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Right to life, freedom of speech, liberty, equality are meaningless to poor: Justice Markandey Katju

 

Monday June 09, 2014

INDIA, POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT, FARMER SUICIDE  
 

"It is evident that 80% people in India are living in dire poverty. Game change in India can therefore have only one meaning: abolishing poverty in India, and giving the masses a decent life. There are no doubt fundamental rights in our Constitution, e.g. Right to life, freedom of speech, liberty, equality etc. but these are meaningless to a man who is poor, hungry and unemployed. This is what Justice Markandey Katju opines in the article 'Game Change', posted on his blog 'Satyam Bruyat'.”

 

Justice Markandey Katju

 
 

Game change has a different connotation to different people.

To my mind in India game change cannot mean change in the government or in the political leaders or in the laws or in the judicial system. Game change in a poor country like India can have only one real meaning: raising the standard of living of the masses.

Presently about 80% of the  1200 million people in India are living in terrible poverty, with massive unemployment, skyrocketing prices, lack of proper healthcare, education, housing, etc. So game change in India means abolishing these huge evils, and giving the Indian people a decent life.

 

Before the Industrial Revolution, which began in Western Europe (firstly in England and then in France) in the mid 18th Century, and then spread all over the world, there were feudal agricultural societies everywhere. The feudal methods and tools of production (the bullock in India and the horse in Europe) were so primitive that very little wealth could be generated by them. Hence only a handful of people like kings and aristocrats could be rich, while the rest of society had to be poor. When the cake is small obviously very few people can eat it.

This situation has drastically changed after the Industrial Revolution. Now a unique situation has arisen in world history, namely, that now nobody need be poor, because the modern methods of production, i.e. modern industry, is so powerful and so big that enough wealth can be generated to meet the basic needs of all, and give everyone in the world a decent life.

This being the new, unique situation in world history it is only natural that the poor people in the world (who are 80% of the world population) are demanding a decent life, and saying that now that they do not have  to be poor, why should they be poor?

The 21st Century will therefore be a game changer. It will be characterized by the struggles by peoples all over the world for a better life, and result in creation of societies free of the social evils above mentioned.

In India consider the following facts:

(1) 47% Indian children are malnourished, a figure much higher than the poorest countries in sub Saharan Africa (Somalia and Ethiopia) where 33% children are malnourished.

(2)  2,50,000 farmers have committed suicide in the last 15 years, a world record of farmer’s suicides (average 47 suicides per day, which is still going on). This period has seen the greatest migration of rural people to urban areas, looking for jobs which are not there (somewhat like the migration of the ‘Okies’ from Oklahoma and other states in U.S.A. to California, depicted in  John Steinbeck’s novel ‘Grapes of Wrath’). These millions have ended up in our cities as domestic workers, street hawkers, beggars, criminals, and prostitutes.

(3) Unemployment is massive in India. Even for a peon’s job there are thousands of applications, some even from M.As, M.Scs, and M.B.As.

(4) Healthcare is in a terrible state in India, except for the very rich or V.I.P.s. Consequently quackery is widely prevalent in many places and jholechap ‘doctors’ are flourishing.

(5) Primary and middle level education is in a terrible state, while the government pours in a huge amount of money in IITs and other prominent institutions of higher education like JNU etc (see my article ‘Professor Heal thyself’ )

(6) Prices of foodstuffs etc are skyrocketing. Even vegetables are about Rs. 45 per kilo.

(7) 77% people in India are living on Rs. 25 a day. It is a miracle how they are surviving.

It is evident that 80% people in India are living in dire poverty. Game change in India can therefore have only one meaning: abolishing poverty in India, and giving the masses a decent life. There are no doubt fundamental rights in our Constitution, e.g. Right to life, freedom of speech, liberty, equality etc. but these are meaningless to a man who is poor, hungry and unemployed. Therefore it is the duty of all patriotic people to help our country abolish poverty, unemployment, and other social evils. That alone can be regarded as a game change. How this will be done is for the people themselves to find out, using their creativity.

[Justice Markandey Katju is the Chairman, Press Council of India and former Judge, Supreme Court of India]

 
 

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