Dr Ajay Dandekar is a researcher working with the LokParishad, he also works on rural development issues at the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gujarat, India. I recently happen to attend one of his talks, “economy of hunger” which was based to enlighten people on issues regarding Vidarbha Suicides and other issues that are generally ignored by the mainstream media. He started by quoting an absolutely unbelievable figure from the ministry of education, that being, 90% of the children undergoing primary education drop out from school before reaching twelfth standard! so if your reading this, your probably those priveleged 10%. The situation is even worse with higher education in which only 2% of the people finishing school end up getting higher education. He said (emphasis mine)

These 10% ..us.. we have come here riding on the backs of the people who are not so lucky, who are the working class… the most productive working class of India

The softly spoken words stunned the 50 odd people in the room. He quoted some other figures like percentages of GDP spent on health and education which are 0.67% and 1.5 % respectively. In any developing nation with the population as ours, ought to spend at least 10% of the GDP on education, and overwhelming it is to note, that out of this 1.5%, 96% is spent in giving salaries!. Our earlier stories like this and this, speak about the dearth of scientific research, quoting Ajay, approx 0.99% of the GDP was spent in 1987 on research which reduced to 0.81% in 1998, a reduction when there should have been an increase, and the best part is yet to come, most of this amount is spent on defense research!. Ajay commenting on the result of this defense research says,

Our Main Battle Tank(MBT), Arjun is not yet ready, it overheats and is heavy, the work on it has been on since 1974…Our Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has flied only once , while it is under research since 1984..So it obviously has not been so successful to spend only on defense research, and by the way this percentage of GDP does not include the amount spend on nuclear research and for maintaing strategic nuclear deterrent.

The talk then shifted to the topic of contention, the suicides committed by the farmers of Vidarbha. Since 1998 there have been 6000 cases of farner suicides in the Vidarbha region. After Dr Manmohan Singh paid a visit to Vidarbha to assure the farmers of a compensation package earlier this year, there has been 1,50,000 more suicides in Vidarbha! and it is amazing to note the amount of highlight this issue gets with the mainstream media. According to Ajay, the main reason behind these suicides is not the failure of crops but the lack of a minimum guaranteed support price. The problem is with the cash crop, as its market is very volatile and subject to quick changes. The Indian farmers, who also incidentally happen to be highly dependent on rain Gods (as we irrigate only 4% of our land under agriculture), cannot bear these sudden changes and with the lack of demand, they have to seek loans to sustain themselves and thats when they enter into the hands of the local money lenders, and the real problem starts.

Out of the 100,200,000 farmers in Maharashtra, with bank accounts, 79,00,000 are defaulters and hence not liable to get loans from the bank thereby out of the formal credit system. Its a natural conclusion then that theyll seek loans from the local moneylenders, who charge exbortitant rates which they are not able to pay the rest of their lives. Ajay says that if this is allowed to follow, the most hardworking and productive working class of India will switch to terrorist acts and the so called naxalism. India in the coming century has to worry more about raging civil wars than about cross border terrorism!