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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sur Bane Hamara!

Can Intelligentsia Make It Happen?


As our military might was marching past in its assigned splendor on our 61st Republic Day, every Indian turned a little nostalgic.

It was January 26, 1950. Venue: Durbar Hall, Rashtrapathi Bhavan. At 10.18 a.m., Governor General C Rajagopalachari solemnly proclaimed India as a ‘Sovereign, Democratic Republic’ in the ceremony held thereat. As everyone present inside rejoiced, guns boomed outside.

At 10.24 a.m., Chief Justice Kania swore in Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India. Thus transited India from being a British Dominion to a Republic. Indians had finally—severing from the diktats of Rajas, Maharajas, Badshahs and Jahanpanahs—placed themselves under the command of a supreme law, the Constitution of India. Thus began our ‘tryst with destiny’—a destiny that we are still struggling to come to terms with even after 60 years. There is an all-pervasive ‘intolerance’ that is driving India in different directions. Much against the wishes of our founding fathers, everything looks distressing, if not threatening.

On the one hand, we have the mighty Maoist violence challenging the very sovereign. It is a menace that is ruling the roost in vast tracts stretching right from the Himalayas down to the Deccan, traversing through Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, down to the northern parts of Karnataka. It is said to be running almost a parallel administration in these tracts, besides blowing up railway stations and tracks, burning up state transport buses and police stations, killing police personnel at will, etc. On the other, the administrative setups in these States are reluctant to come together, owing to their strong bondage to the local political configurations, to arrest the growing might of these forces of grave internal threat to the growth process. And, remember, this escalation in the Maoist violence since 2001 is in addition to the escalation in the terrorist violence that the country has been suffering from, with Pune being the latest to be hit.

That aside, today, ‘politics of hatred’ seems to have become the in-thing of our political system across the country. Any party can deliver fiery speeches fanning acts that obstruct civil life, for they have gained legitimacy by virtue of winning a few elections here and there by blatantly practicing parochial politics. They can even dictate terms of their own for compliance by the common man, while the system of governance remains a mute witness to it. They can hunt migrant labor, stall the release of movies, disrupt public life demanding separate statehood or opposing it, and can mightily shout in chorus against all the known logic—all to intimidate people, instill fear, and make them submit to their irrational diktats. This disturbing trend of a section of the society fighting against another, that too in a pluralist society like ours, is sure to harm us—our very growth prospects. Yet, we see, of course, for some unknown reason, the sovereign feeling shy to act against such disruptive forces or to curb political hooliganism.

Even within the government, we often see members of the coalition not perceiving the issues of even national importance objectively, for each coalition-partner is guided by his/her own ‘constituency’. For instance, it is against commonsense to sell a product at less than its cost-price, yet the government cannot raise the petrol price to a car-owner, that too, in a country where 30% of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. Over and above it, we have the unfortunate tradition of the opposition parties in the Parliament or in a state legislature opposing every proposal of the day’s government, as though it were the bounden duty of an opposition party to oppose everything that the party in power introduces. Often this behavior makes one wonder if the political parties have forgotten their basic duty to the electorate—of maximizing their welfare by making the government work diligently and efficiently.

Ironically, amidst all this, the elite of the country are not able to offer a well-reasoned opinion on any matter of national concern or do not have the courage to condemn even incidents such as the manhandling of a legislator for taking oath in Hindi—perhaps, because they are caught in their own elitism. It is not that the country is not endowed with intelligentsia, but it has no political voice. Cumulatively, the adverse effect that these opposing forces are inflicting on the economic growth by pulling the country’s energies in different directions is not only sickening to every conscious citizen’s mind, but also makes one wonder: Is our nation at war with itself? The ultimate victim of this national indifference is: the marginalized commoners on the streets.

By a flick of fortune, we, of course, do have another India, where we are witnessing a tech revolution that has resulted in a new and surging middle class and a sizzling economy even during the days of unprecedented global recession. Encouragingly, we also have a unique demographic advantage. All that is needed now is to harness these positives for sustaining our economic growth. It is time for the intelligentsia to wake up to these felt needs, along with the young crop of leaders—clad in white kurtas with blackberries in hand, although representing a kind of ‘dynastic democracy’, yet certainly a newfound encouragement for the nation—and pave the way by asserting themselves for governing our resources fruitfully, for it alone can lead to: Mile sur mera tumhara , to sur bane hamara!

- GRK Murty


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