Missile nation : Bombs do not fill stomachs

img1 A. J. Philip
26 Oct 2020

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been overactive for the last one and a half months testing as many as 12 new missiles. We have to rely on it when it says that every test was a great success. The latest to be tested is an anti-tank missile, ideal for Ladakh.
One of the missiles tested travels at six times’ the speed of sound. I hope the next missile will cross the speed of light. Defence experts see the flurry of missile testing as an attempt to overawe the Chinese and force them to vacate our land. We as citizens can only wish the DRDO all success as, who wants the Chinese to occupy our land?
While we flex our muscles, a quiet revolution has been happening in our neighborhood. Bangladesh has just overtaken India in terms of per capita Gross Domestic Product. 
Some may wonder how it is possible when we have such super-rich men as Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Shantilal Adani, whose wealth has been growing exponentially.

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Therein lies a great dichotomy between our ideals of growth and practice. The share of 1 per cent of the population, including the Tatas, the Birlas, the Muthoots and Amit Shah’s son, in the national wealth is 58.4 per cent. 
In other words, you and I who constitute 99 per cent of the population own only 41.6 per cent of the wealth. This inequality has been growing.
Take the case of the richest man, Mukesh Ambani. Every hour, his wealth increases by a whopping Rs 90 crore. This happens when tens of millions of Indians have either lost their jobs or their income has nosedived. 
Life in India has become so miserable that corporates, which promote genetically-modified BT cotton, can easily find 1.3 lakh children to work on their farms in Gujarat for a daily wage of less than Rs 150, i.e., about $2. It is the state Narendra Modi ruled with a firm hand before he got bored and decided to move on to make India a Gujarat.

A few years ago, my friend, journalist, and Northeast expert Sanjoy Hazarika organized a seminar on the issue of infiltration into Assam at Jamia Milia, where he set up a Centre for Northeast studies. 
After getting bored listening to the same story of how the poor Bangladeshis were all the time trying to cross over to India, I intervened and asked the main speaker why on earth a Bangladeshi should plant himself in Assam.
On all indices like infant mortality rate, mother’s mortality rate, literacy rate, life expectancy, women’s emancipation,  happiness, Bangladesh was far ahead of India. For once, the tenor of the seminar changed, as everyone realized that the infiltration about which the BJP had been claiming was nothing but a clever ploy to polarise voters.
In the history of migration, people have always moved in search of greener pastures. That is how some people came to India, settled down on the banks of the Indus, and came to be known as Hindus. 
Over the millennia, they were able to convert nature worshippers into followers of their religious practices. Indigenous practices, everywhere, especially in the South, stand threatened as those in power try to impose their version of Hinduism that has at its fulcrum a bow and arrow-wielding Ram with Sita Devi nowhere to be seen!

As we got engrossed in making deadlier and deadlier bombs and missiles, the Bangladeshis concentrated on improving the quality of their life. They relied heavily on education, especially of women. It is rightly said that education is the best contraceptive. The population growth rate plummeted, even as poor but educated women joined the workforce improving the lot of their families.
They could think of such novel ideas as the Grameen Bank. When I first visited the US, I bought some clothes for my children and when they checked the stickers, they realised that they were made either in Bangladesh or Pakistan.
On its part, the Bangladesh government, successively led by women — Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia — spent a larger share of its GDP on public health, compared to India. They could have, like India, spent a larger share of their wealth to build bombs and missiles but they did not. Nobody threatens Bangladesh, nor does it threaten anyone.
Once on a visit to Japan, I asked a Japanese taxi driver to explain why Japan could rise like a Phoenix after its near-death in the Second World War. “We no longer had to spend money on defence”.
What the Japanese said is true about Bangladesh too. We have lopsided priorities. We want to be the strongest power in the world. That is what motivates persons like Narendra Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. It’s not my contention that we should neglect defence but we should also ensure that defence does not become offence.
There is only one country, other than India, which makes news by launching newer and newer and deadlier and deadlier missiles. It is North Korea. How does it compare with South Korea? The people of South Korea have access to 5G, while the North Koreans are yet to hear about 2G. Will anyone in India like to migrate to North Korea?
Modi and Company managed to enact a new law under which Hindus in Pakistan would get immediate citizenship in India. Some Hindus there got attracted and came to India. They realised the truth of how happy their co-religionists in India were that 14 of them returned to Pakistan. 
I do not rule out some Pakistani mischief in the Lahore-datelined report which also showed the picture of the 14, who belonged to two families. However, it’s incontrovertible that India’s Citizenship Amendment Act has not enthused anyone in our neighboring countries.

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In March this year, the United Nations released its World Happiness Report. India ranked 144 among a total 156 nations. With a score of 3.573 points, it nestled between Lesotho and Malawi. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been ranked 66 with a score of 5.693. Is it any wonder that the Pakistani Hindus returned to Pakistan?
On all social indices, India is a laggard. India ranked 145th among 195 countries in terms of quality and accessibility of healthcare, behind its neighbours like China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, according to the latest Lancet study. 
Yet, one argument that the BJP leaders have been making is that the people from Bangladesh have been trying to infiltrate into the country. It is just propaganda. My fear is that at the rate at which Bangladesh’s economy grows, there may be attempts to infiltrate into Bangladesh. 
Recently, I met a member of our church at Dwarka whom I had not seen for a long time. He told me that he was now in Dhaka, obviously earning well. I was surprised to know that Indians have started going there in search of jobs. He gave me his visiting card and invited me to Dhaka.
At this rate, the Bangladesh government may be forced to erect a wall to prevent Indians from infiltrating into the country. Some of my readers may laugh at this possibility but the fact is that I have been laughing at the BJP claim that the Bangladeshis are dying to settle down in India.
Have you ever come across a Bhutanese trying to find a job in India or trying to settle down here? No, it is not because Bhutan is a rich country. On the happiness index, they are almost always at the top. No, they do not have a large arsenal of bombs and missiles.
Which are the countries where the people enjoy life? They are the people who do not have any tensions about their future, because they are sure that the state would take care of them. They are small countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.
Do they waste their resources on making weapons? I have always wondered why, when we claim that we have the largest scientific community, we fail to win the Nobel. Recently, the Nobel Committee announced its prizes. Not even one Indian scientist received a Nobel.
The last time an Indian received a Nobel for science was 90 years ago, when CV Raman became the first Asian to do so. Subsequently, some Indians, including Raman‘s nephew, won but they won for the work they did in the West. 
Switzerland, which has a population equivalent to that of North Delhi where I stay, has won 24 Nobel Prizes in science so far. We blame Britain for all our faults like Hitler who blamed the Jews. 
When Shashi Tharoor rehashes published British material and writes a book to slam the British, it is given a Sahitya Akademi award. Britain has a population, which is almost equal to that of Kerala. It has won 107 Nobel Prizes so far! In comparison, we have a Prime Minister whose educational qualifications are a top state secret.
India was never a poor nation. It was in search of its fabled wealth that people from Central Asia and Europe came to India and with the help of Indian people conquered the country. 
The first colonisation happened in Goa, where the Muslims who were in power were removed by the Portuguese with the help of the majority community. 
The Portuguese were no larger in number than a small ship-full. If each Goan had thrown a stone at them, they would have diverted their ship back to Lisbon. How did our wealthy rulers spend their money?
They built majestic temples like the Konark and the Khajuraho ones at enormous cost to the exchequer. Had they built schools to democratize education, hospitals to strengthen public health, check dams to provide irrigation and encouraged people to travel and bring the best agricultural practices in the world, our people would not have remained poor.
Instead, superstitious beliefs that crossing the seas were sin, touching a dead body, without which anatomy could not be learnt, was unacceptable and reciting mantras without understanding their meaning was the surest way to salvation were allowed to be perpetuated.
Yes, the whole of Europe was poorer than India but they took to science like fish to water. The invention of the simple spectacle increased productivity manifold. Earlier, an artisan would stop work when his eyesight was weakened. The spectacle allowed him to work for many more years.
The invention of the steam engine, the printing press, and the motor vehicle transformed their lives. Instead of accepting these truths, writers like Tharoor blame the British for India’s backwardness. He even talks about asking Britain to compensate India. What about compensating the millions who were prevented and continue to be prevented from enjoying the fruits of development because they were born in castes, considered lower.
Seventy-three years after Britain was given a ceremonial send-off at the Gateway of India in Bombay, it is a pity that we blame them for our ills. China and India attained independence around the same time. Do the Chinese blame the Mongolians and their leader Ghengis Khan for their ills?
In fact, it was in dread of the Mongolians that they built the Great Wall of China, the only man-made object that can be seen from the moon. If the same Shashi Tharoor is to be believed, China has overtaken the US as the largest economy in the world. He even predicts the shifting of the IMF office from Washington to Beijing.

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Tharoor who served in the UN for many years says that under an IMF rule, its head office can be located only in the richest country. Hence the possible shifting of the office to Beijing!
Leaders like Modi are behaving exactly like our ancient rulers when they squander public money on erecting statues, building temples, reviving superstitious traditions and beliefs, forcing their food habits on others, instead of building schools, colleges, laboratories, encouraging both pure and applied science and letting freedom and fraternity to flourish.
Today, the Indian Prime Minister has the world’s best executive aircraft — better than the US Air Force One — for globe-trotting, but his country is at the 129th position in terms of Human Development Index, while the first slot goes to Norway. Tharoor has the British to blame and Modi has the “infiltrators” to blame!

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