Over the years, the government has been skimping on expenditure related to both education and health care. On both these important investments, India’s outlay has been lower than even poorer countries. The proposed investment of the rendra Modi government on health care has drawn the pointed attention of The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical jourls. What is significant is that India’s health care spending is rightly regarded as very being low despite the Modi government’s pledge made earlier this year to increase India’s health care spending from just 1.3 per cent of the GDP to 2.5 per cent. The Lancet has called this “lack of ambition”. This is what The Lancet said: “We are disappointed by the lack of ambition of Modi’s government to invest only 2.5 per cent of its GDP into health care by 2025, when the global average is about six per cent.” The jourl also said: “The rise in India’s economic fortunes and its aspiration to progress to the same level as its neighbour, Chi, is something of an embarrassment, given how improvements to health trail so far behind... Until the federal government takes health as seriously as many other tions do, India will not fulfil either its tiol or global potential.” What is rather interesting is that The Lancet should have deemed it appropriate to hold Britain responsible for the disease and disability in India even 70 years after British rule in India came to an end. “Most importantly, as one confronts disease and disability in India, Britain showed little interest in building even the most rudimentary elements of a health or scientific research system during its period of colonial rule,” The Lancet said.
Skimping on Health Care
While there is more than just a grain of truth in this allegation, the fact remains that British rule came to an end in India 70 years ago—a period equal to almost three generations. There is much that the British neglected to do that could have been achieved in these 70 years if we had got our priorities right. There are two aspects of colonial rule that we tend to overlook. One is that colonial rulers have no reason to regard the colonies as their own country. Colonies have always been regarded as alien land fit for exploitation for the profit of the ruling country. Obviously, Britain saw no justification in building even the “rudimentary elements of a health or scientific research system” for one of its colonies. It saw no justification to extend to its colonies the kind of health care that was available in Britain. The other more saddening aspect of colonial rule is that the leaders of independent India have generally tended to replicate the model of administration that Britain thought appropriate for a colony. One does not see any effort to administer the country as one’s own country rather than as a colony that the British once ruled. Perhaps the history of being ruled for about two centuries by a foreign power may have done greater damage to our ethos than we might have deemed possible. Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves whether 70 years is not long enough to undo the effects of the slavish mentality that the British foisted on a whole lot of Indians. But the fact remains that two of the most vital areas of investment for India are education and health care if we nurse any ambitions about being counted as tomorrow’s leaders of the world.
Claims of a Free Press
O n Thursday, which was tiol Press Day, Prime
Minister rendra Modi made a pious statement about upholding freedom of press and expression. This is what he said: “A free press is the cornerstone of a vibrant democracy. We are fully committed to upholding freedom of press and expression in all forms.” There are times when it is judicious to take such statements with the proverbial pinch of salt. This is one of them. What the Prime Minister said will be seen by most people against their general experience and perceptions of the present government’s attitude to real freedom and its ability to take criticism in its stride. And in the ultimate alysis, real freedom will be seen as the eagerness of the government to deal very firmly with people and groups that attempt to take away such freedom. That is what must be seen as guaranteeing true freedom of the press and of “expression in all forms”. There are disquieting indicators that the government is unwilling to grant anything approximating total freedom. One of them is that India has slipped three notches on the World Press Freedom Index 2017. It is down to 136 from 133 among 180 countries. Another is that the Rajasthan government has issued an ordince restricting freedom of the press. As a token of protest, the Hindi daily Rajasthan Patrika left the space reserved for its editorial comment blank on Thursday. There have been quite a few instances of jourlists having been threatened and humiliated by people describing themselves as Hindutva advocates and rendra Modi supporters. On all such matters, the Prime Minister has maintained complete silence instead of indicating in any way that he is shocked by such activities. What is perhaps very significant is that the Prime Minister has never addressed a media conference. He has even stopped having the media accompany him on his overseas trips, thereby cutting out all question and answer sessions. Of late, his silence on vital matters has stumped even his ardent admirers. Even on tiol Press Day, Modi maintained silence on the murder of jourlist Gauri Lankesh. People cannot help wondering whether definitions of familiar words like freedom are about to undergo a change.