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Friday, December 31, 1999
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Fighting the enemy within

INDIA’S Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, says that expenditure on defence is only 3% of GDP. Arithmetically he may be right, considering that India’s 1999-2000 GDP is estimated at around Rs 19,98,875 crore ($ 460 bn). The 1999-2000 Central Budget (before Kargil) was Rs 3,08,882 crore ($ 71 bn). India is spending on defence around 18% of its Budget. The incidence of tax burden, levied to fund the Budget alone is what should be expressed as a percentage of GDP, not government expenditure, which should be only expressed as a percentage of the Budget. Parliament sanctions the Budget, not the GDP. Any tax burden above 2.5 to 3% of GDP is deemed unhealthy for the economy. In the European and some Asian Countries, it is within this limit of GDP.

For a better perspective, look at some other areas of expenditure in India as percentage of GDP. Excise and customs duties alone account for more than 6.5% of its GDP, 4.4% goes for payment of only interest on government borrowing!

Look at education, the bedrock for building a civilised wealth generating society. Less than 5% of Budget allocation or 0.71% of GDP is the money allocated. India’s school going and adult population totals 900 million. The number of illiterates: 160 million men (35.8%) and 254 million women (58.8%), a mind boggling 414 million. Nearly one and a half times the entire population of India at the dawn of Independence, or of the EEC countries now!

In the developed countries, the meaning of education is much more than knowing how to read and write. It denotes functionally relevant education. So, the gap between people in such countries and in India is actually widening, since total literacy itself is a far cry in India.

A survey of 27 districts spread over Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar, conducted by the Pandit Sundarlal Sharma Central Institute of Vocational Guidance, Bhopal, indicated total literacy among rural women is attainable only over the next 10-12 decades! The illiteracy among rural women belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes — yesterday’s untouchables — is between 90% and 100%.

Illiteracy is the root cause of the grinding poverty, ignorance, blind superstition and poor health of over 414 million people in India, who subsist on a daily income of less than $ 1 per day, over five decades after India became free.

This is the enemy within, that India has to fight with all its resources.

I do not want to soft pedal the need to spend on defence. It remains, however, a mirage without limit. But to talk of defence expenditure as being only 3% of GDP is to miss the woods for the trees.

“The policy of the British Government”, explained a lady member of the British Cabinet, at a CII partnership summit at Chennai a couple of years ago. “...... is Education, Education and Education”. India should also make “Education, Education and Education”, as its national policy for the next two decades. Other problems will fall into place as a result. The enemy in each country is within, whether it is India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.


Electric shocks

This is with reference to the news item, “Electric shocks with naked wires” (Dec 11), Dr. B.L. Goyal has rightly expressed concern at the barbaric manner in which electric shock is given to lunatic patients. Now a days ECT (electric shock) is given to psychiatric patients under anaesthesia so that the patient does not feel pain and the procedure is not horrifying to the attendants. In some psychiatric centres ECT is still given to the lunatic patients without anaesthesia causing much pain and agony to the patients and the attendants.

Similar is the case of many surgical procedures, including MTP carried out without proper anaesthesia causing much pain and distress to the patient. This is because of the greediness of the practising doctors who don’t want to share money with the anaesthesiologist thereby causing much pain to the patient. In earlier times this type of things happened because of shortage of qualified anaesthesiologists. But now the situation has changed and it is time that this trend is also changed.


Poor service

The services of petrol pumps in Amritsar are very poor. They do not provide even air. There is no air pressure, no pressure gauge to fill the air, which is a basic need of every vehicle. People are constrained to pay for filling the air from petty shopkeepers who fill air with speculation and do not check the air pressure with gauge, which affects the vehicle in many ways. Most of the petrol pumps are of old type and do not have sheds over the pumps to prevent sunlight and rain, which causes inconvenience to the customers in the summer/rainy season. One can see the boards on the roadside of some of the petrol pumps indicating the services of telephone, air, cold drinks, water & toilets etc. being provided but that is on board only. Nobody bothers to follow the indications.

The petrol pump dealers of Amritsar are advised to visit Chandigarh petrol pumps, which provide latest facilities to their customers and some have a departmental store on the premises. That will help them to improve the services of their petrol pumps and service stations.

Further, oil companies like IOC & IBP should also ensure these facilities to be provided to the customers through their respective petrol pumps and service stations. This will certainly improve the sales turnover as well.


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50 years on indian independence

A wish for new millennium

May your hair, your teeth, your face-lift, your abs and your stocks not fall; and may your blood pressure, your triglycerides, your cholesterol, your white blood count and your mortgage interest not rise.

May you get a clean bill of health from your dentist, your cardiologist, your gastro-endocrinologist, your urologist, your proctologist, your podiatrist, your psychiatrist, your plumber and the folks at the revenue department.

May you find a way to travel from anywhere to anywhere in the rush hour in less than an hour, and when you get there may you find a parking spot.

May you wake up on January 1, finding that the world has not come to an end, the lights work, the water faucets flow, and the sky has not fallen.

May you go to bank on Monday morning, January 3 and find your account is in order, your money is still there and any mistakes are in your favour.

May you ponder on January 4; how did this ultramodern civilisation of ours manage to get itself traumatised by a possible slip of a blip on a chip made essentially out of sand.

May you believe at least half of what the candidates propose, and may those elected fulfil at least half of what they promise, and the miracle of reducing taxes and balancing budgets actually happen.

May the telemarketers wait to make their sales calls until you finish dinner, and may your checkbook and your budget balance, and may they include generous amounts for charity.

May you remember to say, “I love you” at least once a day to your spouse, your child, your parent; but not to your co-worker, your nurse, your masseuse/masseur, your hairdresser or your fitness instructor.

May we live as intended, in a world at peace and the awareness of the beauty of every sunset, every flower’s unfolding petal, every baby’s smile, and every wonderful, astonishing, miraculous beat of our heart.

And, may you forward this same wish on to someone that could use a smile and a laugh to brighten their day.



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