Biggest threat to citizens lurks within our borders

Newspapers in India today feature a news prominently where the Army Chief has said that nuclear weapons are not for war-fighting (because it will finish the world) but have a deterrent value. Also the news highlights that Pakistan has slightly more nuclear warheads than India - further fueling the ongoing arms race in the Indian sub-continent. Firstly, we believe that the nuclear weapons have zero deterrent value. If nuclear weapons had a deterrent value then nuclear powers would not have been attacked by countries that have no nuclear weapon, and nuclear powers would not have to lose a war. Secondly, where should India invest a significant portion of its budget - in strengthening military/ army or systems that help fight the 'enemies' that are real threat to its citizens on daily basis?

Which is the biggest killer of our citizens in India? And what is the biggest threat to us Indians? Is it the enemy across the border or is it the conditions in which our people live on day-to-day basis that puts them at risk of premature death? Should not this decide where the public money is invested in so that our citizens are healthy, safe and secure?  Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for about two-third of deaths, and lead conditions include heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, cancer, among others. 

According to a news published in The Times of India, 21% of India's population is undernourished, nearly 44% under-5 children are underweight and 7% of them are dying before they reach five years. India is firmly established among the world's most hunger-ridden countries (Source: International Food Policy Research Institute - IFPRI which combines the above three indicators to give us a Global Hunger Index (GHI) according to which India is 67th among the worst 80 countries in terms of malnourishment.)

In India, diarrhoea continues to be a significant cause of mortality. Childhood pneumonia is the biggest cause of death for under-five children. How can one justify when our people are dying of preventable, and even worse, curable, causes such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, or hunger? 

The above-mentioned news further adds: the proportion of hungry in the population has actually gone up. Today India has 213 million hungry and malnourished people by GHI estimates although the UN agency Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) puts the figure at around 230 million. The National Family and Health Survey (NFHS), last carried out in 2004-05, had shown that 23% of married men, 52% of married women and a chilling 72% of infants were anemic - a sure sign that a shockingly large number of families were caught in a downward spiral of slow starvation (Source: TOI news).

Where is the biggest threat to majority of our citizens - across the borders or within our country? Should we invest huge amounts of money in weapons and military or should we strengthen our health systems?

Citizens have to seriously ponder of the utility (or futility) of investing significant amounts of limited public money India has in nuclear weapons and other arms and ammunition. Where should our money (public money) be invested? In bombs or in providing basic human amenities to every citizen? Should not governments provide social security to every citizen instead of so-called false sense of security that comes from nuclear weapons and other forms of weapons?

Time for citizens to think rationally and make a choice.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS

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