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Dithering in delhi

DITHERING IN DELHI By Prem Chandran What would a strong individual do if he is beaten up on the street? .....




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01-15-2013
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DITHERING IN DELHI

By Prem Chandran

What would a strong individual do if he is beaten up on the street? Right or wrong, he would hit back, and then perhaps go to the police. Way of the world. But, faced with a worse provocation along the border, we beat our own chests, wailed before the world that we have been savaged, “summoned” the Pakistani envoy, and told him in plain terms what had happened was “unacceptable.” That, one suspects, is how the government here undertakes crisis management.

This here is a matter that essentially relates to the defence services. We can neither ask questions nor expect answers. We have no way other than leaving matters to our elected government, and repose faith in it to handle the matter in the best possible way. Also, we are aware, no government can afford to discuss defence matters with the general public. There, however, are matters that boil down to the political leadership which propels the government; and to its very efficiency. Criticism is already evident in the way we used jargons like “summoning” the Pakistani diplomat and telling him that this was not “acceptable” to India. So, what else, other than this drama, was what many wanted to know.

One suspects Pakistan knows India better than the Indian leadership knows about the state of this nation. Pakistan is a relatively small country with limited means, but it has enough of the fire power to keep its head high – though, in the process, it is spending more of its resources on its defence front and less on its people’s welfare; something that ultimately did the communist USSR in, a quarter of a century ago. And, it might be well within its limits, logically, to think that here now was a situation when India could be taken for granted, and implement some of its soft agenda – an agenda short of a war. We, as laymen, have little access to information on what transpires in government circles, other than what’s spoon-fed through the media. There could be larger designs, either on this side or on the other. In the minimum, looks like, the border skirmishes might have had more to it. And, as the drama unfolded, Pakistan was seeking to give the impression that, for now, it called the shots.

Border skirmishes are, as a matter of fact, minor issues; and they keep happening, especially in situations involving nations that are not friends with each other. The governments would in normal course make a hue and cry, and the matter settles down until another provocation happens. Yet, the present heat along the India-Pakistan border was unusual in many respects, and it once again exposed the weaknesses that we live with today as a nation. And, who knows our weaknesses better than those on the other side of the border?

The dithering in Delhi, which the BJP has begun to make an issue out of after an initial hesitation, is a story by itself. That spans issues of daily management of this nation in so many respects, and for quite a few years now. India’s rail fares were not increased for the past ten years, a long duration when there was a ‘rise’ in every other sector. And, at long last, when the fares were increased now, it was done half-heartedly; cautious as caution could sound to be. And the news is that the lack of serious protests is emboldening the government to effect one more hike. Clearly, the government lacks the will to act, caught as it is in its own survival instinct. In the process, as politicians played to the whims of their vote banks, the railways has suffered irreparable damage. What was once India’s best-running government entity, and running in profit, is today on its slow-death-bed. Our super fast trains run at an average speed of 40 km per hour; whereas China, our neighbour, has trains running at six times the Indian speed.

There's more. The Afzal Guru mercy plea, for another, is running between the central government and the Rashtrapati Bhavan for ages; and the man who is accused of making an attempt to destroy Parliament House –eleven years ago – is living his life in protective custody all these years. A handful of mercenaries descended on Mumbai, and held this nation to ransom for several days at a stretch way back in 2008… and we waited and watched for days on end, before we acted. The Rajiv Gandhi assassination took place two decades ago; and the mercy plea and the legal wrangle appeared unending. That the establishment was serious about all these is without doubt. But, why do things not move, and not move in the right direction?

A large part of the blame should go to the political establishment, which is either allowing things to drift, or are not capable of setting things right. Blaming the system is not an answer. What are governments for if not to change systems as and when required? Add to this perceived lack of efficiency is the tendency among the political class to put their personal interests, or party interests, over and above the national interests. This is not a new phenomenon; yet, what is new about it that we have reached a stage where, for many politicians, national interest matters little; and what matters is their own interests, their survival, or, at best, the interests of their vote banks. So, a relatively harmless Mamata Banerjee would turn a blind eye to the plight of the Railways, the affairs of which she presided over for years -- and perhaps made a mess of -- and keep insisting that there be no fare hike. She pleaded the people’s cause; and knowingly, at the expense of the nation’s cause. Votes, for her, meant everything she stands for. By all reckoning, and by the standards set by Indira Gandhi, she should be a successful politician for many years to come.

If the Indian Railways was taken to cleaners by one Congress party ally in the UPA, what of the national flag carriers, Air India, Air India Express and the like? Another Congress ally which handled the portfolio has taken it to a level wherein, as allegations go, there was a total sell-out. Did the DMK and its men sit back? If hundreds of thousands of crores were presumed lost in Delhi, allegations are also that business enterprises in the names of the clan benefited from their presence in the corridors of power. Small parties coming to Delhi and ruling India presents its own problems. They have less of accountability at the national level, and might get away with their acts of omissions and commissions. More so, when we are faced with a leadership vacuum in Delhi.

All these take us to the issue of subversion of the systems to suit the personal advantages of powerful politicians across the spectrum; a process being progressively promoted also by the casteist entities in the Hindi belt, in tandem with the Congress party’s disregard for the systems; and of the BJP’s as well, as was evidenced in the flurry of scandals that dogged its government in Karnataka, and topped by the allegations surrounding its national chief of late. The BJP is a far cry from the days when it was ably led by a Lal Krishna Advani or Atal Behari Vajpayee, the only hope in the air for it at the next hustings being a perceptibly upright Narendra Modi.

When the political class threw caution to the wind and subverted the systems, the bureaucrats not only looked the other way, but were also taking advantage in myriad ways. The demoralization is not area-specific; not just of the administrative sector, or the rank and file of the police department, but of the governing machinery as a whole, state to state, and in the ramparts of power in Delhi as well --a scenario vitiated to this level by corrupt politicians. Nothing moves even in a village office as long as bribes are not paid. Which takes us to the cause of political and administrative reforms, as a follow up to the economic reforms that saw India through better times; reforms that should see a new breed of politicians with grit and determination coming upfront, and changing the destiny of the nation in better ways. In the minimum, dithering cannot be the way forward. – premcee@gmail.com

Last edited by Premchandran; 01-16-2013 at 09:44 PM
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