Monday, October 12, 2009

Paradoxical India

By: Reetasri Bhattacharjee

During the 16th century, the Mughals termed India as a “Golden bird” not only because it had the riches but because it had the human resources too. The mystic country has been exploited by many over centuries. Mughals, British all had laid their hands in this “Golden Bird” and exploited it too. While the former became part of the customs and lifestyle, the latter tried to change the same to their style. Through these periods of accession, India learnt and gained many things. The diversity that we so commonly speak about today is nothing but a legacy of this heritage. It should also be remembered that India as a country is an amalgamation of many former regions like the the Rajputana, Punjab, Hyderabad, Bengal, Oudh and many more such small regions that were ruled by various dynasties since time immemorial. Only after the british came to India and with theor subsequent conquer of all these small territories did the amalgamation came together. This union of various regions have led to people of different culture, religion, race come together and live in the same political embodiment.

India is till today made of people who are tied down to their culture yet battling to make a mark on the modern world. As the common cliché goes, “India is a land of paradox”. At the same time, India is an ancient civilization and a young Republic, there is stark poverty and undulating richness in the same street, there is health in one house while the neighbour is filled with illness. If one part of the country is progressing extensively in technology, the other part is still battling a quiet fight with bullocks and plough. India is an agricultural country yet today it is known for its Information Technology. The statement the “the rich gets richer here, the poor poorer” cannot be more true as it is in India. India boasts of many richest people in the world yet at the same time hesitantly admits that 42% of the population falls below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day. If we have the best human resources who gladly settle in the Silicon Valley, we also have about 40% illiterate in the country. This is India for the world. Yet it does not stop to attract people from everywhere for various reasons.

India has been making technological advancements like never before. Today, the country has a huge hub for science and health. Many significant inventions and innovations are coming out of the country’s larder and the world is taking note of all this. Very recently, India climbed a few steps in international recognition and standing when the international journal Science affirmed that images from India’s first moon mission Chandrayaan-I confirm that our only constellation has water in it. The fact that even after many missions to the moon by Russia and US, it was through an Indian satellite that particles of water was found in moon has a lot of signification for the country. India spent an estimate of Rs. 386 crore (US$ 80 million). It is a lot of money that has been spent on a mission to the outer world. Though the mission had to be called off within a year of its launch (its target was a two year revolving around the moon), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) now claims that the mission was 95% successful. Already plans for another moon mission is underway and it expected to be launched within 2013 with a projected cost of Rs. 425 crore (US$ 90 million). This only shows that a lot is being invested in this but the question that necessarily arises is whether this investment is required or not.

It is no mystery to anyone that India is still a developing country and there are many areas that need immediate attention. The health care is one such area where immediate attention is needed. As already known India is a young nation with the average age of people being below 40 years. However, India contributes to 5.6 million child death rates in a year due to malnutrition. According to UNDP Human Development Report (1997), 88% of pregnant women (age 15-49) was found to be suffering from anemia. Only one-third of Indians have access to proper sanitation. India right now is waging under the threat of Swine Flu like the rest of the world, yet no one takes notice of the fact that 700,000 Indians die each year from diarrhoea. Though the situation is improving, it remains concentrated in the urban areas where most of the specialized treatment takes place. In the rural areas, the minimum health-care facility doesn’t reach.

According to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the UNDP, education is one basic requirement of development. However, in India, as already mentioned more than 40% are illiterate. The condition is such that even after the laucnch of schemes like the Sarva Shikya Abhiyan, the penetration of education does not seem to reach the grassroot. Even at the higher level, the Quota system and privatization of education has made the situation into more of a profitable business rather than a human development index.

In light of all these realities, the fact that India spends so much on a moon mission is sometimes unbelievable and laughable. If looked in perspective, it can be seen that India has now completely come out of its non-aligned stand and is actually fighting for a place among the “Big Nations”. Even though finding water, for example, was a big technological advancement, the question that looms over again is whether that is the requirement of the day or nor? Why cant a country like US send missions to the moon where their people are not battling for the basic requirements of life and their isn’t any abject poverty. India, at this moment need to improve the living conditions of its people rather than finding life in other planets. The debate that US is using this eagerness of India to get into the mainstream of “Big Nations” for its capitalistic goals will ever remain with having some truth in it. (it is to be noted here that though images of water on moon was found through an Indian mission, the device that recored it was a NASA product).

India needs to come out of its dual nature and face the realities of the day instead of building fantasies of the other world. It needs to solve the problem of its people first and than that of the world. Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director of Tata Group, called India the “land of paradox-a country that likes to do the most obvious thing after exhausting every possible alternative.” It seems the time is showing us just that. India

This blog has been contributed by Reetasri Bhattacharjee a dear friend of mine. She is a regular blogger on blogspot and maintains the blog My Passing Moments


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