My drooping eyes melted into glints of ecstasy and my yawning lips broke into a pleasant smile as I lifted the newspaper this morning. The delightful news was that India is predicted to become the third largest economy by the year 2024. What an immaculately proud feeling it was; flawless, until the evening when it was ruthlessly hindered. As I sat surfing the sites on the internet for a new pair of boots- that would go with my overcoat- my eyes caught the sight of a ragged peddler outside the window, silhouetted against the streetlight. He was walking barefooted on the street carpeted with winter dew. A lump of guilt rose in my throat for I could afford to buy new boots simply because I was bored with my sneakers while living amidst people who can barely afford to cover their bodies modestly. I live in an economy which is decent enough only if we learn to smugly overlook the deplorable economic status of its masses.
What disturbs me more than present state of abject poverty is the general attitude of the Indian youth towards this phenomenon. An alarming number of us want to settle abroad, leaving behind this ‘eternal swamp’- which is condemned to remain eternal if it continues. Some of us even dream of bagging handsome bribes before dreaming of grabbing jobs for evidently it is a ‘pragmatic decision’ to carry the legacy forward. Once I stood bemused as one of the kids in my neighbourhood sat wailing foe admission to another school as his atrocious parents had put him in a school where he was forced to share his classroom with the child of a bus-driver; he was ripe enough to perceive a difference which his parents couldn’t. I live in a country where everyday hundreds of children throw away half of their meals for they are always full, while thousands of children perish of hunger. Yes, even I am a part of this plethora of consumerists, who often- knowingly or unknowingly- turn blind to the plight of a yet larger plethora of impoverished people.
There are multiple reasons why even as the GDP is rising at a decent rate, the condition of the masses remains stagnant or even deteriorates. The rural India has seen an unprecedented mushrooming of contract farming system. The poor farmers are often allured into growing various cash crops that feed the foreign markets whereby cereal production- necessary for consumption needs- has declined significantly. This neo-imperialism is a great setback to the self sufficiency of the Indian economy. Also, while governments may change, their approach to development remains somewhat similar. Despite the new laws and legislations formulated every other day, arbitrary increase in land acquisition is the stark fact of the day. One sprawling industry or mega-dam comes at the dear cost of displacement of hundreds of villages, without adequate rehabilitation measures. Half of the squatters and menial workers in my locality are products of these developmental projects.
The euphoric removal of caps on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by the government in various sectors is another way of inviting plunder. The humongous foreign retail chains are crippling the humble domestic retailers while FDI in investment sector has put the middle class savings and financial stability of the country at stake. Another ridiculous measure adopted by the capitalists is mechanization of their industries in order to increase their production, throwing a deluge of manual labourers into the ravine of unemployment. While a country like India- with anomalously high population density- needs to concentrate more on labour intensive industries, the contrary is happening, rendering a multitude of population unemployed. This always reminds me of the movie- ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ where Charlie’s father had met a similar fate. Watching this movie through the innocent eyes of a child, I had hardly ever realized its deeper significance. Sometimes I miss those days of oblivion and joy as the toxic smoke of awareness and despair chokes me!
However, it’s never too late for a reform. Steps should be taken to regulate foreign manipulation and cultivation of cereal crops should be the primary agenda in order to maintain the self-sufficient nature of the Indian food economy. The system has to be sanitized to the lower levels, so that there is a proper distribution of country’s wealth. The Direct Benefit Scheme is a progressive measure in this respect. Stringent legislations as well as their careful implementation are the prerequisites for ensuring the validity of policies like Minimum Support Price (MSP). The Government also needs to follow a trail somewhat similar to that of China by allowing FDI in a regulated manner in limited Special Economic Zones (SEZs). This will ensure maximum benefit to India through FDI, while preventing outright invasion. The concept of development also needs a new, improved definition which is broad enough to include in its ambit the development of a larger whole. The real pride of an economy does not lie in the attribute of its size but in that of its egalitarianism. The real moment of pride lies in purchasing new boots without that lump of guilt. The real moment of pride lies in watching ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ with exuberant exultation, mocking at ‘forced unemployment’ as an archaic concept.