No sentient human being on this planet can ignore the increasing fragility of the human condition across the world today – civil wars, burgeoning arms industries, natural calamities, epidemics, inter-communal and intra-communal violence, the destruction of viable nation-states in an unending battle for the control of natural resources, and so on and so on…
And sure enough, we now have a Fragile States Index with facts and figures to give frightening substance to these events. Brought out annually by a Washington-based non-profit, the Fragile States Index has this to show in its latest report:
And at 79.4, there sits India on the cusp of a High Warning Status.
While the country is thankfully NOT in a state of war, the high score is all the more disturbing because it reflects the deepening fault lines in its social fabric, as measured in the socio-economic aspects of the Index – especially relevant to India being the Demographic Pressures, Uneven Economic Development, Group Grievance, and Poverty:
Several recent events have thrown into sharp relief the growing disparities in every aspect of life in India. And the worst discrimination is that practised by the mainstream media in their overkill coverage of issues that impact the haves, the privileged and the entitled classes; while totally ignoring or cursorily dismissing those issues which affect the vast numbers of the permanently disadvantaged – the poor, the disempowered and the disenfranchised.
Under pressure from industry which thrives on the cheap overheads of the urban informal sector, the government is proposing to amend the Child Labour Act of 1986, relaxing the ban on children working in family-owned occupations, which is sure to lead to much more exploitation and abuse than India is shamed with today. Instead of widespread discussion to ascertain the views of working children, what we get on the mainstream media is endless discussion on the possibility of excessive lead in noodles manufactured by a multinational, and consumed mainly by the urban haves and their children as a lifestyle choice, and not as a necessity for survival!
Similarly, the fact that the present government has ruthlessly cut social welfare expenditure in its very first year has also gone unnoticed by the mainstream media. Instead, there is great publicity for 3 contributory schemes targeted at the poor, which totally miss the point that you have to first assure regular incomes, so that the potential beneficiaries can pay the premium on these insurance schemes, isn’t it? The only beneficiaries of these schemes are the fat cat insurance companies, who have already found a very lucrative market in the private medical insurance being offered in India. How hurtful it is that a noted hospital can offer different ‘packages’ for radiation therapy to cancer patients, with the top package available to the well-heeled and the well-insured. When asked what the difference was, one is told that there was more regular monitoring by CT scans for the higher packages, and also more care in mitigation of side-effects of radiation therapy. The sheer cold-bloodedness of such a commercial approach takes one’s breath away!
Yet again, the ‘manufactured’ aspect of communal riots such as the recent one in Haryana are not commented upon, nor is the fact that at the heart of the trouble is a piece of disputed land. According to one writer, what is noticeable is the total absence of remorse among the perpetrators, and the deliberate targeting of the relatively wealthy members of the victim community, who had their homes and worldly possessions like washing machines and fans systematically destroyed! Very reminiscent of what goes on in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, isn’t it?
And amid all the talk of building new smart cities, what happens to that terminally ill queen of Indian cities – Mumbai? The first spell of heavy monsoon rain, and the infrastructure and services come crashing down, as though no lessons were learnt from the calamitous floods of nine years ago…
Meanwhile, the intermittent tit-for-tat violence continues in the Indian North-East, with NO attempt to address the festering grievances of that region.
The deepening of these fault lines along caste, class, region, ethnicity and community have become so aggravated in recent months, that Indian society as a whole has become more fragile, more unpredictable, more liable to implosions and violence… and I dread to think where India will find itself in the Fragile States Index in 2016.
This is the first and most frightening consequence of pursuing economic growth at all costs – human and environmental.