By Professor SP Bhattacharyya
Speaking about violence, Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, said the other day that the greatest violence perpetrated in a society is when millions of children from the poorer sections are deprived of their right to life and liberty, not to speak of health, education and dignity. That nobody wants violence of any kind is a universal platitude. But it is there in almost all countries of the world in some form or other, only more blatantly manifest in the backward counties like ours. Many people believe that poverty is a socio-political systemic malaise which debilates a society from within, like cancer does to one afflicted by it, and commulism, extremism and all other forms of social violence are only different symptoms of poverty. Just as no symptomatic treatment can cure cancer, so also the same method cannot eradicate poverty.
To suggest a remedy the root cause of the malady has to be ascertained first. It cannot be denied that a powerful section of every society, cutting across all social and political divides, benefits from poverty, feeds and fattens on it and therefore has a stake in perpetuating it. The present technological development model all over the world is, to my mind, based on a symbiotic relationship between prosperity and poverty. This is why we find the biggest slums (about five million slum dwellers) growing in the fincial capital of India, i.e. Mumbai. In this context do we see a possible solution of sorts to our poverty in the recent remark of the PM;- ‘if we have a million problems, we have a billon brains also (to solve them)’?
Though rhetorically it sounds fine and the PM has every right to be wishful in a positive way, yet the ground reality also cannot be ignored. Without proper grooming or training, an unskilled brain in today’s industrial society has little productive value in the economy of the tion;- it is to be taken care of rather than being taken advantage of. The services of millions of young men and women are necessary to drive forward the industrial wheel of the country but they have to be skilled and trained for the task which at present they are not. (‘Skill’ in the context of the present discussion is understood as technical abilities in a wide field of activities of the modern day living such as electricians, home appliances repairers, mobile & TV repairing technicians etc etc . India has at present only 5% such skilled workers compared to Chi which has 55%).
The recent skill development programme is no doubt a step in the right direction which is intended to give scope for employment/self employment after the training and give a boost to the tion’s economy. The West has no dearth of capital and technology but we are short of both. Programmes like PMVKY (Prime Minister’s Kaushal Vikash Yoj) of imparting skill to millions will require the right men, material and money in a gigantic scale as well as great courage and determition for implementing the same. It is said that out of every rupee spent for development, only 15 paise worth of benefit reaches the beneficiaries in the form of a road here or a bridge there. This only increases the number of people with ill-gotten money and widens the gap between the rich and the poor. Thus, we have to change our obscurantist attitude and look for solutions to our problems from within instead of blaming others for our poverty and backwardness.
We are our own enemies. We inherited a caste based society from before the times of the Ramaya and the Mahabharata (The treatment meted out to Ekalavya and Kar is known to all). Dignity of labour was never given due recognition and the most hard-working section of the populace who constituted the muscles of iron and nerves of steel of the society were treated with contempt. How it emasculated the society has been shown time and again through our defeat and subjugation in the hands of all invaders, big or small.
Even though our social reformers like Shankardeva, Swami Vivekanda and others tried their best to rid the society of the ills of all such notions and beliefs, our foreign rulers of the time in their own interest did not encourage such reforms. Instead, pseudo-religious leaders were allowed to propagate all sorts of untruths and half truths amongst the masses in the me of religion to further cripple the society. Even now, a great majority of people, both educated and uneducated, continue to believe that poverty is a divine dispensation (for misdeeds of the previous life) and only divine interventions like offering pujas, wearing gems or drinking holy water given by sadhus and mullas can help escape poverty. It is rightly said;- ‘if there were neither fools nor kves, the world would have been a beautiful place’. So much for our frailty.
Yet, we must make every effort to march forward by our own steam if we are to come anywhere near others who have gone much ahead of us. The road is difficult and the goal is distant. The other tions in the past became great by playing in much easier turfs and according to their own rules of the game which is not possible by us today. We missed the bus of industrial revolution (in Europe) some 3-4 hundred years ago and as already said, the dymics of modern developments are not favourable to us.
We have to run faster, feed 1.3 billion mouths, clothe them and shelter them as well as give minimum education to all of them. At the same time we have to spend hard earned money (Rs 60,000 crores for 36 war planes, only recently) apparently to defend ourselves against artificially engineered enmity between neighbours but in reality meant to fill the coffers of arms dealers abroad. To fill to the brim our cup of misery, the political space in the country in recent times has been largely taken over by the corrupt and the scamsters by bending the rules and sabotaging democracy.
At this juncture, it is the bounden duty of every young man and woman of this country to rise above all divisive forces of religion, language and culture and feel proud as Indians first and all else next. This is called unity in diversity and is, perhaps, the only way to regain our lost glory.
(Prof. SP Bhattacharyya is retired Principal, AEC, Guwahati)