- Trillions for military hardware while meager resources for Covid-19 relief
India is riding THE hobbyhorses of ACTOR 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 air (denied by China) were used AS ploys to boost India’s worldwide military spending spree.
The 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’.
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 2019 and 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’`. At least one in every five persons who committed suicide in 2018 was a daily wage earner and every sixth victim was a housewife.
Farmers’ suicides 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 suicide 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 prime minister in 2005, Dr Manmohan Singh, 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 had not been able to stop suicides in the rural and urban areas. Not only the farmers but also the factory workers were committing suicide to end their perpetual financial misery.
The Indian media 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’.
India can hoodwink its own people but not the world. It is now number two in terms of COVID-19 infections, overtaking Brazil and just behind the USA. It should allocate its meager resources for people’s welfare instead of frittering them away on military purchases
The largest number of suicides in rural areas was due to the inability to buy seeds for future crops. Government regulations, which prohibit hoarding of seeds for future crops, are never heeded by influential zamindars.
India boasts of its forces, including Special Forces trained in Colorado (USA), having bloodied the Chinese nose in the Ladakh confrontation. It talks of having trained ferocious dogs to smell out Chinese nocturnal intruders. But, unabated suicides in Indian armed forces reflect its sagging morale.
A Sepoy, Prince Kumar, 25, killed himself at Chinar camp in Rehambal, Udhampur (IHK) with his service rifle on January 17. He was a resident of Hoshiarpur in Punjab, posted in 112 Territorial Army and was on guard duty. On 21 March 2019, a jawan, Ajit Kumar from 187th Central Reserve Police Force Battalion, killed three of his colleagues─ a fragging, in military jargon─ and then himself.
One jawan commits suicide every third day. Some politicians, including Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav has publicly taunted Indian prime minister Narendra Modi with this. 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 Navy, Air Force and Army, respectively. Between 2011 and 2018, there were 891 deaths by suicide of members of the Indian armed forces. It was reported in 2018, that `More Indian soldiers killed by themselves than by enemie over the period 2001-20, suicides and fragging remained unabated among forces.
Even over 40 per cent 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 per cent of all central paramilitary personnel. However, they account for more than 40 percent of the suicides. 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. Gen Bipen Rawat, then India’s army chief, publicly taunted women for their unsuitability for quasi-military duty.
Home Ministry data, confirmed the number of jawans 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, Rafale aircraft, AS400 defence system, etc).
India’s neighbours China and akistan are nuclear powers. So, colossal expenditure on conventional weapons by India is not understood. Nuclear deterrence does not mean matching bomb for bomb. Nuclear victory would at best be pyrrhic.
Here is a bird’s-eye view of her acquisitions. Procurement of 36 Rafales and 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft and 21 MiG-29. Upgrading 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 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 (USA), 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, fall in growth rate, and 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 $260 billion in coronavirus relief measures.
India can hoodwink its own people but not the world. It is now number two in terms of COVID 19 infections, overtaking Brazil and just behind the USA. It should allocate its meagre resources for people’s welfare instead of frittering them away on military purchases.