Wednesday, October 13, 2010

India's other problem

I happened to be in a Laundromat when I found another piece of fascinating prose in a Bloomberg’s magazine; no doubt someone thought that people obliged to patronize Laundromats fascinate at the riches that others experience. But not all is good for people with money, especially when there a lot of people without money. Take for instance, India, where there is a minority of educated people who have done quite well, while the vast majority remain in grinding poverty. While many people are aware of the tensions with Pakistan and Kashmir rebels, what is not so well reported in the Western press is how the Maoists hold sway over a significant swath of territory in the eastern and central regions of India—called the “Red Corridor.” Although the Communist Party is banned in India, the Maoists have captured the imagination of many of poverty-stricken in India, and like in tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the government has little control over their roaming, and local populations give them tacit, and occasionally material support (such as in new fighters).

India’s army can do little to stop their predations and terrorism; I asked an acquaintance from India about the Maoists, and he told me that corrupt politicians in the Red Corridor—in exchange for money or their own personal safety—often tip-off the rebels on imminent raids by security forces. The problem for India is not just that the government does not have enough resources to break-up the Maoists, but the Red Corridor contains much of India’s mineral wealth; the country’s continued economic growth is at stake. Maoists continue to attack mining operations and destroy equipment from their hide outs in the Dandkaranya forest. Like other insurgent groups, the Maoists also believe that creating disorder by attacking civilians will discredit a government that fails to protect them.

The principle issue for India, however, is what to do about the hundreds of millions of people who are literally dirt poor. It is estimated that it will take $1 trillion to support policies that will lift a majority out of poverty. One problem in reaching this goal is persuading farmers on mineral rich land to be bought out; for most people in the countryside, without land they have nothing.

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