Feeling good in times of a pandemic is a much-needed panacea, especially so when it is the constant illusory truth effect that seems to impact our rationality. Nothing detracts from the fact that 1971 was indeed a great military victory, brought about by a confluence of the military, political and social factors including the formation of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh on 17 April 1971. With its million-man army and modest Air Force and Navy, India has since then provided a regional sporadic security shroud, mostly when called upon. However, its own Armed Forces have struggled to modernise due to a multitude of reasons. Can we, therefore, be a truly trustworthy and reliable ‘go to’ country in times of a crisis?
Symptomatic was the need to do an “Emergency Procurement” of a limited quantity of a basic item for a soldier- bullet-proof jackets in 2014. It took an upright Police Officer to state that the INSAS rifle made by the OFB is no good. Orders for warships were given to a private company in 2011, which published in its Red herring document that it may not be eligible for such contracts, as it had no experience. The contract was cancelled after about a decade as the Yard was incapable and unable to deliver. These just suggest that there are many systems and processes that need to be untangled before we can even look at being a nation that counts. As Admiral Arun Prakash brings out in his article of 26 Dec 21 in the Deccan Herald, “What India needs to address to achieve 'great power' status”, that we are barely able to look after our own borders and that there have been a slew of foreign policy and intelligence failures due to a lack of clear policies and doctrinal thought. He suggests a 50-year technological capability perspective road map to enable indigenous arms manufacturing capability.
Firstly, let’s see our economic status. We really can’t build a high technology Armed Force without the funding or the supportive technology, manpower, and production facilities. We are a 2.62 trillion dollar economy, less than that of the UK, which stands at 2.71 TUSD. Even if by some surprise, we are to reach the figure of 5 TUSD in the next five years, it remains an illusory feel-good factor, for, with a 140 crore population it would be barely 3570 USD per capita, suggesting that a large number of our countrymen would continue to languish below the poverty line, more so considering that India’s ascent into inequality would continue unabated as brought out in the Indian Express of 08 Dec 21. Will the Government even think about investing adequately in Defence, Technology, Research and Development? Their singular focus has been thus far to acquire and stay in power, as brought out by a study of various Governments by the journalist M Rajashekhar, in his book “Despite the State”. It would also explain to a large extent the absence of any long-term perspective policies and development of axiomatic concepts.
Secondly, let’s see the status of our education. As an incidental educationist, I have observed the basic lack of education and learning outcomes in the Government schools and the not-so-well-structured private schools, as seen in my state of Rajasthan, which is symbolic of the sector across the country, except perhaps Delhi. This has been abundantly documented in the thoroughly researched consequential ASER documents. Further, the Government seeks through the RTE Act and the New Education Policy, to excessively regulate and encroach on the autonomy and the running of private schools, making it a nightmare to administer. So much for no license raj. The question is, will the RTE and the NEP improve learning outcomes in the much larger Government sector? Will it improve the quality of education in the private schools which do not have adequate infrastructure and quality teaching staff as fees are unpractically low? Nothing in the policy remotely suggests that it will. With inadequate access to quality education, the populace will continue to be trapped in poverty, exploitation will be rampant, un- employability and unemployment would be endemic, criminalisation of large sections of society will increase and the main institutions of the state would therefore continue to flounder.
Nations do become great where their institutions are strong. Can we say the same of our own institutions, such as the legislative, judiciary, and executive? By holding elections at regular intervals is hardly an endorsement of a quality democracy. It only puts into place processes, to facilitate election, not succour to the people. What is desirable is that it churns out and delivers, lessening inequality, long-term perspective thinking, quality health and education, focus on the future, non-eulogising of corrupt practices and related actual feel-good factors, elements that make a nation great. As we seek to influence the region and have an impact on happenings on the world stage, it will be the strengthening of our institutions that will get us our cherished place promised by our tryst with destiny, of unfettered freedom and a vibrant influential nation.
About the Author
RAdm Vineet Bakhshi, an alumnus of NDA, served as Commanding Officer INS Shivaji, Director General Naval Projects (Mumbai), and Chairman and Managing Director of Goa Shipyard Ltd. He can be reached at [email protected] Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')