Peace and stability still elusive in the world
The Nobel Peace Prize, one of the five established by the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel has, since March 1901, been awarded annually (save a few exceptional years), to those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the evolution or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.
The Nobel Peace Prize, one of the five established by the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel has, since March 1901, been awarded annually (save a few exceptional years), to those who have "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the evolution or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses". The Prize went, this year, to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.
By their very nature, the people of most countries in this world are peace-loving, and not interested in the conflicts that the heads of their governments and states engage in, for political reasons. As a matter of fact, that is the case with people at all levels, from the village to the nation.
In 1972 I was the sub-collector at Ongole, in Prakasam district, of the then composite Andhra Pradesh State. An agitation was raging, in the coastal and Rayalaseema areas of the state, demanding separate statehood for those areas. What began as stray incidents of marches and demonstrations here and there, soon snowballed into a state-wide movement, and practically everyone, from children to old people, students, teachers, merchants and industrialists, administrators, and political leaders at all levels, joined hands with the agitators.
As it often happens, unscrupulous and selfish elements soon took over, and incidents of violence and attacks on public property became common. All activity remained paralysed for over several months. One day, at Ongole, a confrontation, between an agitating mob and the police, unfortunately resulted in the opening of fire by the police, killing four persons. The situation soon went out of control and a curfew had to be imposed by the district administration.
One of the efforts made to restore normalcy and establish peaceful conditions, was the formation of a Peace Committee. It was that Committee which played a crucial role in making the leaders of the agitation see reason, while also persuading the administration to act with restraint and understanding.
Peace is the natural state of things. Just as homeostasis is natural to an ecosystem and exogenous elements alter it. Peace and harmony are basic requisites which can bring peaceful and stable order to society and are necessary conditions for the survival and development of mankind which, when deprived of them, can fall apart, and decay, into an anarchy in which the strong prey on the weak. The significance of peace and harmony is being recognised by more and more far – sighted people for many reasons.
Peace represents the climate of freedom. It is the cornerstone of every nation's development as, along with it, come unity, positive thinking and collaboration for the common good of all. A world economy that is characterised by balance, and mutual benefit, and a continuing effort to eliminate discrepancies between and amongst the rich and the poor, as well as between regions, conduces to the establishment of a peaceful atmosphere.
A global cultural atmosphere that embodies diversity and integration, and promotes dialogue and exchanges, to consolidate friendships and dissolve historical prejudices also helps establish peace. A natural and ecological ethics, that promotes coexistence and common prosperity while, simultaneously, resolving environmental degradation, through appropriate protection measures for the ecology, scientific and technological improvements that benefit the long-term welfare of mankind, and spiritual and mental states that improve health and morality, is also a factor that enhances the quality of the existing atmosphere of peace and harmony.
The quest for finding a precise definition for the word peace has become even more important these days when deaths from violent crimes and conflicts have been increasing on account of the power struggle between major world powers.
Even the most revered scriptures in the world, such as the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran, have recognised peace as a fundamental requirement of an orderly society. The word 'Shanti' in Sanskrit stands for a deep and profound level of peace. It is believed that it is also the root of the word 'Shalom' in Hebrew or 'Salam' in Arabic, all having the same meaning. While the Old Testament speaks of peace love and joy the Quran devotes a great deal of its content to the concept of 'Aman', or peace.
Countries that enjoy peace benefit immensely in terms of sustainable growth, and the ability to put in place social infrastructure of a high degree in critical sectors such as health and education offer an acceptable quality of life for the common people. But most countries in the world, in actual fact, can hardly afford the public education system, as a result of which over 773 million adults (i.e. over 10 per cent of the global adult population) remain illiterate across countries of the world.
It is most distressing to see how internal violence, and external conflict, are impacting harshly on the economies of all countries. The ever growing gap, between the developing countries suffering from inherent and continued violence and those that enjoy momentary peace is growing larger day by day. The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), estimates that one per cent improvement in positive peace corresponds to a 2.9 per cent growth in real GDP per capita.
The causes of both types of conflicts can be traced to the inequitable distribution of wealth, amongst the nations of the world, and as between the people of countries, particularly those which are developing.
An estimate has it, in fact, that in the United States, for instance, .01 per cent of the population accounts for 11.2 per cent of the country's wealth. The situation in many other countries, including India is not much different in the matter of distribution of wealth, where 1 per cent of the richest own 58 per cent of the wealth and 10 per cent as much as 80 per cent. While hunger stalks the households of the miserable majority, the fortunate few count their wealth in billions of dollars, or crores of rupees, as the case may be.
(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)
(The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of The Hans India)