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Dragon's taunt, elephant's nightmare!

By Prem Chandran THERE are times when we need an enemy’s teasing to drill some sense into our head and .....




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10-21-2016
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Thumbs up Dragon's taunt, elephant's nightmare!


By Prem Chandran

THERE are times when we need an enemy’s teasing to drill some sense into our head and get out of a mental block or hallucination. For, it’s not always in humans to see what’s going wrong with them; and, one needs to have it heard from someone. So with a taunt that has come from China, that’s read by most of us but needs repetition. It, in sum, is that Indians only bark and won’t bite; that they are a corrupt and lazy lot; that India has money, but that money is locked in the hands of its corrupt bureaucrats and politicians; and that India is no great shakes but Americans are making a hero out of India as part of their plot to contain China. Under the circumstances, though India is making a hue and cry over imbalance in bilateral trade and seeking investments from China, there is no need for Chinese businesses to go and invest in India. Indians are coming and buying up things in bulk from China, so why go, court the problems of the corrupt and lazy people out there, was how the rant went on. Some truths are bitter pills, but swallow we must!

Our natural instinct however, after having heard this, is to break the likes of the Chinese-made smart phone or some other consumer durable that we have just bought; or to resolve that we’ll think twice before purchasing another Chinese product from shop shelves the next time we are out for shopping. But, alas, if we ask for a battery or a mobile phone, or several other high or low-end consumer products, chances are that there is no alternative other than buying Chinese ones. Indian markets are flooded with Chinese goods, and Indian manufacturing sector has retreated to the sidelines, faced with a pricing disadvantage. Quality might be low, but Chinese products come cheap. Therein lies the link to some of what the Chinese official daily, the Global Times, has said in one of its Op-Ed comments about India this week. Or, to put it in a way Donald Trump might like to do, “Folks, there simply is no alternative!” Let’s grin and bear with this scenario.

What the Chinese daily said was no great discovery, though. It is no secret out here that the wealth in India is getting largely and increasingly concentrated into the hands of highly corrupt politicians and bureaucrats as also greedy middlemen (dalals), all of them of a class, who are collectively engaged in a pastime of looting a nation at the grave peril of its ordinary citizens. This was a trend that has taken Himalayan proportions in the past two decades when India was virtually and largely rudderless under a mostly Congress-led dispensation until stocktaking was done in 2014 through the General Elections. By then, even a child in India knew the nation’s wealth was all up for grabs. Mines were palmed off for a song. Spectrum airwaves were sold at unbelievably low prices. Even at a lower level, city after city, uncouth politicians from under-nourished families suddenly screeching past the streets in Sports Utility Vehicles carried an unmistakable message to the public. These were the days of the dirty pie.

Why blame again and again a set of top politicians who lorded over the country and turned it to what it is today, and waste our time. The need rather is to end this outright loot and restore strength to our systems – what Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he’s doing, but things have changed only to a very small extent, if any, under his leadership. Cleaning up the Augean stables of corruption will possibly take several decades of dedicated work. What Rajiv Gandhi as PM sensed but could not do much about it – of a scenario of more than three-fourths of the billions this nation spends for governmental schemes being looted right and left at the implementation stage – is still a reality state after state; and regional parties are still having a roaring time. Who’s there to ask them? But, fact is also that this scenario has changed for the worse in the last two decades – after the exit of Rajiv Gandhi.

The genie is out of the bottle, and there is no life in India today if there is no corruption from the level of a ward councillor and village office sentry to the level of cabinet ministers. Systems have been devastated thanks largely to incompetent leaders running parties and governments. The legal systems that are supposed to help reverse the trend are ailing too. Corruption has run deep into its veins as well, as is famously established in situations like the “crores for bail” expose involving shady mining barons. The judiciary, like much other governmental arms today, is also seriously handicapped by shortage of judges, one reason why cases are dragging for decades. India’s legal system is found to be wanting in effectively discharging its role. Laws have no teeth, as in cases like the fine for a helmet-less ride being nothing more than a hundred rupees (less than a dollar), being imposed by several police commissionerates in the country. Politicians stand in the way of raising the fines. Why trouble the people who voted them into office! That gives the licensiousness for the wayward men to have more and more of indulgences. Who is bothered? Not the political class that is mostly spending their time devising ways for looting the exchequer and manipulating the systems to their individual advantage; and much of the bureaucracy too has no obsession other than this. Bureaucrats are a demoralised lot, thanks to the degeneration and indulgences of the political class.

Even criminals caught in police net and punished have an easy go. Thugs who are out of jail after serving a term are getting back to committing the same crime from the very moment they are out in the street, be it murder, burglary, robbery, or chain-snatching. Even petty criminals like chain-snatchers are flying by air from city to city these days to target unsuspecting people in the streets. Gangsters operate at the national level, and a part of what they loot goes into the police pockets, and another part to local politicians as protection money. Jailing is no more a painful experience. Rather, all rackets thrive in jails. Cops collude with criminals. And that happens in jail too. Prisoners are made to do little work and given nutritious food -- when nearly half of India’s over one billion population is malnourished. If prisoners are not given rich food, rights activists would jump in and make an issue; they, though, have no concern about half the nation’s population being malnourished! Activists and NGOs need issues to fight for, because they are getting funds from global agencies to promote human rights and the like. Any wonder then that several NGOs, a once-respected lot, are today rackets being operated by vultures who feed on human misery!

Prisoners taken to courts for extension of terms are a sight to watch. They look smarter than what they were before, in looks as well as in their dress. A departure from the old days when prisoners could be identified with the jail uniform they wore– rough shabby Japan clothes. We see prisoners or under-trials today in well-tailored pants and T-shirts, walking with cops as if some Bollywood heroes are walking down the streets! They are wearing a new clout and dignity on their sleeves! Another indication, systems are collapsing or are cocking a snook at law-abiding citizens. The corrupt and the criminals are hand-in-glove, taking the systems for a ride, thanks to the kind of politicians and bureaucrats who have rubbished these systems. Is there, then, any surprise that the Chinese in the neighbourhood have come to know what the text, sub-text and texture of modern India are? This here is an age of degeneration of the society. The economic growth that benefits only the 20 per cent upper layers of the society is nothing more than a celluloid show for the rest of the society -- getting a kick out of the happy good times of others!

As the Chinese said, big talks will not help. That is true of the aftermath of the Surgical Strikes too. Manohar Parrikar, who was not to be seen around for several days after the strikes when the focus was more on NSA Ajit Doval, surfaced after a fortnight, taking credit. “We did it.” That was the time when the Pakistani establishment was still busy turning every fallen leaf on the ground to find out where these strikes had occurred. But, Parrikar was at his effusive best. “People say I am a simple man. But, I know how to twist things a little (and show results),” he explained to a crowd of his BJP partymen in Agra, poll-bound UP. Action done, a studied silence would have been a better option for him and others of his ilk. Rather than talking, why not concentrate on meaningful action if India is to be great; and if so, we can sooner or later shut the mouths of the Chinese.

Communist China was no great shakes till three decades ago, before Deng Xiao Ping kept communist principles aside, got the nation to embrace a capitalist market system and effected a major turnaround of the national economy. India started its economic reforms by taking a leaf from China 10 year later, in the 90s. When China’s cash chests started swelling, the red dragon slowly began scaling up its defence spending -- in the last two decades. Till then, India and China had run a neck and neck race. China managed to be one up over India in defence preparedness only by the beginning of this century or for the past 15 years. Today, they are believed to have five times the firepower of India. The dragon raced ahead; the elephant, caught in trappings of democracy and complacence of the ruling class, walked slowly.

Now, one might wonder why the Pakistanis have not spoken so harshly about India’s ills, as the Chinese did in a below-the-belt hit. After all, the Pakistanis have a bigger axe to grind against this country. Perhaps it needs no microscope to see how worse they too are caught in such situations, the Panama leaks being only one open manifestation of the rot within the Pakistani establishment. By contrast, China can raise its head high, if only for the fact that the fruits of its economic progress are reaching up to the last man in the street. Evidence, for one, is in the latest Global Hunger Index. On a scale of 118 nations, India and Pakistan were among the shameless lot at the bottom of the ladder, ranking 97 and 107 respectively, whereas China had its head high, riding the high horse and hogging a high ranking at 29. Who failed India, if not its corrupt politicians and equally corrupt bureaucracy? -- premcee@gmail.com

Last edited by Premchandran; 11-02-2016 at 06:57 PM
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