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.
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.
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. http://www.securityconference.de/
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]