Rajendra Aneja, an Indian based in Dubai, wrote a piece in 7Days – on the India Independence day, Reader’s birthday wishes to land of contradictions.
[I am highlighting Aneja's text in blockquotes.]
It seems to me that quite a few people in Dubai have started to miss the ‘Dear reader column’. Aneja tries very hard to be as bad as the original; he wears many hats and the first one is that of an economist. Through the letter, you’ll find that he is trying hard to keep the ‘economist hat’ on. He plays with numbers trying to sound like a learned economist.
Aneja writes: We are the tenth largest economy worldwide, but 25 per cent i.e. 250 million Indians, subsist below the poverty line, and cannot afford breakfast, lunch, dinner daily. We spend 4.8 per cent of GDP on health, 4.1 per cent on education. But we spend 8 per cent of budget on defense, for not having made peace with neighbors.
Aneja (the wannabe economist) has no basic understanding of what GDP is all about. GDP includes not just government wealth but also private wealth and things like the value of a Nuclear Warhead (Atom Bomb). How 25% of the Atom Bomb can feed the poor is beyond me – unless you are a Pakistani nuke scientist selling the technology to Rogue nations and terrorists. Luckily India does not sell its nuclear technology to terrorists. Oh Aneja! The minimum you could do was to use the non-American version of Microsoft Word (neighbors!)
It is true that India is a poor country. The notion that 60 years is a long time in a nation’s history is utterly rubbish. India is a young nation; the colonial Brits destroyed India with their “Divide and Rule policy”, and after squeezing the blood out of India for more than three centuries they left the country in a shambles. A broken economy, a partitioned country… the legacy of the British Raj is not too easy to wash off. Many brown Indians still try so hard to be the White Moghuls.
I wonder whether Aneja secretly applies ‘fair and lovely’. Don’t worry about me mate, I am comfortable in my Indian skin (my bottom is raven black
India is not perfect; we are a young developing nation. India has no grand visions of conquering the world; we have never been imperialists or never had the wish to set up colonies across the globe. India is a BIG sovereign republic trying to make progress. We are not a tiny city like Singapore which can be transformed overnight. India is a democratic country – where we all have a say in determining our future.
Some Non-Resident-Indians have the temerity to blame India… simply because they earn dollars, dirhams or euros these days. They have turned their back on the Indian-ness. Eating Chicken Tikka or Masala Dosa doesn’t make you an Indian.
“For not having made peace with the neighbors,” writes Aneja. Perhaps Aneja was in the middle of a ‘fake intellectual orgasm’ when the letter was written. India has never attacked any of its neighbours. All the wars India have fought, including the one with China in 1962 were forced on us. We were attacked first, even in the Kargil war. The audio recording of Gen Musharaf giving instructions to his deputies (the General was visiting China at that time) on how to make Kargil war succeed was intercepted by the Indian military intelligence. Yes, if you wish to – blame India for Musharaf too. Even Musharaf acknowledges that India has been good to him. India are not the trouble-makers – so why should we manufacture peace?
These sicko NRIs just won’t stop discrediting India.
Aneja writes: Transnationals select directors/chairmen, from India, but we cannot identify a Prime Minister, who is not a Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist. We swear by non-violence, but religious groups indulge in shameful rioting, every few years. We are a global economy, but pay the President and Prime Minister, pathetic salaries of $1,250 pm!
Who cannot identify a Prime Minister? Is it you, Aneja?
Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, VP Singh, Chandrasekhar, Devegowda, PV Narasimha Rao, IK Gujaral, AB Vajpayee – none of them are from the Nehru family.
People are poor, uneducated – they are easy targets for religious loonies. These poor people are mere pawns in the bigger power struggle. The religious fanatics in India are a very small minority. How many people does it take to riot anyway? A salary of 60,000 Rs (not your dollars dude) is just fine. The president and the prime minister of India are not presiding over a big corporation. Just don’t be constipated about it – read this one: We’ll miss you, Dr Kalam
Fali S Nariman writes, “In May 2006, President Kalam's relatives from the south decided to descend on him (as relatives tend to often do). On instructions of the President, they were welcomed by his personal staff at the railway station and were looked after right up to the time they departed. But the Controller of Household was under strict instructions to keep a meticulous account of all the expenses incurred on behalf of the relatives — all 53 of them. Not once was an office vehicle used for any of them. It was made clear by the President that he would pay — not only for the transport of all his relatives to and from Delhi, and also within Delhi, he would also pay for the various rooms occupied by them at Rashtrapati Bhavan and the food that was consumed by them — the rooms at the prescribed rate, the food on the basis of expenses actually incurred.”
Aneja writes: We foster entrepreneurship, yet New Delhi is a bizarre maze of licenses, controls. Leaders of integrity like Buddha, Mahavir and Gandhiji were born here. But a sheet of paper does not move, in the corridors of power, without financial lubrication. We had a woman Prime Minister for years, now a woman President, but we kill thousands baby girls a day, before birth!
India has been a social welfare state and remains to be one even today. According to your admission more than 25% of the population lives under the poverty line, which means they don’t live under any roof.
Licenses are part of the checks and balances required to run a big and diverse state like India. Imagine removing the driving license system in Dubai… Government intervention is a must to protect the weak, minorities and the poor. Government has to protect the economy from being looted by perverted individuals who are looking for quick profits. Why is there a powerful central bank in the USA if it is a free market?
Financial lubrication, eh? Corruption, graft – call it whatever you want. For corrupt businessmen and government officials to be exposed, arrested or put behind bars – there has to be a political will – more so Social Justice. For that to happen, the society needs to be in good economic and intellectual health. The small state of Kerala embarked on land reforms to ensure social justice, the results are known to all. Just that you need to look at the positives of Kerala, which many people refuse to.
Corruption exists in public sector and private sector of almost all countries. Corruption has become a way of life for all. I am not justifying it; only trying to explain why corruption exists. Consumerism, which is the only prevalent culture in the world today, is the root of that evil. Greed is the fuel of every consumerist society.
In America corruption in public offices is called “Lobbying”, in the Middle East it is known as “Wasta.” Even if Indians try hard, even the best criminal mind in India wouldn’t be able to pull off a Worldcom or Enron like the Americans did. No prime minister of India would have been able to convince the nation that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction.
As for the abortion/ murder of baby girls… it is a shameful act. But, then, in a poor country with a huge herd of uneducated people – the economic realities of having a girl – makes people do the heinous crime. Take a look at Kerala; how many girls are killed there?
As I said before, India is not perfect. But there is hope in India, unlike the hopeless situation that exists in Pakistan or for that matter USA. A nation like the US has had a corrupt regime since 2000. Not to forget the situation in Saudi Arabia – with all its oil wealth.
Aneja writes: We send our troops to embattled countries, under UN umbrellas to save lives, but 100,000 farmers committed suicide in a few years, due to financial insolvency. Our President lives in a palace of 300 bedrooms, but about 40-50 million Indians sleep in the streets or fields every day.
It is the state of the economy which has driven the farmers to commit suicide. That has nothing to do with our obligation towards UN, which for all sake is the only hope this world has to find some meaningful peace. Signing the WTO & GATT agreements have affected poor farmers. Their livelihood has been threatened thanks to the “competition.” There is only a fair competition when the playing ground is fair to the players.
Vandana Shiva, who knows it better than most of us, wrote an article in 2004, titled, “The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation”
Aneja writes: We have talked of metamorphosing Bombay into a Shanghai for a decade, but the annual monsoons transform the city into a stinking pond. All the global fashion brands are speeding to India, but we cannot get rid of our ancient brand image: poverty!
Sad isn’t it?
Our brand image as a poor nation is better than a brand image of a Terrorist state. Poverty is not a choice we made; it is the sum result of too many economic factors and conditions.
That all global fashion brands are speeding to India suggests that the new open-door policy is helping them come in and sell goods to the nouveau riche in India. When there is a part of India that is shining, there is a big part which is in Dark. A lot of work has to be done to deliver social justice to all.
As explained earlier, one cannot see India as an isolated case. The trail of damage the Tsunami of Consumerism is leaving behind is scary.
Another enlightened Non Resident Indian, Mita, posted Aneja's piece in the UAE Community blog
. Some of the comments goes to show how people parade their ignorance as facts.
We in India are glad that our land is not branded as a safe haven for terrorists or as a big heartless whorehouse for tourists. India is not a country for instant nirvana.
I am sad that India is poor. I am sad that most Indians who can make a difference to the lives of others in the country don't do enough. I am sad that some of my countryfolk evade tax, blame the politicians for all the problems, and shout for privitisation of everything including the government. Most of these people don't even vote or participate in the political reality of the country. Democracy and secularism are the cornerstones of the nation; we are not hypocrites like the Americans who say their form of government is secular and yet write "In God We Trust" on every dollar bill.
India is not run by religious bigots. India is not India Inc. India is a big democratic country. India never wishes to be a Singapore, Sweden or Dubai.
As any State, the Indian government finds it difficult to deliver Social Justice. The governments rely on Big Money these days; they have to follow World Bank, IMF diktats. Having said that, India as a nation has come a long way from where it was in 1947. Still there is plenty of work to be done - for which you need people participation. India is not a failed state.
Being critical and asking the difficult questions have always been an integral part of the Indian ethos. I am glad Aneja has asked the questions, even if those questions lack a certain sense of honesty and sincerity. I am glad we don't just shut up and put up with it like many nationalities.
Gandhi taught us one thing - not to be ashamed of our Indian skin -- even if we are branded as a poor nation. We have never wanted to be imperialists like the Europeans, Japanese or the Arabs. India has not invaded any neighbours or nations far away like the Americans and Europeans.
NRIs, if your poor countryfolk make you feel ugly - help them help themselves to do better in life.
Some Indians have forgotten the core value of our Indian-ness; Our Dharma is in giving without expecting anything in return. It is even better than "To give more than you take."
I am not ashamed of my Indian skin.
Footnote: Many illustrious Indians, including my leftist comrades, attacked George Fernandes (the then defence minsiter of India) for being irresponsible for saying China poses the biggest threat to India's security... Please read this one by Arun Shourie: China’s economic growth is not just ‘economic growth’"China builds 39 transport routes from its interior to the borders with India, and upgrades 15 of them for heavy vehicular traffic, including a four-lane highway right up to the border of Sikkim, all that too is ‘economic growth’; but that ‘growth’ should awaken us to what it implies for our security."
Another interesting read is an article "The Shade of the Big Banyan
," published by TIME Magazine in 1959, three years before China attacked India.
As for the pseudo-sympathetic-patriots who shed a tear for India's 'poverty brand', no one can save your soul.
*McMenon currently lives in the Middle East.