Mar 13, 2006
When President Bush made his recent trip to India, the press spoke often of the “Indian economic miracle,” which was underlined by a new multi-billion dollar nuclear accord signed by Bush and Indian President Singh.
What the press ignored was a major study just released by the World Bank showing that India has the greatest concentration of hungry children in the world. According to the report, 38% of India’s children suffer from malnourishment, hunger and starvation – a number even higher than in poverty-stricken sub-Saharan Africa, where the World Bank says that 26% of the children suffer from malnourishment. In fact, the study found that almost 40% of the world's malnourished children live in one country, alone – India.
In India, there are signs of burgeoning wealth. In bustling cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, new high rises soar ever upward, with much of this construction fueled by hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign investment that has flowed into the country over the last decade. In Bangalore, India has its version of a high-tech Silicon Valley, with sprawling corporate campuses where new software and other computer technology is developed. India has its share of global tycoons, like Lakshmi Mittal, who oversees the biggest steel empire in the world and is worth more than 25 billion dollars, according to Forbes magazine. And, as Bush noted on his trip, there is a new middle class in India, made up of tens of millions of people. According to Bush, India supposedly represents a growing market for products “Made in the USA.”
The Indian government has already been on its own overseas buying spree. In 2004, according to a U.S. congressional study, India agreed to buy 5.7 billion dollars in weaponry, allowing it to become the biggest buyer on the world arms market. And during Bush’s trip, the Indian government announced that it is getting ready to buy 126 fighter jets, including advanced F-16s and F-18s worth up to seven billion dollars.
All these purchases have changed nothing for most people in India. The terrible depth of poverty in both the cities and countryside is one indication of that. Official estimates are that 300 million of India's 1.1 billion people live below the official poverty line on less than $1 a day. And experts agree that the amount of abject poverty is much worse, since the government measure of poverty deliberately underestimates the daily minimum of calories each Indian needs to survive.
In other words, the Indian economic miracle is for the capitalists’ benefit only. Most of the population is getting poorer and hungrier – something that neither Bush nor most of the U.S. press bothered to mention during his trip.