Increase in Indian defence spending and poverty

By Afia Ambreen

Recently, Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented the 2012-13 budget to Lok Sabha, including a defence component of Ind Rs 1.93 trillion, or $40 billion, which is up 17 per cent on the previous year, and which once again indicates definitively India’s war-mongering and attempts to ignite an arms race in the region. The rationale being given by the Finance Minister for the increase in the budget was deteriorated security environment of India. It seems quite astonishing that India is now using internal mishaps as basis for the increase in defence budget. Whereas, in reality India needs a huge defence budget to finance its defence deals with different countries such as Israel, Russia, France and America. Israel is poised to grab a major chunk of the whopping $ 30 billion that New Delhi will spend on defence purchases over the next five years. In the past three years, India had spent as much as $ 10.5 billion on military imports, making it amongst the largest arms importers in the developing world. India’s military imports are expected to reach $ 30 billion by 2012. India is a country, which bullies neighbouring countries and has no direct threat of aggression from any other country, so it cannot justify such a massive defence budget.The Indian Government is increasing its defence budget and is not bothering about what is happening to the common man. Two-third of India’s 1.1 billion citizens continue to live on less than £1 a day. The people living below the poverty line have nothing to do with the defence budget. The socio-economic indicators of Indian society do not allow India to have a huge defence budget. The poor condition of its agriculture, education, employment etc. has exposed its fake economic progress.

According to International Herald Tribune, “there are too many signs of an over confidence (in India) that look more and more like hubris”. Paradoxically, only a false sense of economic growth is spreading throughout India notwithstanding the reality. According to a survey conducted by the BBC World almost half of all Indians feel that their country’s economic “miracle” has done nothing to benefit them or their families. The survey revealed the growing sense of division in Indian society between the newly affluent middle classes and the socially disenfranchised rural poor.The percentage of inflation is much higher than what is projected at the national level by the Government. For common man, inflation means rise in the prices of wheat and flour. The poverty-stricken people are committing suicides in the country at an alarming rate. The Indian Government failed to provide employment to its vast population. The proportion of the unemployed to the total labour force has been increasing from 2.62 per cent (1993-94) to 2.78 per cent (1999-2000) and 3.06 per cent (2004-05). According to the Minister for Labour and Employment the enrolment of the unemployed in the Employment Exchange in 2006-07 was 79 lakhs against the average of 58 lakhs in the past 10 years. The quality of education is also not satisfactory, which is indicative of Indian Government’s ignorance towards this sector. According to a study, 38 per cent of the children who have completed four years of schooling cannot read a small paragraph with short sentences meant to be read by a student of class II.The number of people living in slums in India has doubled in the past two decades. According to Indian Government, the population of people living in slums has exceeded the entire population of Britain. According to Kumari Selji, Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, India’s slum-dwelling population had risen from 27.9 million in 1981 to 61.8 million in 2001. The ballooning slum population is also an evidence of the Government’s failure to build enough housing and other basic infrastructure for its urban poor, many of whom live without electricity, gas or running water. India’s largest slum population is in Mumbai where 6.5 million people live in tiny makeshift shacks surrounded by open sewers. Mumbai is also home to Dharani, Asia’s biggest single slum, which is estimated to be home to more than a million people. Delhi has the country’s second largest slum population, totalling about 1.8 million people followed by Calcutta with about 1.5 million. According to Maju Varghese of YUVA, an NGO that has been working with urban poor for more than 20 years, the rise in slums is due to lack of affordable housing provided by the Government.There is a need that India should first provide basic amenities such as clean water, food, and housing to its citizens. The rationale on which India is increasing its defence budget is absurd as India has no threat from neighbouring countries but it’s the smaller neighbours that are being threatened by the big brother. Sometimes it harmed them by blocking their water wealth and sometimes by creating instability through its intelligence agency RAW. Indian claims of allocating good part of budget to fight insurgencies in North East and central India are farce. Basic stimulus behind insurgencies in these parts is under-development and neglect by the successive governments. For that matter, gentle way to deal with these rebel movements is by addressing their causes rather than fighting oppressed people with arms. There is a direct correlation between extremism and poverty in practice and the social, political, economic, and cultural discrimination faced by India’s poorest people has resulted in discontented people resorting to violence for their rights.

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