By Ananya S Guha
The daunting reality of India today is despair, lack of hope, poverty, intolerance, lack of basic amenities such as education, health care and living conditions are aspects which challenge us today. Even after 65 years of Independence one is saddened at such incongruous realities. Decades back in the 1980s M.J. Akbar wrote a very thoughtful and insightful, if not incisive book: “India The Siege Within”. He spoke of disruptive tendencies in the Indian Nation and the spirit of recalcitrance originating the growth of separatist movements to states such as Tamil Nadu with advocators such as Annadurai. Akbar`s book was a trend setter in the sense that similar books followed in its awakening, although may be in different contexts such as Tariq Ali`s “Will Pakistan Survive”. These books talked about disillusionment in the respective countries. I always take the late 70s and 1980s as the vantage point of the deterioration of Indian society and life. It is not only because of the emergence of various extremist movements but also because of the indifference to the plight of the majority by the miniscule of a minority elite who ruled in terms of education and political power. True the Emergency had preceded all these but what led to an emergency situation has also to be asked. True also that the Indian Electorate was very quick to vote out the perpetrators of Emergency but also quick in ousting a government which failed to deliver in the wake of the emergency.
A fall out of the situation in the 1980s which continues today are separatist and extremist movements, the reasons for which have not been analysed rationally. Why do people feel different from a generalized Indian ethos? Why after all the professing of secularism are there anti secular forces? What are the root causes of extremism in North East India and Jammu and Kashmir? Why have Maoist trends re-emerged? Can they be traced back to the initial Naxalite Movement which proliferated in West Bengal and other parts of the country? What was the exact cause of Sikh extremism? Despite the fact that Punjab was economically prosperous, what were the reasons for misgivings? These questions still remain unanswered today, despite seminars, conferences and tomes of books on these subjects. Academicians as well as social analysts have perhaps failed to address these issues dispassionately.
Growth as Amartya Sen points out cannot necessarily be identified with development. In India we glibly quote the figures of growth but do not embellish these facts with figures relating to development. There can be no development, if there is no eradication of poverty. There can be no development if population is not commensurate with development. That is to say if population trebles and the development remains the same then there can be no development in real terms, and development is also in sync with growth, which cannot only be measured in statistical terms. Statistically the growth rates have increased, but growth in the true sense is quality of life and accessibility of basic amenities including education, which again includes what we call inclusive education. Statistics have shown that the large numbers of the disabled in the country belong more to the rural areas. If we cannot tackle this problem in the cities then how can we do it in the rural areas, where there is ignorance and lack of basic knowledge regarding disability.
Further, the Right To Education will remain a myth if we do not look at education from the perspective of the masses, the street children, children in slums, children who are compelled to work from the age of eight or nine. These questions make one distraught. Sensitiveness and feelings are redundant words today. It is only glossy technology, make shift technology, substituting the internet for books which seen to make inroads into the Indian psyche. If the rich want to be richer, then why will not the poor want to become a part of the scenario of easy money and corruptibility? It is a vicious cycle, and we avoid it like a plague, happy with surface realities, that we are happy and that our salaries are increasing with every wage revision. But we are deaf to the sound of imminent trouble that, with every rise in salary there will be escalating prices ranging from house rent to ration supplies and vegetables.
I do not quote statistics to prove my point. Statistics becomes rubble when we look steadfastly at all these realities. Statistics only does more harm and goes to prove that growth is development which it is not. Growth is also not social, political and cultural development.