A recent string of increasingly deadly Naxal attacks has made the Indian Government consider using the Army to take on the Maoist rebels. It would seem like the logical thing to do to most of us urban folks, because it is easy to forget that the guys out there in the jungles are fellow Indians, albeit a murderous bunch. Bringing the Army in will put us on the same dark road as Saddam's Iraq and the Kurds, Yugoslavia's Kosovo tangle, and Sri Lanka's recently won battle against the LTTE. It is a quiet acceptance that we are in a state of Civil war, that we have lost control over large parts of our country, and that we are one step closer to being a failed state.
I had written an article about a week before TiR went online about whether we were indeed on the Highway to Hell… or Failed State Status - whichever you'd prefer to call it. Here it is…
Have you noticed that we Indians are forever cribbing about how things aren't right in this country? It is almost incessant, and being the ace-cribbers that we are, we rarely come up with solutions either. I'm going to pretty much follow what my fine countrymen do here - point out problems. My objective, however, is a little different.
But before I get down to the dirty stuff, have you also noticed how, when we do actually discuss what ails India, say over a casual drink with friends, many of us feel offended by something someone may raise - like hinting that we lag behind China by a couple of decades, for example. The conversation usually moves on to cricket or something else that binds the country together (is there anything else really?) and gives us a nice warm feeling.
Worse still is the reaction if some international body has something less than rosy to say about India. Then it suddenly hurts our "national pride", and the findings are dismissed with a "what nonsense, we are not that bad".
We often hear our ever-loving sibling, Pakistan, is a failed state. Most of us snicker (in our minds) at how insulting it must feel for them to be labeled a failed state, and it fills us with an air of superiority - since we are often talked about as an emerging superpower. But what if I told you that we aren't too far off from being labeled a failed state ourselves? Ah, you recoil with a dismissive frown - what bakwas!
Here's the deal - Pakistan ranks 10th on the Failed States Index 2009, a country ranking carried out by The Fund for Peace, a US based nonprofit research and educational organization. India comes in at a much more comfortable 87. That's worse than Saudi Arabia (89), AIDS and poverty stricken Namibia (96), and former "Rogue State" Libya (112), but hey! At least we are better than China (57)! And you were saying we are a couple of decades behind them…pfaw!
So how are these rankings made? Each country is ranked according to how they score along 3 dimensions - social, economic and political. The higher the score, the more vulnerable a state is considered to be to descending into that pit of Hell reserved for the likes of Somalia (1), Iraq (6), and Afghanistan (7).
Let's take a look at the 12 indicators used to rank countries. I've taken the liberty to insert my cribbing after each indicator. Yes, I am not going to provide solutions - like I said earlier. But the difference is I crib here for a reason, and not just for the sake of cribbing. I believe Step 1 for fixing a problem is to accept a problem exists.
Here we go…
…including the pressures deriving from high population density relative to food supply and other life-sustaining resources. The pressure from a population's settlement patterns and physical settings, including border disputes, ownership or occupancy of land, access to transportation outlets, control of religious or historical sites, and proximity to environmental hazards.
Do we have it?: You can't be serious. You're actually asking?
Massive movement of refugees and internally displaced peoples
Forced uprooting of large communities as a result of random or targeted violence and/or repression, causing food shortages, disease, lack of clean water, land competition, and turmoil that can spiral into larger humanitarian and security problems, both within and between countries.
Do we have it?: Not too many instances of this that come to mind, other than the Pandits of Kashmir. Of course the people from UP and Bihar have been the victims of targeted violence in Bombay thanks to my favorite Retard, and I'm sure many of them have left because of it. Incidentally Retard's uncle did the same to the Tamils. Bombay is only for locals - the Kolis and their fish should kick us all out.
Legacy of vengeance-seeking group grievance
…based on recent or past injustices, which could date back centuries. Including atrocities committed with impunity against communal groups and/or specific groups singled out by state authorities, or by dominant groups, for persecution or repression. Institutionalized political exclusion. Public scapegoating of groups believed to have acquired wealth, status or power as evidenced in the emergence of "hate" radio, pamphleteering and stereotypical or nationalistic political rhetoric.
Do we have it?: Hell yeah! Think Babri demolition, Bombay, Godhra…
Chronic and sustained human flight
…both the "brain drain" of professionals, intellectuals and political dissidents and voluntary emigration of "the middle class." Growth of exile/expat communities are also used as part of this indicator.
Do we have it?: I thought we invented the term brain drain! When Indians get tired of cribbing to other Indians, they tend to leave so they can crib to other people about us. What looks best on a matrimonial ad is generally worst for the country - Handsome fair boy, IIT, IIM, and US-based! Wah wah! Thanks fair boy. You deprived us of your brains and probably an equally intelligent and qualified woman.
Uneven economic development along group lines
…determined by group-based inequality, or perceived inequality, in education, jobs, and economic status. Also measured by group-based poverty levels, infant mortality rates, education levels.
Do we have it?: That's why we have reservations, and hence people fighting to be counted amongst the "backward classes" in our country - what a proud, progressive lot we are.
Sharp and/or severe economic decline
…measured by a progressive economic decline of the society as a whole (using: per capita income, GNP, debt, child mortality rates, poverty levels, business failures.) A sudden drop in commodity prices, trade revenue, foreign investment or debt payments. Collapse or devaluation of the national currency and a growth of hidden economies, including the drug trade, smuggling, and capital flight. Failure of the state to pay salaries of government employees and armed forces or to meet other financial obligations to its citizens, such as pension payments.
Do we have it?: Luckily we haven't got there yet, but the amount of black money, tax evasion, and multi-crore scams that happen is quite spectacular.
Criminalization and/or delegitimisation of the state
…endemic corruption or profiteering by ruling elites and resistance to transparency, accountability and political representation. Includes any widespread loss of popular confidence in state institutions and processes.
Do we have it?: Endemic corruption - check. Profiteering by ruling elites - check. Resistance to transparency, accountability and political representation - check. Widespread loss of popular confidence in state institutions and processes - starting to take root in educated, urban population.
Progressive deterioration of public services
…a disappearance of basic state functions that serve the people, including failure to protect citizens from terrorism and violence and to provide essential services, such as health, education, sanitation, public transportation. Also using the state apparatus for agencies that serve the ruling elites, such as the security forces, presidential staff, central bank, diplomatic service, customs and collection agencies.
Do we have it?: We never had much for it to progressively deteriorate, but our government has failed "to protect citizens from terrorism and violence and to provide essential services, such as health, education, sanitation, public transportation." And, most of Delhi's Police force is busy providing security cover to the "ruling elites" rather than dealing with crime.
Widespread violation of human rights
…an emergence of authoritarian, dictatorial or military rule in which constitutional and democratic institutions and processes are suspended or manipulated. Outbreaks of politically inspired (as opposed to criminal) violence against innocent civilians. A rising number of political prisoners or dissidents who are denied due process consistent with international norms and practices. Any widespread abuse of legal, political and social rights, including those of individuals, groups or cultural institutions (e.g., harassment of the press, politicization of the judiciary, internal use of military for political ends, public repression of political opponents, religious or cultural persecution.)
Do we have it?: Yup, we have this too. Politically inspired violence is our favorite pastime (other than cribbing and cricket).
Security apparatus as 'state within a state'
…an emergence of elite or praetorian guards that operate with impunity. Emergence of state-sponsored or state-supported private militias that terrorize political opponents, suspected "enemies," or civilians seen to be sympathetic to the opposition. An "army within an army" that serves the interests of the dominant military or political clique. Emergence of rival militias, guerilla forces or private armies in an armed struggle or protracted violent campaigns against state security forces.
Do we have it?: I would hate to equate MNS goons with Praetorian guards, but they do operate with impunity. The anti-Naxal Salwa Judum was state-sponsored militia that kind of backfired, so we had both them and the Naxals terrorizing the countryside. Apart from the Naxal infestation that we can't seem to beat taking root in a majority of our states, we also have the perpetual terrorist problem in the north and often overlooked north east.
Rise of fractionalized elites
…a fragmentation of ruling elites and state institutions along group lines. Use of aggressive nationalistic rhetoric by ruling elites, especially destructive forms of communal irredentism (e.g., "Greater Serbia") or communal solidarity (e.g., "ethnic cleansing", "defending the faith").
Do we have it?: Sure. Just that our fractionalized elites are incapable of thinking of anything "Greater" like the example of "Greater Serbia". They are more interested in smaller states, linguistic politics and caste based political representation. Lovely bunch.
Intervention of other states or external factors
…military or Para-military engagement in the internal affairs of the state at risk by outside armies, states, identity groups or entities that affect the internal balance of power or resolution of the conflict. Intervention by donors, especially if there is a tendency towards over-dependence on foreign aid or peacekeeping missions.
Do we have it?: Not much, luckily - though we are pretty much prostrate with hands folded before the US for everything and anything, and need to be checked in for Pakistan and China Obsession rehab. Poor Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka must be feeling so under-appreciated.
Makes you wonder… doesn't it? Doesn't quite sound like an "emerging superpower" now does it? If it doesn't, my objective here is complete.
Sure even China is called an emerging superpower, and sure they rank worse than us on the Index. Every country has its problems, but the problem with ours is that we are lost in the perceived grandiose-ness of our current situation and our pre-British past. The fact is neither is all that grandiose on closer scrutiny, but we cling to it to feel good. We appear to be strong on the world stage these days but the country is rotting from within. And before the Brits united us by sword, we were a bunch of petty, feuding princely states that had collective egos that stretched far beyond their borders. Unified India was the Brits' idea, not ours.
Wake up! Only when you stop kidding yourself about how great our country is can you work towards getting there. I was just browsing through Wikipedia on a slow day at work when I came across the 12 indicators that condemn a country to the Failed State list. While reading their descriptions, I couldn't help but instantly relate them to examples in India - and that's what I've shared here.
Sure we ain't broke, but we still need a lot of fixing.