Educating (about) South Asia

Very few people have an idea of the magnitude of catastrophe that we live in South Asia. Certainly not Mr. Flat-world Friedman and certainly not India-is-shining-BJP Advani. So why don’t we do a little exercise is statistics to put things in perpective. South Asia is home to one-fifth of the world’s population and about 40% of the world’s absolute poor - people living on less than $1/day. Imagine the life-style of an American earning $1/day and you will get a window into the poverty described by these figures.

India is home to nearly half of the illiterate population in the world. The adult literacy rate in South Asia (49%) is behind sub-Saharan Africa (57%) as well as that of Arab states (59%). To make matters worse, South Asia’s current annual expenditure on education is 1.9% of GNP. In contrast, military spending in the region is 3.8% of GNP and is as high as 7% in Pakistan which has 50% more soldiers than teachers. A brief zoom in on Pakistan’s education system…. what indeed are people fortunate enough to afford an education are taught? According to a report by an independent government agency, SDPI ( Sustainable Development Policy Institute -, ‘facts’ like “Hindu has always been an enemy of Islam.” and “The religion of the Hindus did not teach them good things — Hindus did not respect women…” have been included with the general objective of inculcating “Love and aspiration for Jehad, Tableegh (Prosyletization), Jehad, Shahadat (martyrdom), sacrifice, ghazi (the victor in holy wars), shaheed (martyr)”

A lot is bad but worse is yet to come. Strap on your seat belts. The due process of law is often quoted as a key ingredient for a free society. With over 20 million court cases pending at the end of 2002, India doesn’t even pretend. More stark crime statistics on India include - over 1 million persons in jail waiting for trial and a conviction rate of about 1 percent.

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