IOS Lecture on “Challenges and Opportunities of Modern Civilisation”
An on-line lecture on “Challenges and Opportunities of Modern Civilisation” was organized by the Institute of Objective Studies, on August 22, 2020. Shaikh Nizamuddin, a member of the general assembly of the IOS, introduced subject by observing that the whole dynamics of geo-politics had changed. Shift of this dynamics had been caused by the pandemic, called Covid-19. Delivering the lecture, Dr. Sudhir Singh, professor of Political Science, Dayal Singh College, Delhi University, observed that human civilisation was considered to be six thousand years old. It was industrial revolution in the 16th century that led to expansionism in Africa. Many theories of human civilisation came up but all of them received recognition after industrial revolution. One of the theories about India were put forward by Chinese travelers - Hiuen Tsang and Fa Hien who wrote extensively about the country, its culture and people. He also referred to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) who experienced the gentle breeze of knowledge coming from the East-India.
Dr. Singh commented that both China and India had a big potential in terms of resources as they contributed 48 percent to world’s GDP. In order to protect its border from neighbour, Mongolia, China constructed the “Great wall” that still existed. Sharing his concern over the climate change, he quoted the ex-president of Sought Africa, the late Nelson Mandela, who had termed climate change as the ‘biggest challenge’. Gravity of the situation could be gauged from the fact that the sea level was expected to rise up to three inches this year. Another threat to human existence was from the increasing military expenditure which could lead to the escalation of tension globally. Similarly, a particular virus had affected global population so much so that lakhs of people lost their lives with the number of the infected people running into crores. This might have stemmed from somewhere but four European countries had lost half of their population. With a view to ramping up health and medicare, an estimated amount of Rs 250 billion had been spent. He feared that nearly 7.5 billion population of the world would be affected by climate change by 2025. One of the major causes of climate change was heavy industrialisation. Shift from agricultural to industrial economy had caused concern among the planners. Several developing countries had adopted the developed western countries model. Another problem to which he drew attention was the exploitation of water resources by upper riparian countries, like China. India which accounted for 17.5 per cent of global population required sufficient water for irrigation and other purposes like fishing. While upper riparian countries were making dams to tap water, lower riparian countries in South Asia, including India were at the receiving end. Civilisations could not have survived without water, he said.
Referring to globalisation, he remarked that a number of regional and international economic cooperation had been reached by the countries for economic cooperation. One of them was BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) outside the European Union that looked after the interests of European countries. In this connection, he especially mentioned the name of an American citizen of Indian origin, Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati, who is a Professor of Economics at Columbia University and an ardent supporter of globalisation. He said that there was rat race among developed nations to exploit natural resources of less well-off countries. Africa being a virgin continent, not much of its natural resources had been exploited so far. But, there was a race now for taking possession of its natural wealth. A new international economic order controlled by developed nations had emerged leading to a new wave of industrialisation in Africa and Asia. But the fall-out of heavy industrialisation had resulted in disastrous effect on human health. Owing to unchecked industrialisation in China, about one million populations was suffering from bad air. He complained that the Paris Agreement on the control of pollution was not being followed in letter and spirit.
Dr. Singh described the agricultural crisis in developing countries all over the world as very serious. Whether it was Latin America or Asia, situation remained the same. He said that a huge number of Latinos could be seen working as domestic hands in US cities without enjoying citizenship rights. They left their countries as they were poor and did not possess land to perform agricultural operations. Instead of setting up agriculture-based industries, farmers were losing interest in agriculture and giving land to multinational companies. Compared to the US which contributed a bare 5 per cent to GDP in terms of agriculture, India and other Asian countries’ contribution was 25 per cent. He said that developing countries were weak and did not resent the imposition of certain obligations of international agreements by developed nation. Commenting on the looming nuclear threat over human existence, he pointed out that the number of legitimate nuclear weapons stood at 13,000. If at all a nuclear war broke out in future, it would be multilateral and involve many nations. About 40 million populations was feared to suffer due to such hostilities. The situation in war-ravaged Syria was a grim reminder to the sufferings that the civilians faced. About one million people had been killed in Syria and a large number of kids was seen begging in Turkey. Similarly, hunger and malnutrition were taking a heavy toll of men in Africa where 10 million people were dying of starvation, he added.
Commenting on Covid-19 pandemic that was currently sweeping through the world, Dr Singh said that in 1918 about 17 million people were killed by a similar epidemic called Spanish flue. He observed that viruses were deliberately created to target population. So far, eight lakh people had died of Covid-19. He also opined that the artificial intelligence would prove dangerous if not controlled before it was too late. He highlighted the human rights violations in China, North Korea, Myanmar and Russia. He said that gender inequalities still existed and women were not being given their due share. In the US, women candidates remained unsuccessful in elections to vice-presidency due to lack of support. Women enjoyed political power but social and economic power was still beyond their reach. Gap of income among countries and within the countries was very wide. About 30 per cent countries were controlling world’s resources. Stressing the need for equal distribution of resources, he wanted the developing countries to unite and raise a voice against the developed nations.
In his concluding remarks, the Secretary General of the IOS, Prof. Z M Khan, said that the growing trend of internationalism was giving rise to solidarity among developing countries. We could not face challenges without cooperation, he remarked.
At the end, Shaikh Nizamuddin proposed a vote of thanks.