Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Post-Colonial Hangover: Our Colonial Heritage Part - 2


The dawn of the early 1950s saw the recession of colonialism as a workable model of growth across the world; by the end of this decade, Colonialism was a dead word in the world at large, with only a few sporadic colonies remaining. 50 years and more have passed since that day (67 for India); and the development and growth, while present in India, has done little to solve the crippling problems facing the Indian nation. We are undoubtedly much, much better off - with world class amenities in the cities, a tremendously improved amenity profile in the villages, a bustling economy, stupendous success in high-tech sectors - where we are one among the top 6-7 nations in the world, much better infrastructure, improved - in fact, highly improved health facilities in towns and villages with world-rated medical centers in the cities, a multitude of renowned growth successes in various sectors of the economy spanning information technology to pharmaceuticals, no famine deaths, absence of repression, personal and political freedom, a vibrant and assured democracy, freedom of speech, expression and movement, and a life of honour. These are no small achievements - take a look around you and compare with other colonies (especially those who have undergone what we did; consider we were raped for 200 straight years, and looted for 300-plus).

And yet, despite the sizeable achievements listed above, we remain a nation beset with problems. The bottom 40% of our population is in dire straits; growth is skewed, with only a trickle reaching the lowermost sections of our society, while famines are now a thing of the past - people still struggle for 2 meals, farmer suicides still do happen, marginal farmers still operate at a loss-  and there are around 80 -  90 million small holdings in India. Infrastructure is in dire need of massive upgradation, we are surrounded by enemies on the strategic front etc. The question that occurs is - how many of our current problems are of our own creation, and how many are a colonial hangover? 

This is an important quest, as there is a disturbing trend among the youth - that of blaming ourselves for everything that is wrong. Nothing could be farther from the truth; while we have undoubtedly made mistakes- the fact remains that our colonial history lies at the root of most of our problems - if not all. Poverty, for one. The per capita earning chart reveals the story: 

Graph of Purchasing Power Parity Converted GDP Per Capita, G-K method, at current prices for India


The charts above tell the story; note the flat trajectory from 1880s to  around 1950 - and note the uptick after independence.In 1947, we had nearly 80% plus citizens below the poverty line; we had an infant mortality rate of more than 140 per 1000; a life expectancy of around 31; literacy rates were around 12%, and no industrial base of note. These numbers tell the tale; this is the colonial heritage; this is the price we are still paying for our colonial past. And our achievements, seen in the light of these numbers, are a matter of considerable pride - just 2 figures will be enough to convince people. We now have a life expectancy of 67, and a literacy rate of 74.

Rather than disparage the nation for its failures, let us all celebrate its tremendous achievements, as being one of the few to have bridged this massive gap in an atmosphere of relative internal peace and democracy. It would not be too far-fetched a statement if I were to state that we are among the few countries to have done this - and begin to be counted as among the nations that can become regional, if not superpowers. By no stretch of imagination is this a small feat, considering where we started - a total lack of electricity in the interiors, nearly absent medical care facilities, food shortages, destroyed infrastructure except rail networks (and roads to an extent), no industrial base to speak of, no schools in large tracts, destroyed morale... truly, a tremendous feat by any yardstick. We have managed to overcome the Colonial Hangover in this field...

To do this, we had to build huge numbers of schools, primary and secondary health centers, open new colleges and universities, build roads in the interiors, build electricity generation facilities, build and modernise our armed forces, build agricultural research and extension networks, introduce new crop varieties and scientific agriculture, build crop storages, improve market access, improve awareness, build a functional administration, build various and sundry industries spanning every imaginable product, build high-tech capabilities, build a world-class set of industrial capabilities, skill-sets and industries. Just pause a moment and think of the scale of challenges that we overcame- think of the number of plants, schools, colleges, industries opened; how we made a famine-hit nation into a food-surplus nation.., it boggles the mind - and we did it across a land-span of 3287590 square kms encompassing more than a 100 languages and dialects, dozens of cultures and sub-cultures, and every imaginable religion.

We can be justifiably proud of what we have achieved - in an environment where we were by-and-large alone, in a post-colonial world dominated by the Cold War politics and big-business-driven economic policies of the West married not to economic or humanitarian principles, but to cold hard profit and/or primarily strategic motives; an environment where a secondary strategic motive frequently became the determinant factor over-ruling business, economic and humanitarian principles. This was the post-colonial world; where the big guns focussed on their rivalries and tensions, to the exclusion of all else. A world where the same realities continue in a hidden and seemingly softer form, as we shall see in the next post wherein I look at the remaining aspects of the Post Colonial Hangover... 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Being Good - And Its Price

"Adjust"; "Learn to move with the times"; "When in Rome, do as the Romans do"; "Everyone does it"; "Do it for your own survival"; "If you have to grow, this is the only way" and many many other similar variations would have been heard by all of us on a routine basis. These would even form the basis of our thoughts as we go about our day-to-day life. These very thoughts would form the justification in our own minds as we bend the rules, and ignore the morality and the legality of our actions... The beauty of the situation is that the large majority of the people do not even stop, or even pause, for a moment - and analyse; is this really needed? Is there any other way to do it? Do I really need to break the laws of morality, legality and common business sense in order to achieve my ends? These are the questions that I intend to address in this post: Is it possible to be straight, decent and good in this modern world, especially considering the practical requirements of raising a family and meeting their legitimate desires? 


HOME AND FAMILY LIFE
Let us take a look at the home first, and then move on to the professional sphere, and examine the various choices that confront us in our day-to-day lives. Take the example of a driving licence. A large majority of us willingly pay up a bribe in the form of "agent fees" of around 1500 rupees, when the actual fees is in the region of a few rupees only. I dont have a driving licence- have had 2 or 3 learners licences, which expired when I did not pay the bribe - and did not find the time to go all the way to RTO office for renewal due to daily pressures. There is no need to pay a bribe here; one can afford to be good - the only cost is some inconvenience to us. Is this inconvenience so hard, that one has to pay a bribe? No! And yet. we pay up without a second thought! Similar is the case for most examples in the home: proper planning and time devotion will obviate the need for a bribe, or short-cut methods. And yet, how many of us take the easier path? Is it really needed? Yes, being good and straight here has a cost: it is that of your time. Only that, nothing more. 

The big question is, why dont we find the time? Why do we find it necessary to take a short-cut route? And, what do we lose if we take a little more time, and the attendant inconvenience? Do we really lose anything of practical significance by shouldering this inconvenience? The fact of the matter is that we dont. All it requires is take some time off. That is it. And yet, we take the easier path - for which, frankly, there is no justification whatsoever. It is your own home; if you wont find time for it, who will? Be it a DL, or a Gas connection - or anything else - the situation is the same. 

OFFICE AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE
This is where things get really interesting, as the price of being good escalates exponentially, and the choices become more tangled, and the risk and loss increases to uncomfortable- and at times- threatening levels. Unfortunately, in this sphere of our lives, the hard truth is that the loss incurred by being straight is normally a heavy cost; and it is for each of us to ask ourselves - is this cost so great that we abandon the right path, the straight and narrow - be become practical. And, given that families and children's welfare depends on us, there is no right answer to this. Sad, but true. This is where the world is at; there is no escape from this reality, and no getting around this ugly fact. 

In your professional life, if you choose to play absolutely straight, and ignore the norms and practices of the trade you are in, you are liable to be labelled "satyavaadi harishchandra" or "saadhu" by the soft-spoken gentry, and plain and simple "chutiyaa" by the rest. Hard fact. For example, as a sales guy, if you choose to ignore the illegal or rough trade practices, you will not achieve as many numbers as those who do- not over the short term. The consequences of this can range from harassment from seniors, to low increments and no promotions - all the way to sacking. And this is no laughing matter; I myself have heard one of my bosses telling a vendor to beat me up if I didnt do something. I was lucky that the vendor wasnt as crooked...and let me listen in on loudspeaker on the mobile. This matter was raised with HR- who did precisely nothing! That, my dear friends, is the ugly reality. And let me tell you this was not an isolated incident; another comes to mind, when a complaint by 2 ladies was ignored, as the company closed ranks. Such incidences are not uncommon, as I am sure most of you have yourself encountered in some form or the other. 

All you have to do is look up what has happened to whistleblowers, and how they are targeted, of which we have seen examples aplenty. Now this is admittedly at the extreme end of the spectrum; but the rest of the spectrum also does not make for easy reading either. Neither is this restricted to any one vocation, but is in fact widespread. We can see this in the recent drug scandals, in the recent scams, as well as  in the cobrapost expose. Examples abound; what matters to us is the question, did the concerned professionals have a choice? Yes, they did: they could have played it straight. But would it have cost them? Yes - missed deadlines, missed targets, missed promotions, lower increments, loss of a job etc. And, in this hyper-competitive world, this is a big deal indeed. The systems is geared towards recognising those who achieve deadlines, results, targets - and, in this process, the ones who play by the book tend to get looked over - or victimised. 

THE CONCLUSION
Being good, thus has a well-defined price: be it the home, or be it the office. If you play straight, you will find it impossible to register a property, for example; or find it exceedingly stressful at the office. This justification is unfortunately a reality. And, given that each person is responsible to his or her family, the above justification becomes a powerful one; the survival instinct is after all paramount. Are we then to conclude that being good is now passe, out of fashion, and impractical? The data and facts tend to support such a position. The logic is seemingly flawless; we did it for survival, we didnt have a choice. But, then answer a question for yourselves, in your own mind: where do we draw a line? Where does practicality stop, and morality, legality, decency and professionalism take over? And, as we shall see in a later post, what about the systemic inefficiencies and deficiencies that are being promoted and anchored into our systems, organisations and psychologies? 


Saturday, 12 October 2013

A Man Abandoned: Capt Kalia





The government has informed the family of Kargil martyr Captain Saurabh Kalia that it would not be “desirable” to take up his case at the international level as India was committed to resolving its differences with Pakistan only through bilateral negotiations.


“Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said the government cannot deal with Capt. Kalia’s case under the Geneva Conventions. Raising the case on an international forum would not be desirable,” Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar said in a release. The Minister had told him in a letter that, “India is committed to settling differences with Pakistan only through bilateral negotiations.



"In his letter, the minister has mentioned that as per the Simla Agreement, India has pledged to settle all differences with Pakistan through bilateral talks only without referring to any other treaty."


Thank you, Government Of India. What a lovely dussehra gift. I have nothing to say here; nothing to state - except -----> Pakistan takes every opportunity to internationalise every issue; we keep silent. Pakistan attacks us at every chance, we keep silent. Pakistan supports terrorism, we keep silent. Pakistan foments trouble in India, we keep silent. Pakistan tortures our soldiers, we keep silent...


Think of that last bit again: a soldier dies in brutal torture, against all humanity. A Soldier dies in such pain, a Soldier who does everything to protect the people - which, incidentally, includes the political class. And we cant even try and vociferously, vigorously go after his inhuman torturers? Even the UNHRC initiative was taken up by a solitary MP and the poor man's father... 


Abandoned by the very state for whom his son gave his life.


Hard words, but I am too disgusted with the Government of India to state anything else. For the first time, I am ashamed of the pusillanimous and cruel approach taken by the Government.. Shame on you, Sir! Shame, Shame! You have shown insensitivity on a monumental scale. 

Note the lines above - especially the Simla Agreement bit. It is fine if Pakistan internationalises things; we cant do so? Pakistan breaks the agreement in letter and spirit at every juncture, and we cant even fight for our own soldiers? Is this justice? And precisely what has been done even at the Indo-Pakistani level? Why cant our geniuses in Government make it a precondition for talks with Pakistan? Whose bloody side are you on, anyway? And what message does this send to the people of India, and most importantly its Armed Forces Personnel? That you dont care enough? 


No one is asking for the peace dialogue to be derailed; this was an event that was shocking beyond normal description. It was an extraordinary event; it deserves to be taken up strongly with all concerned avenues. As it is, we are not talking to Pakistan since 2008. Even then, this disgusting attitude towards your own citizen? Not only are we not talking, we are not even asking for justice? In heaven's name, why? 


If we were in the middle of a dialogue, I could understand. But there has been no substantive dialogue. And yet, despite this, we are choosing to ignore this monumental crime against humanity? On what grounds? How will taking this up vitiate the atmosphere? As it is, we are not talking! Then why in the name of all that is Holy on the Earth are we not fighting for a man who gave his life for the country? Is that the message we are sending to our people? We are indeed a soft state; anyone can do any bloody damned thing to us, and we remain silent! Thank you very much, UPA-2. Brilliant Strategy! Absolutely Brilliant! Do nothing, close your eyes - and the problem will go away, right?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Facing up to our Colonial Heritage Part 1

Our Colonial past is seared into the mind of every educated Indian; most of us do recall with bitterness the sad period between 1757 and 1947. It is difficult to be emotionally detached on this topic – as evidenced by the responses on various online social sites. The difference is only in degree, with some people being more vociferous and emotional, and the others being a lot more practical and sanguine about the entire matter. But most of the spectrum is united in the bitterness that is felt on recalling that horrid period of our history. 

And yet, paradoxically, as a nation we seem to be in denial about our own past and what was done to us; just like the rest of Asia and Africa. The fact of the matter is that the developed world is where it is today because of looted and stolen wealth from Asia and Africa, of which a rather large part came from India. They would never have been anywhere near where they are today had it not been for our own stupidity and weaknesses that contributed to our rape – which created a pool of free slave labour and bottomless wealth to invest in their own lands, and conquer new ones. While the world has ostensibly moved on from Colonialism, repression and exploitation continues in myriad forms, usually hidden as business stratagems.  Sure, this is not done by the developed world with an objective to repress and exploit; neither is it done to loot. The feelings of “business exigencies, realpolitic, fair business” etc are all too real to them. 

Take the case of the UK and the USA. Both were bankrolled by the ill-gotten wealth of Colonialism in their early formative years of the so-called industrial revolution. The USA in addition to access to Wealth, also got abundant natural resources – to which they had no right – as well as free slave labour. Not only that, they then wiped out the native Americans. If this is not Genocide, what is, pray tell? Thus, is it any surprise that the USA is today the most developed nation? Similar is the case of UK, fund flows to whose treasury from its Colonies is a matter of documented record, as I myself put forward in one of my previous posts. That was the wealth that was invested in its factories, in its people and in its infrastructure. Everything the UK is today, it owes largely to India. 

One only has to look at the nature of the former colonies of these developed countries, and see the pitiable condition of the people who live therein. From Africa to Asia, it is a horrifying tale of unmitigated disaster and tragedy of a kind not seen before the Colonial World-  not on this scale. We are talking about poverty on a continental scale. Outside the developed world, the conditions are pitiable. And it is undeniable that one of the causative factors – should I say, one of the primary causative factors is the Colonial Rape. Every comfort in the west of the day has its origins in the blood, sweat and rape of innocents. This is not a fanciful statement, neither is it inflammatory. It is a statement of simple fact. 

I shall take a look at the post colonial policies that contribute to the continuing repression at a later date; in this post I am primarily concerned about the lack of acceptance and knowledge of this simple reality in both the Colonial and the Developed Nations. Speaking about India, I have never heard an official demand from any Government, demanding an official apology from the United Kingdom for the atrocities committed on us. These atrocities are a matter of record; and are exceedingly well documented. 

What is wrong in asking for an official apology? Apologies have been tendered before by other nations for their misdeeds – but no one is asking the colonial powers to apologise, let alone do something substantive for the upliftment of the raped people - people whose ancestors were raped by their ancestors. And it is not in the foggy past; it is a matter of a few decades. Instead of that, we have our political class mouthing subservient dialogues like “The British Connection”!  And the reward we get? The threat of withdrawing aid when an arms deal wasn’t signed! Excuse me, you threaten to stop giving me what is mine by right? 

The shattering inequalities we see all around us today are a direct result of colonialism; and if the world problems have to be solved – then the developed nations will have to chip in, if for no other reason then because their wealth has been built on the rape of the third world. I would go so far as to state that it is their duty. But that is not going to happen unless the constituent citizens of the first world understand and accept that the sins of their forefathers are one of the causes. That is why I insist on an apology; because an apology does not come about from a person who does not understand his culpability; at least, not a sincere apology. 

And for that, we are responsible – our fawning over the west, our gentle forget-it- and-move-on approach and our toeing their line without trying to explain the root cause of our problems. And in place of understanding and empathy, the east gets racial taunts, pushy policies in the name of free markets, pressure tactics etc. Unless the world comes to terms with the immediate past and the colonial heritage, problems are not going to go away. They will only be exacerbated… With the status the third world is in, it requires a caring hand and a kind hug from the richer developed world, which is not happening. The west would do well to remember the reality of their own past, and be man enough to say “I am sorry; let us sit across the table and sort it out”. 

But why should this happen, when the raped party itself is silent? Not even demanding an apology!

Jaago, Sonewaalon! 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Book Review: The Blood Telegram - India's Secret War in East Pakistan

This is a book on the events that led to the 1971 war, and US handling of the entire affair. It is a detailed look at the 1971 war for Bangladesh, at the US support to Pakistan during the crisis, its handling of India and USSR, and the internal white house politics and diplomatic politics in Dhaka, Islamabad, New Delhi and Washington DC. It is a stunningly vivid and blunt write-up with a deep research behind it. It is more in the category of a historical investigation, with a detailed investigation to back it up, supported with a copious bibliography to make it a power-packed book. It exposes the Cold War Illogic, and reveals how a cold war fixation almost got the world to a confrontation

It recounts the events that went into the 1971 war in India, Pakistan and the USA in breathtaking detail. You are taken deep into the political intrigues played out in India and USA, and get a ringside seat as the decisions are taken that propel an entire people towards disaster. The book has been exceedingly well researched, is generally true to facts (at least as far as I am aware of them) and is blunt and explosive. The book focuses on Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, and their unflinching support for Pakistan, and exposes the extent to which they went to cover up for Pakistan and support it. It looks at the resistance they have to meet from within their own diplomatic corps, highlighted through the telegrams of Archer Blood, the consul in Dhaka, who consistently piled up evidence of Genocide – which is summarily ignored, and the consul punished for it. The US predeliction with USSR, which blinded itself to everything else, finds a detailed analysis in the context of this 1971 war, and leaves with us the image of a morally disjointed and skewed nation with its priorities all wrong, and hypocratic to the core. 

It also takes a detailed look at the refugee problem, with detailed facts and figures, and the steps taken by India to deal with it. It looks at the sequence of events that propelled India towards a war, and gives a detailed analysis centered around Indira Gandhi and the key people from the Indian side. You get a ringside seat amid political confrontationsthat  are skillfully recreated using authorized records and interviews, including the key Indira Gandhi- Nixon summit, at which Madame Gandhi tore into Nixon both at the welcome dinner at the White House, as well as in his own oval office. As with any other book, there are both positives and negatives. But, before I go to the many plus points about the book, let me spell out the negatives. The reason for giving the negatives first is that I rate this book as the most unbiased book on India by a westerner. 

THE ANALYSIS
Why is anyone from the West totally unable to write a clean book on Indian matters, one that does not raise hackles, and is balanced? This book, like others I have read, also manages to raise my hackles due to its treatment of Indian Affairs. While it is easily one of the most unbiased works on India to come out of the West, it still leaves a lot to be desired for. The author has made a genuine effort to be unbiased and truthful in his approach; and is reasonably comprehensive in coverage of the subject matter. Having said that, there are clear instances where he could have done much better, and presented a more balanced view. 

The repeated comparisons of Bangladesh to Kashmir and Mizoram and Nagaland are offensive, to say the least, as is the contention of Indian hypocrisy in handling Bangladesh when looked at in the light of the flashpoints above. First of all, in Kashmir we were the ones to offer article 372- wherein Kashmiris got near autonomy, within Indian nationality right at the outset. There was, and is, no suppression in Kashmir; far from it – as current events have proven, with the blatant challenges issued by Omar Abdullah, as well as repeated elections. And Mizo and Naga problems are localized issues. How can anyone compare these with the Bangladeshi Genocide? And how can anyone state that we are wrong? 

Next, the comparison of terrorism to Mukti Bahini support from Indian side is untenable and offensive. Further, the unsaid contention that India taught Pakistan Guerilla tactics is downright false – as Operation Gibraltar 1965, consistent support to Mizo terrorists through training camps, which was a significant factor in the war,  and the attacks in 1948 by Pakistan backed irregulars prove beyond any doubt. It was Pakistan that taught us Guerilla Tactics; not vice versa! Also, the contention that 1971 was the only War we won is also unacceptable: 1965 was also a clear victory for India, as was 1948. The coverage of the war also leaves a lot to be desired for in terms of balance. There are many, many other such glaring inconsistencies in the book that will raise Indian hackles. 

On the positives, the book is a powerfully put together investigation, and is focused primarily on the US handling of the entire matter, and the totally amoral and brinkmanship game played by USA. It targets the president of the day: Nixon, and the celebrated Kissinger – both of whom are literally ripped apart ruthlessly. You get a ringside seat as the two gentlemen above systematically set about undermining India and Indian efforts, supporting Yahya Khan – even illegally – and ignoring the relentless build-up of evidence of Genocide. The motives of the the two are systematically dissected and exposed, very skillfully, leaving no loopholes that I could detect. A very thorough investigation indeed – one that I had not expected from an American. 

The depth of the investigation is awesome, as historical archival documents, tape recordings, meeting minutes etc are examined; intelligence agents and diplomats from the day interviewed, news reports etc collated and examined. The effort shows through, as well as the laudable attempt at being unbiased – at which, quite frankly, despite the glaring problems above, the author has succeeded. I say this not because American hypocrisy and amorality has been ripped apart , which it has – but because of the strength of the investigation, and blunt statement of facts, and the entire presentation as coming from authorized documented sources. 

The biggest positive from an Indian viewpoint is that it helps us understand just how deep the chasm between our two nations is in reality. The major defense of the USA for Pakistan is an eerie reminder to the current tone it takes: that only Pakistan that sort this matter out. This is despite the clear knowledge of the fact of the crimes it has itself committed. Cut to today, and you can spot a perfect parallel: Terrorism, a scourge almost single handedly created by Pakistan. And yet again, the USA is siding with Pakistan with the logic that its support is needed. And India? Let alone anti-terror help, it does not even get intelligence information from the USA on terror matters! Nothing has changed even today -  and we still dream of a strategic partnership! It can be seen that the US tactic towards Pakistan and India is still the same; nothing has changed, Don’t expect it to change- regardless of how many Indian-Amercans make it to their government.

Despite clear evidence of genocide & the presence of nearly 9 Million refugees (80% plus Hindus) as well as the knowledge that India does not have the resources to feed them, no one on Earth came forward to help. In the face of 1 Billion Dollars, we got something like 100 Million. And, everyone – 104 nations – opposed the war without suggesting any alternative to India, or to the refugees. Critically, not one single nation said anything to Pakistan excepting Russia. The learning is that humanity has no place in front of politics and international intrigue. These sequence of events leave a deep and bitter memory in your mind, as you realize that it is acceptable for people to accept genocide, so long as their own self-interests are protected.  Yet again, judging from the World response to threats to India, we can see that this mindset has not changed. This was also proved by the events in Iraq… disgusting, if you ask me. 

And most critically, in the concluding part, you find an apology to the Bangladeshis, defence of Pakistanis and their problems, castigation of US evils – and no mention of any apology to India, to what it suffered. That speaks volumes – sure, Bangladeshis deserve an apology; they went through hell. But, instead of paying back-handed compliments to India, cannot an apology be thought of for India, and that fact it faced the ire, and the cost of the war? It is fine to refer to building Pakistan from the rubble and offering defense for its tactic of guerilla warfare as taking a page from India’s own strategy; but when you are doing so, don’t you think a more wholesome analysis  -  that mentions  how Pakistan pioneered this tactic in 1948 and 1965 – be made? And why make oblique hints at Indian plans in West Pakistan during the war, when there is no shred of evidence? 

In conclusion, all in all, this is a book wherein India gets a short shrift; but it is an eminently recommended book nonetheless ,as   it is by far the best by a non-Indian on an Indian topic. 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Three Indias and a Bhaarat…

India is known as a land of diversity; one of the most clich├ęd descriptions about India has been its unity in diversity aspect, and this can be readily seen in the varied linguistic and cultural traditions that span our land in addition to the religious diversity. This is a known positive about our motherland, and widely acknowledged as such. And yet, within this diversity, within this cultural cosmos that is India, is hidden a set of several “Indias” whose divergent agendas are a cause of concern. I call them Three Indias and a Bhaarat…

The first India is the so-called upper strata, the educated elite – and by that, I mean the educated English-spouting elite of the cities. Specifically, the educated elite in the top cities of India, who are discernibly a distinct identity group, and are a pretty exclusive group. These people stick together like glue on most issues, and breaking into this select group is extraordinarily difficult for someone from Bhaarat. These are the people who read The Economic Times, The Times Of India, The Business Standard, India Today etc. These are the people who frequent your pubs and CCD outlets. These are the people who can be spotted in malls and cinemas. These are the well-dressed and nattily turned out ladies and gentlemen in swank offices, and young boys and girls in elite colleges that dot the landscape of the bigger cities in India. 

To the members of this exclusive club GDP growth, economic growth, posh cities, swank highways are the important parameters of a nation. To these people, it is the companies and the salaries and PL statements of these companies that determine the real status of a person and by extension the country. These are the people who would readily pay up a bribe to achieve something, on the specious argument that “My job depended on it//everyone does it/without it approvals don’t come etc” . These are the people who are too important to vote, or don’t consider anti-corruption an electoral plank – to say nothing of inclusive growth. In fact, most would not even be aware of the need for inclusive growth, and are staunch proponents of the trickle-down theory. 

The first India is in a majority as compared to the second India… these are a set of people, identical in shape and form, in language and attitudes to the first India. But there is a significant difference: these citizens of the second India are beginning to get frustrated with things as they are, and are just beginning to root for change. The members of the second India club are getting more and more vocal in their demands for clean governance, zero-corruption, effective administration, swift punishment for defaulters. Some of these Indians are beginning to realize the pull of Indian culture, and are increasingly throwing off the western masks for a distinct pro-Indian outlook and identity, with an increasing preference for all things Indian in terms of culture. The second India is the one which is asking the real tough questions – where are we, where are we headed, how to solve these problems, how to clean politics, what is real growth and what is the political alternative. 

This, the second India, is an amazingly complex group, as it has many, many sub-groups with widely diverging views and demographic profiles. The vernacular speaking successful businessman is as much a part of this group, as is the anti-corruption brigade; The optimistic go-getter who leaves the first India to try make a difference in Bhaarat is as much a part of this India as is the Indian-culture-is the-best claimer. The one defining characteristic of this group is that all of them are unwilling to accept the status quo and are rooting for change. 

The first two Indias represent the creamy layer; the top 5%... the third India is the set of people who just don’t care, or are a part of the establishment. Here you will find the people who vote their caste. Here you will find the the fundamentalists. Here you will find the political class. Here you will find the babus of the government. Here you will find the people who look at the problems, shrug, and move on. Here you will find an easy mobility between the first and the third India; they are in many cases interchangeable. Here you will find both the bribe takers and the bribe givers. Here you will find the I-Me-Myselfers. Here you will find the people who are not in the top rung; who were unlucky to miss out on the advantages of a metro upbringing, or of a top college. Here you will find those urban Indians who just don’t care one way or the other…

And with that, we come to Bhaaarat. The only thing common in all the 3 Indias above is that all three don’t care about, or are not fully aware of Bhaarat. It is only in the second India that there is the beginning of an awakening towards Bhaarat and its plight. The First India is not even aware Bhaarat exists, let alone how Bhaarat lives. In Bhaarat – you will find the real problems of India. Here you will find the farmer who commits suicide. Here who will find the farmer who cannot make a profit from his farms, and who has to double as a laborer,  whose wife has to work as well as whose kids miss school so that the can work and earn to eat and fill their stomachs. Here you will find the starving beggars form Urban India. Here you will find the malnourished children. Here you will find the uneducated unfortunate, who has nothing to do and nowhere to go. Here you will find the woman who has only 1 saari, sometimes even less. Here you will find bad roads. Here you will find despair. Here you will find hopelessness. Here you will find struggle, a struggle that has no end for generations to come. Here you will find the landless laborer.  Here you will find the low-hygiene slums which the first three Indias do everything within their considerable power to avoid thinking of – let alone looking at. Here you will find the villages that still look like time has stopped. Here you will find the real India. And these Indians outnumber the other three Indias by a factor of at least 3 to 1; maybe more. 

Unless the three Indias can come together, and take care of Bhaarat; unless the three Indias and Bhaarat can unite as one in political vision, national outlook, attitudes and access to basics like health and education – a developed and superpower India will remain a pipe dream. Unfortunately, The First and Third Indias don’t care; and it is they who have the power. The second India is our only hope; it has the momentum and the will…  Let us all do all we can to ensure that the second India grows in size!

Jaago, Sonewaalon!

Friday, 4 October 2013

A Dysfunctional Government for a Disinterested People: Made For Each Other

India is supposed to be a Democracy - for the people, of the people and by the people. The people, through the Parliament, are supposedly in control of their own destinies in our opted system of Governance. Every Indian would do well to remember these lines - and remind him or herself of these words whenever any criticism comes to mind. Unfortunately, what happens is in reality, in complete divergence to this optimal or ideal scenario! The status of Governance in our country is there for all to see. And by that, I dont mean our much-maligned UPA-2 governance alone. The ills that are manifest in front of us are not the sole result of a set of 60-odd people running the county, as I have pointed out in my post : http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2013/06/usne-kiyaa-he-did-it-he-did-it.html.  And neither are they the result of 10 short years of misgovernance.

All it takes is one cursory glance at the corruption index, or the HDI Index to see that the ills plaguing our country have their roots far deeper than just 10 years. In 66 years of independent existence, we have not been able to improve the lot of our rural poor to a significant degree. Not only that, our recent economic growth has also not had an appreciable impact on the poorer and weaker sections of our society. Further, we are now in a situation wherein no section of the people-government interface is healthy and functional; no area of our economy is free from the scourge of crony capitalism and corruption, and no part of our country is free from the ills alluded to above. 

It can be argued that the Governance of our country is dysfunctional, especially of late. And the arguments in favour of such a position would be very convincing and effective. For example, anything of even the slightest importance has to come from the Supreme Court, which has intervened in areas ranging from Helmets all the way upto barring of convicts in Parliament. The full range of interventions makes for very interesting reading:

Control over automobile emissions
Air, noise and traffic pollution
Parking Charges
Helmets
Cleanliness in housing colonies
Disposal of garbage
Control of traffic in New Delhi
Made compulsory seat belts
Ordering action plans to control monkey menace
Ordered measures to prevent accidents at unmanned crossings
Prevent ragging in colleges
Collection and storage of blood banks
Control of loudspeakers and firecrackers
Baba Ramdev Eviction from Ramlila grounds
Exclusion of tourists from core areas of tiger reserves
Investigation and prosecution of ministers and officers in the Jain Hawala case
Taj Corridor case
2G telecom case
Distribution of food grains to persons below poverty line was monitored

One question that comes to mind is What is the Government Of India doing? And what are the various State Governments doing - if traffic, food grains, helmets, ragging, tiger reserves etc all are monitored by the Judiciary? Just who is running this country? And precisely what are the various government agencies, IAS lobby, State and Central Government departments, Governments etc doing? It is obvious from the above list that ipso-facto, the country is being run by the Judiciary and the Army, the only 2 relatively clean organisations in our society. This above list is hard evidence of official apathy and governmental neglect. This is a testimony of a total breakdown of governance... And most critically, we, the people, are blissfully silent and going on with our lives... mindless of the mayhem all around us. 

It is relatively easy to decry the above as a failure of a particular elected government. This argument would also be bolstered by the list of non-performance - HDI parameters, poverty, infrastructure bottlenecks, policy paralysis etc. Taken together, this makes a very powerful anti-incumbent argument against UPA-2. But that would be a superficial observation, one that misses the core issues - all of them. 

The reason is simple: not one of these problems is new. Not one of these problems has arisen in the past few years. Not one of these problems is unknown to us. Not one of these problems is something that we could not have done something about. Helmets, Garbage, Ragging, Bloodbanks etc are all relatively minor issues of an administrative nature. Yet, the administrative machinery failed to tackle them - just as the very same administrative machinery failed to ensure attendance of teachers and doctors in Schools and Hospitals. The politico-administrative machinery failed to recognise and act upon genuine areas of concern.

The fundamental reason for the apathy of the politico-administrative machinery lies elsewhere. And the proof of this is not far to be had: all the above stated problems can be traced back decades. The lack of attendance of teachers is not a new phenomenon, for example. The problem of garbage is our cities is ages old. Ditto corruption, which was present before UPA-2. 

Furthermore, most of these judicial decisions have been either self-motivated, or in response to public interest litigations. And that means, that only 1 or 2, or at best a few people care enough about these critical matters to do something about it. Why didnt these people approach the Government? Because they knew they lacked the support, the vocal and vociferous support of the people; because they knew that had not the power to move the behemoth that is the Government. All these decisions are for our sake - we will reap the benefits, without doing anything to deserve those benefits. 

As regards official apathy, it did not come to life suddenly on the 2nd of March 2006 at 11:23 AM in New Delhi. The official apathy is a direct result of the same uncaring attitude that is evident from the PIL example stated above. Neither was corruption born to Mr Political Crime and Mrs Apathetic Citizen-Crime on the 1st of May 2007 at 16:28 PM! Both are the direct descendants of our deeds - our uncaring attitude, our I-Me-Myselfism and our apathy.  They came about slowly, over a period of time, when more and more politicians found out that we dont care about the real problems, that we will pay up bribe money like fools to get what is ours by right, and that we will vote like idiots without analysing the manifesto and intentions. 

The hopeless scenario we see today is a result of our deeds. Over the years, we have used every short-cut possible to achieve our own ends, we have broken every single law for our own self-interest, we have turned a blind eye on our community property and people, we have done everything for ourselves, and precisely nothing for our nation. Frankly, not one of us has the right to ask what the nation has done for us - for we ourselves have done nothing. The educated among us have not tried to educate the others on political matters, and have instead colluded with the administrative machinery for self-interest. We have not even stopped from crime to get at what we need: take a look at the list of scams, and look at the silence and active collusion of the normal men and women - the bystanders, the silent observers, the clerk who makes false reports (an intrinsic part of scams) for the sake of saving a job etc.  

Nateeja sabke saamne hai. 

It is not the UPA-2 which is the culprit. If anyone is looking for a culprit, the majority have to look no further than a mirror. A Dysfunctional Government for a Disinterested People: Made For Each Other. Please dont expect it to be any different in 2014; not if we dont change ourselves, our attitudes and our habits!

Jaago, Sonewaalon!