In the 4th Century B.C., Chanakya advised kings of the Maurya dynasty to deal with the neighbours or enemies using ‘Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed’ (SDDB); to cajole, buy, threaten/punish and exploit weakness. Countries and mafias have been using variations of this strategy world over.

China is far ahead of us in its application, two examples being the developments in Nepal and Myanmar of which we knew little. But then M.K. Dhar, former joint director IB, wrote almost two decades ago that India’s entire intelligence effort is focused on how to down the Opposition. Presently, almost 80 percent effort of our premier external agency continues to be the same.

Our governments have been exploiting ‘SDDB’ for conquests within India, at all levels of elections. We will become the most populous country in the world this year but there has never been any thought towards population control. Some murmurs were heard in Lakshadweep four-five years ago, which was purely for political reasons.

We have a gigantic problem of unemployment which is being diverted with periodic announcements of job creation. On January 20, the Prime Minister distributed 71,000 job letters but on January 25 a tweet said 80,000 Indians have been laid off jobs in the U.S. and if they do not get jobs within two months, they will have to leave the country.

The spate of Indians losing jobs in global companies is continuing. Amid the hullabaloo of future job creation, the December 2022 figures of the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) show that India’s unemployment rate in urban areas increased to 10.09 percent in December from 8.96 percent the previous month, while it decreased in rural areas to 7.44 percent from 7.55 percent, the average unemployment rate being 8.3 percent. This is a mammoth unemployment figure considering the size of our population, largest youth population in the world and size of the employable segment.

Today, we are witnessing plenty of mud-slinging between political parties with 10 state elections due this year including Jammu & Kashmir. Ironically, one facet of “incredible India” is that we have 2,858 political parties (eight National, 54 state-level and the balance unregistered) as disclosed by the Election Commission in September 2021. For politicians power and votes come before the nation. The trading in sale/purchase price of our lawmakers is often in the news.

P.O.T.U.S. Joe Biden was gung-ho in his recent State of the Union address despite being held captive by American gun, pharma and oil lobbies, after all there were “only” 39 mass shootings that killed 1214 in the U.S. during January 2023.

He naturally did not mention the economic misery, energy-food shortages and disrupting supply chains world over by fuelling the war in Ukraine. Also, that job creation includes laying off lakhs of Afro-Asians and non-Whites, plus recruiting thousands of mercenaries.

We appear to have refined the ‘SDDB’ further by adding what may be described as the ‘Hunger-Lollipop’, in simple terms induce hunger and then give the lollipop. Take for example the galloping unemployment as shown by the above C.M.I.E. figures.

Yet, the government admitted last year that 10 lakh government jobs are lying vacant. So, more job letters will be handed over in coming months under full media glare depending on where and when elections are scheduled.

The above strategy was also employed while bombing the Armed Forces with the ‘Agnipath’ scheme. Preceding its announcement, recruitment was stopped for a full two years to ensure manpower shortages.

Mass protests by youth deprived of regular military jobs were deflected to the rhetoric of inimical forces and a Union Minister even said we are not forcing anyone to become ‘Agniveer’. Thus implying the lollipop is there, take it or remain hungry.

Union Minister of State for Education Subhas Sarkar told Lok Sabha on February 6, 2023 that more than 58,000 vacancies including teaching and non-teaching posts in central government-run schools and universities are lying vacant. Perhaps his Kumbhkaran-like slumber would not have been disturbed were it not for a written question.

Now the question is what is he doing about it and should ministers not be held accountable for such lackadaisical functioning? Little wonder a lament on social media is that today we can find Mandir and Masjid in six villages but not one decent school in six villages combined.

Despite its strategic importance, Beijing’s illegal claim on it and the Chinese aggression of 2020, Ladakh remains neglected. Among all its woes, loss of traditional grazing areas, unemployment, migration and no local representation in land management, only 800 jobs have been provided to the locals against 6,000 promised when the Union Territory was formed in October 2019.

Some skeptics are questioning what would happen in the next elections in Ladakh. But apparently they are not conversant with the ‘SDDB’ policy (note the bond Sonam Wangchuk was forced to sign), the ‘Hunger-Lollipop’, and that India doesn’t have a viable Opposition because whatever Opposition is there remains fragmented. Besides, it is not just about ‘jab mian biwi razi toh kya kareage qazi’, we also have a special species of qazis.

Much concern is being shown towards the environment, exemplified by the reference in the Finance Minister’s Budget speech. But can the government indicate how many million trees have been cut in developing the otherwise excellent roads and highways pan-India, which is continuing at great speed?

Criticism of this is also perhaps what led Gautam Adani to announce at the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) 2023 meet at Davos that the Adani Group will plant 100 million trees by 2030 to include mangroves, and the group has already planted 29.52 million trees in projects as many businesses are located along the coast.

Protecting businesses along the coast is good but will these plantations suffice for the rest of India, given its expanse and diverse climatic conditions across various regions. Are we aware how water bodies around cities like Bengaluru have disappeared courtesy the politicians-builder lobby?

Are we aware that India has lost two out of the five major Wetlands already and 40 percent of water bodies are unfit for survival of aquatic animals? Isn’t it time to wake up and act first, brag later. For example, amid all the noise about women empowerment, how is it that in the scores of government-appointed commissions over the years including those functioning presently, not a single commission is headed by a woman?

Lt General PRAKASH KATOCH is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are the writer's own.