Here are the BIG problems facing India today! What CAUSED her present problems with illiteracy, poverty, overpopulation, famine? How can this immensely wealthy nation overcome the problems which, for centuries, have shackled her teeming millions?
New Delhi, India IN OUR previous article, we looked at India's "world image." We saw that the typical Westerner's idea of India is not an altogether accurate picture. True, India has its poverty and hunger. But, let's not fail to see the other side of the picture! India is a rich land — a land of fantastic natural wealth and almost unlimited resources. Her peoples are innately intelligent, comely, talented. But, India's teeming millions are shackled by a high rate of illiteracy. The gross national product of India is much lower than it should be — due in great measure to the listlessness of an undernourished population. How can India extricate herself from the age-old problems of the caste system, illiteracy, a runaway birth rate, poverty, fear and rank superstition? It will not be easy, but it can be done. How can this vast, potentially great nation of nearly 500,000,000 people — the second most populous nation on earth — take its rightful place among the literate, progressive, prosperous nations of the earth? There is a way. There are solutions. Of course, India is not alone in these problems. Many nations have poverty and hunger problems, for various reasons. The reasons must be recognized before the problems of any nation can be solved.
A Grim Warning
An eminent biologist at California's Stanford University has given the grim warning that hundreds of millions of people worldwide will literally STARVE to death between 1970 and 1985. That is, unless plagues, thermonuclear war or some other equally terrifying destructive agent kills them first! U.S., Canadian and Australian surpluses cannot cope with a food shortage of such magnitude. Graphically outlining the hopelessness of the food problem for India, Professor Paul Erlich said: "In another 10 years it would take the entire grain production of the United States to save India from famine." Notice that all the U.S. grain would just barely save India. The U.S. couldn't spare that much. A very grim picture, isn't it? The second most populous nation on earth drowning in its own rising tide of overpopulation! We live in an age of gigantic problems which seemingly have no solutions! This perplexing problem of how to feed the skyrocketing population of the world is but one of the "insoluble's" confronting today's world leaders. Conflicting viewpoints and theories can be heard from many sources offering avenues of attack in dealing with the big problems of the world. But really workable solutions have not been found. Will India have to be abandoned to mass starvation? What is going to happen? Thousands of our readers in India and Ceylon need to be told the truth about what is going to happen within the very next few years in India. There is a Source who reveals what will ultimately happen to India and to every major nation and people. That Source has been too long overlooked! In the opening article in this series we described India's tremendous potential. We explained the great contrasts which impress the visitor in India. We outlined the vast resources in India and noticed that in spite of these she is a land of widespread hunger, disease and human agony! WHY should this be so? Let's look at the real CAUSES of India's problems.
India's Government Considers Its Cattle
Government officials in India estimate that India has over one fourth of the world's cattle population. There are more cattle in India than in the United States. Cattle are one of India's greatest resources. Yet, this vast resource constitutes one of her major problems. To be a profitable resource, both male and female cattle must be useful. The females in the production of calves and/or milk and other dairy products. Male cattle must produce meat and leather or serve as work animals. But, India's cattle are capable of giving her populace much more milk. Milk-yields from the cows and female water buffaloes can be doubled or even tripled by adequately feeding the milking stock. But, herein lies the problem. Indian statistics report only half of India's cattle serve a useful purpose. The other half compete for the precious feed supply but add nothing to the national economy. There are just too many cattle for the available feed. The feed goes first to the male stock over the age of three years, which are the main beasts of burden. There is very little left for the poor milk cows. To an Indian, it is far more important to keep his work animals as strong as possible than to feed his cows to produce more milk. What a tragedy! In a land where hunger and malnutrition-caused diseases are a "way of life!" Contrary to the opinions of some, most of India's 30 or so breeds of cattle are of good quality and are potentially very productive. They are noted for hardiness, good cow sense, and gentle dispositions. When well fed, most compare favorably with Western beef breeds in both productivity and quality. As work animals, their bullocks are noted for willing, industrious work and a very rapid pace. Several breeds produce an abundance of rich milk, even by Western dairy standards. And a few Indian breeds are as adapted to producing both meat and milk as are the Red Poll and the Dexter. But feed is a problem. Many Indian cattle, instead of grazing in a pasture, are kept tied to a post and are fed a daily portion of fodder that is cut out of the field by hand. Now look at another and growing problem.
An ancient but very widespread Indian practice is that of irrigating by treadmill or other hand means. Although many water pumps, wells and tube-wells have been installed across much of the farming community, a great amount of the area that is actually irrigated is still being watered by old-fashioned methods. It is common to see bullocks harnessed to an ancient device drawing water for irrigation. Another common sight is that of men laboriously riding a long palm pole up and down over a well, struggling to raise enough water to keep their meager crops alive. Of course this type of irrigation can be used only on small plots. Even more tragic than the use of the outdated and ineffective methods is the fact that many farmers who could vastly improve yields resolutely refuse to irrigate their farms, even when the Indian Government offers them free water. In her well-presented and documented book, Blossoms in the Dust, Indian authoress, Kusum Nair, quotes an official of one of India's major irrigation and hydro-electric schemes (the Tungabhadra Project). He said: "We carry manures and improved seeds in a trailer and offer to deliver them right at the doorstep to induce these cultivators to use them. We offer them loans to buy the seeds and manures. We go to their fields and offer to let in the water for them. We request them to try it out first in two acres only if they are not convinced. They could quadruple their yields if they would only take our advice and at least experiment. Still they are not coming forward." This water was offered to the farmers free for the first three years. And why wouldn't these farmers accept this free service? Simply because it wasn't the custom to do so. Their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers before them had farmed the land and had not used irrigation water, so why should they? Kusum Nair said in the introduction of her book, "But people do not always believe what they should believe or are expected to believe. Their beliefs are often obsolete — the products of dogma and tradition, the reasons for which have long ceased to exist. It is easier to build a million-ton steel plant — with borrowed money and hired know-how, if necessary — than to change a man's outlook on such matters as the use of irrigation water, fertilizer or contraceptives." It is this illogical pursuit of dogma and tradition by the masses that holds to a minimum any real development in agricultural or industrial production. Proper education — and that does not mean decadent Western education — would help solve the agricultural problems. Both adult education for all and a more widespread and thorough education of children. That would be a major step in the right direction toward finding some solutions, but only if properly used.
Education — Often a Hindrance
Education alone is not an infallible instrument. Without a corresponding change in the social attitudes connected with education, schooling beyond the third or fourth primary class is often a hindrance. Listen to this startling statement by Kusum Nair: "They told me in the village of Gopalpura: 'We never send a boy meant for agriculture to school beyond the primary stage. Farming means hard work. Those who get educated will not do it. No student of the Vidyapeeth will go back to work in the fields. Even if a boy becomes a graduate in agriculture, he is useless for work.' " Students who attend agricultural schools and colleges are only trained for government service and not to become more qualified, skilled farmers. That of course seems strange to educated Western farmers who enjoy working in their fields. How different in India. A young Indian who leaves the farm to go to school, often will not return and add his knowledge to the farming community after completing his education. What is the obvious result? The farmers in India are generally uneducated. This deep-rooted attitude is dealing a devastating blow to India at a time when she needs to have the most competent farmers possible, making the greatest use of her land resources to feed her bulging population. This same attitude is also creating another problem of major proportions for the Indian Government — unemployment! Peasant farmers' educated sons who have left the land did not do so because of readily available jobs. They do not have promise of jobs which are "dignified" and suitable to their new status. On the contrary, reliable reports reveal that the greatest area of unemployment throughout India is among the educated. Tragically, education is looked upon as a means of escaping from farming and other physical work rather than an avenue to agricultural improvement.
Fathers Rejected as Inferior
So strong is the class and caste consciousness of most Indians that schooling constitutes absolute divisiveness in much of that country's society. On one occasion while we were in India, a young man who was a university graduate told us: "I would not so much as light my father's cigarette, because he is uneducated and illiterate." Such is the attitude of many class-conscious educated Indians. A young male schoolteacher said frankly: "A boy who has attended school up to the seventh or eighth classes and who, while with his friends, sees his father working in the field, tells his friends that, 'He is not my father.' He feels so ashamed of him." This is a sad product of today's education in India. In order for India to make the technological, industrial, agricultural and social progress she so vitally needs, there must also be a drastic change in the basic attitude toward education. But this desperately needed change is not being effected rapidly enough. At any time India may explode in another paroxysm of famine and bitter social unrest.
Lack of Incentive
India's farmers, being uneducated, lack incentive — have an unwillingness to change the status quo. This makes true improvement and advancement virtually impossible! Most people in the United States, Great Britain, Australia or other developed lands want to improve their capacity to feed, clothe and house their families. But not so in India. Kusum Nair stated: "Planning in India is framed on the assumption that the desire for higher levels of living is inherent and more or less universal among the masses being planned for. According to this assumption, every prevailing standard of life becomes minimal as a base for further progress. From what I have seen and experienced, however, it would seem that a great majority of the rural communities do not share in this concept of an ever-rising standard of living." How true. Lack of will to change was undoubtedly the deepest impression we gained wherever we went. The basic attitude is to produce barely what is required and no more. If a farmer feels he only needs to produce two bags of cereal grain a year, then that is what he works for and no more. Besides, he's hungry and tired, so why work harder than necessary. Government and educational leaders have not gotten through to him that if he were to work a little harder, produce more, eat better and feel healthier and stronger he wouldn't be so weary of life. Before there can be real progress and improvement in India, there must be a complete revising of the standard of values. Life and its meaning must become more valuable. The proper support and well-being of each family must become so prized that it is worth striving and sacrificing for. Literacy and true education must become important as a means of improvement instead of becoming a stepping-stone to social prestige and feelings of superiority. There must be a will to progress — in morals, character and in material comforts.
About 365 million — some sixty-eight percent — of India's population is illiterate. This fact alone constitutes an enormous obstacle to the Indian Government's attempts to solve her mounting economic problems. Little progress and precious little national unity can be achieved while such a large percentage of the population cannot read or write. As one Indian, one of the country's leading experts on land reform, said: "Nowhere in the world is there an illiterate people that is progressive. Nowhere is there a literate people that is not." The ability to read taps the accumulated knowledge of mankind. India needs to be able to utilize that fund of experience and learning.
National Unity a Myth
Westerners may not realize it, but India today is one of the most divided nations on earth. A united India — that is, a single Indian nation — simply did not exist before the arrival of the British! Instead, the subcontinent was governed from numerous regional power centers, some of which managed to gain the ascendency for varying periods of time. There was no national cohesion or unity. Under Britain, India began to achieve a measure of unity — but real unity is a far-off goal. The religious, language and racial riots which have flared up so frequently since the British left, conclusively demonstrate that real lasting unity is not just around the corner. One of India's leaders warned in 1957: "India stands the risk of being split up into a number of totalitarian small nationalities." This was stated in an official Language Commission report. In the past, conflicting regional interests had a centrifugal effect upon Indian politics and power, causing a concentration of power at three or four major centers — Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Delhi. Today the same pattern can be seen developing. But India's present position is more precarious than at any previous time. She has never before been faced by the threat of uncontrollable famine, simultaneous with the divisive forces of conflicting regional interests. Another element in the lack of cohesion is the language riots. Feelings over regional language differences run deep in India. In fact, in Nehru's time Indian state boundaries were drawn up to coincide with the language boundaries that existed. Many Indians feel this was one of the biggest mistakes Nehru made as Prime Minister. The current language riots the nation is experiencing principally result from the government's decision to establish Hindi as the official language. Many other lingual areas do not speak Hindi at all and feel that English should have been left as the common language, since more areas understand English than Hindi or any other single Indian dialect. It is interesting to realize that the venerated Gandhi, who is considered the "father" of India's independence from the British, had to use the English language as the most common and only effective means of rallying the Indian masses to achieve their "freedom." Student rioting due to this language problem has resulted in the temporary closure of some universities. Many primary and secondary schools have also been closed, forcing numerous teachers out of work. This has saddled the government with the added expense of giving dole to the teachers — an expense it can ill afford. We came into personal contact with the language riots when we drove to Bangalore in the southern state of Mysore. Tamil is the recognized language in this area. Our Indian driver insisted that we place a placard bearing the letters "DWH" (DOWN WITH HINDI) in our car window. He feared our car might be attacked and possibly stoned if we did not display the notice in a prominent position as all the local cars in the community were doing.
Rivalry and Divisiveness
Another major problem causing division is that of state rivalry. Surprising as it may sound, it is common for one state to refuse to help another state during times of drought and famine, or other calamities and crises. In the resulting atmosphere of national division, suspicion and competition, laws are often not enforced as they should be. There is a widespread feeling of frustration and helplessness among the small, educated elite. Because many of the educated and competent, thinking Indians recognize and readily admit that they see no solutions to the gigantic problems in their country, they are leaving — looking for opportunities elsewhere. There is a continual hemorrhaging of some of the nation's most precious lifeblood — the teachers, lawyers, engineers and other professional people — a "brain drain" the nation can ill afford.
Overpopulation a Mammoth Problem
You never get the feeling you are alone in India. Wherever you go at whatever time, there are people, people and more people. India's government, ever ready to present a favorable picture of its accomplishments, talks in glowing terms of its birth control program. Yet the program is woefully inadequate. At the start of the program in 1951, India's population increase rate was about 1.3% a year. Today it is climbing towards 3% per year. When the program began, the country's population was close to 370 million — now it is approximately 550 million. What has nearly 17 years of effort done to establish birth control? It is reliably estimated today that only two percent of the reproductive age couples systematically practice contraception. Why is the program not succeeding? The main reasons are religious prejudices, sheer ignorance and the lack of any motivating desire to control birth. "Villagers do not worry much about the number of children they have, no matter how poor they might be. Not to have any issue is considered to be a much greater disaster than to have too many" (Blossoms in the Dust, Kussum Nair). One of the big obstacles is the religious sentiment that it is the duty of the woman to bear children, so why try to control the birth?
India's mountainous, seemingly insoluble problems were not created by the British or other rulers. India's former glory and prosperity had been replaced by poverty long before the British arrived. Their problems, many knowledgeable Indians say, were created by the Indians themselves over many centuries. Her present-day problems stem from the attitude and outlook of her teeming hundreds of millions. There is an almost universal fatalistic attitude that pervades India from the halls of Parliament House in New Delhi to the humblest hut in her thousands of villages. This individual fatalism is a philosophical and unresisting acceptance of the present pitiful condition no matter where it is or what it might be. This fatalism is an integral part of an Indian's nature — his basic outlook on life. The overwhelming majority of India's people bear allegiance to the Hindu religion. But whether Hindu, Muslim or Christian, Sikh or Parsee, no one in India escapes the ever-present, all-pervading effects of fatalism. Fatalism provides the foundation for the "Caste System" which pervades all India. It has divided India into thousands of castes, sub-castes, and "out-castes," with no common interest or aspiration. At birth, every Indian's die is cast — if you'll pardon the pun — in the mould of the oppressive caste system! Indians want to rise to some higher caste in the next life. So, without complaint or protest, they accept their present plight, faithfully performing the duties of this life, even if it is in detachment and dejection, no matter how heavy its burdens might be. For this reason personal degradation is accepted without fuss, and many even take pride in poverty and illiteracy. This acceptance of caste is so strong that no matter how unqualified or incompetent one may be for performing his duties, there must be no change. Indian government officials are asking, How can "caste" be eradicated? Attempts have been made since the days of Buddha to wipe it out, but with little or no avail. The Indian Government has tried to weaken the hold "caste" has over the people by educating them, by granting them equality in the eyes of the law, and through new technological and economic influences. Yet all these have so far been unable to make any appreciable dent in the problem. Unwillingness to change is still overwhelming. Many of the educated still refuse to work with their hands, even if it means going hungry and being unable to provide for an ever-increasing family. And further, India's feeble attempts to lower the birth rate are not going to control India's population growth. Eventually it will be famine and disease that will check India's skyrocketing population. The problem is too many are producing children but not providing for them. More and more Indian babies — over 12 million annually — are being born into this land of despair, hopelessness and disease. An ever-increasing number of them in families that cannot or do not provide for them. If foreign nations ship in food to stave off starvation, it just increases the number of children who are not provided for. And it adds to the number of parents who do not provide for their children. This is the stark reality of India's overpopulation problem. Events in recent years have shown that instead of finding solutions, the problems are themselves becoming more and more insoluble. What is going to happen in India? Where is India heading? The combined efforts of India and her international friends have been unable to diminish the problem. To solve the problem, each parent must be helped to see that it is his responsibility to provide for his own children by the work of his own hands and the training of his own mind. It will take superhuman power — divine power — to accomplish such a task!