By Dr Arun Mitra
A recent report published by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) titled Complicit: 2020 GLOBAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS SPENDING has brought forwards startling facts on the total insensitivity of the governments and the nuclear weapons industry during the Pandemic which has already cost 37.5 lakh lives. In addition the health problems, including the mental ones, of those who fell ill but recovered are unaccountable.
It is reported now that the mental health issues have increased by five times during this period. India witnessed death of 3.54 lakhs. As many as 30,071 children were orphaned, lost a parent or abandoned mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic as per data submitted by different states till June 5, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) informed the Supreme Court. Of the total, 26,176 children have lost a parent, 3,621 have been orphaned and 274 have been abandoned according to the NCPCR.
Barring a few, the economic activity was affected in all sectors during this period. The daily wage earners were the worst affected. Whereas in some countries the government took care of the people or the business, in India the low income groups have been a harried lot in the absence of any substantial support from the government. Nearly 54 crore workers which means 40% of the country’s population had to face hunger like situation.
This was an opportunity when the global community could have joined hands and decided to put in all energy and finances in controlling and minimizing the damage by the Pandemic. But it was not to happen despite repeated appeals by the scientists and medical personnel. The ICAN report has highlighted that the nuclear weapons industry continued to flourish unabated. The US has been the worst spender on the nuclear weapons during 2020. It spent 270000 crore rupees or 51.72 lakh rupees per minute on nuclear weapons. China spent 72970 crore rupees or 13.97 lakh rupees per minute. Coming to South Asia Pakistan spent 7297 crore rupees or 1.4 lakh rupees per minute. India spent 17500 crore rupees or 3.3 lakh rupees per minute. This amount is half the money allocated towards vaccination programme which is 35000 crore rupees.
The report says that ‘During the worst pandemic in a century, nine countries chose to increase their spending on nuclear weapons by about $1,400,000,000. During a year when health care workers got applause instead of raises. A year in which it was essential to have minimum wage workers risk their lives to keep economies afloat, but not essential to pay them a living wage. A year in which millions of lives were lost and the status quo that sustained systems of power for decades started to get upturned. A year in which the first treaty making nuclear weapons illegal finally became international law
During this year, nine countries still decided nuclear weapons spending was a priority. The fault doesn’t lie with the leaders of these nine countries alone. Behind them is a massive enterprise of vested interests, eager to get a piece of the $72.6 billion taxpayer-funded pie. The twenty-one companies profiting from nuclear weapons spent $117 million making sure that lobbyists kept the systems they build as the solution to policy makers’ problems. And they spent at least $5-10 million funding think tanks who write and research about nuclear weapons’. The Military Industrial Complex in connivance with the governments is out to make profits from spending on nuclear weapons.
Ironically such information is intentionally not percolated down to the people fearing some section of the society is bound to react and demand from the governments to show more concern towards life of the people than nuclear weapons. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) has been constantly raising the issue of humanitarian consequences of nuclear war. Even if the war does not occur such huge expenses on the nuclear arms race if diverted towards welfare could solve the problems of health and education for a large section of the people particularly in the developing nations. It is disgusting that none of the governments in the nine nuclear weapons possessing countries took lead to denounce the spending on nuclear weapons under the present circumstances. Instead we are watching unashamed war in Middle East which could have very serious consequences as the big powers are overtly or covertly involved in it.
The whole responsibility comes on the shoulders of the peace movement to raise this issue, educate the public and organize them to put their foot down to demand end to nuclear arms race for the sake of mankind otherwise the upcoming waves of the pandemic with new variants of the Corona virus will continue to play havoc in which the poor countries and poor in the poor countries will have to pay the ultimate price.
It is therefore important to form broad alliances of peace movements, students & youth bodies, women organisations, trade unions and farmers organisations to raise their voice asking for health and education instead of nuclear weapons. It is important to lobby with every elected official, company representative and researcher to get out of the destructive nuclear weapons spending cycle and back the Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) to get rid of them once and for all. (IPA Service)