The Indian election looks somewhat promising for the most disadvantaged. Four hundred million new young voters helped swing away from extreme Hinduism towards secularism (which is against rule by the Hindu majority and suppression of non-Hindus). At least there are now seven Ministers in the new government who are not religious believers! Despite this, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, though an economist who is regarded as the best person to guide India through the credit crunch, is still a confirmed Sathya Sai Baba worshipper, which is an indictment of his ignorance of all the false and fantastic statements and prophesies by this major Indian religious cult personality has said and his massive deviousness and deceptions.
Referring to the country people of India who are rejecting more and more of the development priorities of the political class’, The Hindu remarks that “a decade after T.N. Seshan’s Anschluss on election malpractice (see below), the rural electorate finally votes freely”. The issues that concern them are “underemployment, land alienation, credit failures, migration and a severe deficit of human security”.
The status quo which may begin to change: “India still has the world’s largest number of poor people in a single country. Of its nearly 1 billion inhabitants, an estimated 350-400 million are below the poverty line, 75 per cent of them in the rural areas. More than 40 per cent of the population is illiterate, with women, tribal and scheduled castes particularly affected people of India.” (see here) “The World Bank estimates that 456 million Indians (42% of the total Indian population) now live under the global poverty line of $1.25 per day” (see here) In 2006, 2.1 million children under five died in India. “…some experts like Jayati Ghosh, an economics professor at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, believe that the poor in India are far more numerous that these figures suggest. ‘We are not including people who do not have access to running water, sanitation, schooling, health and education. They may well not have any of these things, yet still not be considered poor because they earn enough to have the minimum calorie requirement.’ ” (see here).
Figures show but the tip of the iceberg of calamities from which the population suffers. Nonetheless, massive corruption and bribery remain a distinguishing feature of this vast nation: ” 14 people out of 100 taking bribes are for amount more than $5000 (Rs. 2,50,000). Actually, if you look at the top officials are even more corrupt.” (see here) masses have very largely been disregarded by the politicians and the huge obstructive and nest-feathering bureaucracy. The previous Congress-led government was too weak and dependent on other parties to take strong measures to raise the poor or provide them with the facilities which are essential to a minimum of decent livelihood. It is hoped – on behalf of India’s tortured poor and suffering, that this will begin to change, after setbacks in reduction of poverty in the last two decades. India can only benefit from such changes, the alternatives are too terrible to contemplate.
There are many diaspora Indians who would never return to India other than for holidays or possibly old age retirement. Sir Gulam Noon, President of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) who made a fortune out of Britain’s appetite for Indian food, is one such. In the tabloid press he is known simply as the Curry King. Interviewed on Hard Talk by Stephen Sackur, he was asked if he thought investing in India would be an option for him, considering the credit crunch and the relative immunity of the Indian economy to its effects. In his reply, he made clear his view that – though he visits often and has involvements in India, not least in his charitable institutions, the country is still ruled by criminally-corrupt politicians. This is a major indictment by a diaspora Indian of such notability.
Sir Gulam Noon MBE talked to Stephen Sackur of BBC’s ‘Hard Talk’ series.
The 10th Chief Election Commissioner of India, T.N. Seshan served in office between December 1990 and December 1996. Born in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, he is known for his introduction of many electoral reforms and his uprightness. Though he has become rather more optimistic now, he has famously stated about India
“Make up a list of 200 political leaders of the central government, the national parliament and the state parliaments. Are you able to find one single person on this list to whom you can go for help? Obviously not. The politicians of today are as pygmies masquerading as Titans. They are like small children who try to walk in the shoes of their grandparents, and who sooner or later will stumble and fall.”
and “Today it can seem that honesty and integrity are banned from public life. The situation makes me think of the Greek philosopher Diogenes, who used to go around with his lamp alight at the height of day in the hope of finding an honest person.”