Abject poverty and extremism in India…

In an earlier post, I had talked about the growing Maoist-Naxalite pressure on rural India as a possible Black Swan event. Here is a fantastic article on the subject of growing Naxalite violence in India. This is perhaps one of the best articles I have seen on this subject in the western media. I have some comments on the issue which are below the blurb, so read on…

Fire in the Hole: How India’s economic rise turned an obscure communist revolt into a raging resource war.

But plenty of Indians have missed out. Economic liberalization has not even nudged the lives of the country’s bottom 200 million people. India is now one of the most economically stratified societies on the planet; its judicial system remains byzantine, its political institutions corrupt, its public education and health-care infrastructure anemic. The percentage of people going hungry in India hasn’t budged in 20 years, according to this year’s U.N. Millennium Development Goals report. New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore now boast gleaming glass-and-steel IT centers and huge engineering projects. But India’s vast hinterland remains dirt poor — nowhere more so than the mining region of India’s eastern interior, the part of the country that produces the iron for the buildings and cars, the coal that keeps the lights on in faraway metropolises, and the exotic minerals that go into everything from wind turbines to electric cars to iPads.

…and another from the same article…

In a sense, however, India has already lost this war. It has lost it gradually, over the last 20 years, by mistaking industrialization for development — by thinking that it could launch its economy into the 21st century without modernizing its political structures and justice system along with it, or preventing the corruption that worsens the inequality that development aid from New Delhi is supposed to rectify. The government is sending in Army advisors and equipment — for now, the war is being fought by the Indian equivalent of a national guard, not the Army proper — and spending billions of dollars on infrastructure projects in the districts where the Maoists are strongest. But it hasn’t addressed the concerns that drove the residents of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand into the guerrillas’ arms in the first place — concerns that are often shockingly basic.

So, as ultra-educated and semi-resident Indians, what are we to do about this? I used to think earlier that this was a propaganda war, and it was just a question for the Delhi Sarkaar to build out an outreach and communication program. After all, what could be wrong with progress in the form of mining jobs and development? Who would argue with that, and why would people come in the way of progress in such a violent manner.

Damage caused by mining: If you want to read up on the damage caused by mining, check out this latest article in Wired Magazine, which brilliantly outlines the problems faced by a Superfund site after the mines have dried up. It’s not online yet, but I will post the link when it’s live.

My views have changed. Unfortunately, this is an armchair expert’s view, formed by watching movies like Avatar, Peepli [Live] and Hazaaron Kwhahishen Aisi. It is clear that development and industrialization has asymmetric benefits. People who “donate” their land rarely get much good out of the exercise. Does that mean I support the Naxals? No! But I can understand them better.

About Gaurav Rastogi
Gaurav Rastogi is a writer and a business-exec living in the San Francisco bay area. His other blog is a personal philosophy blog at http://rustus.blogspot.com

2 Responses to Abject poverty and extremism in India…

  1. psriblog says:

    I agree with your views wholeheartedly. Two books that influenced me immensely in this regard were P. Sainath’s Everybody Loves a Good Drought and recently, Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth. Have blogged about the latter at http://psriblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/the-wretched-of-the-earth-fanon-frantz/, let me know what you think. Also in a similar vein see my post on Friedrich von Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

  2. Thanks Psri. Yep, a whole class of cowards, I suppose! I am afraid to pick up the book you reviewed on your link. Will the armchair experts ever notice that they, too, have unclean hands?

    Too much hand-washing involved.

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