By Abdul Rashid Agwan
The latest report of the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) shocks the world by its assessment of the cost of violence the world has paid during the previous year. The report “Global Peace Index 2014: Measuring Peace and Assessing Country Risk” was released yesterday.
India stands 143rd among 162 countries on the Global Peace Index and heavily squandered its national wealth on the anvil of communal, caste-based and class-based violence.
The study underlines that the cost of violence around the world reached a record $14.3 trillion in 2014, equivalent to the combined economies of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the UK.
“The (cost of violence) has been largely associated with the increase of deaths in conflict, the ongoing economic consequences of conflicts in the countries where they’re occurring and also the increased cost associated with the displaced people,” IEP founder Steve Killelea said.
As expected, Syria has been deemed as the least peaceful country in the 2015 Global Peace Index, whereas Iceland remained the most peaceful nation the world over.
According to the report, India has lost as much as $ 341.7 billion in 2014 due to surging violence and conflicts, which is equivalent to Rs 2,173,273 crore from the current exchange rate. In fact, each Indian has lost an amount of Rs 15,077.
Just compare this amount with some of the large scale schemes of the union budget. The loss is almost equal to non-tax revenue of the country for 2015-16. MNREG has been allocated Rs 34,699 in the current year. The union budget allocates Rs 246,000 crore for defense spending, around one tenth of the cost of violence. The government earmarked Rs 33,150 crore for health sector. In the current fiscal, Rs 68,960 crore has been set aside for education and mid-day meals.
It is apparent that the national loss due to violence is far more than the worth of any of the development or welfare scheme of the country. The economic cost of violence in India is equal to 4.7% of the entire GDP.
India has faced many violent events during the previous year due to exponential rise of communal violence, the continuity of unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, the Naxalite insurgency and terrorism in North-Eastern states.
The report “365 Days ─ Democracy and Secularism under the Modi Regime”, released in New Delhi on 18 June 2015 underlines that at least 43 deaths, 212 cases targeting Christians and 175 cases targeting Muslims, 234 cases of Hate Speech have been recorded between 26th May 2014 and June 2015. These are apart from 108 killed in Assam in attacks on Muslims by armed tribal political groups. As a consequence of these and other events, hundreds of thousand people got displaced from their homes and from livelihood and also from an opportunity to contribute in the national prosperity.
The fact remains that violence perpetuated by hate groups in the country in the name of nationalism, religion, caste, class or region proves to be an anti-national activity in terms of sever loss of national wealth.
Not only this, violence causes direct personal loss to many business sections and working people. For instance, the 2008 bomb blast in New Delhi brought down the daily transaction of just one market of the national capital, Sadar Bazar, from Rs 7,000 crore to about Rs 400 crore for many weeks. The financial capital of India and its corporate sections have paid heavily each time when Mumbai came under the target of communal and terrorist violence, which led to shifting of many businesses to Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimated economic loss due to post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002 to be of Rs 11,000 crore. According to one study, the 10 day long rioting and arson in Saharanpur in 2014 affected local economy by 244 crore. This is the story of all communal and other conflicts in the country.
The IEP report is an eye-opener for the whole nation as it points out to an un-thought of loss due to violence, almost as alarming as the flight of black money in tax havens. The bogey of ‘civil-war’ should realize what India would be bereaved of, if their dream comes true!
The study should strike to the national conscience and all citizens should rise against violence and hate mongering and the menace of communalism, and all brands of mass violence should be declared an anti-national and anti-patriotic crime.[Contributor is a well-known social worker and analyst and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org]