India – Asia’s New Miracle? Part II

5: First booth: Everyone at school

Well over eighty percent of Indians are Hindus . A minority, approx. thirteen percent, are Muslims, and sometimes violent clashes occur between the two groups. But even between Hindus, the contradictions can be sharp. Most of them belong to a particular caste. The caste system has its roots in Hinduism and is a way of ranking human beings. On the outside are the Dalits (dei kastelause), who themselves today feel more or less lawless.

India’s first constitution forbade any discrimination on the basis of caste. But caste thinking lives on. In 2007, the Norwegian Rafto Prize was awarded to an organization that fights for the Dalitans’ cause , The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. “The Dalitans live under a social hierarchy that has been maintained for millennia, and we can not allow it to continue for several thousand more years,” said campaign leader Vincent Manoharan when the award was presented. The Dalitans number close to 170 million people. Many of them have to settle for low-status jobs such as removing rubbish and flushing toilets. Sometimes they are denied access to the temple. There is no shortcut out of disability, but the first step is to put all inhabitants of the country on the school bench.

Dalitane’s situation illustrates the problems of Indian democracy. Officially, everyone can vote, and they can choose between several rival parties. But without status and with low self-esteem, the Dalits have little to contend with.

Poverty and discrimination often mean poor health, and India is no exception. The Indian government spends only 1.3 percent of its budget on health care. In the countryside there is only one doctor per. 2,000 inhabitants, and seventy million Indians have never been to a doctor. They can not afford it, or the doctor does not exist. The failure of the health care system has led to an upswing for diseases such as tuberculosis and polio. Officially, at least six million people are suffering from HIV and AIDS, but many fear that at least ten million could be affected. At the same time, India offers state-of-the-art hospitals for those who can pay. These hospitals are visited not only by Indians, but also by wealthy Western “health tourists”.

6: India catches up with China

With an annual growth of eighteen million, India will soon surpass China in population. Experts believe it could happen in 25 years. Then both countries will have between 1.5 and 1.6 billion inhabitants. China may be able to stabilize its population at that level, but hardly India. In the worst case, the country could have close to two billion mouths to feed before the end of the century.

China’s method of slowing population growth has forced our large doses. This is not the case in a democratic country like India, a country located in Asia according to Coercion was attempted during the state of emergency from 1975 to 1977, when millions of women and men were sterilized. As the author Rohinton Mistry saw vividly write in one of his books: “Suddenly, large police cars with howling sirens swept into the marketplace. Old men, young boys and housewives with children were dragged onto trucks. A few managed to escape, but most were trapped like chickens in cages. The sterilization camp was a short drive outside the city … »

When the state of emergency was over, the politicians promised “Never again!” They have kept that promise. Nevertheless, something must be done to keep the birth rate down. India has a strikingly young population; fifty percent are under 25 years of age. How to get a school place? Housing, work, health? A safe old age? The tasks are in line.

Millions of Indians are about to break up from the poor countryside. The soil spots are too small and shed too little. In China, the largest migration in history is taking place; 250 million farmers have been abandoning farms and land since 1980. India is next in line. Therefore, the Indians must prepare to build countless new cities. Sending labor to overcrowded cities such as Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai is of no use. Now it is urgent to draw up a plan to urbanize the country in a step-by-step and human-friendly way.

7: Great Power India

India is a great power, and in recent years the country has gained several foreign policy gains. Relations with the United States and China have improved. The latter is especially important. In 1962, Indians and Chinese fought a short-lived border war in the Himalayas. Now the parties are trying to resolve the dispute at the negotiating table, and the economic interaction is greater than ever. In 2007 alone, trade increased by forty percent.

Unlike China, India is not a permanent member of the UN Security Council. But the Indian leaders do not hide that this is the goal. The country, they say, must be given the status it deserves, both because of the population and the country’s increasingly important economic role .

The neighborhood with Pakistan is still marked by mutual mistrust, much due to the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir . In the mountainous area in the north, most Muslims live. India claims all of Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan wants a referendum on the future status of the region. The new borders date from 1947. India controls about half of the area. While the parties stand their ground, the violence continues, with constant skirmishes between Islamist guerrillas and Indian government forces.

In 1974, India test-fired its first atomic bomb , and in 1998, Pakistan followed suit. The third member of the Asian Nuclear Club is China. The rising military spending is a heavy burden for the Indians, and much would have been gained with a lower level of tension. In that case, the tenants in New Delhi could have spent more money on school and health. And not least on the environment.

8: Emerging environmental crisis

The dawning environmental crisis hung like a shadow over the lands of the Indian subcontinent. In the Himalayas, snow and ice have begun to melt ; the large glaciers shrink year by year. If global warming continues, the effects on India could be catastrophic. Neighboring Bangladesh is even more vulnerable. Several of the major rivers in the world, such as the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra, come from the Himalayas. The melting of snow and ice will increase the flow of water and can, in the worst case, lead to major floods. In the longer term, the water flow can be dramatically reduced and create drought, to the great detriment of Indian agriculture. The water crisis is already there, and the water that is found is often polluted. 1,600 Indians die every day from waterborne diseases.

In India, as in many other parts of the world, the battle for the lake will intensify in the years to come. For long parts of history, the Indians have balanced on a knife-edge between success and failure. The balance sheet is not over at all.

India - Asia's New Miracle

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