Modi spends trillions on military hardware ignoring suicides by people and forces

India is riding hobby horses of Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide and China’s intrusion across the Line of Actual Control (though denied by Indian prime minister in All-Party conference). China’s concocted trespass across the LAC and warning shots in the air (denied by China) were used ploys to boost world-wide military spending spree.

Media has pointed out ‘In the last few years, India has become the suicide capital of this planet. India has the highest suicide rate in the South-East Asian region, according to the World Health Organization’s latest report. Other reports on social media suggest it might be the global leader in suicides’.

Wage-earners’ suicides doubled: Data released by India’s own National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveals `A quarter of suicides in India during 2019 were by daily wage earners: NCRB’, ` As many as 32,563 daily wage earners ended their lives in 2019and formed 23.4 percent of the total suicide cases in the country, up from 30,132 in 2018, the data showed, an increase of 3.4 percent compared to 2018’` (The Federal September 6, 2020). Times of India reported At least one in every five persons who committed suicide in 2018 was a daily wage earner and every sixth victim was a housewife (One in five persons committing suicide in 2018 was a daily wage earner’ January 9, 2020).

Farmers’ suicides: Their figure stood at 10, 437. Farmers’ and wage earners’ suicides together come to 43,000 people in 2019. Most suicides go unreported. In April 2005, Indian media reported `300 Indians commit suicides every day’. The crux of the problem is that poverty-alleviation benefits do not trickle down to the masses. Successive prime ministers paid lip service to welfare. For instance, the Indian prime minister (2005) reprimanded the heads of various ministries for their failure to follow an integrated policy to alleviate poverty in India. He observed that there has been no tangible pro-poor progress in various sectors, particularly rural agriculture and industries. He told senior bureaucrats that hollow GDP growth figures have not been able to stop suicides in the rural and urban areas. Not only the farmers but also the factory workers were committing suicides to end their perpetual financial misery.

It is significant to mention that Indian media, including Frontline, India Today, Times News Network (March 11, 2005), and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch had highlighted the fact that ‘Every day, at least 300 persons in India commit suicide – in most cases, by hanging, or by consuming pesticide or other poisonous substances. According to home ministry sources, the number of suicides during 2001 was 1, 08,506; in 2002, it rose to 1, 10,417. In 2003, 1, 10,851 people decided to end their lives’. These figures ‘are based on police records’.

The largest number of suicides in rural areas was due to the inability to buy seeds for future crops. Government regulations, prohibit the hoarding of seeds for future crops, are never heeded by influential zamindars.

Suicides in armed forces: India boasts of its forces, including Special Forces trained in C Colorado (USA), having bloodied Chinese nose in Ladakh confrontation. It talks of having trained ferocious dogs to smell out Chinese nocturnal intruders. But, unabated suicides in Indian armed forces reflect sagging morale.

A Sepoy, Prince Kumar (25), shot himself at Chinar camp in Rehambal Udhampur (IHK) shot himself dead with his service rifle on January 17, 2020. He was a resident of Hoshiarpur in Punjab, posted in the 112 Territorial Army and was on guard duty (India Today/PTI January 18, 2020). On March 21, 2019, a jawan (soldier) Ajit Kumar from 187th Central Reserve Police Force Battalion took out his service rifle and shot dead three of his colleagues _ a fratricide or fragging in military jargon. He later shot himself, too.

One jawan commits suicide every third day. Some politicians, including Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, has publicly taunted Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (Pulwama attack was a conspiracy’. And ‘jawans were killed for voters Press Trust of India, March 21, 2019), `

One jawan commits suicide every third day: In 2018, there were 8, 16 and 83 suicide cases in the three forces’. In 2017, the number of suicide cases was 5, 21 and 77 in the Navy, Air Force and Army, respectively (Economic Times, March 4, 2020). Between 2011 and 2018, there were 891 deaths by suicide of members of the Indian armed forces (NewsClick, Feb. 19, 2019). NDTV (Jan.7, 2019) reported ` Number of Suicides [was] Highest in Army among Three Armed Forces. The Week, August 6, 2018, reported `More Indian soldiers killed by themselves than by enemies over the period 2001-20, suicides and fragging remained unabated among forces. Even over 40 percent of women, rarely deputed for combat duty, in paramilitary forces, committed suicide. It was baffling that the women’s suicides took place often at peace stations. Over 40 percent of women in paramilitary forces commit suicide, despite never having to face combat duty. India’s National Crime Records Bureau data shows that women only constitute 2 percent of all central paramilitary personnel. However, they account for more than 40 percent of the suicides. The suicide rate for women in these forces is 396.9 per lakh compared to just 11.2 per lakh for men. There is clear evidence to suggest that women are more stress-prone than men. Bipin Rawat, then India’s army chief publicly taunted women for their unsuitability for quasi-military duty.

Home ministry data confirmed the number of jawan belonging to regular as well as paramilitary forces who committed suicides is more than those killed in action.

Why morale is sagging?

The real malaise is discrimination between jawan and officers. The segregation prevails not only during service but also after retirement. The forces provide dreary toilets, kitchens and messes to jawan as against exotic facilities for officers. A famous club `Colaba Mumbai-United Services Club ‘used to display a sign-board at its gate “SAILORS AND DOGS NOT ALLOWED INSIDE”. Officers earn hefty commissions in military purchases (BOFOR guns, Rafael aircrafts, AS400 defence system, etc).

Unjustified Military purchases: India’s neighbours China and India are nuclear powers. So, colossal expenditure on conventional weapons by a is not understood. Nuclear deterrence does not mean matching bomb for bomb. Nuclear victory would at best be pyrrhic.

Heretofore is a bird’s-eye view of her shopping itinerary. Procurement of 36 Rafales and 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft and 21 MiG-29. Upgrading Indian Air Force’s existing MiG-29 aircraft. The MiG-29 procurement and upgradation from Russia will cost Rs. 7,418 crores. Producing the Su-30 MKI at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will cost Rs. 10,730 crores.

India’s `Defence Acquisition Council approved a collection of arms procurement projects worth $5.55 billion, including domestic efforts worth $.4.44 billion’. The inventory includes Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, upgrading BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles; software-defined radios; Nirbhay land-attack cruise missiles, Astra beyond-visual-range missiles, Excalibur artillery rounds for M777 ultralight howitzers (US), Igla-S air defense systems (Russia), Spike anti-tank guided missiles (Israel), 100 modified K-9 Vajra 155 mm/52 caliber self-propelled tracked howitzers (South Korea), S-400 Missile Air Defense System (Russia), and Rafale fighter jets (France).

Impending collapse: India is heading for a recession, widespread unemployment, a fall in growth rate, and a fall in purchasing power and demand, industrial production, and so on. The central government’s fiscal deficit will rise to about 5.1per cent of Gross Domestic Product in fiscal 2021, with considerable upside risk depending on the quantum of forthcoming fiscal support,

In contrast with military spending, India earmarked a meager $25 billion in coronavirus relief measures (India’s miserly response a path to viral collapse, Asia Times May 5, 2020).

Inference: India can hoodwink its own people but not the world. It is now number one in terms of COVID 19 infections, surpassing Brazil. It should allocate its meager resources for people’s welfare instead of frittering them away on military purchases.

Bio-page

Mr. Amjed Jaaved is a contributing editor of the monthly magazine, The Consul. He has served the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for 39 years. He has been writing freelance for over five decades, before and during the service, and after retirement. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is the author of eight e-books including The Myth of Accession. He holds degrees in economics, business administration and law. He knows many languages including French and Arabic.