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Indian Diaspora, please don’t be judgmental!

Indian Diaspora

By Shrinivas Dharmadhikari

The Independent, a British newspaper will no longer call India’s commercial capital “Mumbai”. Instead, plans to revert to colonial Bombay. While explaining the rationale One Amol Rajan, India-born editor of the paper told BBC radio “If you call it what Hindu nationalists want you to call it, you essentially do their work for them.”

This is not the first time Indians staying abroad passing at times patronizing, often silly stereotypical and most irritating of all highly judgmental comments. Ever since the Neo Liberal Indian Governments have opened doors for the so-called diaspora dividends from this eminent community, what we have got is tons of tips and grams of gold.

The bulk of the investments flowing in from NRI/PIOs has been by way of bank deposits, portfolio investment or real estate what is called hot money, which moves globally in search for higher returns. Universal economic logic used by persons of all nationalities. Despites decades of attractive schemes, investment in productive sectors has not reached even double digits more striking when contrasted with China , where the investment by the Chinese diaspora is the major share of total foreign direct investment. This is not to say self seeking character is something special about Indians. Several studies of diaspora investment in homeland is first governed by risk return trade off and then comes home bias as poor second.

Hence, we do not grudge about Indian diaspora’s economic behaviour towards India. Indeed, we Indians have been successful in our nation building since late fifties , when most of PIOs today having got best of the training at highly subsidised rates in IITs and IIMs, abandoned motherland for better creature comforts. But we certainly object to their passing judgements over issues purely Indian which are not only much less nuanced (crude?) but many times frozen in the times when they left the country. Unless of course they abandon their London based imperial world view and do serious homework at the grass root level. I am not sure if my editor friend young as he is (born 1983) , knows what Mumbai means to every Maharashtrian of any political affiliation. It was during the Samyukta Maharashtra movement(1960) which was an all-party struggle with active participation by the left that 19 activist sacrificed their life.

And regional identity per se is nothing regressive or fundamentalists. It’s use can be teleological and ideology driven. There are adequate number of similar issues in Scotland and Northern Ireland where he can take appropriate stands wearing his ideological trapping on his sleeves

Further, it is a need of large section of Indian diaspora in UK to selectively forget India’s colonial past and the draconian exploitation done by Imperial England. We in India don’t have those compulsions. Rather, we would like each of our forthcoming generation to remember it as vividly as possible and learn to despise it and its residual vestiges. In fact, we wholeheartedly support the reparation demand made by Shashi Tharoor as compensation for India’s colonial exploitation during which India’s share of the world economy dropped from 23 to 4 per cent I urge our editor friend to support it and advocate it, the least he should do as his leftist commitment.

In fact this takes me to an even larger issue. The Times Square and Wembley Stadium events where an organized attempt of made to parade PM Modi as the rock star poster boy of new emergent India is also an organized attempt by Saffron Diaspora to influence Indian public opinion. In fact it is high time these “Chitthi Ayee re, Chitthi ayi”, permanently nostalgic super patriots restrict such acts of celebrations to their palatial drawing rooms in late evenings with few pegs of single malt down the throat. They can even hug and cry as much as they want. After all we have obliged them with a hug loving Prime Minister !

In the end just a small clarification. I am not diaspora phobic as many may have by now might have mistaken me for. I admire each of them for venturing out and exploring unknown lands. How I wish , we Indians had started doing it way back in the fifteenth and sixteenth century.

To all those brave hearts, all that I wish to say can best be summarized as;

I don’t miss you and you alone, I miss you and me together.

The writer lives in United Kingdom and is a researcher of Global and National Strategic issues. Twitter


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Most Terrible Water Crisis Ever In History Leaves Millions Of Indians Thirsty

6 percent of GDP is very much dependent on water.

A woman washes clothes as her daughter bathes in the Yamuna River on a hot day in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2017.
A woman washes clothes as her daughter bathes in the Yamuna River on a hot day in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2017. VOA

Weak infrastructure and a national shortage have made water costly all over India, but Sushila Devi paid a higher price than most. It took the deaths of her husband and son to force authorities to supply it to the slum she calls home.

“They died because of the water problem, nothing else,” said Devi, 40, as she recalled how a brawl over a water tanker carrying clean drinking water in March killed her two relatives and finally prompted the government to drill a tubewell.

“Now things are better. But earlier … the water used to be rusty, we could not even wash our hands or feet with that kind of water,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Delhi.

India is “suffering from the worst water crisis in its history”, threatening hundreds of millions of lives and jeopardising economic growth, a government think-tank report said in June.

From the northern Himalayas to the sandy, palm-fringed beaches in the south, 600 million people – nearly half India’s population – face acute water shortage, with close to 200,000 dying each year from polluted water.

Residents like Devi queue daily with pipes, jerry cans and buckets in hand for water from tankers – a common lifeline for those without a safe, reliable municipal supply – often involving elbowing, pushing and punching.

On the rare occasions water does flow from taps, it is often dirty, leading to disease, infection, disability and even death, experts say.

“The water was like poison,” said Devi, who still relies on the tanker for drinking water, outside her one-room shanty in the chronically water-stressed Wazirpur area of the capital Delhi.

“It is better now, but still it is not completely drinkable. It is alright for bathing and washing the dishes.”

Water pollution is a major challenge, the report said, with nearly 70 percent of India’s water contaminated, impacting three in four Indians and contributing to 20 percent of the country’s disease burden.

Yet only one-third of its wastewater is currently treated, meaning raw sewage flows into rivers, lakes and ponds – and eventually gets into the groundwater.

“Our surface water is contaminated, our groundwater is contaminated. See, everywhere water is being contaminated because we are not managing our solid waste properly,” said the report’s author Avinash Mishra.
Loss of livelihood

Meanwhile, unchecked extraction by farmers and wealthy residents has caused groundwater levels to plunge to record lows, says the report.

It predicts that 21 major cities, including New Delhi and India’s IT hub of Bengaluru, will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.

The head of WaterAid India VK Madhavan said the country’s groundwater was now heavily contaminated.

“We are grappling with issues, with areas that have arsenic contamination, fluoride contamination, with salinity, with nitrates,” he said, listing chemicals that have been linked to cancer.

Arsenic and fluoride occur naturally in the groundwater, but become more concentrated as the water becomes scarcer, while nitrates come from fertilisers, pesticides and other industrial waste that has seeped into the supply.

The level of chemicals in the water was so high, he said, that bacterial contamination – the source of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid – “is in the second order of problems”.

“Poor quality of water – that is loss of livelihood. You fall ill because you don’t have access to safe drinking water, because your water is contaminated.”

Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater.
Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater. pixabay

“The burden of not having access to safe drinking water, that burden is greatest on the poor and the price is paid by them.”

Frothy lakes and rivers

Crippling water problems could shave 6 percent off India’s gross domestic product, according to the report by the government think-tank, Niti Aayog.

“This 6 percent of GDP is very much dependent on water. Our industry, our food security, everything will be at stake,” said Mishra.

“It is a finite resource. It is not infinite. One day it can (become) extinct,” he said, warning that by 2030 India’s water supply will be half of the demand.

To tackle this crisis, which is predicted to get worse, the government has urged states – responsible for supplying clean water to residents – to prioritise treating waste water to bridge the supply and demand gap and to save lives.

Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater.

Every year, Bengaluru and New Delhi make global headlines as their heavily polluted water bodies emit clouds of white toxic froth due to a mix of industrial effluents and domestic garbage dumped into them.

In Bengaluru – once known as the “city of lakes” and now doomed to go dry – the Bellandur Lake bursts into flames often, sending plumes of black smoke into sky.

The Yamuna river that flows through New Delhi can be seen covered under a thick, detergent-like foam on some days.

On other days, faeces, chemicals and ashes from human cremations float on top, forcing passers-by to cover their mouths and noses against the stench.

That does not stop 10-year-old Gauri, who lives in a nearby slum, from jumping in every day.

With no access to water, it is the only way to cool herself down during India’s scorching summers, when temperatures soar to 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

“There usually is not enough water for us to take a shower, so we come here,” said Gauri, who only gave her first name, as she and her brother splashed around in the filthy river.

Also read: India’s bulging water crisis: Is it too late for us to do something?

“It makes us itchy and sick, but only for some time. We are happy to have this, everyone can use it.” (VOA)