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Democracy, Did I Hear Right: .AND WE CALL OURSELVES INDEPENDENT!, By Poonam I Kaushish; 11 August 20 Print E-mail


NEW DELHI, 11 August 2007

Democracy, Did I Hear Right


By Poonam I Kaushish


Roll out the drums. Uncork the champagne. Independent India will be 60 tomorrow. Why the deafening silence. Where is all the patriotism? The self esteem? The satisfaction of being free and independent? All has evaporated into thin air. Leaving in its wake, a disparate India searching for her soul under the onslaught of immorality, criminalization, caste and creed divide. That dear countrymen, is what 15 August boils down to.


As the Tri-colour flutters aloft from the historic  ramparts of Delhi’s Red Fort and various State Capitals, standing testimony to an end of British ghulami, more and more people are wondering whether the fight for freedom was worth it. Not a few feel we were better off under the Raj. Come of it, things aren’t all that bad. Tragically, they are worse, a lot worse. A travesty of democracy and freedom. Sharp and continuing all-round decline, where things have hit rock bottom. Politically. Administratively. Socially et al. Every which way.


Since everything begins and ends with our polity, the way it is conducting itself we might as well sound the bugle for the beginning of the end. Tellingly encapsulated by outgoing President Kalam, who lashed out at India’s “decision makers with small minds” and deeply grieved over the “shortage of leadership with nobility.” India’s sixtieth year will be remembered not for the fact that we have the first woman Rashtrapati but for how these ‘small minds’ willy nilly succeeded in doing grave injustice to India. Denigrating and destroying the sanctity of the highest bastion of our parliamentary democracy: the President’s office.


The poll dragged the office of the President into an unprecedented cesspool of politics, petty politics, unimaginable till the other day. Replete with shameful games of conmanship and one-upmamship, charges and counter-charges of corruption, court cases, SMS, websites were played out on the political chessboard. More. It was marked by open defiance, abstentions -- individually and group-wise, cross-voting and last minute U-turns. Making one wonder, is the Presidential office sabzi-bhaaji that one buys off the rehriwala on the streets?


What should one say of the UPA Government which boasts of an honest Prime Minister who heads India’s most dishonest Government. For the first time in history, a Union Cabinet Minister is behind bars for allegedly murdering his private secretary, another forced to resign in the Volcker-probed oil-for-food scam. Five tainted Ministers still adorn the Treasury Benches in Parliament. Our Right Honourables have merrily converted offices of public services into playgrounds of private profit and brazenly justify their wrongs as in public interest. What to say of the innumerable criminal netas who strut about in the corridors of power as MLAs and MPs in their ‘bullet-proof’ jackets.


Scams, cash on camera deals have become so routine they no longer shock. Brushed aside as perks of various offices. Even a ration card for a below-poverty line family comes for a price. But that is no guarantee for foodgrains, which are sold in the open market. Nobody has time or the inclination to understand why farmers continue to commit suicide, despite doles by the Prime Minister. Certainly, the aam aadmi had not voted for this.


Against the backdrop of such leadership, any wonder that casualness and indifference has become the touchstone of our culture and attitude. For the last 60 years, real politik is being repeatedly recycled. Like a yo-yo. With its ups and downs. Held together by the nebulous string called democracy. Never mind if in the process it exposes the corruption, adulteration, warts and the ever-increasing rot within. Which our leaders call governance! Exposing how disconnected our rulers are with the reality of Bharat.


Think. What is agitating the people? Terrorism in 15 states, instant killings, price rise, floods and farmer’s suicides. Sadly, our leaders are immune to the cries of distress. Content only in making appropriate noises, expressing hollow concerns but offering no solutions to end the agony. Today, the entire country is inundated by floods. Thousands have died, lakhs have been rendered homeless and property worth crores lost. But it’s like water off a duck’s back. Our leaders go through the disgusting political circus, ritually flood, aerial surveys and relief. All lament the deaths. But the screams of the suffering get gagged by ambitions of the netas.


Does anyone really care?  Not at all. It has never occurred to our polity to donate even a token one day’s salary to show their solidarity with the homeless. Tragically, exposing the political and administrative callousness towards human life. India’s millions, now a billion, don’t seem to count for much apart from a sterile statistic.


It is all about political survival. Their hierarchy of status gauged by the gun-totting commandos around them. Funny isn’t it that our leaders need strong protection from the janata they are supposed to represent and serve. Looking for genuine leaders is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Ask them about the nation. What nation, they ask?


To make matter worse, they are recklessly fragmentising society. Caste and religion are the new bywords to electoral power. And minoritysim and reservation are the flavours of the season. Where people are being compartmentalized for sacrifice at the alter of votes in the name of social upliftment. With our netagan merrily converting positive affirmation into vote percentage.


Rechristened as “humanism”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently asserted: “A commitment to equity is not appeasement. It is a mark of one’s commitment to humanism.”  His humanism was evident at its emotive best when he spent a sleepless night after watching on TV the mothers of the two Indians behind the Glasgow terrorist attack. And warned against labelling or branding a religion or people.


Unfortunately, secularism has been carried to such absurd limits that the singing of the historic national song Vande Mataram turned behsura in the hands of our political drumbeaters. Recall, when the Government passed an order making its singing in schools compulsory, the Muslims clerics opposed it on the ground that it was anti-Islamic. Clearly, a day is not far when Mahatma Gandhi’s call for establishing Ram Rajya will be dissected and debunked as the outpourings of a rabid Hindu fundamentalist. This, dear reader is the secular reality of India’s “420 secularism”.


Less said the better about equality for all. Jobs, doles, subsidies even bank loans are now going to be given according to our surnames and the religion we practice. Whatever happened to merit and excellence? What happened to the PM’s much-touted Knowledge Commission? What about enforcing humanism in regard to the vast majority of poor for whom roti exists only in the neon lights of McDonalds. Who should they turn to for succur? Where should they go? 


Yet for our polity, India is Incredible! Economically speaking, our cash tellers are overflowing. Multinationals are wooing everything Indian as never before. India is the flavour and toast globally. Indian tycoons are the new international takeover kings. The 200 million rich and powerful exult in the luxury of Brand Reel India. But what about Brand Asli Bharat? The remaining 800 million poor and hungry stomachs who satiate their hunger by feeding on glib promises of a better tomorrow doled out by our netagan that mock their poverty.


Shockingly, one third of our population, namely 394.9 million, lives on just Rs 20 a day or Rs 600 a month. Not only that. A staggering 86 per cent of India’s working population is in the unorganized sector without any security cover.  These scandalous facts have been compiled in a report by Arjun Sengupta’s National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector.


Worse, nearly 44 million children aged 5-14 years are engaged in economic activities and domestic and non-remunerative work. Another 74 million children are neither enrolled in schools nor accounted in the labour force and come under the category of ‘Nowhere Children’. And yet we talk of a good deal for Gen Next? Mera Bharat is indeed Mahan!


Tragically, nobody has time for the common man’s growing disillusionment with the system which explodes in rage. Turn to any mohalla, district, or state in the country, the story is mournfully the same. Resulting in more and more people taking law into their own hands. Borne out by the increasing chakka jams, rioting, looting and burning of buses. Capital Delhi is replete with gory tales of road rage resulting in murders. The system has become so sick that women today are being raped in crowded compartments of running trains with co-passengers as mute spectators. Sporadically converting the country into an Andher Nagri.


At present reckoning India may well remain indefinitely trapped in its divisive rhetoric. It is time for the country to re-think its strategies and approach to the future. A time to recall Ambedkar’s masterly speech on the concluding day of the Constituent Assembly. He pointedly posed a question for the future generations: “Will India lose its independence a second time, through infidelity and treachery of her own people? Will the Indians place the country above their creed or will they place creed above the country? What would happen to her democratic Constitution? Will she be able to maintain it or will she lose it again?” Much-needed food for thought on the day India turns 60! ------ INFA

(Copyright India News and Feature Alliance)


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