Imperialism and the Assault on the People’s Welfare

N.K. Bhattacharyya

Recently a Joint Parliamentary Committee was asked to investigate the report published by the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi based scientific research organisation, that there was pesticide in the soft drinks produced and marketed by two USA based MNCs – Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola while the same product produced in their own country had no such poisons that can slowly kill human being. The committee found the report of CSE as scientifically valid and requested the government to do the needful. CSE also reported that the bottled drinking water sold in the market under different brand names was also harmful to human beings. What is surprising is that the competent authorities and the concerned ministers are hand in glove with the mafia who are minting money in India selling simple poisons to the people, specially to the children and youth of this country. Can India ‘shine’ when its people are consciously poisoned slowly by some money bags with the full knowledge of the concerned authorities of the centre and the states? The amount of bribes collected from these business houses can be easily imagined. The government is advertising every day through multi crore ads the various achievements of various departments of the Vajpayee government.

The Planning

Commission which virtually stopped preparation of plans worth mentioning for the country after presentation of the 2nd Five Year Plan document in the sixties is also advertising that it is still alive and not dead. Vajpayee utterly failed to inform people of this country that there is no safe drinking water anywhere in the country either in the urban or rural sectors even after so many decades of independence. He claims that he is in Parliament for so many decades, but what has he done for safe drinking water? Why his information and broadcasting ministry should not be banned for its failure to inform the people what liquids we are drinking and what is its effect on human and animal health. The Ministry of Information Technology and Communication is proud of selling mobile phones in thousands but it fails to inform people where in India one can find safe drinking water from Ladakh to Kanyakumari and from Porbandar to the border of Nagaland. Only on this one issue he should ask his colleagues to apologise before the country.

At the same time both the centre and the states are instructed to privatise water supply systems as per the recommendation of the World Bank. Rivers are handed over to private companies and they are selling water. Cultivators are denied river water by these companies as that water was used exclusively for industrial purpose. Foreign companies are given jobs to supply drinking water even knowing fully well that such experiments failed in many developing countries and people have thrown those companies out of their countries. Look at the Jamuna, which flows through Delhi only in the rainy season; otherwise, it remains stagnant throughout the year, it is virtually a sewage drain carrying filth. This is the condition of capital where both the central government, and the state government function from the same town and both can’t do anything to clean a river from dense pollutants. However, Centre is spending crores on the beautification of both sides of the river Jamuna without telling people where the river is, it is simply an interstate sewage drain. In this manner almost all the rivers in India carry more toxic matter than clean water. There is no authority to see that rivers carry only clean water. When a discussion was going on in the Supreme Court on the pollution of the Jamuna, the Vajpayee government in a pre-planned manner brought in most innocently a solution to the Jamuna problem by suggesting a mega project called the ‘interlinking of rivers in India’ which would take 43 years to complete and cost Rs 156000 crores. The then Chief Justice in whose court this issue was raised by the government insisted that it should be completed within 10 and not 43 years. The next day when this chief justice retired a reporter asked him what would happen to his order on the interlinking of rivers he simply denied it and said there was no such order, it was just an observation, but the matter is being pursued by the court religiously without studying in depth what this project is all about. The beauty is that the President and Prime Minister of India are regularly campaigning for the interlinking of rivers without telling people why this project is being pushed by them. Do they require the consent of the people or not before the project is launched. How far is such a project beneficial to the country? Who will implement it and so on. What is most important is how a project which was scheduled for 43 years was packed into a 10 year project and how will the government finance such a mega project. To arrange Rs 156000 crores for a country with less than $500 per capita income and an already external debt of more than US $112 billion is not a matter of a joke. Are they serious about this project, as they are already in an utter mess implementing the mega road project implemented through National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). This is now a haven of the mafia raj who are empowered to kill honest engineers with the full knowledge of the Prime Minister’s Office and the concerned Central Minister. What happened to the river clearing projects like the Ganga Action and Jamuna Action Plans which were backed by foreign funding and started in the mid eighties? Is the government accountable to the people?

Ms Uma Bharati, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh is specially fond of the cow which is the darling of the ‘hindutva brand’ and she created saffron history by forming for the first time in India a special ministry to look after cows only. In the west we have ‘cow disease’ even there we don’t have any special minister to look after cattle. Now we have ‘bird flu’ in different parts of India, there is till to-day no special ministry in the centre to save either the birds or human beings so that it does not take on disastrous proportions as in South East Asia. It is said that all the Central Ministers are in the queue before the advertising agency to get their photos printed in media advertisement at the cost of taxpayers’ money; let the birds and people take care of themselves! Ms Bharati must ensure that cows in her state should not compete for food with dogs and beggars in the roadside garbage bins and drink contaminated water from the gutter including that supplied by bottling plants. The BJP thinks to let two legged creatures drink water mixed with poison and die prematurely but the four legged should be protected at the cost of poor tax payers!

The Human Resources Minister is also trying to create history, of course saffron in colour. In a television interview on CNBC recently, the central education (HRD) minister told the people for the first time in history since the so called economic reform started in the early nineties that he is having enough money to pay for all the demands of various central government run educational institutions. He was discussing with the reporter, his ministry’s order to the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) to reduce fees to be collected from each student of IIM (Ahmedabad) from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 30,000 per annum and to increase the enrolment of IIM (Ahmedabad) from 900 to 1800 per annum. This Rs 30,000 p.a. fee will be applicable to other IIMs too. Such a highly educated minister of the Vajpayee government since 1999 allowed and encouraged these IIMs to fleece hundreds of students with fabulous charges for a simple degree of master in business management. We cannot understand why the centre had to wait long five years to tell such islands of elite learning that we in India with a mere per capita per day income of not more than one US $ can’t afford to run such high cost institutes at the government’s expense. Such ministers got up from their deep sleep only 60 days before the elections and just to gain some votes issued this order. These ministers know very well that after the elections these institutions will revert back to the old fee structure, probably it may be enhanced and be kept beyond the reach of meritorious but poor students. Such is the financial and political power of our minority elite community in Indian democracy! These elite institutions are already privatised and commercialised while the government claims that they are under their control. The huge fees arbitrarily charged by the professional institutes run by the central government like the IIMs, IITs and the central government run medical colleges including AIIMS is a fraud on our countrymen. They belong to Indian taxpayers but by artificially keeping the fees high the government has intentionally kept them away from the largest section of the population. The logic that Indian banks give education loans is a myth because without collateral security only the rich and VVIPs can get such loans and in many cases such advances to the children of these well connected people are never collected by banks thus adding to the banks’ non-performing assets. It has been discussed so many times in both Parliament and in the press but under pressure from industry and business, these politicians willingly kept these elite organisations out of the bounds of the vast majority of the people of this country. These organisations are developed as learning centres exclusively for the children of those rich families who do not want to send their children to foreign countries, where a MBA degree is much more expensive. So these institutions cater to need of mainly rich families of India and this practice should have stopped some 10/12 years back when such fees were enhanced and made this country a laughing stock in the poor developing world. Ordinary students never have the courage of joining these organisations.

The same ex-Professor of Allahabad University claimed in the same interview that to become an Indian Administrative Services officer the minimum qualification is graduation and one can get it by paying Rs 16 to Rs 20 per month as fees. The honourable minister has tremendous faith in the IAS cadre for efficient management! The minister is misguiding people and not telling the truth. No child today can get a degree anywhere in India paying only Rs 16 per month. Every child is forced to pay, irrespective of his/her capacity, the rising cost of higher education as the University Grants Commission, since the economic reform was introduced in the early nineties, refused to shoulder higher costs due to the normal pay revision of teachers and karmacharis in 1986 and 1996. The money for science laboratories, with required equipment and materials, library books and journals are to be procured from the students. Such persons are voters of the country and educating them is the responsibility of the state and not of their parents. When we have agreed to pay pensions to an MP or MLA if he/she is elected, irrespective of tenure, then why should not the education expenses of the country’s citizens be the headache of the state? The UGC was declared bankrupt by the Ministry of HRD under instructions from the World Bank There is a proposal to bring in a new organisation with new name in place of the UGC. Joshi claims that (surprisingly in the entire interview he was using the alphabet ‘I’ instead of HRD ministry) he has no dearth of funds, but why then the UGC is telling us every day that those who want higher education should bring in money, otherwise they should not enter into any University. The privatisation and commercialisation of higher education is an ongoing process as per the World Bank’s directive, and the Vajpayee government is implementing it as a faithful servant of this imperialist institution. Prof. Joshi knows everything but is trying to confuse the countrymen. Whenever we discuss the financial resources of India’s higher education, the government flatly refuses to inform the people despite the existence of the ‘Right to Information Act’. It rather tries to confuse people by telling them that so many million pupils are outside of the elementary education system and that the government does not have money to spare for higher education.. Now elementary education is a fundamental right of children and the HRD ministry will have to come out with better excuses for its avoiding its constitutional responsibility. Then how is it that for the first time in the history of India the present education minister claims that there is no dearth of financial resources with the government? This is also reflected in the interim budget where allocation for his ministry was slashed in a year when the Vajpayee government is ‘shining’ and willingly ignored all norms of public financial prudence which is the minimum requirement of any responsible civilised government. It was never experienced in the past 5 decades. About the solvency of the MHRD, the following press report is sufficient. In Economic Times dated 5.11.2003, it is reported that more than 2.38 crore children were out of school. The MHRD requires Rs 32000 crores to implement the Sarva Shiksha Programme (Education for all), but it received only Rs 17000 crores. It is looking to the World Bank, the DFID and the European Commission for funds. Is it not humiliating for an independent country with more than one billion population? Here ministers spend lakhs on entertainment in 5 star hotels with their family members and friends and ask the concerned public sector unit to foot the bill. In the nineteen-fifties more money per head was spent on elementary education than today!

To appease his RSS bosses of Nagpur this learned minister of Sri Vajpayee was very busy for long five years rewriting history textbooks for school children with all fabricated materials and to introduce unscientific subjects like palmistry, face-reading and astrology etc. in the University curricula. His loyal secretaries from the IAS, specialised in less administration but more sycophancy, were sleeping till CAT papers were leaked at the end of 2003. To gain cheap popularity before election they are trying to recreate the image of a hopeless, confused and communal minister as people-friendly and who wants only ‘merit and equity’ to prevail in admission to professional courses.

Prof. Joshi knows better than any one else that his employer, the Prime Minister of India appointed a committee, of M/S Anil Ambani selling mobile phones and Kumaramangalam Birla selling cement, on the restructuring of higher education and in their report they clearly brought out how our higher education should be privatised and commercialised and why the government should at an early date wash its hands of the country’s higher education market. To them education is as much a commodity as the petro-products of Reliance or Grashim suitings. Indian and foreign business houses should be allowed exclusively to deal in education and let the students pay and purchase education from the market. This restructuring process started long back in our country, it got momentum in the early nineties and now the BJP government has agreed to withdraw completely first from the field of higher education and later from the rest of education. Prof. Joshi’s dramas are all election gimmicks. India’s international creditors and India’s big business houses don’t want that our children from poor families should receive higher education and challenge the ‘hire and fire’ policies of profit hungry businessmen. They are afraid of the liberal higher education policy of the past, which resulted in so many mass movements challenging the imperialists' destructive policies through the MNCs of the world. Organisations like the World Social Forum are giving them sleepless nights throughout the globe and such protests will accelerate as more and more people sink every day into depthless poverty, diseases and illiteracy.

Since 1992 the central government has refused to follow the Acts passed by Parliament under which the central universities came into existence. These central universities did not allow the UGC to interfere in the day-to-day teaching programmes and discussions on academic matters. The students of Indian universities were challenging their counterparts in the rest of the world. This upset the commercial ventures outside India and they used the World Bank and other funding organisations to pressurise Indian politicians not to use government money for higher education. They lured India with huge funding for elementary education where some millions of children are kept outside the schools’ boundary though the right to education is a fundamental right. The government of India is feeling happy about earning huge foreign exchange from the export of the information and technology sector but that could never have happened without the contribution of Indian Universities in producing excellent students while charging nominal fees from all sections of society. Now call centres are growing everywhere throughout the country and Indians are doing this new assignment with efficiency and dedication and that is possible because these boys and girls in lakhs were educated in our colleges and that too in the English medium. These ministers and IAS officers were used by vested interests to make these institutions of higher learning sick. No central university today can function without taking day-to-day instructions from a junior IAS officer of the HRD ministry who is ordered to control these Universities. It is simply a fascist raj in the administration of higher education in the 21st Century. It hardly matters what is the academic background of these petty officers and do they differentiate between administering a sabzi mandi (wholesale vegetable market) and an institution of higher learning. The most unfortunate part is that the HRD Ministry’s representatives who are sent to these institutions as Vice-Chancellors are so selfish and careerist that they prefer to crawl before the minister when ordered to walk. Most of these Universities are having big and beautiful buildings, but the majority of the teachers are no longer supposed to carry on independent teaching and research, they are asked to wait and see and simply behave as ‘his master’s voice’. Sycophancy in higher education among the teaching community has destroyed the required dedication and commitment to teaching and research. The most ugly form of fascist practices are being performed within the campuses and Indian scholars are killed in such a suffocating atmosphere. We have heard of hourly wage earners in the retail outlets in USA and Europe, in Indian Universities during the last 10/12 years, teachers are no longer appointed on a long term basis with service safeguards, rather they are appointed on an hourly basis, because there is no money to pay for the full time employment of teachers. The IAS officers feel they should fully exploit the unemployment situation in the country and in that process may save some pence. These politicians with the help of their loyal IAS secretaries in order to achieve their petty short term self interests have consigned India’s glorious higher education structure to the graveyard. It took so many decades of dedicated and fully committed hard work by thousands of teachers of the entire country after independence to come to such world class standard in higher education and challenge the rest of the world with the growth of our ‘knowledge technology’. The present planned creation of a chaotic situation serves the purpose of so many foreign universities who were facing tough competition from the students produced by Indian Universities paying so called ‘Rs 16 per month fees’. The privatisation and commercialisation policy in higher education has destroyed the basic concept of education of this country and both the Congress and BJP Govt. have finally hammered nails in the coffin of India’s higher education. Vajpayee should be grateful to his highly learned minister!

The crucial issue is public health. The Vajpayee government is telling people that more institutions like the All-India Institute of Medical Science will be started if they are voted back to power. However, they are not telling us about the actual achievements of this government so far as public health care is concerned. Due to the WTO’s regulations and the Intellectual Property Rights restrictions, the manufacturing of drugs is virtually controlled by a limited number of MNCs. and they are charging excessive prices for essential drugs in the developing countries compared to what they charge for the same drugs in their own countries. Our main disease is not AIDS as claimed by the foreign lobbyists, they are still to-day the age-old diseases like TB, malaria and the various diseases related to contaminated water and unhygienic and filthy living conditions. We are not mentioning heart diseases because there are no Intensive Care Units even in many district hospitals of the country. A visit to any government hospital anywhere in the country will show that there is no government in the entire country so far as public health care is concerned. That is probably why in the election eve propaganda by the NDA government one is told of the roads to be connected rather than how many patients and dogs sleep together even in the maternity sections of government hospitals with new born children. Without a single exception in all governments in the entire country, what is missing are doctors, nurses, medicines and essential medical equipment. In many government hospitals the overall environment is one of utter hopelessness and total indiscipline. Hospital authorities are not only inefficient but totally indifferent. No minister in India will dare to accept treatment from any government hospital after private hospitals and nursing homes were established. So safely we can say that our public hospitals are virtually waiting rooms like those in railway stations where patients wait for the journey to the cremation grounds. Only a lucky few can dare to go back home properly cured. We went to Sasaram in Bihar recently from where Babu Jagjivan Ram was a regular elected member to the Lok Sabha. When we visited the sub-divisional hospital with a patient, we were told that the doctor on duty was available only in his nursing home located just on the other side of the road. You go to AIIMS, it has a beautiful structure but shamelessly follows two types of treatment, one is hundred percent free, for people like MPs and Ministers and the other is the humiliating, tiring, cumbersome and costly treatment for common men and women who really finance these organisations through taxes. The Vajpayee government wants to commercialise its services slowly but cleverly, but the teachers, students and para medical staff totally oppose such move and demand that it should be exclusively kept for needy patients according to objectives of its Constitution. Recently the government is imposing every day new and additional charges for the treatment in AIIMS despite strong protests from a section of the doctors and staff of AIIMS. Due to the continuous pressure from World Bank, the day is not far away that free treatment of various diseases will be a matter of history and the worst sufferers will be the poor people who cannot afford to pay. Recently the government of India invited the President of Brazil to the 26th January function. Sri Vajpayee must be knowing that though Brazil is one of the developing countries and helped India to fight the developed countries in the latest meeting of WTO at Cancun, over the years it has developed a very satisfactory free of cost public health care system for the entire population. If there is a political will one can do it, in India we have it only for the elected members and ex-members of parliament and state legislatures. Thus education and health care are no longer of any concern of our society and if one is unable to pay the increasing cost of these services as a citizen and responsible voter he/she is simply forgotten and consigned to the dustbin. How long this will go on? An attempt was made above to discuss briefly how globalisation with its ugly form resulted in untold miseries to the poor who are either unemployed or underemployed and can’t dream to send their children to paid schools and/or try to get medical aid free of cost simply because they can’t afford to pay for these services. Can we claim that we live in a civilised society? We show below the respective contributions of Centre and States on social sector expenditures during the reform period.

Share of Centre and States on Social Sector Expenditure

Social Sector

% share in total expenditure
(Centre+ States)

% share of total budgetary allocation

















2003-04 (BE)
















2003-04 (BE)
















2003-04 (BE)





Water supply and sanitation:











2003-04 (BE)





Interest payment and servicing of debt:











2003-04 (BE)
















2003-04 (BE)





Economic Times, 1.12.2003

It is peculiar that according to the sharing of responsibilities between the Centre and the States mentioned in the Constitution, the Centre has limited responsibility with unlimited financial resources. Its main responsibility is to safeguard the country from foreign aggression, so it has every year a huge defence budget. Every transaction in this ministry is kept under the carpet on the grounds of the ‘security’ of the country. The Tehelka sting operation punctured that myth of ‘security’ and exposed the rampant corruption in defence deals. The minister concerned is under a cloud of suspicion. Even then last year the ministry could not spend around Rs 5000 crores which helped Vajpayee to show a reduced fiscal deficit. The states on the other hand are small in size but they are under continuous pressure from the people to satisfy all the demands of the people residing in that state: starting from providing hospitals, schools, roads, drinking water, shelter and the maintenance of law and order etc. The state governments are totally bankrupt, they hardly have any financial resources other than for the payment of salaries to the employees. The Centre can borrow both from the international market and /or print notes to meet its financial obligations. The states are given limited borrowing powers as if they are foreign countries. Finance Commissions are appointed every five years to remove imbalances in financial resources. Members of the Commission are appointed by the Centre and the states are allowed to submit memoranda only, the relationship between the Centre and States on this particular issue is that of a donor and that of a receiver. During the present phase of coalition politics, the states tend to support the majority party in the Parliament so that they get some extra goodies from the Centre, Andhra Pradesh politics is entirely based on such blackmail politics. As soon as the Tamil Nadu chief minister agreed to join the NDA before the ensuing Lok Sabha poll, she demanded a fabulous price from the centre and it has already paid the first instalment of this ransom. States ruled by opposition parties may bark and fight against the centre, but the Centre just ignores the justified demands of the people of those states. Thus we may talk of development of the country, federal structure, democracy etc., but the Indian Constitution explicitly encourages dependence of states on the Centre and encourages divisive tendencies.

The states’ total budgetary expenditure has grown by an annual compound rate of 15 percent during the last 14 years, from 1990-91 to 2003-04, their expenditure on social sector has increased by about 12.5 percent during the same period. The share of social sector in the states’ total expenditure as a result has declined from 32.9 percent in 1990-01 to 25.3 percent in 2003-04. The Centre on the other hand could find only 5 percent for budgetary expenditure for the social sector in the 2003-04 budget against 3 percent in 1990-91 and that is mainly used in paying salary to babus and the maintenance of beautiful buildings in which these non functional ministries are located. In 2003-04 the centre proposed to spend around 3.04 per cent of its budgetary resources on education, health and water supply and sanitation when the states proposed around 18.11 percent. On the other hand, Centre will spend around 2.14 percent of it budget on police in 2003-04, while the states’ share comes to 3.43 percent, a decline of 0.93 percent over 1990-91. One does not understand why the Centre kept on increasing the numbers of the police force when law and order is specifically the responsibility of the states. This Central police force never acts according to demand of the situation in the states, rather it is used to fulfill sectarian political purposes. During the Gujarat massacres when the local police was helping anti-social elements, there was no Central police to safeguard the life and property of the state sponsored killings. If the Central police force is disbanded, the saved money may be transferred to the social sector. Another structural bottleneck in the country’s finance is that both the Centre and states are already declared bankrupt. Prof. Joshi may shout from the roof tops that there is no dearth of money, the HRD ministry is floating on funds etc., but his secretaries are sent regularly to foreign countries with broken pots to collect funds to finance so many foreign funded projects. One simple case is that of the mid-day meal. Will the ministry tell people how many children are getting the benefit of this scheme and how many are waiting to get this benefit? They don’t have money to cook food!

Mr Vajpayee may ‘feel good’ that the elections have given him a golden opportunity to spend more than Rs 500 crores of the taxpayers’ money on false and ugly designed costly coloured advertisements, but the pictures shown daily in the media of lakhs of able bodied ladies and men fleeing from villages in western Maharashtra due to continuous drought for four long years cannot be hidden from people. In ‘shining India’ why do children and ladies have to walk every day 3 to 4 kilometres to bring a bucket of drinking water even before summer started in the country. Will they excuse such an irresponsible Prime Minister interested only to grab the chair and feeling no concern for those hapless drought affected people. Are they supposed to work for 12 long hours per day for breaking stones in the scorching sun to get a paltry sum of money and some kilograms of grain? After informing the President to dissolve parliament, his Finance Minister and Commerce Minister are so happy that they have liberally bribed their vote bank with uncalled for financial concessions of more than Rs one lakh crores. The total provisions for the social sector in 2003-04 by the Centre was around Rs 22217 crores or hardly 5 percent of the budget, is it not a criminal offence to neglect its constitutional responsibility to spend money on education, health and water supply, rather than waste national resources for the unproductive purposes of pampering a particular political party’s votebank. The HRD ministry’s budget for 2004-05 is already reduced in comparison to last year. Will Indian democracy forget such irresponsible behaviour of a government? With this vision they pretend to rule the country of more than a billion people for decades to come!


Click here to return to the April 2004 index.