar, with nothing.

Thus, the Company transformed itself from being traders to rulers in Bengal. This marked the beginning of British rule in India and the credit goes to the neurotic trickster Clive. In 1764-65, the Company won another important battle at Buxar after which the exiled Mughal Emperor Shah Alam had to sign a decree authorizing the Company to collect revenue in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Shah Alam became a pensioner of the Company and the Nawab of Awadh became their ally.

These two battles made the East India Company the tax collector of 10 million Bengalis. It came to possess a vast stretch of territory that included parts of current states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. All Frenchmen were expelled from Bengal. Within a few years, Bengal would account for 50% of all Company trade, but Clive wanted more.

Bengal and Bihar came under the dual system of administration initiated by Robert Clive whereby the Company exercised Diwani rights (control over revenue and finances) while Nizamat (general administration and policing etc) rested with the puppet Nawabs. This system not only created confusion but also angered the public that was exploited by both the Company and the nawabs.

Pillage of Bengal – Ruthless Corporate Greed

in 1600, India accounted for 25% of global GDPNow the tax revenues passed to the Company.  Clive got his pound of flesh from the Nawab in terms of 234,000 pounds and was awarded an annual salary of 30,000 pounds per year. He also took a Jagir (an endowment of tax revenue for life) for himself, at the age of 33. This made him one of the richest Britons in the world. Needless to say, hefty revenue from Bengal also greatly increased the military might of the Company.

With around 2 million pound annual revenue surplus (an incredible sum in 1760), the Company shares prices skyrocketed making the shareholders ecstatic. If the Hindi word ‘loot’ for booty became a part of English vocabulary it only pointed to what the Company was doing in India.  Everyone from the lowest rank soldier to the general could expect to become rich should he survive a war in India.

From its power base in northeast India, the Company expanded its territory quickly by playing local Indian princes and nawabs off each other. The Company replicated the model in Bengal elsewhere, creating compliant puppet rulers so that it could rule territory efficiently and inexpensively. Throughout India, the Company used the name and authority of the decaying Mughal Empire for political cover. The Company emulated the Mughal revenue system by relying on local rulers to collect taxes.

Now that taxing Indians was giving them money they stopped using silver from England to pay for the trade. Bengal became the imperial “golden goose” for the conquerors. The first years of EIC rule were notorious for their corruption and profiteering – often described as ‘rape of Bengal’. Individual nabobs (as EIC employers were derisively dubbed) amassed massive personal fortunes.

Capture of Bengal meant nightmare for BengalisFor Bengalis the Company control was a total disaster. The most productive region in India was quickly reduced to poverty. Primarily due to their savagery, the Bengal famine of 1769-70 killed several million Indians – about a third of the provincial population.  Rather than taking steps to curb starvation the Company actually raised land taxes and reduced wages. It never slackened its tax collection efforts and encouraged growing non-food crops (including opium) in place of the desperately needed rice.

Some Company officials even made fortunes exploiting people’s hardships; they hoarded food grains and sold at exorbitant prices – typical mentality of greedy and immoral traders. The Company officials even boasted that they had increased revenues even during the famine! Such was the barbarism of the foreigners who came posing as ‘developed’ and ‘civilized’ humans. An old Mughal official in Bengal wrote in his diaries: “Indians were tortured to disclose their treasure; cities, towns and villages ransacked; jaghires and provinces robbed: these were the ‘delights’ and ‘religions’ of the directors and their servants.

Company rule also ruined the local industry and manufacturing of high quality goods. It only allowed export of low-value raw materials, such as raw cotton, opium, indigo, and tea and flooded the market with British products.  Its prosperous weavers and artisans were coerced “like slaves” by their new masters. Taking advantage of its monopoly on trade, the Company forced weavers to accept extremely low wages and the textile industry declined. By the middle of the 19th century, the Company had effectively de-industrialized Bengal.  However, corruption was so wide spread that the Company was at the brink of financial bankruptcy in the early 1770s. In August 1772, the East India Company applied for a loan of One Million Pounds to the British government.

It must be underlined that until 1772, EIC’s policies were influenced by shareholder’s meetings, where votes could be bought by the purchase of Company shares. This led to government intervention through the 1773 Act. Then, in future it gradually lost both its commercial and political control and in 1834 it became merely a managing agency for the British government of India.

The Regulating Act of 1773 Clipped Wings of EIC

Robert Clive was notorious for corruptionIt must be the corporate jealousy that back in England, there were people who were suspicious of the meteoric rise of the Company. In 1772, the British parliament was forced to investigate Company’s finances and the how it assumed the role of ruler when the mandate was for trading. Now it came out in open that the Company servants had become extremely corrupt and many of them had retired in Britain with heaps of wealth and lived like Indian Nawabs (often mocked as ‘English Nabobs’). It also came to light that many servants including Clive had even received Jagirs. Clive put on a cocky defense and despite winning a knighthood and a seat in the House of Lords, he remained a villainish figure embittered by the public recriminations. Finally, unable to face illness and opium addiction he committed suicide in 1774. It was a befitting karmic justice for the unthinkable suffering he caused to countless innocent people.

Anyway, Parliament put restrictions on the Company and assumed some supervisory role through the Regulating Act of 1773. Prime Minister North’s government began moves towards government control because keeping India under the belt was of national importance. This was the first step to the eventual Crown control of India that happened in 1858. Naturally, shareholders in the Company opposed the Act. The EIC was still a powerful lobbying group in Parliament despite its financial problems. The Company was annually paying 4 lakh pounds (around 46 million pounds in today’s equivalent) to the government to maintain the monopoly but had been unable to meet its commitments since 1768.

This regulating Act prohibited Company servants from receiving gift, rewards or bribes from Indians. It laid the foundation for a centralized administration in India by bringing presidencies of Madras and Mumbai under Bengal. The Governor of Bengal became the Governor General of Bengal with an executive council of 4 to assist him. Thus, Warren Hastings became the first Governor General. It also established a supreme court at Fort Williams in Calcutta where British Judges would administer the British legal system.

In a further blow to the Bengali textile industry, the regulations also included a 80% tax on imported Indian cotton to protect the incipient British textile industry. Bengali textile exports slowed and opium soon became the main export (illegally traded to China). Even with the new regulations, the East India Company continued to expand in India.

The importance of India for the British government can be seen from the fact that the William Pitt’s India Act of 1784 established government authority over political policy making by requiring approval from a Parliament regulatory board.

Quick Expansion of EIC

EIC expanded fastThe journey from Calcutta in 1757 to Delhi in 1803 was truly stupendous from the colonizers’ perspective. In fact, within few years of Plassey, the multinational corporation had created an army of 20,000 locally recruited Indian sepoys to become an aggressive colonial power. And when it captured Delhi in 1803 from the Marathas it was owner of a huge army of 260,000 which was twice the size of the British army and was mightiest in Asia in terms fire power.  At this stage, it had also created a vast administrative network in India and was generating nearly half of Britain’s trade. And, all this was the result of the boardroom thinking in its London office!

Back in Europe, collapse of the Napoleon empire in 1812, further strengthened England in its colonial expansion. Despite an incomplete conquest, the Company ruled most of India by the early 1800s. They fought long and protracted wars against the Marathas and the ruler of Mysore, just as the Mughals had done. But they could only subdue the Sikhs in the Punjab, the last holdout, in 1848.

The Charter Act of 1813 – EIC loses Trade Monopoly

Rise of Napoleon after the french Revolution meant tough time for EnglandRise of Napoleon Bonaparte after the French revolution (1789-1799) had brought hard days to the English businessmen. His ‘Continental System in Europe’ prohibited the import of British goods into French allies in Europe. So, British traders were seeking entry into Asia by dissolving the monopoly of the EIC. They were also enthused by the Free Trade theory of Adam Smith that had become quite popular in those days. Thus, they were arguing that ending the monopoly of EIC in India would improve the growth of British commerce and industry.

Thus, through the Charter Act of 1813 Company’s monopoly of Indian trade was ended and other British merchants were allowed to trade in India, though under a strict license system. Then under the 1833 Charter Act, it lost its China monopoly also. Now it was turned into a mere administrative body for the British territories in India. The Act, for the first time, explicitly defined the constitutional position of British territories in India. It also turned India into a British colony and unified colonial administration under one control. It also asked the Company to set aside at least rupees one lakh for educating Indians under them.

The Act of 1833 permitted the Britishers to settle freely in India and allowed Christian missionaries to operate in India and appointed Bishops for the British India. However, Indians saw it as ‘loot’ of another kind, a religious plunder of Indian society. In fact, in 1835 Macaulay introduced English education system aiming to completely destroy Indian society by destroying its traditional education system. His intent is shown in the video below:

Increasing Mistrust of the British

Lakshmi Bai was a notable freedom fighter in 1857Missionaries’ deceptive conversion gimmicks alienated Indians, although many fell into their trap. Most became suspicious that the British government was trying to Anglicize India. The policy of taxing lands belonging to Temples and Mosques also supported their fear.

With most of the country under their control and lording over 200 million people, the British now became increasingly ruthless in their manipulatory tricks in order to seize those few states that remained even notionally independent. Their exploitative policies like the Doctrine of Lapse and direst annexation that had dislodged a large number of rulers. For instance, Rani Lakshmi Bai’s adopted son was not permitted to sit on the throne of Jhansi. Rulers of Satara and Nagpur also met similar fates.  Jaitpur, Sambalpur and Udaipur were also annexed. Thus, most rulers were living in apprehension and fear. Annexation of Awadh had left thousands jobless and made the State a hotbed of discontent.

Heavy taxation and the harsh methods employed to collect revenue were resented everywhere. It was creating poverty and landlessness when people were unable to pay loans taken from money lenders. Large numbers of sepoys were drawn from the peasantry; they were also affected by it.

British policies completely destroyed the traditional economic structure and they were dumping British manufactured goods in India, ruining local industry. Indians were reduced to mere suppliers of raw materials for British industries and consumers of British goods. The famine in the Agra region (1837-38) was met by their typical ‘look the other way approach’ and let people die.

Britishers’ conduct was openly racist and Indian soldiers were treated poorly and paid less. They were required to serve in faraway places and in 1856 an Act was passed so that they could be even send to outside Indian borders. Changes in the Army structure had reduced the pay and promotion opportunities of Indian soldiers. There was significant alienation of the natives while the Company lords enjoyed cocky isolation.

All these policies had left people in deep anger. Now the stage was set for revolution.

The First War of Independence, 1857

Mangal Pandey became the first martyr in 1857 rebellionThe uprising of 1857 was an expression of spontaneous anger against the colonial exploitation that had been simmering in the masses for a long time. Only a spark was needed to ignite the fire. The spark came in the form of greased cartridges given to soldiers for their rifles. A rumor spread that the cartridges of the new Enfield rifles were greased with the fat of cows and pigs. Before loading them in the rifles the sepoys had to bite off the cover on the cartridges. Both Hindu and Muslim sepoys not only refused to use them for religious reasons but they felt highly offended. The first soldier to protest was Mangal Pandey; he was hanged within weeks.

Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Burma where he died in 1862On April 25, 1857, 85 soldiers in Meerut refused to use the cartridges but they were put in jail. Indian soldiers killed their British officer and freed their colleagues and marched to Delhi where they were joined by more soldiers. They seized Delhi and declared the Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar the Emperor of Hindustan. The British recaptured Delhi few months later in September and deported the old king to Rangoon where he died in 1862. His sons were shot dead, ending the Mughal dynasty. But the rebellion had spread to several areas and the violence continued for over one year. Lord Canning declared peace on July 8, 1858.

This rebellion of Indian soldiers can be easily called the first war of India’s independence. It truly shook the foundation of the British rule and gave the worst nightmare to the rulers who were living in hallucination of being invincible. It gave a ‘death blow’ to the mighty Company and ended whatever was left of the Mughal rule in Delhi. The British government took over Company’s armed forces, territories and possessions through the Government of India Act of 1958. Thus began the period of high imperialism in India – the British Raj.

The British government abolished the Doctrine of Lapse and started involving Indians in administration.  They continued to rule for another nine decades year until 1947, but the relationship between rulers and ruled had changed forever.

The East India Company continued its paper existence for another 17 years.  It was finally dissolved on 1 June 1874, through the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act, and its shareholders received compensation from Parliament.

You may also like to explore:

Indian Freedom Struggle: From 1857 to 1947

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Alarming Fall In Groundwater Levels In India

With declining recharge rates and sharply increasing extraction pace, the groundwater situation needs urgent attention and demands a change in irrigation and cropping methods.

Overview

GroundwaterGroundwater is the water that seeps through rocks and soil and is stored below the ground.  The rocks in which ground water is stored are called aquifers.  Aquifers are typically made up of gravel, sand, sandstone or limestone.

Question: What is the most extracted natural resource in the world?  Answer: Groundwater!

Yes, planet earth gives us this invisible asset that sustains a range of human activities. Blinded by Western development model of perennial GDP growth humanity is busy plundering even this resource. And foolishly take its availability for granted without bothering to know how the groundwater reservoirs replenish themselves. It may be surprising for many people to know that India is the world’s largest user of groundwater, oblivious to the fact that since the 1980s the groundwater tables have been continuously dropping.

India annually extracts around 251 cubic kilometer groundwater which is 25% of the total global annual extraction and 26 times the water stored in the Bhakra Dam.  In comparison, together China and the US extract just 112 cu km. Clearly, India’s water resource planning is very bad and farmers find it easy to use groundwater without much attention to which crops to grow. Ninety percent of the groundwater extracted is used for irrigation that covers 60 percent of the total irrigated area.

According to the 2016 Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) report, in the year ending January 2016 barely 3% well structures registered a rise in water level more than 4 metres, 35% showed lesser rise and 64% wells showed decline in water level. It is an alarming finding. The replenishment takes place through rainfall, back flows from irrigation and seepage from canals, other water bodies and conservation structures.

If the situation continues as it is, we are steadily inching towards catastrophe. Water, in any way, is going to be the reason for future troubles and conflicts in ways more than one. As climate change is altering the monsoon pattern, the stress on groundwater resources is likely to increase.

India’s groundwater use was just about 7 cubic kilometer in 1940; it went up to around 270 cubic kilometer at the millennium end. Since 1950, the total share of groundwater in irrigation has nearly doubled.  The groundwater extraction rose sharply during the late 70s and 80s. People connect it with the Green Revolution during which two things happened: one, building of large dams by governments and two, small and marginal farmers bored wells everywhere. Thus, today livelihood of 26 crore farmers and agricultural laborers crucially revolves around groundwater.

In response to the drought of 1972, drilling technology and hand pumps were introduced in India. As a result, by now there are around 30 million groundwater structures in India that are replenished by around 3 million perennial springs in the country, but very little is done to preserve them.

The over-exploitation of groundwater has created a series of problems, particularly in the agriculture-intensive belts across India. The situation is becoming particularly acute in the Northwest, where the groundwater levels have plunged from 8m to 16m below ground.  As the levels fall, rising pumping costs ultimately makes extraction uneconomical; small formers and labourers get directly impacted. The average farmer in Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana faces the prospect of having no groundwater left for irrigation by 2025.

Groundwater scenario in Punjab – the champion of Green Revolution, shows a heavy deficit that would take up to 30 years only to restore to normal levels. In comparison, the poorer Odisha still has healthier groundwater tables, but there is talk of taking Green Revolution to the Eastern India that would make things worse.

Ground Water Availability  

Groundwater level map of IndiaThe map shows that ground water level has significantly reduced in the north- western region of the country.  There are other pockets across the country where the water level is below more than 10 metres, when sophisticated equipment is needed for extraction.

As of April 2015, the annual water availability of the country in terms of natural runoff (flow) in the rivers was about 1,869 billion cubic meter (BCM)/year. However, the usable portion was estimated as 1,123 BCM/year because of the constraints of topography and uneven distribution of the resource in various river basins.  Of this, the share of surface water was 690 BCM/year and groundwater was 433 BCM/year. Around 35 BCM of ground water is lost to natural discharge – as seepage to water bodies or oceans in coastal areas and as transpiration by plants whose roots extend up to the water table. So the net annual groundwater availability for the entire country was 398 BCM.

The overall contribution of rainfall to the country’s annual groundwater resource is 68% and the rest comes from other resources, such as canal seepage, return flow from irrigation, recharge from tanks, ponds and water conservation structures etc. Given the increasing population, India’s per capita annual availability of water reduced by 15% from 1,816 cubic metre in 2001 to 1,544 cubic metre in 2011.

Ground Water Development

groundwater developmentGround water development is a ratio of the annual ground water extraction to the net annual ground water availability.  It indicates the quantity of ground water available for use. 0-70% is considered safe, 70-90% is semi-critical, 90-100% is critical, and over 100% is considered over-exploited. The table here gives the level of ground water development in different states over the past two decades.

In the states of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, the annual ground water consumption is more than annual ground water recharge.  In the states of Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh and the Union Territory of Puducherry, the level of ground water development is 70% or above. Over the years, usage of ground water has increased in areas where the resource was readily available.  This has resulted in an increase in overall ground water development from 58% in 2004 to 62% in 2011, as illustrated in Figure 3.

Groundwater Use Pattern

As mentioned earlier, the availability of surface water (690 BCM/year) is greater than groundwater (433 BCM/year). However, groundwater, being available almost everywhere through bore wells, is easily accessible and thus, forms the largest share of agriculture and drinking water supply. Of the extracted groundwater around 89% is used in the irrigation sector, 9% is used for the domestic purposes and the remainder 2% goes into industrial use. Groundwater also fulfils 50% of urban water requirements and 85% of rural domestic water requirements.

Irrigation Through Groundwater 

groundwater use patternMajor means of irrigation in the country are canals, tanks and wells, including tube-wells.  Of all these sources, groundwater contributes the largest share. Wells – dug wells, shallow tube-wells and deep tube wells – provide about 62% of water for irrigation, followed by canals with around 25%.

Over the years, there has been a steady rise in the groundwater utilisation for irrigation while other sources remained stagnated in the volume terms. As can be seen from the image above, the tube-well share has increased exponentially. There is a clear correlation in rise in groundwater use with the onset of the Green Revolution that demanded intensive use of inputs like water and fertilizers to boost crop production. Incentives such as credit for irrigation equipment and subsidies for electricity supply have further worsened the situation.  Low power tariffs have led to excessive and wasteful water usage, leading to a sharp fall in water tables.

Groundwater Contamination

groundwater contaminantionTable here shows the number of states and districts affected by geogenic contaminants as on July 2014.

Ground water is considered contaminated when certain pollutants are present in excess of the limits prescribed for drinking water. The commonly observed contaminants include arsenic, fluoride, nitrate and iron, which are geogenic in nature. Geogenic contaminants are those that occur as a result of geological processes happening within the earth’s crust. Besides, there are other contaminants such as bacteria, phosphates and heavy metals resulting from human activities – from domestic sewage, agricultural practices and industrial effluents. The sources of contamination include pollution by landfills, septic tanks, leaky underground gas tanks, and from overuse of fertilizers and pesticides.  It has been pointed out that nearly 60% of all districts in the country have issues related to either availability of ground water, or quality of ground water, or both.

Government studies have revealed high arsenic content in groundwater of 68 districts in 10 states – Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Assam, Manipur and Karnataka.

Some Key Issues

There are some vital issues related to the groundwater usage; for instance

Estimation of Groundwater Resources

A clearer picture of the state of aquifers in India will be greatly useful in managing the groundwater resources of the country. The current assessment methodology relied on observation of just around 15000 wells and then extrapolating to guess the status of around 30 million groundwater structures; it is neither accurate nor representative. There is a need for more extensive information gathering and shift from development to management of water resources.

Agricultural Crop Pricing and Water Intensive Crops

water use in cropsSince the 80s, roughly 84% of the total addition to the net irrigated area has come through groundwater, agriculture sector being the prime driver. Decisions of cropping intensity and pattern are taken largely independent of the status of groundwater availability in most areas. Another factor was pin pointed by the High-Level Committee on restructuring of the Food Corporation of India in 2014, chaired by Mr. Shanta Kumar. It found that although Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) are currently announced for 23 crops, the effective price support is for wheat and rice.  This creates highly skewed incentive structures in favour of wheat and paddy, which are water intensive crops and depend heavily on ground water for their growth.  Additionally, Indian agriculture is highly water inefficient. The table here above the average amount of water (in cubic meters/tonne) needed to grow different crops in different countries.  As can be seen, India irrigation system is highly wasteful; it uses almost twice the amount of water to grow crops as compared to China and United States.

The Committee also suggested that cropping pattern needed to be diversified by providing better price support for pulses and oilseeds.  This would also incentivize the production of these food grains. For reducing dependence of agriculture on groundwater, other experts have suggested the use of demand management measures in agriculture. For example,

  • Dry-season crop planning for specific areas depending upon the aquifer type, monsoonal rainfall and groundwater table level. This would include some shift towards higher-value and less-water consuming crops.
  • Adoption of modern efficient irrigation technologies such as drip and sprinkler systems.
  • Controlling groundwater extraction through regulatory measures such as restricting the depth of irrigation water wells, establishing and enforcing minimum spacing between irrigations.

Energy Subsidies and Groundwater Extraction

The practice of providing power subsidies for agriculture has played a major role in reckless use and over extraction of groundwater in India.  Moreover, electricity supply is not metered and a flat tariff is charged depending on the horsepower of the pump. So some kind of regulation on the use of electricity is needed to avoid wastage of groundwater. Separate electric feeders for pumping ground water for agricultural use could address the issue.

The state of Gujarat solved this problem through its ‘Jyotigram’ scheme which was launched during 2003-2006 by investing 1450 crore rupees. It involved separation of agricultural electricity feeders from non-agricultural ones and establishing a tight regime for farm power rationing in the rural Gujarat.  By 2006, the state had covered almost all of its 18,000 villages under the scheme of rationalized power supply.  This led to two major benefits: (i) villages receive 24 hour three-phase power supply for domestic uses, in schools, hospitals, village industries, all subject to metered tariff, and (ii) tube-well owners receive eight hours/day of power of full voltage on a pre-announced schedule.

National River Linking Project

Government proposes to physically transfer 178 billion cubic meter water annual across river basins by building 12,500 km water canal network. The estimated cost of the proposal is massive: $120-billion. This is the largest such project in the world — aiming to expand irrigated agriculture by moving water from “water surplus” to “water deficit” basins. The first of the planned canals linking the Kaveri and Godavari rivers was completed on September 16, 2015.

Experts opine that merely transferring water would not solve the problem of falling water tables. It would need a simultaneous increase in the storage capacity to be effective. They also advise working on other plans to reduce stress on groundwater – such as promoting more efficient irrigation, growing less water-intensive crops in the dry season and moving away from water-intensive crops in areas where there is less water.

Conclusion

While government is paying a lot of attention to river cleaning (although nothing much has happened beyond sloganeering) it would be best if groundwater replenishment is coupled with this initiative. Further, MNREGA work can be directed towards strengthening the water bodies that play a crucial role in recharging groundwater reservoirs.

What is needed is action; the time for talk has already passed!

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India’s “Unity In Diversity” Is Unique In The World

India remains united in its diversityWhen the colonial British were leaving India after gifting Pakistan to Muslims, they were convinced that India, a conglomerate of 565 princely States, would never stay united as one nation for long; it would fragment into several pieces within few years. Most Western leaders held the same opinion. Clearly, the myriad diversity – lingual, cultural, traditional, and geographical – was beyond their rational comprehension shaped by the monotheist Christian philosophy that discourages diverse opinions. In fact, they had seen no prior example of such highly diversified society surviving anywhere in the world. But the history post-1947 suggests that they needed some extra learning to justify their ‘expert’ title, because the Indian ‘unity in diversity’ is still going strong at the age of 70!

Recent History of Fragmentation

Let’s look at the recent history of nation-state fragmentation around the world.

End of the First World War gave birth to several new nations – Finland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungry, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia etc.

The mono-cultural Islamic State of Pakistan could not stay intact even for a quarter century; in 1971 the East Pakistan wing became sovereign Bangladesh. It is currently battling to keep together the Balochs, Pakhtuns and Sindhis as Pakistani entities. Yet, Pakistan also runs a terror industry to produce Jihadis who want to break away Kashmir from India! The Muslim Middle East is highly divided and turbulent despite common faith, culture and traditions; it is weird to see Shia Iran standing aloof from rest of the Sunni states as if there are two separate Islams!  The Kurd’s are restless for a separate nation. The dream Caliphate of global jihadis, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born and gone already despite the hallucination of converting it into a global Caliphate!!

Europeans who lecture the world on democracy and liberalism can’t stay united as one “European Union” despite the common Christian cultural monorail. After Brexit many more nations are likely to leave the EU. In Spain, Catalonians are restless for a divorce. Between 1989 and 1992 Yugoslavia broke into seven pieces. In 1991, the USSR gave birth to 15 nations. Chechnyans are still demanding separation from Russia.

Creation of Israel in 1948 brought misery for the Palestinians. Very recently in 2011, Sudan broke into two pieces.

It is clear that ‘religions’ lack the force to keep united their own “believers” – they can only divide the humanity though!! Why is that so? That’s because they have degenerated to the level of rigid and life less ‘faiths’ and ‘beliefs.’

diversity 2In major democracies like the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Australia arrival of people from across the world has brought diversities over the decades. Now they are discovering new challenges of heterogeneity and multi-cultural social setup despite the romantic ideal of ‘secularism’ to accommodate different “faiths.” They have much to learn about managing diversities beyond their so-called “secularism.” Many people foolishly think that “secularism” unites people of different “faiths”; secularism is mere separation of religion and State.  It is utter ignorance to think that a Bible Believer will not have a discriminating mindset against say a Quran Believer because that discrimination is inherent in his “belief.” The same goes with the Quran believer.

‘Dharma’ is the Force that Unites Indian Diversities

Somnath Temple signifies the power of ConstructionStarting from 1000 AD, Mohammadan barbarians repeatedly plundered and destroyed the Somnath temple over several centuries; and it got built that many times! The looters  also repeatedly indulged in mass slaughter, slave taking and forced conversions. But Hindus never lost trust in power of goodness; this is the resilience coming from trust in Dharma!! Dharma does not live in temples, costumes or rituals; they are mere symbolic. It doesn’t live in the words of some special Book – ‘dharma’ lives in people’s understanding and conduct.  In the 14th century, philosopher Amir Khusro wrote that Gujarati Muslims (offspring of Hindus forced to accept Islam under threat) used to first visit the Somnath temple to pay their respect before departing for Hajj pilgrimage. These unfortunate ex-Hindus had retained the Dharma wisdom despite forced conversion into Islamic ‘faith’!

Most globe watchers wonder how India has managed to assimilate so much diverse forces into one national mainstream. If they really want to find out the unifying force behind Indian unity, they need to understand the essence of Indian culture which is ‘Dharma’. Dharma is the invisible glue that binds Indians into one civilization, despite the fissures created by foreign born faiths and religions.

On the contrary, religions fail as unifying force primarily because they try to erase the natural human diversity – by imposing a uniform mindset on all “believers.” They ignore the natural reality that no two people have the same fingerprints,  no two people can ever have the same mindset or the same thinking. Diversity or dissimilarity is built-in the humanity at the individual level – as a natural trait. It can’t be erased by inventing artificial god philosophies and forcing them on people. Additionally, religions are inherently divisive. Thus, today there are 73 different sects of Islam and 146 subdivisions of Christianity! If each of these cults has its own “truth” and “God” there must be 219 different “truths” and “Gods” which is plain nonsense!

In the past two millenniums, insane “believers” have killed more people in their so-called holy-crusades or holy-jihads than all other wars of the history combined. The history of Islamic expansion since the 7th century is nothing but a repetitive tale of human genocide and terror “in the glory of Allah.” For example, explore: 1000 Years of Islamic Jihad in India.

India is unique in the extent of diversityOn the contrary, recognition of this human diversity and its respect is an inherent part of Indian ethos which directly comes from its ancient Vedic philosophy that revolves around “Dharma” – the natural and universal truth. So, talking about dharma means dealing with nature’s order that applies on human beings.   Unfortunately, foreign languages have no equivalent words to convey the meaning of Dharma. Even in India misguided foreign educated left leaning people have wrongly translated Dharma into English language as “religion.” That’s absolutely absurd and misleading.

What is Dharma

For the lay people, the Vedic science deals with how the physical universe and life science are governed by nature’s laws.  If human life is led as per these laws life is good, meaningful and peaceful, and going against them automatically brings pain and suffering. For instance, you can’t hurt someone without hurting yourself in some way – it’s a nature’s law.  “Dharma” points to such natural order, the right ethics and adopting them in personal conduct. It is all about right human values and morality, and their practice in life. Thus, all India-born different philosophies of life like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc stress the right human conduct in their own ways. But they all translate into practice of non-violence, non-greed, and understanding the natural law of Karma which means doing good deeds bring good fruits in future and harming others invite pain and misery.

Indian ethos: The World is One Big familyThe highly profound Vedic literature and Upnishads resulted from the experience of countless Yogis and sages of the past; they were adept scientists exploring the inner world through meditational techniques. They discovered that everything is interconnected through some divine force that pervades everything and every being – this reality has been also often called God, although not necessary. Thus, Indians  respect all forms of life as well as nature’s gifts like rivers and mountains; and see humanity as one big family (vasudeva Kutumbakam) – respecting diversities. This knowledge permeates throughout India, right from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Meghalaya to Maharashtra.

In fact, in ancient times when the boundaries extended to most of East Asia and to Afghanistan and beyond in the West, the Western and Chinese travelers saw just “One India” everywhere, despite so much diversities. Even early Christians and Muslims, who had to escape their homeland to avoid religious persecution and found shelter on the Indian soil, merged among congenial Hindus effortlessly despite their foreign appearance and ‘faith’.

Indians practice such a lifestyle in various ways “regardless of their beliefs” – using their own wisdom, knowledge and rationality. They remain their own master, have full freedom to explore and are responsible for everything they do or don’t do. They don’t have to surrender to some specially invented god or his special son or messenger and then robotically indulge in some pre-specified set of “beliefs” and ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ given by unknown strangers.

Religion is just a fiction, create around a fictional god.For the programmed minds of Muslims and Christians such an unstructured and open art of living with absolute freedom of thinking and believing is certainly uncomfortable and confusing. But this is what human freedom is all about – taking responsibility to live without imposed alien ideas of others!!

Indian Christians and Muslims have the golden chance to re-board the Dharma expressway, from where their ancestors were forced out in the past centuries! Don’t let the ‘imposed foreign faith’ become the reason for ghettoization and isolation.

You may also like to explore:  World Needs More Dharma, Less Religion!

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Can Trump Really Wipe Out “Radical Islamic Terrorism”?

The only way to wipe out the menace of terrorism is to attack at the roots of the ideology which is nurtured in the Madarsas and propagated through the mosques. Merely killing terrorists is highly inefficient; the ideology must be also attacked simultaneously. 

Rise Of Global Terrorism

"War on Terror" can't be won by killing terrorists only. It must be simultaneously fought in MADARSAS where indoctrination happens.After climate change “radical Islamic terrorism”, as the US President Trump calls it, is the most serious global threat. If climate change is a purely ‘secular’ phenomena the menace of jihadi terrorism is purely ‘religious’ – a “terror God” is pleased whenever his ‘true believers’ kill innocent people or terrorize societies. However, both challenges do not recognize national or geographical boundaries – like flash-floods, landslides and earthquakes, the jihadis also strike suddenly anywhere. Although their global brand ambassador, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has lost territory in the Middle East its “virtual Islamic Caliphate” continues to thrive in the cyberspace – radicalizing and recruiting Muslims to eliminate all ‘infidels’ from the world. Thanks to its high-tech marketing propaganda on the internet and social media platforms, the glamour of jihadi terrorism has spread widely and penetrated deeply in the Muslim societies around the world. Now other jihad corporations are also perfecting the virtual skills for global jihad. Of around 7.6 billion global population, only about 1.6 billion are “believers.” The rest 6 billion are “infidels” who must be slaughtered or converted. It’s a a monumental undertaking for the global jihadis!

Walking on the footsteps of the ISIS is the Islamic State of Pakistan (ISP) in the South Asia – the biggest Islamic State in the world, with over 220 million potential jihadis. While the ISIS was born and gone just in few years the ISP has managed to survive , since its Islamic birth in 1947, despite the bifurcation in 1971. It has proudly created a highly flourishing world class “terror industry”; if corporations like the Haqqanis, Taliban, and Al Qaeda are global brand names there are dozens of other jihadi enterprises, each carrying on some ‘useful’ task for the mother nation.

Pak army and secret agency ISI not only look after all ‘raw-material’ as well as ‘human resource’ supplies, they also grooms them as ‘unofficial strategic assets’ to further Pak’s foreign policy objectives. The ISI runs numerous jihad factories inside the country but also actively nurtures terror units in other countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar, exploiting the Islamic connection. Now Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar are offering a great opportunity to Pakistan to propagate its jihad in the South Asian region, particularly against Hindu (kafir) dominated India. It has created several India focused jihadi outfits like JeM, LeT and HM for exploiting the Kashmir issue. So, the “holy warriors” routinely cross into Indian border, inject overdoses of painkillers into their veins and fight with Indian army till death to reach the kingdom of Allah where their Pakistani godfathers have promised to provide 72 virgins for sexual pleasure till eternity.

Pakistan’s ex-President, Pervez Musharraf, proudly declares on TV channels that he has very high regard for the globally wanted terrorist Hafiz Saeed – the mastermind of Mumbai terror attack of 2008.

Dream of Islamic Dominance!

Although the tradition of violence in the name of Islam is as old as Islam itself, the roots of the current spell of global jihadi terrorism can be traced back to the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1980s during the last decade of the cold war era. Using its close ally Pakistan, the US created an army of Afghan jihadis and pitted them against the communists. Reflecting the peculiarity of Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan Muslimun), around 20,000 Mujahideens also arrived from different parts of the world to join the jihad (“holy war”) to drive out the Communist “infidels” from Afghanistan. A big number came from the Middle East, including the rich Saudi national Osama bin Laden. They made it a typical Islam vs ‘infidel’ battle. Certainly, the Americans then could not imagine that this jihadi monster, like the Bhasmasur of Indian mythology, would one day turn against them and the whole humanity!

When the communists decided to end their decade long occupation of Afghanistan in 1989, the global jihadis like bin Laden went ecstatic. They projected it as yet another historic victory of Islamic jihad over the non-believers. They failed to realize they were merely used as pawns in the US cold war against the Russian communists. The communists withdrew for the same reason why colonial powers like Britain and France had to withdraw from their colonies at the end of second WW2 – it was no longer profitable to stay in Afghanistan. But what can one do if Jihadis want to stay under lifelong delusion and want to see it as victory of Islam! Did the communist grab Afghanistan to change their religion?

This ‘victory’ emboldened the hardcore jihadis like Osama bin Laden to prepare for a much “bigger jihad” – reflecting their deep-rooted Islamic dream of conquering the whole world. The deadly Hollywood style September 11, 2001 attack on the US soil was the first quantum leap forward – a display of their morbid hatred against the Western culture. Masterminded by Osama, it successfully demonstrated their capability to strike even the mightiest in the world. 15 out of 19 terrorists were from the Saudi Arabia – the motherland of the most suppressive version of Islam, Wahhabism that promotes radicalism and motivates terrorists to do what they do.

In retaliation, the US troops arrived in Afghanistan hunting Osama, and threw away the Pak backed Taliban government. But it took them 10 years to hunt down bin Laden in 2011 because he was living safely inside the radicalized Pakistan. However, even after 17 years of military presence, endless drone attacks and dropping the “mother of all bombs” they have failed to root out the jihadi hazard. On the contrary, jihadis appear to have grown stronger over the years, the credit for which again fully goes to Pakistan which is “religiously bound” to groom terrorism as an undeclared state policy – while posing off as the “biggest victim of terrorism” before the international community. It even wants the world to acknowledge its “high sacrifices” made in the global war or terror!!

Well, sanity is never the trait of jihadis or their sympathizers!

Pakistan Turns Into A Jihadi “Islamic State”

Soviets withdrawal from the Afghanistan did not just inflate the ego of the Al Qaeda masters  it also distorted the cocky brains of Pak generals and turned them rogue. Rather than dismantling the jihadi factories after the Soviet departure in 1989 they decided to divert the trained jihadis against its ‘eternal’ enemy India. Thus, Pakistan started infiltrating battle hardened jihadis into Kashmir.  Now it plans to equip them with high-tech weapons for night warfare and is training them to handle even chemical weapons. Winter months always posed problems for the Pak jihadis to cross into the Indian side, so now Pakistan is importing protective winter gears for the jihadis so that they can carry on their violence uninterrupted throughout the year.

For the Pakistanis, the 2002 Parliament attack and 2008 Mumbai terror attack are among the most precious victory trophies, in its holy jihad against the “infidel” Hindu India. Pak sponsored jihadi violence is a daily feature in Kashmir; kashmiris are paying the price for being Muslim.

On the flip side, Pak society is now badly infected with all types of jihadi viruses while the nation stands fully exposed internationally as the global hub of terrorism. World leaders are worried not only about Pakistan’s future stability as a country but also about its nuclear arsenal falling in the hands of jihadis. They are also highly concerned about Pak military pushing fundamentalists into the political mainstream.

However, the US President Trump has put Pakistan in a very tight spot by demanding that it eliminates terror groups from its soil because they are connected with groups launching terror attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan, of course, drags its feet pretending innocence! In the past, it was also ‘ignorant’ of Osama and several other top terrorists living in Pakistan!! Lying is an inherent cultural trait of Pak leaders; the world knows it all too well by now. As a result, the new US Afghan policy has dumped Pakistan despite its geographical prominence. Instead, the US wants India to play the dominant role in the development of Afghanistan and peace in the entire region.

Radicalization Through Social Media

What is the radicalization among Muslims? How many terrorists in the world?A peculiar angle has emerged with Jihadi violence in recent years due to increasing penetration of Internet and popularity of social media around the world. Now, for instance, global terror groups can use social media and net connectivity to radicalize Muslims (lone wolf tactic) in any country. They can even give online training in bomb making and various ways to create panic, disrupt societies and kill people. Social media is a great channel for brainwashing and radicalization through videos, chats and multimedia material. Thus, people around the world have to be constantly watchful – there is no way to know if the Hafiz Saeed, Assiduddin Owasi or Pervez Musharraf living next door is not a radicalized lone wolf waiting for his chance to attack them.

The global Muslim population is around 1.6 Billion. Imagine if just 0.1 percent of this population is radicalized. That’s staggering 1.6 million potential terrorists threatening humanity.

How To Fight The War “On Terror” More Effectively

Radical Muslims have ossified minds; can't change or reform.President Trump must evolve ways to plug online radicalization along with closing the sources of weapons and terror funding so that as the existing jihadis gets killed, no more crop up to replace them. But it would still not counter the ideology that creates terrorists at the first place.

President Trump’s two predecessors after the 2001 9/11 attack, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, did not see Jihadi terrorism on ideological lines. Republican Bush, however, was close in his description of jihadi terrorism as Islamic fascism of the terrorists who had perverted the ‘peaceful teachings of Islam.’ But he carried on his “War on Terror” as a “war against the evil” – not against the ideology.

His successor Barack Obama, wanting to be more politically correct, further distanced himself from the ideological reference and downgraded Bush’s “War on Terror” to a “fight” – a fight against specific terrorist groups. The phrase “terrorism has no religion” became fashionable among global leaders. He introduced drones to chase and kill terrorists in order to save American casualties. Americans felt relieved at this but he could not wipe out terrorism because as terrorists got killed many more were ready to replace them. The supply chain of fresh terrorists kept working, in fact more efficiently than ever. He failed to realize that the ideologically motivated jihadis are not like other underworld criminals who happen to be Muslims. Thus he only killed terrorists – and terrorism continued flourishing.

Republicans have long condemned Obama for failing to properly assess the threat. Trump and his team are more straightforward and quite close to calling a spade, a spade. Dumping the deception of ‘terrorism has no religion’ and the compulsion of ‘political correctness’ they chose to talk pointedly in terms of ‘radical Islamic terrorism’.

Interrogation of captured terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan also revealed that the top brains of terror outfits like the Al Qaeda and Taliban were genuine ideologues, adherents to the fundamentalist Salafi/Wahhabi strain of Islam. This ideology exploits the dual role of Mohammad – a social reformer saint and a political leader who fought wars. It solely focuses on the later and interprets Quranic verses out of context and in a totally distorted manner to glorify violence as a god given duty. In doing so, it entirely throws away the spiritual “essence” of Islam and turns it into a totalitarian political ideology.  It is not surprising that their ideology appears totally alien to even Muslims.

Yet, they have an ideology which must be countered through a well devised narrative. Muslim scholars can make significant contribution here. In fact, they should have prevented misuse of their religion in such as a gross way long time ago. But alone they are vulnerable because of the very real fear of being killed – killing dissenters has a long tradition in the Muslim societies. Thus, Muslim societies remain at the mercy of fundamentalists.

President Trump must collaborate with progressive Islamic elements such as scholars, intellectuals, and Muslim activists and create a vocal global entity that would counter and expose radical preachers and brainwashing experts who prepare the raw material for the terror industry. Saudi Prince’s recent desire to wipe out global terrorism gives some optimism. The Wahhabi scholars of his country can play a vital role in depoliticizing Islam by eliminating distorted interpretation of Quran. The following video shows where to attack for the most effective counter-terrorism strategy:

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FATF ‘Grey List’ Isn’t ‘Grey Enough’ For Pakistan!

A new act appears to be unfolding in the Pakistani theater of the absurdities but actually it is just a repeat show, not a new script.

FATF Watch List

fatf pak flagThe global paradise of terrorists has been put in a state of suspended animation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body established in 1989 aiming to set benchmarks to promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational mechanisms for countering money laundering, terror financing and other related threats that undermine the integrity of global financial system. The FATF maintains ‘grey’ and ‘black’ lists of countries with weaker systems to counter and combat money laundering and terror financing. However, the FATF does not have the authority or power to take any action against countries that don’t comply with the desired standards.

But getting listed on the FATF watch list has the potential to impact a country’s international transactions, because they come under greater scrutiny. Being in the ‘grey list’ means that Pakistan would find it tougher to access funds from the international markets. It was removed from the grey list in 2015 after being there for three years but its inaction pulled it back in. Now if Pakistan does not prepare a comprehensive action plan to eradicate terrorist financing by June and convince the FATF about its effective implementation it would find itself promoted to the ‘black’ list of willful violators! That would mean almost total isolation from the global financial world.

Pakistan – A Global Liability

fatf pak-1The manner in which Pakistan was re-inducted in the ‘list of shame’ reinforces the fact that the world community sees Pakistan as an avoidable liability rather than a reliable and responsible ally for a peaceful global order.  In the first discussion in the Paris meeting  China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia (representing the Gulf Cooperation Council, as it’s not a full member) opposed the move to place Pakistan on the watch list. But the US pushed for another discussion and convinced the Saudis to vote for the move in return for a full FATF membership. This left only two opponents – China and Turkey – one less than the required three members to stall a move.

At this stage, the Chinese opted out as they did not want to “lose face by supporting a move that’s doomed to fail. Pakistan ‘appreciated’ the Chinese position and ‘thanked’ Turkey for “continuing to support Islamabad against all odds.” Mark the phrases ‘lose face’ and ‘against all odds’ here!  However, Pakistani experts know that grey listing means a ‘major setback for Islamabad’s efforts to improve its global image’ as well to its economic activities.

Looking at past conduct it would be naïve to think that the ‘grey listing’ can force Pakistan to embrace demeanors of the modern civilized world or realize its folly of hobnobbing with jihadis as an undeclared State policy. If the rogue nation recently took some cosmetic steps against terror financing it was just to fool the international community. In 2015 when Pakistan was removed from the watch list was expected to show its intent and ability to “fully implementing the UNSC Resolution 1267” on UN-designated terrorists and get out of the ‘grey’ color. It is not clear why Pakistan has been allowed to breathe easily till June before it is re-inducted into the hall of shame. Given the fact that the jihadi virus has already dangerously penetrated and spread into the Pak society it rightfully deserves a permanent place in the ‘black’ list, although even that would not change its conduct.

In reality, the FATF, Donald Trump, Prophet Mohammad or even Allah can’t cure the disease Pakistan is so affectionately in love with!!

Impact on Pakistan

Although the “grey listing” does not invite legal or penal procedures, it may still cripple Pakistan’s economy particularly its banking sector and force foreign banks to reconsider operations on its soil and further push the country into global isolation. Pakistan would find it difficult to raise funds, pay debts and access global markets.  It would also be harder for foreign investors and companies to do business in Pakistan.  A decline in foreign transactions and foreign currency inflows could lead to further widening of Pakistan’s already large current account deficit (CAD). Just in 2013, Pakistani economy had to be bailed out by the IMF. It can’t keep doing it endlessly.

hafiz masood 1Global financial institutions would be wary of transacting with Pakistani banks and some might want to even avoid Pakistan altogether depending upon their risk perceptions.  Amid intense pressure from global financial regulators like the FATF, banks have been retreating from high risk countries in recent years. The level of due diligence by banks is already high in countries like Pakistan. The financial sector might take a hit if the Standard Chartered (the largest international bank in Pakistan with 116 branches) as well as Citibank and Deutsche Bank, which mostly deal with corporate clients, might decide to pull out.

But Pakistan’s self inflicted misery also brings cheers elsewhere. China would love to extend its financial ‘helping hand’ and bring Pakistan another step closer to being its undeclared colony. It helps China in two important ways: It counters the US influence in Asia by weaning Pakistan away from it and it would enable it to use Pakistan and its Jihadi gangs more effectively against its emerging Asian rival India.

Ostrich Mindset of Pak Leadership

CrisisReflecting its juvenile mental status, Pak leadership has been bragging as usual. The financial adviser of the prime minister boasted, the ‘grey list’ isn’t such a big issue after all and nothing really will happen to Pakistan and claimed that country’s macroeconomic fundamentals are ‘strong’ and the stock market had risen by three percent even during 2015! All he was implying was that the color of the list was not ‘grey enough’, at least for now!

Such bravado is understandable because general elections are due this summer and it can’t afford to tell the citizens that country’s economy is heading towards doomsday. Knowledgeable people and experts of course see through such silly bravado but they don’t count in the rogue state.

The mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, terrorist Hafiz Saeed (with a $10 million US bounty on his head) had recently floated a political party and publically challenged the Pak government to put him again under house arrest. Pak army men were seen paying money to another powerful gang of fundamentalists that blocked the national highway for several days. Such is the clout of terrorists and fundamentalists in the nation, now more correctly famous as terroristan or jihadistan.

trump-2As the Trump administration changed its Pakistan policy and started demanding concrete action against terrorists on its soil, Islamabad started playing its ‘thicker than blood relation with China’ and ‘You can’t allow me to fall’ cards. But now both the US as well as the Chinese doles will come with much bigger premiums. It is also revealing to note that Pakistan recently reversed its policy and agreed to send its troops in defense of the Saudi royal family and perhaps to fight their war in the strife ridden Yemen!

Isn’t it what is called the ‘blood money’? It puts Pakistan in league with North Korea that sends its citizens as slave labors to Russia and earns money.

But, days of free doles are now gone for international mendicants, even for those wearing suicide jacket carrying nuclear bombs! Recent strip search of Pak Prime Minister in the US is the most glaring example of that!

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