Recent economic events, particularly in the United States have brought a discussion of whether unfettered, free-market capitalism is truly the best system for a nation’s well being and for advancing the political freedoms and economic improvement of individuals laboring within that economic system. Certainly, in recent years we have heard from many that should capitalism become the dominant economic system in China , as it has, then democratic and transparent government would follow. This assumption has proven to be wrong. Instead of transparent government after economic reform and industrial investment in China , the Chinese Communist Party continues its repressive, authoritarian practices with its political officials being embroiled in corruption. Even the goods produced in China and shipped to the rest of the world have come under increased scrutiny with the discovery of tainted dog food products, tainted baby food, and dangerous Chinese manufactured toys being sold in America . At best, one might say that China ’s economic experiment is a mixed result for its people.
Then one might ask, what of the other population-dense nation which has been espoused as a shining example of the positive effects of a consumption-driven capitalistic economy: India ?
India has had a form of elected government since 1947. Though the government has been tainted almost constantly by corruption scandals, it has been, and still is, represented by avowed and well-known mob bosses. Often perceived by many to be the hegemony of the Nehru/Ghandi family, the nation of India has, nonetheless, been able to conduct repeated elections with a modicum of success and to avoid prolonged episodes of military rule in stark contrast to its two neighbors, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Moreover, considering India’s democratic system of government, capitalism should, in theory, work better than it does in China. Unfettered free market economics fueled by relatively cheap labor costs should have the positive effects of improving the standard of living of the majority of Indians as compared to the pre-free market era. However, facts would indicate otherwise.
First let us review the basic data. India is one of the largest countries in the world. It has a population of 1.24 billion and a land mass of 1,185,219 Square kilometers and a population growth of approximately 18.5 million per year. Forty-two percent of the Indian population (456 million) lives below the global poverty line. An estimated one-third of the World’s poor population lives in India and an estimated 80 percent of the Indian population lives on less then half a dollar a day and 25 percent make less then 25 cents or 12 rupees a day. Malnutrition among children under the age of 3 is 46 percent–this statistic in 2007 was higher than any other country in the world. The hunger index in Madhya Pradesh, one of the states in India, is more than 30, which, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is categorized as alarming.
Income inequality in India is increasing. According to India ’s own planning commission, the monthly per capita consumption expenditure is below 356.3 rupees for the poor in rural areas and below 538.6 rupees for poor living in urban areas. Seventy five percent of the poor population, most of whom are daily wagers, self-employed householders and laborers who are landless, live in rural areas. Poverty rates in rural Orissa and Bihar are among the world’s extreme. A 2007 report by the national Commission for Enterprises in the unorganized sector reported that 77 percent of Indians, or 900 million people lived on less than 41 cents US or 20 rupees a day. Most of this population is in the informal labor sector with no job or social security essentially living in abject poverty. About 75 percent of the population lives in rural areas and are agriculture dependent, however, the agriculture growth rate has dropped from 4.8 percent to two percent.
The recent rise in India ’s middle class has mostly been due to the cheap labor it has supplied to the world and particularly to the West. With the financial melt down and resultant global recession, the low-wage culture at the heart of the software boom may be short lived. The undervalued Indian currency makes this particularly precarious, as the Indian experts have warned recently. With the narrowing of the exchange rate advantage and rising salaries, the Indian exporters are in a losing situation.
After reviewing these facts about the status of this country, a country that the world is portraying as a super power in the making, one would expect that the people in the its higher echelons of power will be making every effort to spend the available resources properly and for the betterment of their impoverished people. Certainly, revenues to the central and state governments must have increased in the “economic boom” times of recent years and one would think that Indian politicians might use these revenues to help the vast impoverished population. But not so! The ruling elite of India do not spend sleepless nights worrying about their downtrodden subjects, rather, they have used large portions of their recent budgets to fund military expansion with a large percentage of that military complex being used to perpetuate its occupation and oppression of the lands it has forcibly and immorally invaded.
In order to be a military power, India has established an army of 1.13 million active servicemen and 1.8 million reservists. One may ask why India needs such a large army? Is it to defend itself or to scare its neighboring countries or to be hegemonic and continue its colonial designs. Historical facts easily make the picture clear that India has a voracious appetite of expansion. In 1962, it tried to expand in to China and, in 1971, dismembered a sovereign country???????. The most stark and flagrant disregard for human dignity and being truthful to its word and commitment is the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir .
India occupied Jammu and Kashmir on October 27, 1947 after an illegal invasion. About 25 % of its troops (approximately 6 to 7 hundred thousand) are engaged in wreaking havoc on the population. The Indian defense budget is about 1.22 trillion Indian rupees (approximately 23 billion US dollars) andrecently increased its defense budget by 28.2 %. The amount of money India is spending on the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir is approximately 5.5 billion dollars and it does not include the bus-loads of cash it spends on buying its sycophants and puppets to help it in waging its colonial war on this land.
India has repeatedly claimed that there are about 3 to 4 thousand freedom fighters in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir . Even if this is true, why would India keep one fourth of its rouge army there. Why is it spending 5 to 6 billion dollars on its illegal and immoral occupation when it can spend that money on its subjects who are living a miserable life. Why does it hide from its people and the international community the fact that it is starving its people in order to perpetuate a genocide and war crimes in the occupied territory? Imagine how India will be able to serve its underprivileged population by ending its illegal and immoral occupation of Jammu and Kashmir . Will it fulfill the international commitment it has made when it agreed to an impartial plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir , save six billion dollars which its disadvantaged subjects badly need, cut down its defense expenditure further by removing the basis of arms race with Pakistan, and gain a high moral ground?
As of yet, the answer to all of these questions is no. India may look on in glee as its neighbors, Pakistan and Bangladesh, struggle with internal, political, and military strife, but India must keep its own house in mind. India has uncontrolled population growth, particularly among its poorest classes. India cannot continue on its current path in which there are very few haves and innumerable have-nots. This will lead to greater political, religious, and economic oppression of these poor masses which in turn will lead to an unstable and unsustainable political, economic, and cultural environment. Eventually, questions will arise as to why India needs to spend 6 billion dollars on an illegal occupation of a territory which under UN resolutions is still disputed and has yet been given the same democratic rights that the rest of India apparently enjoys. There is no strategic or even economic argument that India can make to justify its oppression of the Kashmiri people. Not just Kashmir, but India itself would be better served by spending its resources on its burgeoning underclass than on hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Kashmir who do nothing more that torture, rape, kill, and plunder the land and its people. India needs to understand that it cannot keep its illegal hold on Kashmir by oppression and criminal behavior. The most recent events highlight this fact.
India needs to read the writing on the wall… that no power in the world can deprive people from realizing the legitimate aspirations of being an independent and sovereign nation. It needs to understand that it cannot keep on spending trillions of rupees without any consequences, particularly with the current global economic meltdown, with the poorest population of the world, and with a population growth of 18 million a year. The people of Jammu and Kashmir hope that good sense will prevail on the Indian people and that they will force their ruling elites to adopt prudence. Although the developed nations of the world may not have made any statements to this regarding the situation of the poor in India , the vast majority of Indians already have made their opinions clear.
Recent economic events, particularly in the United States have brought a discussion