The tale of two lectures

Satish Dhawan Auditorium and Faculty Hall, March 3, 2011. IISc hosted two luminaries who are important actors in the Indian socio – economic – political stage on a single day. Shiv Shankar Menon, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, delivered the IISc Golden Jubilee Lecture on ‘Science and Security’ at the Faculty Hall. P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu, interacted with the audience after the screening of the documentary, Nero’s Guests., at the Satish Dhawan Auditorium. The documentary screening was organised by Concern along with Vikalp Bengaluru and Maraa.

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell

P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu interacting with the audience at Satish Dhawan Auditorium. Photo – Concern

Nero’s guests addressed the issue of farmer suicides happening in the country over the past decade or more. The plot of the documentary is Mr. Sainath’s investigations into the farmer suicides in Vidarbha, one of the leading cotton producing region in the country. The documentary was named after the grand party organised by the Roman Caesar, Nero, for the citizens of Rome as described in Tacitus’ Annals. During the party the prisonersof the state were burnt to provide lighting with hardly any dissent from the guests. After the documentary, Mr. Sainath interacted with the audience largely comprising of non IISc-ians.

On growth

Mr. Sainath argued that the measure of growth is an indicator of the economic activity of the state and does not guarantee social well being. Looking at developing countries in South America, he claimed that growth is not essential for HDI. For a country with third largest number of billionaires, the HDI rank is poor (119). Unlike John Kenneth Galbraith’s and Amartya Sen’s argument of growth with justice, the aim should be growth through justice with equitable distribution of wealth. According to the third National Family Health Survey, the percentage of malnourished children in our country is over 46%, this is worse than that of Sub Saharan Africa.

On net percapita grain consumption

Quoting the economic survey, Mr. Sainath argued that in the 1950s, the per capita grain consumption of the country was 444 gms. In 1991, it was 510 gms. However, with a declining population growth, if the per capita grain consumption falls to 436 gms, the argument of growth is debatable.

On agriculture

With a country having 43 million people registered with the employment exchange, depending mainly on IT (which is not a great creator of jobs) is a bad strategy. In India, women are not classified as farmers. This adds to the plight of thousands of agricultural households in the country. A hit in agriculture means a hit in the allied sectors also. Agriculture needs to be declared as a public service. The definition of Poverty line is fraudulent in the country. According to National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector study, there are 836 million people in the country who live on less than INR 20 a day.

On Geneticaly modified crops

Mr. Sainath described GM crops as Agriculture on steroids. Using GM seeds reduces the soil fertility by 25%. Following the Punjab model as described by the RBI governor (D. Subbarao) will be disastrous.


Knowledge is power, power is Science

Shiv Shankar Menon at the Munich Security Conference in February 2011. While delivering the IISc Golden Jubilee Lecture, Mr. Menon mentioned about how he was asked to talk on cyber crime as he hailed from a place known for its IT competence. Photo – Sebastian Zwez.


Science is changing the security calculus of the nation, commented Shiv Shankar Menon, the National Security Advisor to the PrimeMinister. Mr. Menon commented on the two revolutions that has changed the security system of India in recent times. First, being the introduction of the nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapon is a political weapon and leads to a doctrine of deterrence. In 1998, when Pokran – II was conducted, India sought minimal deterrence and was not interested in an arms race. The fear of the enemy is what prompts a country to possess the nuclear weapons.

The second revolution is the emergence of Information Technology. The progress in Information Technology has made the country aware on cyber espionage and cyber warfare. The two success stories of recent times are the succesful completion of the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the improvement in maritime security using GPS navigation.

India should develop its own technical competence just like the case of telecommunication and space technology. It is in the hands of researchers to work towards the security of our country by focusing on innovative technologies across disciplines that would enable India to protect itself. Answering questions raised by the audience, Mr. Menon stated that diplomacy is not a beauty contest where being loud or popular matters. Popularity is not the measure of the effectiveness of the foreign policy.


[A Voices Press initiative]


About The Voices team

Like it says, The Voices team, IISc, Bengaluru, India

Posted on March 29, 2011, in Regular issues and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Gaurav Singhal

    From 2013 UNDP Human Development Report:

    Between 1990 and 2012, almost all countries
    improved their human development status.
    …. Progress was
    particularly rapid in more than 40 countries of
    the South, whose increases in HDI value were
    significantly larger than predicted for countries
    that were at a similar level of HDI value
    in 1990.
    This includes countries as diverse as
    Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda in Sub-Saharan
    Africa; Bangladesh and India in South Asia;…..

  2. Gaurav Singhal

    Dear Sir,

    I have serious objections to Sainath quoting India’s HDI rank of 119 to argue that India’s recent economic growth is worthless.

    Growth of economy doesn’t imply a decent Human Development Index (HDI) ranking. Further, both cannot be compared. A country like Sierra Leone, which fares very badly at HDI, can still clock a good economic growth and still for many years can remain at the bottom of the HDI rankings. All that can be compared is the ‘growth’ in economy and ‘growth’ in human development. So the things to compare are how much Human Development Index has ‘increased’ vis-à-vis the ‘increase’ in GDP. Apples should be compared with apples only, a very basic law of nature.

    Lets compare the growth in HDI. UNDP report on HDI (2009) measures the absolute progress in HDI made by all the countries under three time-periods. The most recent comparison, for the short-term of 2000-2006, places India at rank 10th among those 131 countries which are ahead of it in HDI. All in all, it places India 15th among all the nations of the world for that period. So though India had a low HDI, it improved its HDI quite fast compared to others. And remember, 2000-2006 wasn’t a rosy 8% growth period throughout, the first three years saw an average growth less than 5%.

    And now lets come to the most cursed years of Indian economic growth by the ‘analysts’. Lets see how India progressed in human development when it was marching ahead in economy. Data for 2003-2006 from the very same UN report shows that the ‘second-fastest-growing-economy-in-the-world’ was eighth fastest in the world on progress in Human Development. YES, RANKED 8 AMONG OVER 175 nations. SHOCKING?

    Infact, the period 2003-2006 saw India’s one of the best ever improvement in HDI. The index improved from 0.576 to 0.609. This improvement is one of the best in the decade!

    But even award winning journalists won’t tell you that, you would have to actually download hundreds of pages about that report, take a break from office for two and a half days, and know it yourself. That is the curse you would have to bear.

    I am frustrated why the media keeps on pervading untruthful things all over the country. I have opposed it at various forums, and I hope Voice Press will publish my views also in this regard.

    For details, please see the below Sainath articles and my comments on that, at the given links.

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