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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

For BJP, it is India Shining on Prachar Bharti 

Much is being said and heard about BJP’s India Shining campaign. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Bajpayee himself justifies India Shining campaign by saying that the government has the right to show its achievements. Even his deputy LK Advani is on the rath of India shining campaign. His party’s justification is based on the booming economy, high forex reserve, high export growth, decline of interest rate and fine performance in the agriculture sector. Government machinery is being openly used to show its achievement’s. Prasar Bharati has become its Prachar Bharti. Almost Rs 400 crore is being expended on the India Shining campaign. However, all that glitters is not gold. India shines only in 20 percent of the population — mostly rich and the middle classes in the cities, who are benefiting from highly unequal pattern of growth of the past decade. In truth, India will not shine providing mobile phone connection, laptop, computer etc. to the 10-20 percent minority who enjoy access to the above. The majority lives in the villages whose basic requirement is food, house, health care, education and employment. India will shine only when poverty, illiteracy, hungers, starvation of 80 percent people vanishes. If we look at the entire picture of India, the figure goes contrary to BJP’s claim. 

Around 30 percent of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. As an estimate, 35 million people in our country are unemployed and another 20 million young people will enter the labour force in the next four years. The 10th plan documents have already issued warning signals that under the current circumstances the country infrastructure will not be able to provide jobs for new entrants. The problem is that out of 212 millions Indians aged between 14 and 25 (according to planning commission data) only 107 million of them have jobs. About 44% people of the country earn less than $1 per day, which is less than the international standard. Five crore jobs were promised by the government which is still a dream. Some months ago fourth grade job in the railway with the required qualification of VIII passed, paying Rs 6000 a month attracted more than seven lakh applications, most of whom were graduates and postgraduates. The qualifying examination for the job resulted in rioting which took many lives in some states, which reflects the growing desperation of ordinary young people.

According to the UN statistics, out of a total of 800 million people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition across the globe, around half of them are in India. This figure is nothing but shameful. In the health sector the country’s condition is more miserable. India is the leader in most communicable disease of the world. The world will eradicate polio, if India can somehow break the social barriers and provide vaccines to all children especially in western UP, Haryana, and MP. More than two-third of the TB patients in the world are in India. Seventy percent of the World's registered leprosy patients are Indian, the second highest number of HIV/AIDS patients are in India.

In the social sector the figure is more deplorable. The total childbirth with the help of trained medical staffs is only 30% percent in India and rest is left to the mercy of the Almighty. Sixty-three percent children under five are malnourished and 88% of pregnant women suffer from anaemia. Due to malnutrition nearly 47% children, who are considered the future of the country suffer from inadequate growth in weight and height. According to official estimate every second school going child is suffering from either ordinary or extreme malnutrition. According to NSS report the number of girls in the age group of 5-14 who work rather than go to school has gone up. The number of girls under 14 years in the work place has increased from 21 per 1000 persons in 56th round to 35 per 1000 in the 57th round in the urban area and 39 to 53 per 1000 persons in the rural area.

According to UNDP reports, India ranked 124 in HDI, in World Water Development ranked 120, in index of economic freedom ranked 119 below Sri Lanka and Pakistan which were at 80th and 99th position respectively. The existence of child labour in India is more than any other country in the world. According to Asian labour monitor, every third household in India has a working child; every fourth child in the age group of 5-15 is employed. According to one estimate there are around 50 million child labourers in India. Such children are denied opportunities of growth, development, learning, health care etc.

BJP government claims that the country has surplus food grain but the data goes against its claim. Food grain availability for human consumption is 150 kg per capita per year, which is less than what Famine Commission appointed by British administration in 1880, had estimated to avoid starvation death. In 1974 foodgrains availability per person increased to 174 kg by the green revolution from 150 kg in 1950. In 1998 it was 178 kg. Again slid back to 150 kg in 2004 .In comparison to USA where food grain availability per person per year is 900 kg, Europe 700 kg, China 450 kg.The availability of pulses, a rich source of protein is merely 10 kg per person per annum.

During the last 10 years, external debt increased to $99.7 billion march 2001 from $338 billion in March 1991.The plight of farmers is an open secret. It is shameful for a country whose farmers commit suicide out of fear of not being able to pay credit due to failure of crops. But for a ruling party it is ‘feel good’ and ‘feel proud’.

The sex ratio in the country is the worst in the world. Female foeticide is one of the primary causes of the decline in child sex ratio. The net deficit of female population was 9.9 million in 1951, which has now increased to 35 million which is not a healthy sign.

In the Lok Sabha elections between 1952 and 1996 the percentage of women contestants remained virtually constant at 3.2 percent. These dismal figures show the gloomy picture of women representation in parliament and state assemblies in the democracy of the world with the second largest population of women after China. Therefore the above data indicates that India shining campaign is false and baseless, meant to divert public attention from real issues.

A country cannot shine as long as its people will continue to fight over petty issues like conversion, cow slaughter, Mandir- Masjid dispute and above all, giving more importance to cows than human lives. The sign of a good, healthy and democratic country is to look forward and not indulge in any activities which pull the country back. It is unfortunate for our country that when people around the world are engaged in exploring the means of progress and prosperity, people of India are engaged in re-writing history , changing names of cities and towns and defining who are Indians and who are foreigners. Hence, India will not shine unless the mindset of India shinning campaigners is changed. Ideological change towards Dalits, minorities, women etc is prerequisite for India to shine. As long as farmers, laborers and the poor are deprived and exploited they will not feel good. BJP's feel good campaign is nothing but waste of money. 

Ali Azam Ansari

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