A claim often made by the Government is that India is emerging as a strong nation. Military alliance with powerful nations is shown as a sign of this growing strength. Growing alliance with United States, Israel and more vocal stand against Pakistan and China is cited as reason for the same. Defining strength is often dictated in the ‘militaristic’ sense, whether through having status as ‘major defence partner’ with US or being a recipient of arms supply from Israel. Strength is also defined in terms of glorification of the past rooting it to religion. RSS chief at times spoke of making India a ‘world guru’. A strong India was described as one with Hindutva at the core. The concept of ‘stronger nation’ is deviant both from the perspective of adherence to constitutional values and values as propounded under the foreign policy. Panchsheel which had an anti-colonial, anti-imperial tradition is replaced with a pro-imperial panchamrit policy which talks of rise of ‘Bharat as a World power’, which is nothing but a rise to status as sub-imperial power. The concept of strength is misaligned to what can make a nation strong.
Human development is a pillar to a Nation’s strength. However, Indian performance in human development depicts a dismal picture. India’s position in human development continues to remain at 131st position among 188 countries ranked in terms of Human Development. Sri-lanka and Maldives are ranked far higher than India in South Asia. In Global Hunger Index (GHI), India recently slipped to 100th position. This was a dip of 45, from 55th position during the three year period 2014 to 2017. NSSO data shows, that during the period 2014-2016, the unemployment figures has increased from 4.9% to 5%. With increasing addition of labor force availability, this means that more unemployed are getting added. According to CMIE, 1.5 Million jobs were lost during first four months of 2017. According to ILO report, there remains stagnation in job creation in the economy and unemployment is expected to increase during 2017-18 from 17.7 million to 18 million.
The state of producers adds to a nation’s strength. However, the state of farmers in India recently shows a miserable picture. Farmer suicides continue to remain a part of the growing agrarian crisis. Recent period has seen growth of Farmer protests. They were seen among Tamil Nadu farmers who protested at Jantar Mantar. Farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra protested against the falling prices and called for better prices for their produce. Similarly, farmers in
Rajasthan, Harayana and Gujarat too protested. The demands included loan waivers, implementation of swaminathan commission report on price fixation and revocation of ban on cow slaughter.
However, at a time when more burning issues of people need to get priority, invoking nationalism through symbolisms and show of an illusionary strength attains a higher priority. Investment priorities have larger focus on grand projects related to statue constructions than on human development. The 210 meter Shivaji statue is to cost about Rs. 3,600 crore to Government ex-chequer. The 182 meter Vallabhai statue is expected to cost about Rs. 2,989 crore. Similarly a 100 meter statue of Ram is planned for Rs. 196 crore. The Rs. 1.1 lakh crore bullet train project between Mumbai – Ahmedabad is only expected to make travel unaffordable for majority with its price equivalent to a flight travel. Indian defence expenditure remains at 12.2% of central government revenue expenditure.
This is at a time, when investments in education have dipped from 4.57% of GDP to 3.71% of GDP during the three year period 2013-14 to 2016-17. Investments in health stand at a mere 1.2% of the GDP. Thus there has been misalignment between the needs of the people and priorities of the government. Moreover, steps to improve human development indicators have hardly been taken.
The priorities of government in relation to ‘development’ therefore are completely misaligned in its concept of a ‘strong nation’.
T Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher.