Ch-01 Extracts: Harvesting Misery

Harvesting Misery

(Thanks to Foundations!)

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Many countries, including those in SE Asia, which were nowhere near India or were much behind India at the time India got independence have marched far ahead of India. When you look at their airports, their roads, their metros, their city-buses, their well laid-out cities, their infra-structure, their cleanliness, their everything, you wonder why you have remained a country of crumbling roads, overcrowded locals, overhanging scary ugly mess of mesh of electrical, TV and internet cables blotting the skyline and brutally assaulting even the “chalta hai” sense of terribly intolerable tolerance of the “have given up” generations; a country of absent pavements or encroached pavements or pavements that stink from the use they are not meant for, and where mercifully for the walkers this is not so, they are but patches of broken down pavers, punctuated by uncovered, or partially covered, or precariously or deceptively covered man-holes, awaiting their catch; a nation of stinking slums and impoverished villages, open drains and sewers, rotting garbage, squalor and stink all around, children and men defecating by the road-side—all testimony to criminal absence of the very basics of being civilised...

Most of the Indian towns, cities and metros are dirty, foul smelling and hideous. They look like a defacement of spaces and a blot on the landscape. Cities in the West, SE-Asia, China and elsewhere get better, cleaner, smarter and spiffier year after year, while ours get worse, more congested, more difficult to live in and more squalid.

How's it that we got so left behind? What is it that we did, or did not do, after independence, that everything is so abysmal and pathetic? Why an overwhelming majority in India is condemned to continue in abysmal misery? What are the foundations of this misery?

And all this unmitigated misery despite the overwhelming advantage of India as a nation with first-rate people,  plentiful natural resources, relatively better position in all fields—infrastructure, trained manpower, bureaucracy, army—at the time of independence compared to all other nations who have since overtaken us, grand civilisational heritage, rich culture and languages, and unmatched ethical and spiritual traditions.

Why did we fail to leverage such rich assets of a gifted country?

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The “Incredible India!” tourism campaign by the Government of India seems to be a sarcasm on itself: incredibly awful security environment for tourists; incredibly ill-behaved auto and taxi wallas out to fleece their clients, with no control by the concerned government agencies; incredibly ill-maintained government-owned resorts, hotels and tourist places; incredibly filthy surroundings; and incredibly pathetic infrastructure.

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As a conundrum it could hardly be bigger. Six decades of laudably fair elections, a free press, rule of law and much else should have delivered rulers who are responsive to the ruled. India’s development record, however, is worse than poor. If democracy works there, why are so many Indian lives still so wretched? Social indicators leave that in no doubt. A massive blackout last summer caught global attention, yet 400m Indians had (and still have) no electricity...Twice as many Indian children (43%) as African ones go hungry...Compared even with its poorer neighbours, Bangladesh and Nepal, India’s social record is unusually grim...

– The Economist, 29 June 2013

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Can a country attain greatness even if its leaders are Lilliputs; and vice versa, can the country's leaders be considered great even if the country goes to dogs—or remains wretchedly poor and achieves only a fraction of what it could have?

Are leadership-greatness-index and country-progress-index dependent or independent variables? Does a country’s performance reflect into its leader’s performance and evaluation, and are a country’s achievements a determinant for its leader’s achievements and greatness; or, is it that leaders can be proclaimed as great  quite independent of the fate of the country they are leaders of?

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Worldwide rankings for 2012 by the Mercer Quality of Living Survey lists 49 cities. No Indian city makes the grade. Mercer City Infrastructure Ranking, 2012 lists 50 cities. No Indian city appears in the list.

Among the prominent cities in the world, the 25 dirtiest include New Delhi and Mumbai having mostly the African cities for company!

Two cities in India, Sukinda and Vapi, rank 3rd and 4th in the world as the most polluted cities.

Just eight Indian states have more poor people than the 26 poorest African countries combined!

Among the 57 nations whose Global Hunger Index (GHI) status is categorised as “alarming”, India is 15th worst, with countries like Sudan, Pakistan, Cambodia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Nigeria being better off!

As per the Hunger and Malnutrition (HUNGaMA) report, 42 per cent of under-fives Indian children are severely or moderately underweight and 59 per cent of them suffer from moderate to severe stunting.

India ranks 134 on HDI (Human Development Index) among 187 countries, below even Iraq and Egypt!

India ranks 76th among 80 “less developed countries” in the world on Mother-care Index, that is 5th worst.

We beat even the poorest countries in Africa in infant mortality rates!

India ranked 134 out of 187 countries in terms of women’s well-being as per a UN index of 2011.

India has the largest number of child brides in the world: 47% of girls are married off below the legal age of 18—that’s almost half!

53% of Indian homes are without toilets, 68% are without access to clean tap water, 39% do not have indoor kitchens.

There are nearly 97 million urban poor living in 50,000 slums in India, 24% of which are located along nallahs and drains and 12% along railway lines.

In literacy, India is 183 among 214 countries—below many African countries.

The number of Class V students who can’t read a Class II level text or solve a simple arithmetic problem is 51.8%, as per a report by the NGO Pratham.

Not a single Indian university or institute of higher learning, including the premier IITs, figure in the top 200 universities of the world.

A single city Singapore earns far more tourism revenue than that earned by the whole of India (USD 8 billion). The “Incredible India!” tourism campaign by the Government of India seems to be a sarcasm on itself: incredibly awful security environment for tourists; incredibly ill-behaved auto and taxi wallas out to fleece their clients, with no control by the concerned government agencies; incredibly ill-maintained government-owned resorts, hotels and tourist places; incredibly filthy surroundings; and incredibly pathetic infrastructure.

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If you go through the reports on the juvenile homes, shelters for women and children, and hostels for Dalits and Adivasis, you feel that if there were to be an Indian Charles Dickens or Charlotte Brontë, they could write real-life stories that would make David Copperfield, Oliver Twist or Jane Eyre appear like fairy tales in comparison.

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Many who have seen the movie Les Miserables based on the eponymous historical fiction by Victor Hugo about France during 1820s to 1840s find that the current India is no better than France of two centuries ago!

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Study the past if you would divine the future.

– Confucius

 

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