India – the biggest democracy in the world – is going through a lot of changes and turmoil, both from within and due to forces outside. As a country, it is unparalleled in its diversity – cultural, religious, social, and economical as well as political. The way India has evolved since departure of colonial British in 1947 is not at all inspiring. Despite the celebration of August 15 as Independence Day and January 26 as Republic Day for past six decades, it does not appear that India has really shaken off its colonial past. Contrary to the expectation that Indians would rule themselves with their own thinking it turned out that Nehru and his colleagues largely followed the demeanor of the White British and failed to look at larger issues faced by the newly truncated free state.
Today, India is globally recognized for three things: high poverty, high population, and high corruption. India is home to about one-third of world’s extreme poor, is set to become the most populous country by around 2028 beating China, and is counted among the most corrupt countries in the world where opening and doing business is a mountainous task. Doing business honestly in India is as tough as winning an Olympic medal, may be even harder!
In confusion people generally ask: Is India a Poor Nation or Emerging Superpower. “Both” is perhaps the correct answer.
India is an ancient country with very deep cultural and spiritual roots; they certainly influence not just Hindus and followers of other ‘dharma’ based philosophies, but also Muslims and Christians who follow ‘religions’ that originated in distant lands. The difference between dharma and religion is profound; it is elaborated below. India cannot be understood or run properly without sufficient understanding of its long ancient past. You can understand the US for instance, by restricting to past 300-400 years, but not India.
Issues covered on this long page are designed to provide in-depth understanding that often needs trips to the past to put things in perspective.
Contents on this page include:
1. The Legacy of Partition
2. Dangers of Global Terrorism
3. Communal Harmony and Distorted Secularism
4. A Terrible Mistake: Equating “Dharma” with “Religion”
5. The Unfinished Agenda of National Integration
6. Why Tribals and Naxal Issues Suddenly Became Important
7. Poverty in India
8. Population Stabilization
9. Governance Reforms
10. Right to Education
11. Economic Reforms and Liberalization
12. Sustainable Development
13. Renewable Energy – Solar Energy
14. Significant Political Developments
1. THE LEGACY OF PARTITION
Partitioning India on religious ground was a nasty idea of colonial British. It was designed to sow the seeds of long term future confrontation on the Indian sub-Continent after they departed. Leaving intact a giant nation would not be in the interest of global political interests. The colonial looters would have been happier creating more fragments but could not find other sectarian leaders outside the Muslim community. For example, Christian missionaries had not converted sizeable number of people into Christianity so they could not create another State for them.
Anyway, birth of Pakistan in the name of Islam was a great victory of a handful Islamic separatists, led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah whose lifestyle was anything but Islamic. Almost instantly, their political ambitions reached stratospheric heights – they just discovered that they can grab anything, in the name of Islam. Kashmir and Balochistan soon became victims of Pakistani greed – again in the name of Islam – people of these regions are still the biggest victims even after over six decades of India’s partition and creation of Islamic Pakistan.
Partition fuelled the communal disharmony, leading to massive blood-bath and mass migration of Hindus and Muslims from both sides. It gave wounds to lakhs of people that would take generations to heal. Wise people rightly say: Religious fanaticism is as deadly as the epidemics of Cholera, Malaria or Ebola. A lot of wise and progressive Muslims consciously chose to stay in India, away from fanaticism of some of their co-religions, and feel satisfied looking at the status of today’s highly radicalized Pakistani society.
1a) THE KASHMIR DISPUTE
After separating from India, Jinnah started behaving as if Pakistan has a natural right on everything that is Islamic! Pak leaders’ obsession with this Islamic logic has not weakened a bit even after six decades; on the contrary, it has transformed into a kind of mania, particularly after losing half the country in 1971.
When the British left after 190 years of plunder, India was a conglomeration of 561 tiny princely estates rule by Rajas, Nizams and Nawabs – they were both Hindu and Muslim rulers. Their prime task was to collect taxes from the public on behalf of the colonial rulers. They had the option of joining either side or stay sovereign. Ideally, they would all want to stay sovereign but political reality demanded that they choose between the two sides.
Kashmir was also one such Princely State ruled by Raja Hari Singh who wanted to stay sovereign and did not join either side. Pakistan was hoping that it would come its way but Hari Singh did not make any move. In frustration and impatience, Pak troops along with some armed tribes invaded Kashmir and reached ominously close to Srinagar. Seeing no option, Hari Singh requested help from New Delhi. Military help was agreed on the condition that Kashmir would accede to India. Hari Singh signed the Accession Treaty and Indian troops were dispatched immediately. Invaders were driven away and on cease fire, India was in control of two-third Kashmir and the rest was under Pak control.
Strangely, Nehru decided to approach the UN to complain about Pak aggression. This made Kashmir an international issue, allowing Pakistan to become a party. A big mistake, in hindsight!
If Kashmir is still not fully integrated with rest of India even after 68 years, Congress Party’s directionless, indecisive and visionless governance should get all the blame. It even squandered the chance to push Pakistan out of Kashmir permanently in 1971 when 93,000 Pak troops were prisoners of India and a big chunk of Pak territory was under Indian control. The then PM Indira fell for Bhutto’s theatrics and verbal assurances and signed the Shimla Agreement in a midnight drama.
Year 1989, brought the worst form of violence in Kashmir Valley through Pak trained Islamic Jehadis. The decade of 1990s showed to the world how religious fanaticism can destroy civil societies. Pak agenda is clear: cause as much violence and destruction in Kashmir as possible using its Jehadi brigade. If it can’t get Kashmir in the name of Islam, it must destroy it for the same reason.
On the optimistic note, the year 2014 should prove an important milestone in India’s political history and bring solace to Kashmir also. The arrival of BJP government at the Center after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, PM Modi’s special interest in Kashmir, and the formation of PDP-BJP government in J&K ushers hope for a better future of Kashmiri people. Economic development, better connectivity and job creation will automatically take heat off the Pak’s meddling in the Valley using Islam as an excuse. Article 370 is the biggest hurdle in integrating Kashmir with rest of India.
You may explore details of the Kashmir issue and how Pakistan has been trying hard to Islamize and internationalize the issue, on these pages:
1b) PAKISTAN GRABBED BALOCHISTAN IN 1948
Although Balochistan has no direct land connection with India, but people should know how Pakistani leaders’ political mind exploit the name of Islam.
Just like Pakistan tried grabbing Kashmir in 1947 through direct invasion, it sent troops to Balochistan in April 1948. While it champions plebiscite in Kashmir, it had no shame violating Baloch people’s desire who clearly did not want to become part of Pakistan, in the name of Islam. Since 1948, Pakistan has colonized Balochistan and doing everything a colonizer does – plundering natural resources and oppressing people.
If the Baloch people are happy and free, as Islamabad claims, why huge build up of Pakistani troops there? Are Baloch people some inferior kind of Muslims compared with the elites of Pak Punjab? You may like to explore”
1c) INDIA’S “HEADACHE” CALLED PAKISTAN
Partition of British India was not just a communal birth of Pakistan; it was birth of a chronic migraine – a nasty communal virus that would hurt India for decades, in the name of Islam. The religious fanaticism that created Pakistan in the name of Islam, failed to keep the country intact beyond 1971 – when a dispute over results of a general election precipitated a civil war in the East Pakistan leading to birth a new nation – Bangladesh. This fiasco was yet another indication that somehow democracy is not compatible with Pakistan’s understanding of Islam.
However, rather than taking steps to improve the democratic institutions, Pakistan turned into something like a defiant child. It upgraded its “hate India” policy to “bleed India” mission! Consequently, Kashmir became the sole obsession of its foreign policy.
Radicalization of Pakistan – Pakistan becomes Wahhabistan!
In the 1980s, Pak military dictator General Jia Ul Haq decided to change the “color” of Islam. In his desire to stand out loudly as a radical Islamic State of Asia and get accepted by the Islamic brothers in the rich Gulf nations, he opted for Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism, which is utterly authoritarian and devoid of slightest tolerance. But that’s what a military general would choose. Russian occupation of Afghanistan offered the opportunity to try religious fanaticism against the communists. Thus, the US-Pak joint experiment began with setting up of training camps to produce Islamic Jehadi fighters who would wage Holy War against the Soviet army. The idea was to constantly hurt and “bleed” the Russians and make their lives “hell” in Afghanistan. In other words, make Afghanistan their Vietnam!
Thus, Al Qaeda, Taliban and other Jehadi groups were born. Russians left in 1989. The US and Pak felt elated at their brilliant “Islamic” success against the communists. Pakistan started diverting the “out of job” Jehadis to Kashmir to “hurt and bleed India”. Indian army was deployed in the Valley with extra powers. Cross border infiltration kept the Kashmir Valley “boiling” for almost the whole 1990s – it must have be the golden period of “Islamic violence” in South Asia and the most satisfying dream-come-true for Pakistan !
Impact of the 9/11 Attack
However, Pak honeymoon with Islamic extremism was badly jolted by the 11 September 2001 attack in the US. During the last 10-15 years, Jehadi factories have been churning out terrorists as a matter of routine. Now the US wanted Pak to shut them. Arrival of US troops in Afghanistan searching for Osama Bin Laden made life difficult for the Pak government. It was forced to act against its own Jehadi children to please the US, while its civilian population was hysterically anti-American.
Pakistan extracted money from the Americans on the pretext of fighting terrorists but used it to fuel its proxy war against India. Within a decade of NATO’s war on terror Pakistan established itself as world’s terrorist Capital; it lost all its international credibility when Americans killed Osama on its own territory apparently without its knowledge! Even today, the perpetrators of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts and 2008 26/11 Mumbai attacks have safe sanctuary in Pakistan, while it rightly claims to be the biggest victim of terror groups it willfully nurtured.
After the December 2014 Taliban attack on school children in Peshawar which killed over 140 children of Pak army men, it was hoped that Pakistan would go all out against terror groups on its soil. But Pak leaders still have soft corner for their Jehadi brothers and can’t resist the temptation of using them against India.
Given the fact that Pakistan is now badly infected with fundamentalists and extremists, the global community is highly apprehensive about its nukes falling in the hands of extremist elements or ending up in the Middle East.
Pakistan is perfect example of what happens when a State is run on the silly principle: “I exist to hurt others; not to make myself better.”
You may like to explore:
2. DANGERS OF GLOBAL TERRORISM
Islamic terrorism is a global issue and is acquiring menacing proportions particularly with the creation of ISIS in the Middle East and its newer terror tactics. It has attracted extremist Muslim youths from around the world (variously estimated to be 15,000 – 40,000). Western countries are particularly worries that on return these trained and hardened Jehadis can play havoc in the society.
The possibility of further rise in terror violence in the Middle East and its escalation towards South Asia (Pakistan is now a magnet that attracts Islamic terrorists) is now very real. India has to be very alert because Pakistan is already irreversibly infected with all kinds of extremists and government has almost lost control on them.
Now there is lurking danger of Pak’s nuclear devices falling in the hands of terror organizations – the ISIS has already started making such noises. Quite possibly, it is just an empty terror propaganda. But the seriousness of the issue remains. If some rogue elements in Pak establishment do help some terror group get nuclear devices, it may even trigger a scenario of a World War 3.
Therefore, it helps to gain some knowledge about the Muslim world.
2a) GLOBAL MUSLIM POPULATION
Currently India has about 175 million Muslims (the largest Muslim minority in number terms) compared with Pakistan’s population of around 188 million. They form 14.2% of the Indian population (1.25 billion) – increased from about 10% in 1951. Of the total global population of about 1.6 billion, the largest number of Muslims lives in Indonesia (203 million, forming 88% of country’s population). Pakistan and India have the next largest Muslim populations in the world, followed by Bangladesh (150 million).
Fertility rate among Indian Muslims is estimated at 3.2 children per woman against the national average of 2.3. Pakistan (now almost 99% Muslim) also has high fertility rate – various estimates suggest it to be 2.9 – 3.6. Among all its neighbors, Pakistan is the fastest growing nation in South Asia. Given the influence of radical Islamic elements, it is unlikely to bring down its fertility rate any sooner. Consequently, in next couple of years Pakistan should become the largest Muslim country, overtaking Indonesia with fertility 2.3.
Fortunately, Muslims in South Asia by and large practice humane version of Islam. Even in Pakistan, most Muslims are peace loving, leaving aside the extreme thinkers in the political circle who are squarely responsible for promoting terror groups as an unannounced state policy.
In terms of numbers, other major countries are Egypt (80 million), Nigeria (80 million), Iran (75 million), and Turkey (74 million). Around 80% Muslims live in countries where they are in majority. About 1 billion or 62% live in Asia pacific region, followed by about 320 million (21%) in the Middle East – North Africa and 245 million (15%) in the Sub Saharan Africa; Europe has only 43 million and Americas have just 5 million Muslims.
As of 2010, there were 4.8 million Muslims in Germany (5.8% of the country’s population) and 4.7 million Muslims in France (7.5%). In Europe overall, however, Russia’s population of 14 million Muslims (10%) is the largest on the continent. But Islamophobia runs very high in prominent European countries.
Globally, Muslims are divided between Sunnis (87-90%) and Shias (10-13%) but there are further divisions that complicate their sectarian relations. Terror is a common tactics among them. Both India and Pakistan have 10-15% Shia Muslims. Iran is the global hub of Shias, and the Sunni world generally looks towards Saudi Arabia.
The politics of oil rich Gulf region is dictated by the rivalry between Shia Iran (75 million population) and the cash rich Sunni Saudi Arabia (30 million population). If the Iran-US nuclear stand-off is resolved the Saudis will lose much of their shine for the US and the West.
2b) RISE OF ISLAMOPHOBIA
The 9/11 incident of 2001 filled Americans with anger and fear of Islam. It was an act they had never even dreamed of. More recently, the Charie Hebdo attack, flogging of a blogger in Saudi Arabia, mass massacres by Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Peshawar Taliban attack on a school of army children, and the almost regular news of barbaric acts of ISIS fighters offer ground to fear Islam.
Media also makes its contribution to Islamophobia when it sensationalizes all such acts in its reporting, and when it keeps playing such news dozens of times a day. It has always been a long-term aim of Al Qaeda and its offshoots like ISIS to divide the world between the Muslims and the rest. They appear to have found a trusted ally in the Western media that virtually rules the world.
Every act of Islamic terror spontaneously energizes the right wing elements in other communities. This makes life of ordinary peace loving Muslims still harder; they are constantly looked down upon as “suspects” and untrustworthy.
Islamophobia is not a problem of the West or non-Muslim countries alone; it is also oppressing the Muslim societies. In fact, terrorists have killed more Muslims in the name of Islam than non-Muslims because they can’t tolerate even another sect of their own religion. When the Taliban, Al Qaeda or ISIS propagate their version of Islam, Muslims also feel Islamophobic because the imposed Islam is totally unfamiliar to them. You should also know how Islamophobia in Pakistan is suppressing Pak society.
Then there are politicians always lurking around to exploit people’s sentiments for narrow electoral gains.
2c) WESTERN OIL POLITICS AND RISE OF ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM
How Unjust Western Oil Policies have led to Rise of Radical Islam
While we instinctly blame Islamic fundamentalists and Islam for all the terror and violence that we have witnessed since 2003 when Americans decided to invade Iraq. But we have to look into the traditional Western oil politics in the Middle East to understand why Islamic extremism started springing up so suddenly at the turn of the 21st century.
In the post colonial Middle East, practically all major events have revolved around one single issue: oil politics of the West. Thus, it is oil interest that led the West to support the most conservative Wahhabi country – Saudi Arabia. And Saudis started using the enormous pool of petro-dollar for propagating radical Islamic doctrines around the world. As a result, all milder versions of Islam got slowly eased out by Wahhabi Islam from the Gulf funded Madarsas, particularly in poor countries.
Pakistan distinguished itself in translating Wahhabism into Islamic terrorism as early as in the 1980s when Americans decided to use Islamic violence to overthrow the communist Russians from Afghanistan.
Western meddling in the Middle East systematically destroyed the democratic culture and worked actively to have puppet regimes ruling different oil rich countries. Their unjust politics forced even the moderate Muslims to harden their stand against the US and its Western allies. For instance, roots of present day Syrian social mess can be traced back to overthrowing of democratic government in Syria. The West also scuttled democracy in Iran in 1953 to install a favourable king who was ultimately thrown away by militant Islamic movement in late 1970s.
How the West propped up Saddam against Iran and the dumped him is a very recent example of their mindset. Over 500,000 Iraqis have died since the US invaded their country under the false lie of looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), which never existed!
While violence can’t be justified, but the general hatred against the US in the Gulf region is not hard to understand. All Islamic violence will instantly come to an end if the US and the West simply stop meddling in the Gulf for oil.
- COMMUNAL HARMONY AND DISTORTED SECULARISM
In the truncated “Secular” India, activities of radical Islamic elements, who could not go to Pakistan during partition but remained in India as Pak sympathizer, remained an ever lurking threat to communal harmony. It also often triggered fundamentalism on the other side. However, the ruling Congress Party leaders generally remained silent onlookers to their provocative or belligerent activities until forced to act – it was seen as unfair minority appeasement by the majority silent Hindus. The bitter memories of bloodbath following the partition served to sustain mutual mistrust in both communities.
In the later years, this appeasement transformed into minority ‘vote bank’ politics and distortions crept in the secularism as practiced – the anti-Hindu brand of secularism is still going on. After 68 years, “secularism” in India only stands for communal politics to corner Muslim or Christian vote banks. Of the two, the 14% Muslim “vote bank” is more lucrative; hence, they are the prime targets of politicians masquerading as “Secular”.
Allowing themselves to become pawns in the “communal” politics of deceptive “secular” politicians is the biggest mistake Muslims have made. It has actually harmed them more than anyone else. Indian Muslim community historically excelled in a variety of skills and cultural activities, but groomed as ‘vote bank’ for decades they increasingly sank into poverty and hopelessness. Funds for government schemes were, almost as a rule, siphoned off by the corrupt power brokers of the community with political connections.
After dumping the community into poverty the ‘Secularists’ then started demanding “reservation” for Muslims in government jobs alongside dalits and other backward communities. Thus, poor Muslims got pushed into the reservation politics also.
An interesting question: Who is a minority?
3a) TRACING ROOTS OF ‘SECULAR VOTE BANK’ POLITICS
The roots of the communal vote bank policy can be traced to Indira Gandhi era. Along with another SC/ST “vote bank” it became a standard political tool to win elections. The tactics soon spread to other parties – and “Secular” politicians started cropping up everywhere. Needless to say, these secularists merely pose of as champions of minority interests, win their votes and, of course, forget them afterwards.
These “Secular politicians” have badly polarized the country on religious grounds. Election times gear them to play their dirty politics. It often starts by accusing Hindu organizations of being “Communal” ! By now people know that if anyone is trying to malign the RSS or Hindu religious leaders, he/she is only trying establish as a “secular” leader – hoping to corner Muslim and minority votes.
3b) SECURALISM IN INDIA
No sane person can deny that in a multi-religious society like India, secularism is a vital concept. People should have the freedom to practice their faith, customs and traditions peacefully, without fear or discrimination.
However, India did not become secular because Indira Gandhi inserted the word into the Constitution in 1976. India is secular because the 80% Hindu population is innately secular and highly accommodative. Hindus don’t practice any monolithic religion like Christianity or Islam. There is no ONLY holy book they read and don’t surrender to some ONLY god. Hindu scriptures don’t divide humanity into believers and non-believers, and demand that non-believers should be “converted.”
Hinduism is a collection of numerous sects with differing beliefs and faiths. Respect for diversity is inbuilt into Hindus’ life philosophy; they are taught to respect ethics and morality no matter which saint teaches it. Thus, Hindus are united by “universal ethics and morality” which is included in their eternal Dharma. Various faiths are seen as mere different paths to practice Dharma and reach the same ultimate truth, which may or may not be called god.
There is absolutely nothing in the dharma based beliefs of Hindus that encourages looking down upon or discrimination against outsiders or strangers. There are no outsiders, if you see humanity as one! Therefore, it makes no sense to teach “secularism” to Hindus.
On the contrary, the idea of “secularism” is very much required in a multi “religion” society because religions are by definition monolithic and discriminatory. Religions divide people into believers and non-believers and imposes “religious duty” to “convert” non-believers. This discrimination and “conversion” aspect of religions is what gives them the communal flavor.
Hinduism and other India originated philosophies – Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism – promote life of high morality and are devoid of this “communal color”. Therefore, calling 80% Indians ‘communal’ is a display of philosophical ignorance that Dharma and religion are very different things.
These 80% Indians get highly upset when they see Christian missionaries and Muslim preachers scouting for poor and innocent people for “conversions”. For sake of better communal harmony in India, their “Right to Convert” should be taken away by force of law. [Religious Crusades of the CIA]
3c) ARE MINORITIES SAFE IN INDIA?
This tiny section addresses the concerns of Western influenced people, particularly in the media. When an American or European journo raise such an issue, it is understandable because the Western made concept of “Religion” runs in their veins and where, for example, a Christian is naturally supposed to have a discriminatory mindset towards a Muslim. But when an Indian intellectual writes a piece with this mindset he/she is doing a great injustice to 100 crore Indians. It merely reflects a distorted or hollow understanding of Indian culture. A brief demographic comparison of India and Pakistan is shown in the image; hope it is not too complicated for their communal mind!
It is the amalgamating influence of accommodative, peace-loving and often unassertive 80% Hindus that minorities in India enjoy a rare degree of social and political freedom. No doubt there are extreme elements among Hindus, but their scripture don’t make them fanatic to hate and decimate neighbors with different beliefs. Things like Holy Crusade and Holy Jehad to hate or dominate people of other faiths is a foreign concept for 100 crore Indians, not following Christianity or Islam. Until about 100 years after Christ, Christianity was largely spiritual – in fact, that’s what the saintly figure called Jesus taught – and people largely looked towards India’s highly developed spiritual practices for inspirations. But then political brains grabbed the newly created philosophy and started injecting their own versions and interpretations. Today, it is all costumes and rituals, in the name of religion – the essence totally disappeared.
Similar things happen after 7th century. For early Muslims, Prophet’s teachings were purely spiritual – meant to purify people’s hearts and minds and encourage them to lead a pious life. Sufis understood that and started leading life according to that. They never divided humanity or spoke only to “Muslim” followers, whatever they spoke (and they still do) was universal and meant for the whole humanity. But in societies not used to presence of saintly personalities, ignorant people reduced Islam to just a cult to the followed brainlessly – through rituals and costumes.
Perhaps the biggest mistake Indian Muslims have made is to not go whole-heartedly for “Sufi” branch of Islam which is perhaps the most spiritual, and thus most humane, form of Islam that respects people of other faiths too. Only Sufis, Pirs, and Fakirs can integrate people of all faiths and philosophies, and particularly the Muslim communities into rest of the mainstream. Instead, what is promoted in the Madrasas with Gulf funds, easily falls for radicalism. It has separative and disruptive flavor.
4. A TERRIBLE MISTAKE ! EQUATING “DHARMA” WITH “RELIGION”
Yes, India made a terrible mistake when it equated its profound “Dharma” with the English word “Religion”. The wrong translation occurred because people used the phrase Hindu Dharma, Sikh Dharma, Jain Dharma and so on to describe these philosophies. In reality, it is utterly wrong to call the Hindu Dharma as Hindu religion, the Sikh Dharma as Sikh religion or the Jain Dharma as Jain religion.
Christianity and Islam are certainly “Religions.”
Comparing “Dharma” with religion is like naming football as ping pong ball because both are ‘round’ or because both are used to play sport! This ended up devaluing the culture and philosophy of over 80% of India’s population that did not practice foreign originated philosophies of Islam or Christianity.
‘Religion’ is strictly a narrow Western construct. It was coined to describe the characteristics of Abrahamic or Prophetic philosophies such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is a “religion” when a separate super powerful and all-knowing entity called ‘God’ reveals the ‘Only Truth’ to a ‘Messenger’ which is written in a ‘Holy Book.’
As a follower, you are suppose to merely “believe” in whatever is told to you, accept an unknown and unseen ‘savior’ God who will ‘salvage’ you, or lead you to some ‘Paradise’, perform pre-fixed rituals and abide by the hierarchy of the religion. So, the English word “religion” denotes a specific “belief system”. Thus, Christians and Muslims have their own separate gods, separate “Holy” books and different rituals and traditions.
So, if you want to become a Muslim start “believing” in Quran or if you want to believe in the Jesus as your “Savior”, declare so and turn Christian. Simple! Isn’t it? It is all about “belief”. But you can’t be a Muslim and a Christian at the same time and if you can’t believe in “God” forget about being religious!
In contrast, India born life philosophies – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc – are simply different paths to practice Dharma, which is universal and eternal. Dharma is profound – it points to nature’s laws that govern all existence including human life, in another sense it points to inherent characteristics of things. The law of Karma is a vital theme of Dharma as it applies on human beings.
So, dharma already exists, you only need to recognize and understand it in order to lead a good peaceful life. Stating in simple words,
Dharma provides a universal world-view which orients people towards peaceful and harmonious living, among themselves as well as with nature.
Dharma is not a revelation by some supposedly super-natural omniscient entity. It was collectively discovered by spiritual scientists of ancient India; they were sages and rishis who devoted their lives to discover various aspects of Dharma and lead life according to it. Yoga and meditation were their prime tools for discovering higher dimensions of human living. They did document their knowledge in “Vedas” and other texts. However, nothing is imposed on you and don’t have to declare that you believe in them. There are no imposed beliefs or restrictions on how and what you think.
Needless to say, there are numerous paths to take you to ultimate reality; you learn and decide what is good for you.
In contrast, a religion restricts you. You can be religious only as long as you are a “believer” of that particular ‘belief system’. Typically, you have to believe in three concepts: presence of an omniscient and omnipresent God as an entity who rules the world, his “chosen” messenger (for example, Jesus for Christians and Mohammad for Muslims) for revealing the only “Truth”, and the Holy Book that contains the particular Teaching.
On the lighter note: nothing will go wrong if we start calling “communism” a religion, and create a theory that the ‘God’ revealed the ‘Only Truth’ to the chosen ‘messenger’ Carl Marx! We can add further: if you believe in Marx you will go to heaven after death, else you will face endless torture in the hell!! You can be still more ‘creative’ depending upon what you want to believe !
But after everything is said and justified; it is just an adopted belief after all !!
4c) CONSEQUENCES OF EQUATING DHARMA WITH RELIGION
Using the concept of ‘religion’ to interpret the Indian philosophies distorts their right understanding. Not because they are complex, but because they are being seen through a filtering glass. The most serious objection is that the 85% Indians get branded as communal, which is utterly non-sense.
The question of communalism arises only with ‘religions’ because they see humanity divided between ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’. Discrimination against people of different beliefs is inherent in religions.
How can you apply the same logic on people who naturally live with differing viewpoints and beliefs?
In fact, people of India (Bharat) were not conscious of their “faith” until the followers of Christ and Mohammad came in. The word ‘Hinduism’ was coined by them from their perspective. They follow their personal beliefs and customs but also respect other saints and their followers. “Belief” was never a dividing line for discrimination. But the arrival of missionaries of the prophetic religions, their division of people between believers and non-believers and their “conversion” game changed all that.
What we are seeing today in the Pak-Afghan region and in the Gulf is the worst face of religion. Even Muslims are killing each other in the name of narrow faithlines. What Pakistan started doing in Kashmir since 1989, is also the same thing: inciting violence in the name of Islam.
Clearly, religion is only as good as the people handling it!
You may also like to explore: Why “Dharma” is Not Religion
5. THE UNFINISHED AGENDA OF NATIONAL INTEGRATION
It was the first Indian Home Minister, Sardar Patel who used his political skills to merge over 550 princely estates into the Indian Union. It was natural that these rulers would be reluctant to give up power, but that’s what political realities demanded. In fact, Hyderbad was the last royal estate to get absorbed in India in the 1950s.
It is a matter of pride for all Indians that the NDA government is building a world class monument to honor the “Real Sardar” of India by collecting small pieces of iron from across the country. Such nationalistic things are not found in the DNA of Congress Party elites whose thinking and functioning very much resemble colonial rulers.
If Patel integrated princely states into one mainstream, many areas were still left ignored and neglected. These are the North Eastern region and tribal areas scattered across the country.
The colonial looters naturally governed India so that they can rob maximum resources to benefit Britain. Thus, for their own convenience they had left several parts of the country “ungoverned” and labelled them as “partially secluded” or “excluded”. These were primarily tribal areas with different tribes having their unique cultural traditions. These tribal areas became fifth and sixth schedule areas in free India with the idea of allowing the tribes to rule themselves as per their tradition and enjoy cultural freedom.
The North Eastern states have pockets governed under the sixths schedule that offers significant autonomy to local people. Tribals of rest of the country fall under the fifth schedule provisions of local governance; more correctly they come under the PESA Act that will be covered later. These are the areas where the left wing extremism took roots to become the biggest internal security risk for the country.
5a) THE NORTH EASTERN STATES
A vital unfinished business of national integration relates to the diversities – cultural, linguistic, and traditional – which are integral parts of Indian social fabric. In diversity India is more colorful than any other country or even continent. But it is ironical that a typical north Indian knows very little about the south and vice-versa, and most Indians know precious little about the North Eastern states, their people, culture and tradition. It is a shame that even in the capital Delhi there are ignorant people who consider their brothers and sisters from the North East as foreigners. This is frightening. Economic activities have significantly bridged the north-south gap but the North-East still needs to be integrated with rest of the country. Perhaps the best way to do it is to hold regular cultural festivals across India so that people of one state know about others.
The ways to go about assimilating them into national mainstream are improving connectivity and developing infrastructure to spur economic development.
Again this long overdue task has been undertaken by BJP’s Modi government at the Center. Steps have been taken to prevent discrimination against them and a special help-line has been set up to take care of their grievances.
You may like to explore: Birth and Spirit of the Sixth Schedule
5b) NAXAL VIOLENCE – THE BIGGEST INTERNAL SECURITY THREAT
Can you imagine a country that leaves a vast part of its territory ungoverned?
This is exactly what the Congress Party has done in its six decades of governance at the Center. It never occurred to these great ruling elites to take care of their fellow countrymen living is isolated conditions in remote hills and forests, leaving them at the mercy of forest officials who acted as if they were still employed by the agents of the British East India Company. The governance vacuum was filled by left-wing extremists called naxalites, who exploited the isolation of the tribals and injustices done by state officials and money lenders to strengthen their cadre. Their aim is to destroy the Indian State and replace it with a communist state following the Maoist ideology. Through all these decades the Indian government kept pretending that it was mere law-and-order problem.
They are now recognized as the biggest internal security risk for the country.
5b-1) The ‘Red Corridor’ and Maoist Violence
Over the years, they carved out a vast territory covering 92,000 sq km area, called “Red Corridor” by the media. It has grown dramatically in last two decades along the East coast right from Nepal to Tamil Nadu. In the early 1990s the number of districts affected by varying degrees of Maoist violence stood at just 15 in four states. This rose to 55 districts in nine states by the end of 2003 and to 156 districts in 13 states in 2004.
Maoists are currently believed to be operating in around 200 districts (of a total of 604 districts in the country) in 17 states. The worst affected states are Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa. The poverty and backwardness of people in these forest covered areas has provided a fertile ground for the growth of Naxals/Maoists who have been gaining strength at every neglect of these people on the part of the governments.
Download the full report on Naxal/Maoist Violence: NAXAL_Report
6. WHY TRIBALS AND NAXAL ISSUES SUDDENLY BECAME IMPORTANT?
The reason Indian government was forced to pay attention to Naxal Violence is the corporate interest in the natural resources, mineral mines, and water reservoirs located in these areas for ”developmental” activities under the economic reforms started in 1991. Over 75 percent natural resources, mineral mines, water reservoirs are located in the remote areas populated by the poorest of poor – Adivasis (tribals). After neglecting these areas for decades and allowing them to become the den of Naxal violence, the State and Central governments suddenly became interested in them in the post-reform era.
However, rather than appreciating the eco-friendly lifestyle of the tribals and rewarding them for preserving the natural wealth, our rulers are throwing them out so that the rich and greedy corporations can setup industries and grow the GDP of the country.
[No one wants to think about the scenario, after say 20-30 years, when all the resources have been consumed by the corporates and their bottom-lines fattened? Yes, they will sell-off their businesses leaving behind the trail of ecological mess in the areas which have been kept lush green and preserved by the illiterate tribals since ages. Isn’t it pathetic?]
Deploying security forces ostensibly in the name of fighting Naxals is the usual trick employed by the governments. The real reason is to secure the resources for the corporate houses and help evicting the local tribals. But if the government is sincere about tribal welfare, it should strengthen implementation of the PESA Act of 1996 [Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996]. The Act extends the Panchayat Raj system to the Fifth Schedule areas and allows the tribal communities grass-root democracy by activating the Gram Sabhas (village assemblies). The Act empowers the Gram Sabhas to take authority over local natural resources also.
If the Act is honestly implemented, it will also render the Maoists baseless by allowing the rule of the law that protects the tribals. Once the tribal people get connected to the Panchayat system, they will have platforms to raise their issues and develop themselves. Unfortunately, so far the implementation of the PESA Act has been pathetic because no one (state government, forest officials, or politicians) wants to allow the poor tribals to rule themselves through their Gram Sabhas. They are more comfortable nurturing the interests of rich corporate houses. As the Union government is moving ahead with corporatization and adopting the US style corporate-led economy, the PESA, forest laws and the rule of Garm Sabhas and Panchayats will only remain paper laws for appeasement.
You may like to read:
7. POVERTY IN INDIA
India, the largest democracy of 1.25 billion people, is also the biggest center of poverty in the world – it is both widespread and intense. Today India has officially 363 million (or 29.5 percent) people under the poverty line, as against 407 million in 2004-05. This is latest claim of India’s Planning Commission in June 2014 after the latest Rangarajan Expert Group gave its report. Before its report, poverty was 22%. A brilliant game of counting the poor! It sure is a sick joke people of India are quite used to.
Good news is that the Planning Commission died in 2014 – Modi killed it!! He replaced it with the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI); its structure and role will evolve in the coming months. Demise of outdated Planning Commission is a good news for all who want a real bottom-to-top flow of ideas. The Planning Commission was rightly a gathering of ‘Bunch of Jokers’ in the eyes of late Rajiv Gandhi. It was a club of well connected bureaucrats who lived in isolation and enjoyed lavishly on public money. In 2011-12, its staff of 1160, ate away Rs 84 lakhs in “Chai-Nashta”!! Its elite bosses wasted Rs 34 lakhs in renovation of 2 toilets in 2012!! None of its privileged member would have known that over 60% Indians have no toilet.
The comprehensive Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) of UK based Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) gives a better insight into the extent and nature of poverty. The MPI puts Indian poverty at about 53% (650 million poor).
While no one believes the official poverty data of the Indian government, it is fair to say that about 400 – 600 million people live in poverty. While there can never be agreement on poverty numbers, compare these numbers with the European Union and US populations of over 500 million and 320 million, respectively. These are huge numbers, by any standard.
India holds the distinction of having the most number of poor of the world – a super poor nation! Consequently, South Asia has become the world’s biggest center of extreme poverty. On the World Bank’s extreme poverty line of 1.25 dollars a day, there are roughly 500 million extreme poor in South Asia – most of it in India. The only other comparable pocket of poverty is the sub Saharan Africa, with 400 million people in extreme poverty.
Yet, India has about 100 and sub Sahara Africa 16 billionaires !!
Learn about 8 Reasons Why India is So Poor.
7a) EVER WONDERED WHY INDIA BECAME SO POOR
“A significant fact which stands out is that those parts of India which have been longest under British rule are the poorest today.” – Jawaharlal Nehru, First Prime Minister of India
The colonial British rule laid the foundation for a long term and chronic poverty in India after they departed – this is what Nehru is essentially saying above. The tiny state of Kerala in the southern India fortunately saw the least damaging influence of the British plunderers (there are many reasons for that) and is at present a unique model (in the world) of improvement in the quality of life through social and human development alone.
It was the traditional historic prosperity of India that attracted invaders from various parts of the world in the last 2000 years. Prior to the British, India had been ruled by the foreigners like the Kushanas, Turko-Afghans and Mughals. All of them gradually got assimilated into the Indian society and culture. They not only became absorbed in India but also protected and promoted Indian society, culture and economy. None of them systematically drained India’s wealth or resources to make another country prosperous.
But the British were different; they solely came to loot and plunder to make Britain prosper. The foundation of prosperity of all colonial powers of the past rests squarely on colonial plunder and/or slavery. The image shows how wretched and deceptive their tactics were. They not only took away natural resources but also destroyed social and cultural fabric of India, in the most organized manner.
Here is an eye opening article all intelligent Indians should read and ponder:
7b) POVERTY CAN’T BE PROPERLY MEASURED IN MONETARY TERMS
In 21st Century, poverty must be seen in the right perspective; not by some arbitrary income line fixed by so-called experts. Poverty must be looked, beyond income. Research of past few decades has firmly established that poverty cannot be properly understood in economic terms alone – divorced of social, cultural and political perspectives. People are social beings; processes and activities of the society affect their state of well-being. Studies of the problems of poor people and their communities have led to an understanding of poverty as a situation of several simultaneous deprivations, feeding one another. The new perspective sees poverty as a human condition that reflects failures in many aspects of human life – related to nourishment, employment, shelter, health, education, social and political participation, etc.
Perhaps the most fundamental definition of poverty comes from Amartya Sen’s capability theory of development: It see poverty as failure of basic human capabilities related to fundamental needs of survival. This approach has brought a paradigm shift in the development thinking around the world in the past two decades.
Sen’s ideas lie behind the development of the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) – created jointly by the UNDP and OPHI in 2010. It lays down a map of various deprivations people are facing; it provides very useful information for the policy planners. Several nations like Brazil and Mexico have adopted variations of the MPI technique for estimating poverty.
Seen in this comprehensive perspective, poverty becomes an issue of lack of proper social and human development. You may explore: Why Poverty? Let’s talk People Development
7c) MNREGA – WORLD’S LARGEST ANTI-POVERTY PROGRAM
Passed in 2005, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is the Biggest Anti-poverty Program in the World! In spirit, the developmental projects under the NREGA (now renamed MGNREGA; MG for Mahatma Gandhi) are supposed to be designed, planned and implemented by the gram Panchayats. Thus, this unique Act has the potential to revitalize the PRIs, giving impetus to the grass-root democracy, and also create unskilled jobs in rural India. This scheme has become the darling of the rural poor who can LEGALLY claim up to 100 days of unskilled work at the prescribed minimum wages. However, The real Potential of MGNREGA is yet to be Realized. Unfortunately, many states have failed to appreciate the potentials of this program. If implemented in fairness and in coordination with broader plans, MGNREGA can become the catalyst for transformation of rural India.
Poverty cannot be eliminated from the country without looking after the small farmers. Fascinated by text book prescription of eliminating all subsidies by the Western lenders, the government is bent on eliminating all forms of subsidies given to the farmers. This is simply disastrous: Western nations indulge in all manners of protections for their farmers and subsidize basic food items to keep food prices low and affordable. Their farming sector is not a major livelihood provider unlike in India. Offering ever increasing minimum support price (MSP) to farmers is an inadequate and inefficient way to help the farmers or to keep the food prices in control. Indian farmers need Income support, not just MSP.
8. POPULATION STABILIZATION
Why population of India does not stop growing – is a common question people want to ask.
They will be happy to know that in the past decade population growth has declined sharply. The good news is that the birthrates are falling all over the world, not only in India. The Malthusian fear of overpopulation has gone bust already.
8a) CURRENT POPULATION STATUS
In June 2015, the Indian population is estimated to be around 1.28 billion, which is about 17.5% of world population. India is a young country: over 50% population is below 25 years of age and over 65% people are below 35. Currently, Indian population is growing at the rate of 1.25% per year – by about 15.4 million annually; the rate was 1.75% in the year 2000.
During the decade 2001-2011, the population of largest Muslim minority increased by 24% compared with national growth of 18%. It is lower than the 29% rise in the previous decade. Thus, Muslims now form 14.2% of Indian population, compared with 13.4% in 2001.
Assam witnessed the biggest rise in Muslim population, from 31% in 2001 to 34% in 2011. It was certainly due to illegal immigration from Bangladesh. For the same reason, West Bengal Muslim population 25.2% in 2001 to 27% in 2011. Uttarakhand also registered significant rise, from 11.9% to 13.9%.
Almost half (47%) of Indian Muslims live in just 3 states: UP, West Bengal and Bihar.
8b) CURRENT CAUSE OF POPULATION GROWTH
India’s population is growing not because people are having large families, but simply because there are too many people in the reproductive age group – population momentum. The right strategy to curtail such population growth is to delay all births. But sterilization camps are no more the right place to tackle the population issue; the family planning battle must be now fought on the social plane. The correct anti-dotes to population growth due to momentum are:
- Late marriage: Stop all girls’ marriages below 18. In India, about 47% girls are already married before the legal age of 18 and a significant proportion has already given births. This one action can bring fertility down immediately to 2 children per woman.
- Delayed pregnancies: Delay first pregnancy by 1-3 years after marriage, and
- Space further births: Keep at least 3 years gap between births. Often, quick pregnancies result from non-availability of contraceptives, particularly in the rural areas. Almost a quarter of all births take place for this reason alone.
Indian family planning officials will do themselves as well as the country favor, it they educate themselves on the issues of population momentum and also pay attention to what the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), Cairo, 1994 laid down on the population question.
Now it is amply clear that girl Child marriages marriages is the biggest culprit leading to high population growth world over. In fact, early marriages, for various traditional and social reasons, have played a big role in propagating poverty through population growth throughout the world. At the core of it, lies the issue of women empowerment, which itself is powerful contraceptive.
Women’s reproductive behavior is strongly influenced by their educational level – more than economic development. Even some years of schooling leave a lasting impact on her future fertility. Because education is empowering.
8c) LATEST FERTILITY TREND
The 2013 Sample Registration System (SRS) statistical report shows that in the past decade fertility rate has fallen sharply – the total fertility rate (TFR) has fallen to 2.3 in 2013. For 2015, we can easily take it to be around 2.25. TFR indicates the average number of children a woman is likely to have in her life time. Experts feel that it will easily reach the target of 2.1 by 2017, definitely before 2020. At this replacement level, the country goes into the final phases of demographic transition, in which population first stabilizes, and then falls as TFR falls below the replacement level.
Experts think that India’s population will peak in 2050 at about 1.5 bn and the decline to 1.45 bn in 2100.
While the steady decline in TFR a welcome sign, there are sharp variations in TFR across states. 11 states have already attained the replacement level TFR of 2.1. The rest 9 are the drags. Among them are the most problematic populous northern states: UP (3.1), Bihar (3.4), MP (2.9), Rajasthan (2.8), Jharkhand (2.7) and Chhattisgarh (2.6).
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar already account for about a quarter of India’s population. Together these states make up 40% of India’s population.
West Bengal has the lowest TFR of 1.6; followed closely by Delhi, Punjab, Himachal, and Tamil Nadu – all at 1.7. Next are Kerala and Andhra at 1.8 and J&K at 1.9.
8d) WHY IMPOSING BIRTH CONTROL IS A BAD IDEA
China’s One-Child policy is often touted as a great success story in population control. Today, its fertility rate of 1.55 children per woman is even lower than many European countries, and much below the replacement level of 2.1 – where population stabilizes. The success, however, came with enormous social and human costs – it badly distorted the sex ratio and took away the basic human right of citizens to plan their families.
Son preference forced Chinese to abort girls to have son as the only allowed child. Present and future generations of Chinese will grow up devoid of knowing family culture or human bonds. Millions of “surplus” males and their needs has created a vast industry of trafficking of women/girls from neighboring countries like North Korea and Myanmar.
In India, even without state control on family size, sex ratios are very bad in Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh because of strong son preference. These areas have less than 900 females for 1000 males – the worst in the country. The most female friendly state is Kerala, with 1084 females for 1000 males. It will be discussed below.
8e) POPULATION FEAR IN COLONIAL INDIA
The colonial way to control population of India?!: You may also like to know how the British “ignored” famines in the colonial India as a weapon (instrument) for population management. During the shameful British Raj 30 – 50 million Indians have been estimated to have died in famines in 200 years of colonial plunder.
The post WW-2 years saw Western nations under severe grip of Malthusian population phobia. So much so that aid to the poor countries linked to performance in sterilization targets. In the 1960s, the topic even entered the presidential election in the US when the phrase “population bomb” was coined to depict the fast rising population of the third world countries. You may like to read
8f) KERALA IS UNIQUE: POPULATION CONTROL THROUGH PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT
The tiny state, Kerala, is a unique example of the power of people development; the whole world acknowledges and admires the wonderful culture and society of Kerala. It is also unique in the respect for women; it has the best female/male ratio in the country – 1084 female for every 1000 male as per the 2011 census (highest in the Kunnur District 1136 and the lowest in Idukki district, 1006). Compare it with the national average of 940 females. The next best is way behind; it is Tamil Nadu, 996 female followed closely by Andhra Pradesh with 993 female per 1000 male. Interestingly, the economically prosperous Haryana has the lowest sex ratio, 879 females. What stops our foreign trained scholars of New Delhi to learn from Kerala?
In fact, Kerala can teach a lot, both to India and China about how to look after its people and control the population. In the past 2 decades, neighboring Bangladesh has become another example of how in a short time social development and women empowerment can pull down fertility rates. Its fertility of 2.24 is almost reaching the replacement level of 2.1.
9. GOVERNANCE REFORMS
Every patriotic Indian is feeling the pain looking at the way politician-corporate-bureaucrat nexus has taken control over policy making and distributing country’s resources among themselves. The UPA-II regime glaringly displayed how shamelessly these elites can join hands to fill their personal coffers. Scams involved in the CW games and 2G spectrum and coal block allotments are the most glaring example how country’s natural wealth can be looted. This loot was done in the business-as-usual fashion; therefore no one is ashamed of it.
This is how the corporate world operates around the world – undermining laws of the land and using lawmakers to make laws to promote their business interests. India is among the worst governed countries in the world whose leaders rely on foreign dictates more than sane local voices. This slave mentality has not died even 6 decades after the colonial British left India; on the contrary it has only strengthened. All ills of the nation can be traced only to one thing: Bad Governance.
In fact, lack of accountability at all levels is at the core of bad governance in India and every problem emerges from it – whether Naxal violence, corruption, poverty, or even population. On the Global Integrity Index that measures governance and anti-corruption of nations, India fairs badly. It also points to weak governance due to lack of accountability of politicians and bureaucrats.
The most important governance reforms relate to the electoral processes, police and judiciary, bureaucratic and judicial accountability, and also strengthening grass-root democracy by seriously implementing the PRI and PESA Acts and making caste-based reservations history.
Political reforms and transparency in political funding is at the root of all corruption and bad governance. It particularly creates corruption at the top of the State hierarchy. Simultaneously, two urgent reforms are Police and Judicial Reforms. The police force is still operating in the colonial mindset and sees itself as a protector of rulers from the citizens! Poor and ordinary citizens are particularly vulnerable when they have to deal with the police and seek justice. Indian courts are atrociously slow that makes a mockery of justice. Rich can exploit loopholes in the laws and procedural aspects and can get away with practically anything.
Download the Full Report: Corruption in India
10. RIGHT TO EDUCATION
10a) SARVA SHIKSHA ABHIYAN AND THE RTE ACT, 2009
(Download the full report: Right To Education Act, 2009)
The right to education Act was put into force in 2010. It gave legal right of education to all kids in the age group of 6 – 14. The vehicle for implementation of the RTE is the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Since 2010 necessary changes have been made in the rule of the SSA to conform to the RTE requirements.
It is certainly a massive undertaking to cover children even in the remote habitations. But it must be acknowledged that a lot of children began to see schools because of this initiative, they would have never dreamed off otherwise. No doubt, shortage of teachers and quality of education is poor but shall we not celebrate the fact that average enrollment across the country is over 96%. If the government keeps its promise and raise expenditure on education to the tune of 5-6% of GDP, it will have a long term impact on the future generations.
No doubt, critics will keep asking the question: Does Right to Education mean Right to Schooling Only?
However, instead of cynicism it might be more helpful if we also look at the positive side of elementary education in India. And keep improving the delivery.
11. ECONOMIC REFORMS AND LIBERALIZATION
11a) SHIFT FROM SOCIAL DEMOCRACY TO CAPITALISTIC DEMOCRACY
Since 1991, the Indian government is occupied with economic liberalization, privatization and globalization. It marked a dramatic shift from a social democracy to capitalistic democracy. By design, the process is geared towards industrialization and corporatization of India in line with how the Western nations developed, disregarding the ground realities of the country.
Thus, poor and ordinary masses are no longer the focus of economic policies, now the rich became the center of attention. Like in the US, all minerals and natural resources began to be handed over to the rich corporate houses so that they can set up industries and create jobs. Further, they are given various incentives to set up industries while withdrawing subsidies from the farmers and the agriculture sector.
This is also driving rural to urban migration into cities that are already overcrowded. It is height of insanity to think that 125 crore Indian can be herded into towns where they will slave the corporate houses and drive Altos, eat pizzas and buy grocery from air-conditioned Malls like the Americans do.
In the new discourse, “subsidies” to the poor are seen as mere waste of public funds. No wonder, lakhs of farmers were forced to commit suicide in the past two decades. Government and politicians usually have nothing to offer to them, except lip service. This process is still going on and farmers’ suicide is no longer breaking news in the mainstream media.
11b) “TRICKLE DOWN” ECONOMY
Americans are particularly proud of this Reagan-Thatcher “trickle-down” economy. For all practical purposes, the new economic policies remain directed to the 25 percent population living in the urban areas. Rest of the larger India is expected to benefit only from the “trickle-down” effect.
This approach, though dictated by the IMF and the WB, is not suitable for a populous and poor country like India. First, this corporate led economic growth can not generate enough employment India needs – around 1 crore new jobs per year mostly for the unskilled or semi-skilled people. What’s the ground reality: Between 2005 and 2010, Indian economy only created around 30 lakh jobs!!
Second, promoting urbanization is absurd for a country where cities are already overcrowded. Modi’s idea of 100 smart cities is also flawed for the same reason. The core idea behind the current policies is to transfer people from the rural agriculture sector to urban industry and service sector to serve as cheap and exploitable labor force. Urbanization is OK for the West with its small population base where mechanized farming need fewer people in agriculture to produce food grains; the majority survives by working in the industrial sector.
Thirdly, by now most economists agree that this rich-centered “trickle down” economics only serves to concentrate wealth in top few hands and promote inequality. Vast pool of masses have very little to gain in this economic model. Do you know that just 1% richest people control as much wealth as the rest of us 99% !!! Explore how inequality is rising around the world due to the current Capitalistic model which is devoid of humanity:
11c) TRIBAL PEOPLE ARE THE WORST VICTIMS
It is a shame that we are displacing innocent and naive tribals from their ancestral lands (where they also act as natural custodians of resources and live in dignity with limited means) and forcing them to migrate to cities to become manual labors for the industry (and lead an exploited life without sense of security or dignity) – all in the name of development.
How about displacing people from New Delhi and Mumbai and forcing them to repair the ecological mess of mining activities of Vedantas, Tatas, Essars, JPs, and Ruias and clean the pollution of mega thermal power plants?
I think it is time that the “consumers must pay” rule should be changed to “polluters must clean”!!
12. ECONOMIC GROWTH VS DEVELOPMENT
The biggest irony of our time is that we are totally confused about what is development. The culprit are the Western thinkers; they have reduced everything to material possessions, economics and economic growth. People and society are no longer the goal of development.
Can we call a man, who has accumulated a lot of modern consumer goods and lives in absolute comfort, developed? And having roads, highways, airports, bridges and skyscrapers decide social development?
This is precisely what the West is doing. It sounds really funny when experts boast of robust economy – mean good GDP growth – and ordinary people see hardly any perceptible improvement in “quality of life.” Then some time later you are told that the number of millionaires and billionaires increased in the previous year.
You are left wondering: whether to laugh hysterically because the GDP Grows “robustly” or to cry hysterically because GDP has hardly any connection with your well-being or improvement in wellbeing.
When I see people from some African country with 1/100th per capita GDP compared with the US, I find practically no difference in their behavior as human beings. Leaving aside the difference in how much they consume every day and what type of mobile phone they use, both are equally silly, greedy, hostile or deceptive.
And this is a big worry for the thinkers of the world: Look at how much deadliest weapons the rich country – who call themselves “developed” – have amassed. The world doesn’t need such “developed” people, ready to invade countries and play dirty politics everywhere.
All human violence and environmental violence that we see in the world are the handiwork of these sub-mediocre and greedy “developed” people mostly found in the West.
12a) WHAT IS WRONG WITH GDP?
Answer: Gross domestic product doesn’t measure people’s wellbeing; it is just an economic number.
The West has historically surrendered its wellbeing to the economists and then spread this fashion all over the world. Their only yardstick of whatever they call as development is the GDP – the sum total of all market activities. This gross domestic product (GDP) has to eternally grow, quarter after quarter and year after year. This is a “mirage” that the Western societies and their copycats must chase all the time. Else, “economic depression” is always lurking around. So the Western capitalism is a boom-bust economy. Needless to say, people are mere pawns to try to sustain the GDP growth. In past half century, this capitalistic economic model has lost all touch with humanity and reduced people to the status of “mere consumers”.
There is another more deceptive aspect of GDP: both good and bad things can increase the GDP, and fool people into thinking that economy is doing good.
Consider these oddities of GDP: Polluting activities increase the GDP because you are forced to spend more money in the clean up. Increasing crimes boost the GDP due to expenses on police, security, jails, are legal procedures. Wars and conflicts increase expenditure on weapons. None of these are healthy expenditure.
Thus, all wasteful or unnecessary or avoidable expenditures boost the GDP. No wonder, we have a borrow and spend culture of extreme consumerism. It is all about GDP, nothing about you!
Now consider this. As people tend to become self-reliant, the GDP is hurt. If you stop buying fruits and vegetables from the market and start growing them in your backyard, you are hurting the GDP. If you do Yoga and get good healthy and don’t fall ill, you will not be visiting the doctors and buying medicines – you are again doing injustice to the GDP. There is famous true joke: if you marry your maid who looks after your home and kids, you are reducing GDP. Because you will stop paying her !
There is no problem if GDP is used as just another economic parameter. But using it as primary indicator of progress is highly deceptive; it is killing the moral and social values as well as the environment.
Did you know that the so-called second world war helped the US come out of economic recession of the early 1930s.
Now guess why the US dumped several trillion dollars in its “war against terror” that started in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003. Along the way it also faced a severe down turn in 2008 and spent enormous amounts in bail-outs.
It is my guess that since the Western economies are largely reaching a kind of stagnation – the GDP growth barely adds value to people’s life – they will look for conflicts and wars around the world. In the oil rich middle east, Islamic terrorists are already providing them excuse to keep the terror war going. Then there is Ukraine, North Korea and South China Sea.
It is easy to see that the “developed” West is also the most war crazy.
12b) SO, WHAT IS DEVELOPMENT?
These two pages should give you some flavor of sensible development which must revolve around people, not economy. Economy is just a tool to make people’s life better; it is silly to make the tool a national goal.
12b-1) Social Progress Indicator (SPI)
Wellbeing of people is better linked to social progress, rather than economic parameters. Thus, if right social parameters are measured, they will guide the economic development in the right direction, setting a virtuous cycle.
Social Progress Indicator (SPI) is an attempt in that direction. It provides a holistic, objective and outcome based measure of society’s wellbeing, independent of economic indicators. It checks the social progress alongside the GDP, for a country’s performance.
The SPI checks the three dimensions of social progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. Each dimension is made up of four equally weighted individual components. Incidentally, the United Nations has also identified three pillars on which the post- 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must rest: economic, social and environmental.
These three dimensions of the SPI roughly mirror the progression that most communities and societies go through in achieving higher and higher levels of social progress. The model draws heavily on previous literature, notably the capability approach pioneered by Amartya Sen, which emphasizes the multidimensional nature of wellbeing and the importance of freedom of choice.
The 2014 SPI analysis reveals striking differences across nations and highlights their weaknesses and strengths. In the 132 countries rated, India is placed at 102nd , Bangladesh at 99th and Pakistan at 124th. Top position went to New Zealand.
Last year, Paraguay adopted the SPI as its official measure of progress.
12b-2) The Human Development (HD) Approach
Since 1990, the annual Human Development Reports (HDR) of the UNDP have been promoting the idea of human development (HD) which is a people focused comprehensive development model. Commonsense also demands that people and their well-being should be the focus of development, not economy.
The HD perspective put people at the center of development. The idea of human development revolves around the basic theme: “People are the real wealth of a nation.”Thus, the prime objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to live long, healthy and creative life. This was stated in the first HDR published in 1990. This is a remarkable paradigm shift in thinking about the poor; it sees poverty as lack of development.
Incidentally, the foundation of the HD perspective came from Amartya Sen’s capability theory of development. Sen argues that the purpose of development is to enrich human lives, not richness of economy which is only a part of it.
12b-3) Why India should Learn from Bhutan?
Bhutan’s development paradigm is certainly the most humane and considers all aspects of people – it goes to the extent of considering spirituality and cultural enjoyment apart from environmental health. Bhutan is the only country in the world that does not use GDP as a measure of progress; instead it uses what it calls the gross national happiness (GNH).
Way back in the 1970s its king declared that “Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important than Gross National Product (GDP).” Therefore, Bhutan’s state policies are not made purely from the monetary or economic angle, as in rest of the world.
While Western leaders merely talk about worsening climate and decaying environment and shy away when it comes to taking concrete steps for fear of hurting their economies, this tiny Himalayan country of only 750,000 people stands out as a lone voice of sanity. While experts are busy dreaming of having a sustainable development model, but this tiny kingdom is already doing it; and it is doing so mandated by its Constitution!
But the Western development experts shy away from endorsing it and hide behind their usual obsession to be “objective”.
India, being a copycat country of its ex colonial master and still run by brown Britishers, can’t be expected to show muscles to adopt it. But mere reading about Bhutan and its GNH ideology is so refreshing when one look at the madness in the greedy material world.
13. RENEWABLE ENERGY – SOLAR ENERGY
Solar is the Future of India !
As the Pie chart shows, coal power dominates the power sector with 59% share. Renewable sources contribute just 13% or 33 GW: 22 GW from wind, 3 GW from solar energy and the rest from small hydro and biomass projects.
Recently, the Modi government has launched an ambitious plan for creating 100 GW solar and 55 GW wind capacities by 2022, apart from saving 20 GW power through energy efficient means. Besides its commitment to provide “Power for All” by 2019, Indian government has to also meet its future international commitment to reduce GHG emissions, although the framework of the agreement is currently under negotiations. Therefore, India must focus on renewables, particularly the solar power given abundance of sunlight throughout the country.
At present, Gujarat (929 MW) tops in solar power generation. It is the only state with more than 1% solar power in its energy mix. Other dominant states are Rajasthan (840 MW), Madhya Pradesh (354 MW), Maharashtra (287 MW) and Andhra Pradesh (235 MW). However, these states are catching up quite fast and bigger capacities are lined up for installation in 2015-16.
13a) GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES TO PUSH SOLAR POWER
Government’s ambitious plan to add 100 GW solar capacity in next 7 years means facilitating the land acquisition process, bringing more clarity to solar policies, taking steps to streamline and upgrade the existing power infrastructure and speed up creation of the ‘green energy corridor’ and arranging developer friendly financial assistance. In order to involve all states in renewable energy generation, it is also expected to come up with Renewable Generation Obligation (RGO) for the states.
For solar projects, 1 MW generation requires about 5 acres of land. Were India to install all its 100 GW capacity in the form of a big “solar farm”, it would require around 500,000 acres of land – three times the current size of the Mumbai metropolitan area.
Taking cue from the Charanka solar park in Gujarat, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has announced a scheme to develop at least 25 solar parks (each with capacity 500 MW or up) and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects (UMSPP) (they are mega projects 500 MW or above), in next five years, across the country. Other renewable projects and manufacturing will also be allowed in solar parks.
Smaller parks could also be considered under the scheme in Himalayan states where availability of large tracts of contiguous land may be difficult and in States where there is acute shortage of non-agricultural lands.
If 100 GW solar power is created from a single mega “solar farm”, it would require around 500,000 acres of land – three times the current size of the Mumbai metropolitan area.
13b) REGULATORY CHANGES TO REVIVE THE FAILED REC MECHANISM
The market driven renewable energy certificate (REC) model for solar power projects has failed due to non-enforcement of the renewable purchase obligations (RPOs) – imposed on certain entities like the discoms who must buy a certain percentage of renewable power.
Now in order to revive the REC market, the regulator is taking some remedial steps.
- It lowered the price band of solar RECs from INR 9300 – 13500 to INR 3500 – 5800.
- It is planning to enforce the RPOs strictly.
- It will rationalize the ‘open access’ charges so that the independent PPAs from a solar project over open access could be cost competitive with coal.
Bookmark this blog for useful articles on solar energy: Living on Solar Power
14. SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS
THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF 2014 FOR INDIAN POLITICS
14a) THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF 2014 FOR INDIAN POLITICS!
End of Coalition Era
By all means the year 2014 will be remembered for changing the political discourse in the history of free India. It would be known for the charisma of Modi and strategy of Amit Shah. Both proved that they know India and aspirations of its people better than anyone else. It marked the end of coalition governments at the center when the BJP came out as a single largest party with a clear majority (282/543) that installed Modi as the PM.
It was a big blow to the political power brokers such as Mulayam Singh, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and their likes. With just handful of MPs they had been dictating the fate and functioning of coalition governments for almost 2 decades. The common man and his interest has almost cease to matter, except for the words of party manifestoes.
It is also a badly needed course correction of country’s governance that revolved around the Congress Party since 1947 when the colonial British transferred power to it. Leaving aside the brief interruptions, it was largely a one family rule of the democratic India for over half a century. For 1.25 crore Indians and democratic India it is a shame that one single family has acquired the status of an undeclared “royal” family. But the Congress culture of slavery to this family is unlikely to end soon, unfortunately.
Fall of the Most Corrupt Government
It also removed the most incompetent and corrupt government since independence. The 10 years of Manhoman Singh as PM were the most unusual and demeaning governance free India has seen. Hiding behind him, the actual power was wielded by Congress supremo Sonia and her son. Her superficial knowledge of India and sub-mediocre advisors has left the country feeling badly helpless and powerless. She shows no remorse or introspection while India was bleeding with scam after scam. She had literally thrown the country to “dogs.”
Demise of her incompetent rule in 2014 gave India a deep sigh of relief.
Arrival of an Assertive PM Who Knows India Well
With assertive, dynamic and vocal Modi as PM now India seems to have a leader. After Bajpai’s rule, Indians now again feel that they are governed by leaders who know India, its people and culture well.
The Modi-Shah charisma did not end with the Lok Sabha poll; it continued in the assembly polls for rest of the 2014. Except for Delhi, it formed governments in all other 4 states that went to poll, even in the J&K for the first time!
Like Modi, Shah is also a man dedicated to the cause of nation building and a remarkable political strategist. No wonder, both workaholics form a great team.
Modi has already proved that he stands much above all in the political landscape of the country. His efforts to shape up the bureaucracy is clearly seen in creation of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) in place of the outdated and useless Planning Commission.
His almost mythical performances in Japan, US, and Australia and then business focused visits to France, Germany and Canada along with his decisive handling of Pakistan and China makes Indians proud that they now have a world class leader. His prompt handling of natural disasters in Kashmir, Orissa and even in Nepal assures people that they have a sincere friend as the PM.
Opposition Uniting Against the BJP
‘Strong arm’ leaders like Mulayam and Laloo are highly worried and insecure men today. Along with Nitish Kumar and few other insignificant ex splinters of Janata Party they have been trying to create a ‘grand coalition’ to counter the BJP and Modi. People see it as the last battle of the Big Egos before they become history.
People today find it comical and see it as display of mental disorder when these old timer “dramebaaj” claim to be uniting in the name of fighting the “communal” BJP.
These self centered big shots have badly polarized the country along communal lines between minorities and majority communities, for their minority “vote bank” politics. They look like “empty heads” and irrelevant noise makers as more and more Muslims come out of their traditional “shells” and embracing their non-Muslim brothers.
Muslims have by now clearly seen through their deceptive communal faces. “Sickular” is the right word to describe these divisive elements masquerading as “secularists”.
Even in the Congress party, some rare independent thinkers have started to worry about party’s anti-Hindu image – and rightly so. In the 21st century India, you can no longer show off as a “secular” by overtly or covertly accusing 80% Hindus and their organizations of being communal. They have been offending all right minded and rational thinking people of India – no matter which community they belong to.
Let’s all celebrate and hope for freedom from poverty, illusions and ignorance gathered in six decades by the self-serving dynastic rule by a single family. The “privy” of this family and other privileged dynasties such as Karunanidhi’s, Mulayam’s and Laloo’s, should end now forever so that real democracy begins to germinate.