Independence gained. Independence Lost

| July 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

The year was 1942. The ‘Quit India’ Movement. I had just joined the Lucknow University and was, like millions of others, intimately involved in the freedom movement.

Not without reason. At the India Coffee House in Hazratganj, I turned the cup and saucer over. Made in Great Britain (GB). So were the straws, pencil, paper, nails, pins and clips. We produced no manufactured product. The shirt I wore, came from Lancashire mills in England woven from Indian cotton. We have had history like no other country. I was aware of it. Leaders of yesterday, we were slaves today. My blood boiled.

Then we became independent. What moments of joy! The way we did it, was unprecedented. The leaders we had were, as a group, unmatched anywhere in the world. I had the privilege of meeting many of them. They were of us. They did not need hangers-on. They did us proud.

They made us maintain independence. Other colonies—British, French, Dutch, Portugese, Spanish—followed suit and became independent. Truth eventually prevails. So the poor, deprived Vietnam defeated the mighty French (and, later, the Americans). General Giap, the legendary Vietnamese hero who did it all, says in the last para of his autobiography (of which he gave me a copy in English in Hanoi in 1982): “Under the banner of President Ho (Ho Chi Minh) and the Party, our people overcame untold hardship during the three thousand days and nights of combat, continuously increasing in strength, winning ever higher victories and ceaselessly advancing on the road of the spring of the nation, the historic victory of Dien Bien Phu”.

India then led the non-aligned movement. We suffered sanctions from countries such as the US, but we were not disheartened. By the 1980s, every item of daily consumer need began to be made in India. We were, in most cases, just a couple of years behind the prosperous West; we had the capacity to copy everything. By the turn of the century, we had at least 10 major revolutions, all on our own: the Green Revolution, the White Revolution, the Information Technology Revolution, the Telecommunication Revolution, the Space Revolution, the Atomic Energy Revolution, the DNA Technology Revolution, the Defence Technology Revolution, the Institution Building Revolution, and the Drug Revolution so that drugs in India cost less than one per cent of what they did in the United States.

So when Canada did not give us fuel for our first nuclear reactor, we set up our own nuclear fuel complex. And when Russia didn’t give us the cryogenic engine for our space programme, we made one for ourselves. Our successes were ignored and only our problems were publicised in the West. But we understood: ignorance wasn’t the prerogative only of the developing countries.

• BUT then the bubble of independence, instead of becoming a steel ball, started bursting, slowly but surely from 1990 onwards. And now it has burst. We are steadily and speedily losing our hard-earned independence. To say we belong to the British Commonwealth today, is a joke. We have now become a part of the American (US’) uncommon (non-existent) wealth. Our status is moving in the direction of becoming a princely state (like Hyderabad and Mysore during British rule, except that Britain has been replaced by the US). The evidence? Read on.

• Look at the first India-US CEO Agreement signed by the heads of the ten largest and most powerful US companies, and ten Indian business magnates, headed by Ratan Tata, and including Ashok Ganguly and Nandan Nilekani who were members of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) of which I had the privilege of being the Vice-Chairman for some time. We agreed in this agreement that we should do nothing to Coca Cola, close the Bhopal gas tragedy case, open our retail market fully and unconditionally to US companies, and so on.

• It took 26 years for the Government of India (GOI) to wake up to the injustice done to the over half-a-million survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy. It decided to reopen the cases against the Indians involved. But it does not wish to do anything to DOW or to Warren Anderson who have been the main culprits. Reason? they are Americans. During the apartheid regime in South Africa (of which I have personal experience), a non-White policeman could not prosecute a White even if he had committed a murder to which the policeman was witness. Replace Whites with the US and non-Whites with India, and you have a fair description of the current situation in India

• Our agricultural research policies are now being determined by the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture. When I was in the NKC, we had identified 21 areas of research or its application in agriculture that were relevant to us. Dr Mangala Rai, who was then the Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education, had agreed that we should look into all the 21 areas. In fact, four meetings at the national level were held in four of these areas: post-harvest technologies, integrated pest management and biopesticides, organic agriculture, and energy use in agriculture. These meetings came up with excellent recommen-dations that, if implemented, could have played a role in transforming our agriculture. However, none of these recommendations have so far been followed, and no consultation has been held in the rest of the 21 areas after I left the NKC.

For example, it was decided in the meeting on organic agriculture that we would convert one of the existing ICAR institutes to an institute for organic agriculture. This would, however, not be in the interests of the US. So we have not done it. Several US multinationals have been interested in marketing their pesticides in India. So we have ignored integrated pest management and biopesticides which have been shown by the ICAR to work for 85 or so crops, including cotton and brinjal. For this reason alone, we did not need genetically engineered Bt cotton and Bt brinjal. A legitimate question that may, therefore, be asked is as to why the technology of integrated pest management and biopesticides, developed by the ICAR, is not being popularised. The only answer would be that our doing so would be against the interests of the US-based multinationals wanting to sell their far-more expensive and harmful, so-called insect-resistant genetically manipulated (GM), crops.

• My major problem with the NKC, appointed by the Prime Minister with Sam Pitroda as the Chairman, was that the decisions it took seemed to be more in the interests of the US than in our own interests. In fact, we hardly had any meeting of the Commission at which one or more Americans were not present; the approval of the entire Commission for their presence was never obtained.

• Why did we allow Coca Cola to come back after it was justifiably thrown out by the Janata Party Government around 1978? In fact, as soon as Coca Cola was out, we had our own cola-based drinks such as Double Cola (developed by the CFTRI of Mysore which was not allowed to be marketed as long as Coca Cola was there), Campa Cola and Thumps Up, besides innumerable other drinks such as Gold Spot which were far less harmful than Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola whose pH (a measure of acidity) is two. (The pH of pure water, which is neutral, is seven.) Virtually all of them have disappeared from the market. We have also been ignoring the fact that Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola have been engaging in extremely unfair trade practices, leave aside their having high levels of pesticides and their drawing free water to an extent that the adjoining farms have gone dry. I was once told by the Secretary of the Retailers Association of Secunderabad that Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola do not allow the shops where they are sold, to have any other drink available in the shop. And why is it that all Indian airlines, including the national one, do not have any other bottled soft-drink available on their flights, except Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola?

• In June 2005, I was invited to Jordan by King Abdullah (a direct descendent of Prophet Mohammed) to carry a message to Mrs Sonia Gandhi: that Jordan sees a bright future for India and that the perception that it is more pro-Pakistan than pro-India is wrong. He enumerated the various real strengths of Jordan including its high-quality intelligence service and a Free Trade Zone which had no trade barrier with the US. During this visit, I spent a great deal of time with Prince Ghazi, a cousin of King Abdullah, and the Regent acting in place of the King while the King was away. Prince Ghazi, a Ph.D from Oxford or Cambridge, gave me a book on Islamic terrorism and fundamentalism authored by one Vincent Olivetti and published by Amaedus Books in the UK. This extensively well-referenced and authoritative book traced the origin and sustenance of Islamic terrorism and fundamentalism to the emergence of the Wahabi-Salafi sect in the Islamic community, the primary seat of which is in Saudi Arabia that also supports the activities of this sect financially. When I asked Prince Ghazi as to who Vincent Olivetti was, he pointed the finger to himself! The Prince then made the following observations in a handwritten note to me.

“Islam (i) inherently guarantees no offensive Jihad in the modern world; (ii) condemns and forbids terrorism; (iii) guarantees human rights and liberties; (iv) guarantees women’s rights and minority rights; (v) permits democracy as one form of viable government; (vi) demands of the Muslim minority that they be loyal to their countries provided those countries allow freedom of religion and do not discriminate against them; and (vii) respect and tolerate adherents of other traditional religions, specifically including Hinduism.”

I conveyed the message of King Abdullah to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, to the Prime Minister and to the National Security Advisor, and gave them each a copy of the Prince’s book as well as of his several-page handwritten letter to me. Dr Manmohan Singh’s first and most appropriate reaction was that we should invite King Abdullah and Queen Raina (a Palestenian) of Jordan as the next Republic Day guest. I made two more suggestions. One, that we should send a high-powered delegation to Jordan consisting of our intelligence men, defence personnel, businessmen, scientists, and intellectuals familiar with Jordan and its history. Two, that we should invite Prince Ghazi to give a series of lectures on Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism around the country, including Kashmir. The initial and immediate response of all I have named above to these suggestions was positive. But till today, none of these suggestions have been followed. And at the next (2006) Republic Day after my meeting with the Prime Minister, we did invite King Abdullah, but of Saudi Arabia—a country in which human rights are violated to the largest extent, and which is the greatest supporter of Wahabism–Salafism, and indirectly of islamic terrorism and fundamentalism. And we did so because Saudi Arabia is a much closer friend of the US than Jordan is. In fact, a corollary of my dialogue with Prince Ghazi was that the US was the initiator and greatest supporter of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. Later Queen Raina of Jordon visited India, followed by King Abdullah accompanied by Queen Raina. Both these visits were low-key visits which would have no doubt pleased the US, for Jordan, also an Islamic country, does not see eye-to-eye with Saudi Arabia.

• WE voted against Iran’s nuclear programme. Is the US the only responsible country to be allowed to possess a huge nuclear arsenal which it is not going to destroy? If it and so many other countries can have nuclear weapons and expand their nuclear programme, why not Iran? And India bowed out of the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline only because the US didn’t want us to be a part of it. We have not realised that, today, the US is the most hated country in the world and is widely considered as being responsible for virtually every major conflict anywhere. Add to this the fact that, as of today, the US is a socially, politically, and economically decaying society; there are reasons to believe that its economic recovery will slow down. And it has been the greatest supporter of terrorism as long as its own territory was not affected by it but, in this century, the Government of India has never criticised the US. Our government reacted strongly when, in August this year, Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal was denied a visa to go to China, but it did nothing when Prof Goverdhan Mehta, FRS, the President of the Indian National Science Academy which is totally funded by the GOI, was denied an American visa, or when another distinguished academician from the Gandhi family was denied entry in the US even when he had a valid visa.

• We have never raised our voice officially against the uncalled for US intervention in Iraq. Why have we not had the courage to tell the US that you invaded Iraq under a false pretext and that we do not support you on this count? Why such expensive joint military exercises with the US? Why not with China, with which country our friendship can be far more productive? In fact, it wouldn’t have escaped the notice of any foreign policy expert that our foreign policies towards Iraq or Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan, China or Nepal, are only what the US would approve of.

• We are very keen to have foreign education providers which would be primarily from the US—rather than improve the quality and quantity of our own educational systems. Thus, one-third of the academic positions in all our IITs are vacant today but the HRD Ministry of the Government of India wants to do nothing about it. In fact, one wonders whether it is a deliberate policy of the Government of India to downgrade our higher educational system surreptitiously and under a false cover, so that we can have our higher education essentially controlled by the American education providers. It is clearly in the interests of the US to have some 80 per cent of our population live in less than, say, Rs 30 a day (which is like living in the US in less than $ 3 a day); it is very much easier to exploit such vulnerable, uneducated and unknowledgeable population than an educated and well-informed one. This is precisely what the British wanted and achieved.

• As has been said many times by responsible people around the country, the Right to Education Act is nothing more than a farce. The primary objective of our education system, as of today, seems to produce employable people for the US and its friends that would have a crunch of young people in 10-15 years. These ‘employable people’ should ideally come from the top 20 per cent of the population which is for various reasons aligned with the US. (Let us not forget that our middle class and the private sector are almost entirely aligned with the US just as a vast proportion of the rich and the powerful during the British rule were aligned with the British.) The government, therefore, de facto, wants our higher education to be a prerogative of this class. And because our private sector (exceptions granted) is so pro-US, we dare not alienate our private education providers irrespective of corruption being rampant in them and the graduates they produce being mostly unemplo-yable.

• Thus, in the State of Andhra Pradesh, we are giving a huge number of scholarships for higher education to study in private colleges, in spite of the fact that these colleges are set up exclusively to make money, the standard of education that they impart is deplorable, and they are all steeped in corruption from the point of taking students to the point of declaring their results. Thus, according to a report in The Hindu of September 4, 2010, “officials have stumbled upon a record number of 85,000 duplicate accounts opened in different banks by students and college managements to receive tuition fees reimbursement and scholarships of the government. During inspections undertaken to plug the leakages, the officials found to their dismay that many of these accounts existed in the name of the students’ relatives. There is a growing suspicion that the college management may have opened some of them.” The Government of Andhra Pradesh is due to release Rs 3600 crores as a grant to such private colleges during the current year under the facade of giving scholarships to students belonging to a certain social strata. But the private sector must not be touched on account of its natural affinity towards the US. Love the master, love his dog! If this were not so, why would have Ratan Tata, on behalf of industrialists of the country, offered to pay for the damage to soil and water caused by the Union Carbide (now DOW Chemicals) in Bhopal?

• It is now well known that the Indian Govern-ment decided to go for the oral polio vaccine (OPV) instead of the injectable killed polio vaccine (KPV) which was recommended by experts, only because America and Europe had decided to shift to KPV and a market had to be found for the OPV manufacturers abroad. It is for this reason again that our OPV plant in Bulandshahr never produced a single dose of its own OPV that it was supposed to some 25 years ago; if it did, how would we satisfy the American manufacturers of the OPV? How does it matter if the OPV has not been able to eradicate polio from this country in spite of a huge number of doses given to each child, or if the OPV has led to thousands of cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP)?

• Food is the biggest business in the world. In India 62 per cent of its population is engaged in agriculture, and 70 per cent Indians live in villages where farmers live. Therefore, if any country wishes to control the destiny of India, it only has to control India’s agriculture. And to control India’s agriculture, one needs to control just seed production and agro-chemicals production. This is what MNCs like Monsanto are trying to do with blessings from the US Government and support of the Indian Government. One of the strategies is to control seed production through providing proprietary genetically modified seeds. The only saving grace so far in the government in this respect has been the decision of the Minister of Environment and Forests to put an indefinite moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal which would have been the first genetically modified food crop to be released in India. To counter this, the government is proposing to introduce a Bill on the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) which will take away the responsibility of giving permission for commercialisation of genetically modified crops from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. And look at what we have in the proposed BRAI Bill. Clause 63 states: “Whoever, without any evidence or scientific record, misleads the public about the safety of the organisms (GMOs) and their products, shall be punished with imprisonment for a tenure which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year and with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or with both.” And who will decide whether there is “evidence or scientific record”? A three-member authority probably chosen in consultation with or approval of the US-based multinational
seed companies that wish to control Indian agriculture.

• LET us now look at the energy sector. The nuclear bill was not initiated by the Atomic Energy Department or Atomic Energy Commission. The proposal came from the Government of India, almost certainly at the instruction of the Government of the US where the nuclear power industry has been in doldrums and they had to find customers for selling their nuclear reactors. Initially, virtually every living Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and most of its senior officers (past and present) opposed it. Later, a small proportion of them, including the then Chairman of the AEC, were brought around. (He was given a Padma Vibhushan the following year.) For example, it was said that we were short of uranium, which was a lie. Why did we not follow the Bhabha Plan which was, till 2004, the plan that was being followed by the DAE and had enormous merits, specially in respect of self-reliance? The US wanted Indian initiatives in the nuclear sector to be killed, to have a market in India. The new, US supported nuclear energy plan will end up taking care of only a small percentage of our power requirements and that too at a huge cost to the users.

Why didn’t we decide to spend that money on development of solar power, as countries like Germany are doing? Why are we reluctant to invest on wind energy, biomass energy and power generated through micro and mini-hydel projects? We have not exploited even 10 per cent of the resources we have in regard to these renewable sources of energy, leave aside solar energy. And why have we ignored transmission losses which may be as high as 40 per cent? Shouldn’t we have thought of local power generation through renewable sources mentioned above, as a matter of policy to eliminate transmission losses? But we don’t want to be self-reliant anymore. We want to be dependant on the US because the politicians, the bureaucrats, and the rich and the powerful gain by such dependence. What happens to the 80 per cent (or more) of the remaining India is not their worry. What happens to compromising our independence is not their concern. Britain ruled India through Indians. This is precisely what the US wants to do and we are falling in the trap.

• When some years ago we had famine in Orissa, the US Government sent us soya bean flour for the famine victims. It was later shown to be made from GM soya beans, and was sent to India against all international norms which say that no country can give to any other country any GM food or GM material without informing the recipient country and obtaining its permission. We didn’t even lodge a complaint against the US Government. And today our food stores are full of American GM-food (such as Doritos corn chips) without our permission, and we are doing nothing about it.

• We have been madly after US support, say, through foreign direct investment. Have we ever calculated the amount of aid that India has given the US by providing highly trained Indians on whom the US would have had to spend enormous amounts of money had they educated them in the US right from Class I and even earlier? I dare say one would probably find that the aid that we have given to the US is far more than what we have received from it in monetary terms. Have we had the courage to ask the US to pay for it? Not to demand what is one’s due, but to succumb to giving to the powerful what is yours specially when you are poor, is surely a sign of capitulation and of establishing a master-servant relationship.

• The US can do anything to India and we would eventually accept it without any significant retaliation. In spite of the US’ commitment to globalisation and its pressure on India to “globalise” without any constraint or restraint (so that the US can penetrate and control every sector of our economy), President Obama is firm on de facto banning outsourcing to India which is bound to affect our growth, exports and GDP substantially. Would we retaliate and say, “we will not purchase any nuclear reactors from the US”? No.

• India should have never signed the TRIPS Agreement. We did so under pressure from the US and its allies in the 1990s. Not only that, there are clauses in the TRIPS Agreement (Articles 7, 8 and 27.2) which we can use to protect our drug industry which has, through high-quality chemical innovation, created a scenario where drugs in India cost less than one per cent of what they do in the US—and we have virtually every drug available elsewhere, they become available in India within a couple of years at such low cost. Our increasing number of dollar billionaires and dollar millionaires will surely be able to afford the drugs even if they were to cost a hundred times more than what they do today in the country, when the prices in India of new drugs will be comparable to what they are in the US, but what about the rest of the people? The problem is—who cares? Surely not the government, the politicians, the bureaucrats, the rich and the powerful (exceptions granted), who seek approbation and patronage elsewhere. We would probably have had full convertibility of the rupee on capital account before the financial melt-down of the US, if we did not have strong opposition from the Left and from a few of our nationalist economists such as the past and present Governor of the RBI. It was this opposition from the power-centres that could not be ignored, and not the will of the government, that saved the country from a financial disaster. But we may be proceeding in that direction by continuous disinvestment of our profit-making public sector enterprises, and opening our retail market to foreign companies without any restriction.

• THE above list is not exhaustive but it should be enough to lead us to the conclusion that the most important bond between the US and India is not democracy, but the fact that the governments of both the countries, backed by the bureaucracy, big business and the rich, are committed to safeguarding the interests of the US. We have lost our hard-gained independence. Wouldn’t this be a strong motivation for the vast majority of Indians to have a Mumbai Tea Party, like the historic Boston Tea Party?

Independence gained. Independence Lost. P.M. Bhargava. Mainstream, 29th January 2011, (Vol XL IX, No.6) pp.21-26.

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