India celebrated Republic Day on 26 January, a national holiday, with impressive parades and much fanfare. Countries that fought colonialism and won their freedom after long and difficult struggles are justifiably proud to show their patriotism.
But yesterday, on the anniversary of Gandhi's death, I read with anger and dismay newspaper reports in the financial section that the government of India plans to assist Indian companies to lease and buy up land in African countries in order to expand and promote Indian business. In other words, we are now moving to exploit and colonize poorer countries in the worst imaginable way, in competition with China.
The hype around this disgusting exploitation is predictably nauseating. ‘Government to boost India Inc's global M&A’[mergers and acquisitions] read the headline in the Times of India. There isn't an iota of shame, not even the pretext of helping these countries. Many African countries were supported in their independence struggles by Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, with the entire nation cheering them on. Scholarships were given to African students. India openly sided with them and proudly announced its support for all colonized people. Today, those values have disappeared.
Unadulterated greed and profiteering have become the order of the day. Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, and all the selfless freedom fighters who laid down their lives for India's independence would be ashamed of the state this country has been brought to. We are obsessed with talk of growth and economic expansion at any cost. Our poor are left behind. And now the rich and powerful are looking for new horizons to conquer and exploit.
Hordes of young (and old) Indians now descend on Africa as development professionals, expert advisors and consultants. International aid agencies pay them a fortune, put them up in five-star hotels and pay their executive-class air fares, without batting an eyelid. Consultancy rates and costs have reached new heights. All in the name of fighting poverty.
I always wonder, if you just gave that money to the poor, would it not solve their problems faster than the hordes of consultants forced on them ever would? Corrupt consultants have always leeched off the poor. The kind who discuss starving people and malnourished children in five star hotels, eating at lavish buffets without a qualm. There are of course, many genuine, good, concerned development experts. But isn't it time the good people formed a nexus to fight the corrupt who bleed Africa?
The Indian independence movement managed to achieve some amount of economic freedom along with their political independence. Most African countries however, won political freedom but their economies have remained totally enslaved. Africa must begin the fight for freedom from the new colonizers. And all those who value freedom, who love Africa, must join in.