A nation of assets, but…

| July 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

A nation of assets, but…. P.M. Bhargava. The Tribune, 15th August 2010.

The blame for the present situation must lie squarely with the government whose ignorance about its own country is abysmal, says Pushpa M. Bhargava

IF one takes multiple criteria into account, more than 50 per cent of our countrymen would score below the poverty line. According to Arjun Sengupta, MP, 77 per cent of Indians lived in less than Rs 20 a day till just a few years ago. The situation today is, comparatively speaking, probably worse.

Our score in Human Development Index is amongst the lowest in the world. Leave aside any modicum of good education, more than one-third of Indians are totally illiterate. Unfortunately, it has been rarely realised that this is in spite of India having assets that are unmatched by any country in the world. Let us look at them.

We have all the world’s geo-climatic zones. Therefore, we can grow anything and everything that is grown anywhere, somewhere or the other in India. We can host winter Olympics, if we wish to, while taking the visitors to a native tropical forest, the Silent Valley, for a memorable ecological site-seeing trip.

We have a coastline of 8,000 km. It is a pity that we have not used marine biotechnology to produce extremely cheaply a large number of drugs (such as polyunsaturated fatty acids) which are otherwise extremely expensive.

We have unmatched inland water bodies and water sources such as rivers, and rainfall — and abundant sunlight. The forests we had when we became independent and the variety of materials that the forests produced, has again been unmatched.

Our mineral resources are vast; it is just that we have not learnt to use them fairly and in the interests of the people. Our land has had the capacity to feed even two billion people. It is just that we have mercilessly exploited it to destroy this capacity. Even half-a-dozen countries have no rich animal and plant biodiversity that we have. We have not recognised this diversity as a resource.

We have the third largest scientific and technological manpower in the world consisting of some three million trained personnel. We have a high level of expertise in virtually every area of human endeavour — be it space or nuclear technology, biotechnology or making the cheapest car in the world.

No country in the world has repertoire of traditional indigenous knowledge that we have, that too, in a large variety of areas. For example, we have over 40,000 distinct plant-based traditional drug formulations, using some 10,000 different plants, for curing or containing various diseases. Even if 10 per cent of them were found to be valid, using the most stringent criteria that we apply today for validating a new drug, India’s contribution to world medical and healthcare would become seminal as less than 20 new drugs come into the market every year, each costing about US $ 1.5 billion to produce.

We have the greatest human biodiversity in the world with close to 40 major and some 450 minor ethnic groups. We have the largest number of young people anywhere in the world and will continue to have them for the next several decades. We could, in fact, with our facility with English, become the most important supplier of manpower around the world.

We have a tradition — modern, medieval and ancient — of science and technology that is matched by very few countries in the world including developed countries and, certainly, not by any developed country.

We have had ten major revolutions pioneered by our human assets: the Green Revolution that made us sufficient in food grains; the White Revolution that made us the largest producer of milk in the world; the Information Technology Revolution making us the preferred destination for customised software; the Telecommunication Revolution that has 60 per cent of Indians own a cell phone; the Space Revolution so that we can make our own satellites and launch vehicles; the Atomic Energy Revolution so that we can produce our own nuclear fuel and reactors; the DNA Technology Revolution that led to the development of our own technology of DNA fingerprinting which is now used widely in the country; the Defence Technology Revolution so that we can make even highly sophisticated missiles ourselves; the Institutional Building Revolution so that we have today some of the world’s best institutions in every area of human endeavour — be it management, technological education or research in modern biology; and the Drug Revolution so that a large number of drugs even today cost in India less than one per cent of what they would in the United States.

We are one of the most ancient civilisations with an unbroken history of 5,000 years. In fact, we have history that very few countries have but, unfortunately, no sense of history. Our variety in every area is unmatched so that the only statement that is true about India would be that no statement about India is either true or false.

We have the longest and the most varied tradition of beauty expressed through a mind-boggling variety of arts, crafts, music and dance to give just a few examples. Art has been a part of everyday life of Indians for centuries till the compelling desire of the middle class to copy the West put a break on its dissemination and development.

Family and friends mean a great deal to us. The closeness of social relations and social bonding are amongst India’s greatest assets. Ours has been a highly value-based society, unfortunately corrupted by degenerated politics. For example, our tradition of hospitality is unmatched. Travelling by car, this writer and his wife had on occasions spent a night in an unknown village. We were always given a place to sleep and food for which no charge was levied. Perhaps, our nameless host had gone hungry to feed us.

We are the world’s largest democracy and our Constitution is amongst the best except that we do not follow it, just as we do not stick to democratic values.

Where else in the world one would find all of the above at one place? Therefore, the blame for the present situation in India must lie squarely with our government — exceptions granted — the ignorance of which about its own country would appear abysmal. Not surprisingly, it is concerned almost exclusively with those who are governing us rather than with those whom it is supposed to govern.

In fact, there is no problem in the country for which a solution cannot be found within the framework of our own assets — if only we would recognise and use them rather than seek a solution by becoming an appendage to powers elsewhere that cannot match us in the totality of assets that has been enumerated above.

The country is currently paying a much higher price for the ignorance of its rulers and of the so-called rich and the powerful than for the ignorance of the poor, the unprivileged, the uneducated and the ruled.

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