Friday, November 30, 2012

Corruption, Youth & the Nation

Youth Power of India 

Prakash Katoch
[Lt Gen Prakash Katoch is one of India's most decorated Military Leader with a record of leading many high risk commando missions and commanding Special Forces and Formations with great success through some of the most hazardous operations. He always was where war, terror or crisis was at its worst. Matching his valour, he has a sharp brain and an intellect that make him the most sought after advisor on national security, international relations, strategic affairs, military, technical and topical issues. Over 160 articles authored by him have appeared in various magazines and journals. He holds the Field Marshal KM Cariappa Chair of Excellence at the USI of India and is authoring a book on “Special Forces of India.” Has been contracted by the Centre For Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi to author a book on “Netcentricity and Indian Military.”]

In 1947, our population was 350 million. As per the 2011 census it stood at 1.02 billion. Today we already are 1.21 billion constituting 17.3 percent of world population, implying every sixth human being on earth is Indian. At current annual growth rate of 1.58 percent, our population will cross 1.53 billion surpassing China by 2025. Presently, 50 percent of our population is 25 years and below and if you count upto 35 years age it comes to 65 percent. Conversely, most countries are struggling with bulk population on wrong side of 60 years. 72.2 percent of our population lives in 6,38,000 villages while 27.8 percent is in 5,480 towns and cities. We also have the largest illiterate population in the world.
Thomas Friedman says, “India is the sole country of 21st Century with abundant youth power”. The million dollar question is how will India maximize this asset?  

Today, there are some 40 million illegal weapons (of total 73 million globally) circulating within India with an annual illegal trade of $4 million. These include the crude locally manufactured plus the sophisticated ones with terrorist and insurgent organizations bought on the world market and being supplied by both China and Pakistan. In December 2010, in a single district of Bihar (Munger District) the police seized 65 illegal weapons. 

In recent times there were reports of a rave party in Mumbai (attended by some cricketers as well) where media went berserk about 100 gms of drugs. The World drug Trade Report tells you that in year 2009 itself (one single year) 3.2 metric tons of drugs came from Pakistan to India through land borders. Post the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, MJ akbar wrote an article as to why are we surprised about the Pakistani trawler having come all the way from Karachi to Mumbai. As per him such trawlers carrying drugs from Karachi to Mumbai arrive practically every day with connivance of the politicians and the police, to whet the demand of five star hotels and high and mighty. 

India has been rated 95th in the CPI (Corruption Perception Index) with a 3.1 rating amongst 178 countries for the past decade. Similarly, we continue to be rated 134th in the HDI (human Development Index), which should be a matter of shame. Even the Prime Minister has talked about the pathetic state of malnutrition in children. As per an internal study of the Planning Commission itself, of every Re 1 spent, only 17 Paisa reach ground level (incidentally Rajiv Gandhi had mentioned the same figure as PM and three years back rahul Gandhi said only 7 Paisa reach ground). Govt spent Rs 1,85,000 crores during FY 2011-2012. Transporting this figure to the 17 Paisa matrix implies of the Rs 1,85,000 crores spent, only Rs 31,450 crores reached ground level (Hopefully !). The balance Rs 1,50, 550 crores was consumed by what the Planning Commission referes to as ‘administration’ (read corruption). 

As per MHA, there are some 29 terrorist organizations operating in the country. The internet gives the number as 123. There is namesake / nil administration in the Maoist areas. No security forces go into the 4000 sq kms Abu Madh area of Dandkaranya Forest that the Maoists declared liberated two years back. Ironically, as per an MP, DGP of a particular State has been paying ‘hafta’ to the Maoists for his own protection. Youth are being lured by terrorist organizations by mere promise of regular pay. Maoists now have a Rs 1500 crore annual financial outlay and have commenced growing poppy (Taliban style), one acre of poppy giving them Rs 1 crore annually. Lower level politicians are involved for their own vote bank, personal safety or simply shut their eyes. Maoists are operating in 16 states now with Nepalese Maoists to the North and Southern tip touching Kerala where the PFI (Popular Front of India) has already picked up arms courtesy LeT foot prints in Kerala. Maoists have started striking in Assam. China has recently gifted an AK 47 manufacturing facility to the Kachen rebels in North Myanmar and the weapons have started flowing to PLA in Manipur and to the Maoists. China has been supporting the ULFA and is establishing links with Naga insurgents. LeT has been attending Maoists meetings for last two years. I am not writing about J&K as you are well aware what Pakistan is doing, plus the latest ISI efforts to revive the Punjab militancy. Yet the Govt said in 2010 that the Maoist problem will be resolved in next 2-3 years. Incidentally, sophisticated weapons and communication have been recovered underground in Odisha (J&K style) stashed for future use and the LTTE trained the Maoists have periodically demonstrated finesse in use of explosives. 

Without proper channelizing, India’s youth power can become a serious liability if it takes the wrong direction. Inimical forces interested in plunging India deeper into violence and chaos could gleefully misguide them. This, in turn would make the already complex management of social change insurmountable with our burgeoning population racing to overtake China over the next two decades.   

          The prevailing system of education in the country is based on ‘providing education for the sake of education’. There is little focus on educating the youth in ethics, values, patriotism and imbibing a sense of nationalism. Question young students on history of ancient India and they cannot go farther back than the British or at best the Moghul eras. They have no idea of the map of India in the periods of Cholas and Ashoka The Great. They are not aware of this part of Indian history and  the affect of India’s civilization and culture over China, Japan, South East, South Asia and Central Asia including the proofs of this that exist on ground even today. How many children know the areas of China annexed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh? How many children know that the Indian Army was once garrisoned at Yatung while China claims Arunachal Pradesh as ‘South Tibet’ today? The youth are not exposed to how the Universities of Nalanda and Taxila attracted students from far off foreign lands, the supremacy of India in arithmetic, medicine, astronomy, and numerology, why India was called “Sone KI Chiriya” and why Sanskrit is called the mother of all languages. The TV is doing a good job through serials like ‘Chadragupt Maurya’ (unfortunately the channel itself has been terminated), Shiva Ji, Lakshmi Bai but what is the contribution of our education system in imbibing patriotism and nationalism? Isn’t lack of this is a reason why not many children even watch these historical serials.  

Effect of overpowering winds of consumerism apart, ground level media explosion and information technology expose young minds practically every day to news of scams and corruption, vote bank politics, casteism, regressing human values, blatant misuse of power for personal monetary gains and the like. The message being driven home is that you grab what you want and umbrella of the corrupt, vote banking and political clout will protect you no matter what.   

Significantly, Europeans held a seminar on Maoist Insurgency in India couple of months back because they want to invest in India including in underdeveloped areas. A representative from our CII who attended the seminar has the following to say, which should put our country to shame, “Europeans believe that Indian leaders in politics and business are so blissfully blinded by the new, sometimes ill-gotten, wealth and deceit that they are living in defiance, insolence and denial to comprehend that the day will come, sooner than later, when the have-nots would hit the streets. In a way, it seems to have already started with the monstrous and grotesque acts of the Maoists. And, when that rot occurs, not one political turncoat will escape being lynched”. Are we heading the China way – “The Great Leap”?  rDespite the abundant youth power, look at the shortage of over 14,000 officers in the Army alone? But then how can you expect the youth to be attracted to the Army when we cannot imbibe in them ethics and values, morals, patriotism and nationalism. 

          In backdrop of the above quagmire,  the eight day Rashtra Katha Shibir (literal translation being National Stories Camp), held in December 2011 and attended by an unbelievable number of some 15,000 children of  8 to l8 years age group (50 per cent girls) from Gujarat and some other states was an invigorating surprise to first time speakers. It was the 14th such camp, of which regretfully very little is known in rest of the country. Run by Acharya Dharmabandhu, Founder and Inspirer of the Shri Vedic Mission Trust, this 32-year-old from Tamil Nadu who could have lived in luxury as an IAS officer but post a visit to Somnath Temple few years back, chose instead to set up an Ashram in Village Pransla (some 125 kms from Rajkot) in rural Gujarat and devote his life in providing the beacon for the youth to revive the erstwhile glory of India and facilitate the country in attaining its rightful place in the comity of nations.  

          Acharya Dharmabandhu, with infinite reserves of energy and zeal, has to his credit not only 14 Rashtra Katha Shibirs, which by themselves are stupendous feats, but post the Bhuj earthquake he took the initiative of constructing over 1800 houses in the worst hit villages, organizing some 1117 truckloads of food and fodder, digging 400 wells for water and raising crores of rupees for construction of ponds and check dams, aside from construction of numerous cow farms. The aim of the Shibirs organized by him is to acquaint the youth with the real India, its civilization, culture, heritage, ancient glory, secularism, present day developments in all spheres, dangers facing us including terrorism and fundamentalism; imbibing in them ethics, values, patriotism, nationalism and the need to move as a single secular force to face the future that would automatically facilitate India managing the social change in coming years. The Shri Vedic Mission Trust has an eminently chosen strong foundation in Gen VP Malik, former Army Chief as the Chairman. The Trustees are Mr KPS Gill, former DGP Punjab, Mr Arun Bhagat, former DG IB & BSF, Mr Joginder Sigh, former Director CBI and Mr Suresh Sharma, DIG Punjab Police. 

          The Shibirs provide an all round terrific exposure to the youth including the latest developments in practically every field, as can be gauged from the cross section of dignitaries that have visited and addressed the youth; from President of India to Governors, Chief Ministers of many states from different political parties, Scientists, Educationists, Social Workers, Historians, former Defence and Civil Services Officials - to name a few like Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Wajahat Habibullah, Dr K Kasturirirngan, Professor AR Rao, Dr Kailash Swaminathan,  G Parthasarthy, Admiral L. Ramdas, Ajit Doval, Prashant Mishra, Prakash Singh, Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Auror, HN Dixit, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Iaswant Singh, Narendra Modi, Arif Mohammed Ktran etc. This time speakers at the 14th Rashtra Katha Shibir included Shri Anil Kakodkar, Shri Prashant Mishra, Shri MS Bitta, Lt Gen Nirbhay Sharma, Lt Gen PC Katoch, Maj Gen GD Bakshi, Cmde Uday Bhaskar and the Governor of Gujarat who has attended these camps several times. 

The camp is run akin to that of an army camp with volunteer MBA students overseeing to oversee the administration. The children have a busy schedule. The routine for the youth in the Shibirs is generally from 5 AM to 10 PM, with suitable breaks, implying children are up at around 4 AM. Their exposure includes spheres like national integration, communal and social harmony, disaster management, spiritualism, patriotism, culture and civilization, personality development, yoga, martial arts, horse riding shooting, sports, computer training, environment and the like.   

Patriotism is encouraged including through songs composed and sung by the children who also put up plays and skits. Youth have the opportunity to learn horse riding, shooting etc : 

National Integration, Communal and Social Harmony, Disater Management, Spiritualism, Patriotism, Culture and Civilization, Personality Development, Yoga, Health, Martial Arts, Computer Training, Environment are part of the daily fare. It is a singular experience watch thousands of children sitting in disciplined fashion in rapt attention listening to various speakers. They keep sending written questions, some very intelligent ones that are answered by the speakers to the satisfaction of the audience. The sight of 15,000 children sitting in such disciplined environment in a remote village in Gujarat takes first time visitors by complete surprise : 

The 14th Rashtra Katha Shibir also had stalls put up by the National Disaster Reserve Force (NDRF) training children in disaster management : 

          Living under canvas provides the youth a sense of adventure, bonhomie and opportunity to make new friends. A visit to the 24 x 7 kitchen brings home the massive administration involved in catering for fresh, nutritious, hot and timely food at such gigantic scale. The food is organic with abundant dose of fresh milk, butter and desi ghee. Organic wheat is mechanically ground and mechanically kneaded within the kitchen complex:   

          The surprising part is that though the last camp in December 2011 was the 14th of its kind and these 14 Shibirs have had a stream of eminent speakers and visitors from all over India yet including from all hues of political parties, such an endevour has not been taken up at the national level despite crores of rupees periodically spent on election rallies. Hopefully, it is intransigence and not the reason that the powers that be fear awakening of the youth of India. Logically, such camps should be run by all States in India every year under patronage of both the Centre and concerned States. The Education Ministry should be focusing on how to incorporate values, ethics, patriotism, nationalism in our education system rather than playing with ideas like reducing the MBBS curriculum by one year. Another surprising part is that moment you mention these Shibirs or the Shri Vedic Mission Trust, the first reaction is that it must be a front of the RSS, till you apprise them as to who the Chairman and the Trustees are. Kudos to Acharya Dharmabandhu for achieving what he has in such short time despite no support from the Centre. All he wishes for is spread of the light he has lit. The citizenry will definitely want this but are the powers that be listening? The media should take a break from sensationalism and help spread this message. The Defence Force, particularly the Army, need to patronize such events and provide assistance as possible besides deputing speakers who are serving. Serving officers from Central Armed Police Forces are already doing so. Talks by military officers will help alleviate a sense of patriotism in the youth.  

The next such camp is being held at the same location from 30 December 2012 to 06 January 2013. 15,000 children from 13 States including from far away Nagaland, Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha are attending besides other States. The organizers make complete arrangements for travel and stay. Anyone interested can contact Acharya Dharmabandu at +919099100000 or +919466065030.  



The author is a veteran Lieutenant General of Indian Army.









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