THE INDIA LINK --- A COMPELLING RESOURCE FOR TRANSFORMING GUYANA
BY PREM MISIR
November 6, 2006
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a famous speech during the Independence struggle spoke about India waking up to make her tryst with destiny; a destiny requiring the integration of science and technology to create a ‘nation’ first; and then to transform a ‘developing nation’, a ‘developing India’ into a ‘developed India’, a ‘developed nation’; where all India should experience enhanced self-esteem, health, and education; where deep roots of poverty and inequality will not persist.
Gandhi puts it aptly when he says that we only arrive as a ‘nation’ when we would have wiped the tears from all faces. Today, with India in the Big League through carrying a GDP of $100 Billion or more, having occupied that status since the 1980s; now one of the G20 nations; and its current competition for permanent membership on the UN Security Council, surely, its capacity to wipe the tears of the poor and downtrodden is growing. Indeed, all India is awakened; India is on the move.
And President Bharrat Jagdeo’s State visit to India in 2003 has led the way to strengthening bilateral relations; this India-Guyana connection, indeed, comes at a time when India is on the threshold of becoming a ‘developed nation’; and this relationship can only ignite Guyanese minds, Guyanese thinking; a compelling resource for transforming Guyana for the better.
The relationship is now blossoming, given an added boost; for today, the Vice President of India Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat arrives in Guyana. As Chief Minister of Rajasthan in 1977, Vice President Shekhawat initiated poverty alleviation programme as ‘Antyodaya’, ‘Food for Work’, and ‘Apna Gaon Apna Kaam’; these programmes were successful and gained international recognition, truly touching former World Bank President Robert McNamara that he referred to the Vice President as the ‘second Rockefeller’. The Government of India eventually accepted the successful ‘Antyodaya’ programme for all India, now called the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP).
What is Guyana, and indeed CARICOM, exposed to and what are they getting out of the India connection? The Indian Government has been of considerable help to Guyana and CARICOM. India, through a CARICOM/Joint Commission established in 2005, agreed to the following: provide antiretroviral drugs to persons living with HIV/AIDS; set up early warning systems for disaster response through networking with its space programme for disaster mitigation; establish a multimillion dollar programme to enhance CARICOM’s IT capacity; and continue to make scholarships available to CARICOM nationals through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).
The ITEC programme was launched by the Indian Government on September 15, 1964 as a bilateral programme of assistance. Guyana is now in receipt of 45 ITEC scholarships. The Indian Government also has agreed to increase technical experts via the ITEC programme in Guyana and enabling India to provide experts to train Guyanese in some areas, including medicine. The Government of India spends about Rs. 500 Million each year on the ITEC programme.
In addition, through the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme (SCAAP), ITEC provides experts and scholarships to Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Cameroon, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Gambia, Malawi, Nigeria, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Tanzania.
And the CARICOM/India Trade Exposition in Trinidad & Tobago in 2005 attracted 200 businessmen from about 90 companies from India. India’s trade dollars with Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago in 2005 were Rs. 150 crore and Rs. 170 crore, respectively.
The Indian Government has now made good on its intention to waive the balance of 28.78 million Rupees from a credit line of 100 million Rupees loaned in 1989; and has put in place an education exchange programme agreement where India will make available primary and secondary textbooks at minimum cost. And collaborative agricultural research could gain momentum through a Memorandum of Understanding between the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
The Vice President will arrive in Guyana today and then move on to Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday of this week.
Inauguration of the Providence Cricket Stadium (PCS) is the main highlight of the Guyana visit; the Government of India financed the construction of PCS through a grant of US$6 Million and a concessional line of credit of US$19 Million.
The Government of India’s ITEC and similar-type programmes are all about cooperation and partnership for the joint benefit of Guyana and India; the programmes are all addressing developmental needs. And in the pursuit of meeting these needs, whether through ITEC or whatever, we must be mindful that stakeholders use a national focus; and if this particular focus allows us to train an unskilled Guyanese, cultivate better skills to a skilled Guyanese, construct a more demanding environment for the educated, and develop opportunities for economic activity in agriculture, industry, and the service sectors, these Guyanese will have become fully engaged in transforming Guyana for the better. But first, use the visit for igniting minds; why? To become an active stakeholder in nation building; for in the end, action will follow thoughts. And, of course, do this for other people’s visits and other events, too!!