Who lives if secular, democratic, inclusive India dies?

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New Delhi, Aug 26 (UNI) Striking a discordant note at the hype that was being created by powerful interests in India and abroad around high growth, experts have voiced serious concern at the growing inequalities in the economic, social and political system of the country which are threatening the very fabric of democracy.

''The relevant issue is not just whether growth has helped reduce absolute poverty but that inequalities are growing in the economic, political and social systems'', Prof Achin Vanaik, Professor of Political Science and Dean Social Sciences, University of Delhi, said here while participating in a panel discussion organised on the occasion of 10th D S Borker Memorial Lecture series.

Others who took part in the discussion included Mr S Jaipal Reddy, Minister for Urban Development, Prof Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi and Co-Editor of Contributions to Indian Sociology, and Prof Monoranjan Mohanty, Durgabi Deshmukh Professor of Social Development at the Council for Social Development.

The theme of the discussion was 'My vision of India 2047 AD-- a Course Correction.' The Lecture series is a civil society initiative, which was instituted in 1999. The idea for continuing with the series is to strengthen India's secular values and traditions and encourage the process of thinking regarding the India there should be in 2047--a hundred years after India's independence from colonialism. The late Mr D S Borker was a legendary Civil Servant and Public Sector Administrator.

Introducing the topic, Mr Suhas Borker, a well known filmmaker and son of late Mr D S Borker, said, ''who lives if the the idea of a secular, democratic, inclusive India dies.'' Prof Vanaik said the fulcrum of economic, political and foreign policy has shifted to the right, creating huge inequalities among the rich and poor in the country.

He said a deliberate hype was being created by the economic establishment around growth and projecting that it was a panacea for all ills of the society.

Prof Vanaik, winner of Sean MacBride International Peace Prize, said it was in the interest of the middle and upper classes to project the United States as a country that needs to be emulated.

He said it was well neigh impossible for India and China, notwithstanding their high growth rates, to ape the living standards of the West, especially the US. It would require the resources of three planets to do so.

Prof Vanaik said liberalisation and the consumerist boom unleashed by it suits the Indian middle classes whose only ambition was to reach the material standards of the West.

What was, however, critical was to meet the aspirations of the masses, who have been left behind in the race for development. Much of the social tensions in various parts of the country are a result of growing inequalities and deprivation and hunger.

Prof Vanaik said the shift in foreign policy to get closer to America while giving up the earlier independent stance as manifested in the Non-Aligned movement, the support to anti-apartheid struggle as well as support to the Arab World in the face of aggressive posturing by Israel, would be detrimental to the interests of India.

He said pushing the Indo-US nuclear deal was aimed at gaining greater proximity to the United States and would serve as a death knell to the country's independent foreign policy.

Prof Vanaik, however, found nothing wrong in maintaining normal diplomatic relations with the US, but to become a lackey of that country would be disastrous.

He said the US was known for oppressing human rights in various parts of the world, and the proof of the pudding is in its eating--it has supported many dictatorial regimes to suit its interests.

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