|Tuesday, June 13, 2000,
decay of social ethos
state withdraws itself
June 13, 1925
A BRILLIANT political career has been cut short in tragic circumstances at Bhandana near Jaipur. Rajesh Pilot was not the run-of-the-mill politician. He was different from most of the leaders occupying key positions in the Congress. Youthful and dynamic, he drew his sustenance from the grassroots something rare in the 115-year-old organisation dominated as it is mainly by sycophants, mediocre persons and power brokers. He possessed guts, had the courage of conviction and could take a principled stand even to the dislike of the top leadership. He showed considerable guts to order the arrest of the powerful Chandraswami, then being protected by the powers that be. He constantly fought for value-based politics without leaving the organisation. This is what made him different from the firebrand Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar who floated their own political outfits in open defiance of Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Rajesh Pilot was vociferous in his campaign for "one man, one post", which invited displeasure from the coterie around the leader. But he did not care and stuck to his position while remaining in the Congress. Those who have known the IAF fighter pilot-turned-politician graciously acknowledge that Rajesh Pilot had the making of a Prime Minister. There is, no doubt, that he had all the qualities to rise further in the political ladder. He showed considerable understanding of the country's pressing problems, including the Kashmir imbroglio in which he had been taking personal interest right from the days he was the Minister of State for Internal Security in the Narasimha Rao regime. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially the Gujjar community, adored him for his fighting spirit.
Rajesh Pilot was surely
not an intellectual giant. But he did not hesitate to
seek guidance and counsel from knowledgeable persons and
experts whom he treated with care and consideration.
Unfortunately, we don't see many leaders of his calibre
and promise. His death is not only a terrible blow to the
Congress, which is still struggling to find its feet and
revive its old glory and mass base, but also a national
loss. In his death, the Congress is poorer by half.
Maybe, his untimely death would induce the leadership to
look at the party in a more rational manner and allow
promising young leaders rooted to the soil to play a
meaningful role in the revival of the party. This will be
the real tribute to the former IAF fighter pilot who
believed in fighting for the people's causes. "I
can't uplift them (my people, my India) flying an
aircraft. So, it is politics," he reportedly said
once. He was also well aware of the fact that there are
no shortcuts to the success in politics. It is, however,
a pity that today's leaders belonging to different
political groups act more as opportunists and
wheeler-dealers than pursuing value-based politics for
the good of the people. The eventful career of Pilot
should provide some solid lessons in public life and
inspire the younger generation how not to conduct
themselves in the murky world of Indian politics. He
lived by setting examples. Amidst the vulgar extravaganza
of Mr Laloo Pradad Yadav and Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav
during the weddings of their wards, he kept the wedding
of his daughter early this year a simple private affair.
He was surely a class apart and hence worthy of emulation
in today's cut-throat competitive politics!
A BUNCH of hurriedly thought and misshapen ideas do not make a policy, as indeed the series of ad hoc measures to get rid of the huge wheat stock do not make sense. The thrust area is in offering as high as five million tonnes for sale through auction. The Central government says anybody, including the state governments, can buy the grain. Obviously New Delhi has the two state governments of Punjab and Haryana in mind, since it makes a big play of these housing the largest stock, about 10 million tonnes. What will the two states do with wheat? Their own purchase agencies are saddled with a small mountain of wheat because of the FCIs inability to lift it. They are in the business of selling the foodgrain and not buying it. It is like asking Himachal Pradesh to import apple at the height of the fruit season. Or, is it the hope is that states like Rajasthan will come rushing to accept this huge volume and somehow find ways to transport it to various godowns? If so, a more commonsensical option would be to ask the FCI to sound out the states and employ the organisations idle efficiency to do the rest. Finally, the Central government should not be under any illusion that private individuals and institutions will either need this very large stock or have the financial means to enter the auction. During recent months private agencies bought a little less than 2.43 lakh tonnes in Punjab and 1.07 lakh tonnes in Haryana, or about 4 per cent of the wheat now for sale. Even if there is this giant hunger for the grain, traders will try to meet their demand from those farmers who are sitting on sizeable quantities expecting the price to go up later in the year.
But this is the lesser
problem. The nearly insurmountable one is pricing. At the
1999 procurement price the economic cost of a quintal of
wheat was fixed at Rs 900. This was given a big play when
the Finance Minister increased the price of wheat and
rice sold through fair price shops. This fact is in
public knowledge and that limits the governments
manoeuvrability. No one will come anywhere near the
auction venue if the minimum price is close to this
economic cost. For wheat is available at about Rs 700 a
quintal in the open market. Of course this economic cost
is based on the FCI storing it for one year.
Theoretically, therefore, the grain procured this year
should cost a lot less, say about Rs 650, based on the
purchase price and handling charges. But selling the
fresh stock will make no commercial sense. In fact, it
will make commercial nonsense. Such a sale will condemn
the old stock to rot since a huge public demand for 5
million tonnes will be sucked away, forcing the FCI to
hold on to the grain till weather and rodents make it
unfit for human consumption. The proposal to offer wheat
as commodity loan to all SAARC countries has the merit of
being a non-starter. Barring Pakistan other countries are
basically rice-eaters. And Pakistan is unlikely to relish
Indian rotis in the present atmosphere of tension. If New
Delhi is thinking of converting wheat into crude through
barter, it is so much unnatural gas. Wheat costs at least
30 per cent less in world market than in India. There is
one country which needs wheat and several million tonnes.
China is in the grip of a drought and wheat output is
expected to fall by about 8 per cent to 105 million
tonnes. If the government can overcome the price
disadvantage, it has a willing customer. But can it
without facing angry protests from below the poverty line
ration card holders?
UNDER normal circumstances very few Indians would be interested in what is going on in Sierra Leone, an insignificant West African country, though known for its rich diamond deposits. India today finds itself dangerously caught in the 10-year-old crisis there. A powerful group of rebels under the banner of the Revolutionary United Front has taken hostage 21 Indian soldiers, who were part of the United Nations peacekeeping force, and their fate appears uncertain, going by the ruthless manner in which the forces opposed to the one-party government of the All-People's Congress have been functioning. The seriousness of the situation can be understood from the fact that a high-level team of representatives of the External Affairs Ministry, the Ministry of Defence and Army Headquarters has rushed to the trouble-torn country to negotiate the release of the Indian soldiers. India's stand is that it is the responsibility of the UN to ensure the safe release of its soldiers, being used by the RUF to get its highly unreasonable demands accepted.
The RUF, whose leader Foday Sankoh is in government custody, instead of directly approaching the UN, has contacted the commander of the Indian contingent with some political demands to be taken up with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). The rebels perhaps believe that India will use its good offices to persuade the UN to accept the RUF's demands, but both the world body and India have outrightly rejected the blackmailing tactics. India has rightly described this as an act of terrorism. However, it is a question of 21 precious lives. There is need for extreme caution.
The RUF wants the
release of not only its leader, Sankoh, but also all its
members arrested so far before agreeing to hold any kind
of negotiations. Sankoh is a crook and a ruthless killer
like Idi Amin of Uganda. His men at one stage promised to
release the Indian peacekeepers being held hostage but
suddenly they changed their mind. The truth is that
nothing less than a share in power on its own terms will
satisfy the RUF, already controlling two-thirds of Sierra
Leone. Sankoh wants to capture power by hook or by crook,
as his friend, Charles Taylor, did in Liberia, in the
neighbourhood of Sierra Leone. That is the reason why he
has never allowed any peace accord reached with his group
to succeed. The last agreement signed for establishing
peace in Sierra Leone offered the RUF four Cabinet posts.
As a result, a national unity government came into being.
But the RUF leader and his followers did not mend their
ways. They violated the accord with impunity. The
agreement had it that RUF members would lay down their
arms and cooperate in the reconstruction of the country.
They did the opposite of it, leading to the fall of the
government. The country had a fresh civil war. India has
to deal with such treacherous characters. One hopes the
Indian soldiers will be back home unharmed.
decay of social ethos
IS there a trend of decay of social ethos in the country, as exemplified by several unusual and unfortunate events in recent weeks? Let us take a few instances. There is an alarming increase in angry or reckless motorists killing people on Delhis roads. On May 16 night two groups of people, all reportedly drunk, had a nasty quarrel on the road after their cars were involved in a minor accident. Provoked by an abuse by one of them, the opposite party leader took out his revolver and shot all the three of the other car, killing one on the spot and seriously injuring the two.
Two weeks earlier a businessman, who was taking his family for eating in a restaurant, had his car parked on the road. It was scraped by another car. Instead of getting down and apologising or explaining, the offender tried to speed away, knocking down the businessman who was standing in front of the car trying to prevent it from driving away. Having run over him, the culprit, a skating instructor at the Talkatora Stadium, Delhi, drove home along with his wife and children, who were also in the car, and went and slept as if nothing had happened. In yet another case a businessman speeding in his car on May 12 knocked down an elderly man who was injured seriously. A few businessmen picked up the injured person, ostensibly to take him to hospital, but after driving some distance quietly dumped the unfortunate victim and drove away. Thanks to the initiative of some people, the injured person was taken to hospital for treatment but the offender had absconded.
There are too many dowry deaths and wife abuse cases not only in the Capital but all over the country. In the second week of May the Delhi Police arrested the husband and in-laws of a 22-year-old woman who was constantly beaten and kept under confinement for two long years. The unfortunate woman was so sick that she could hardly stand up. Relief to the woman came when her widowed mother complained to the police. But why talk about this case of a lower middle class from one of the remote colonies of Delhi when there are similar cases emanating from the higher echelons of society? The daughter-in-law of an influential and senior politician from a northern state had recently filed a police complaint regarding dowry harassment and constant ill-treatment at the hands of her husband who was also charged with various other illegal acts. In Delhi, there was yet another case of a businessman harassing his wife for not bringing sufficient money to enable him to buy a Honda City car. In this case the husband went to the extent of shooting his wife to death, which aroused the anger and social consciousness of the people living in the area who invaded the house of the guilty family and smashed whatever they could come across, including the prized car which was kept parked in the house.
If dowry demands are a perennial blot on Indian society, the ancient curse of caste distinction and disability continues to cast a shadow on society. A police constable belonging to an upper caste shot dead four dalits in Faizabad since the constables daughter was in love with a dalit boy. The matter was raised in Parliament and the Home Minister assured the House that stringent action would be taken. There was a different kind of caste harassment in Rajasthan. The SHO of Sanganer police station, who belonged to a lower category of Jats, was reportedly harassed by upper caste Jats because of incompatible marriage between the two groups of Jats. The upper caste Jats beat up the family members of the SHO and snatched away jewellery and other items. The sad fact in this case was that the SHOs complaint was not acted upon until he approached media persons and unashamedly cried before them narrating his story. After the media publicity the law was set in motion. But such cases are happening every day in almost every corner of the country, whether it is Punjab or Tamil Nadu. And yet no effective help, much less preventive help, is being extended to protect the affected people from the marauders from upper castes.
What about the highway robberies which seem to be everyday events in UP and that too within 100 km from the Capital? There were at least two incidents when highway robbers attacked travelling passengers on the highways leading to Delhi. In both cases, in spite of car drivers speeding up and trying to break through obstructions placed by robbers, the offenders chased them in their own cars and looted them after inflicting serious injuries. This is nothing short of the revival of thuggee which was a menace and curse during the declining years of Mughal rule when people hardly stirred out of the Capital for long journeys without going in groups and with proper escorts. Col Sleemans constant expeditions against thugs and pindaris restored a semblance of order. However, it is clear that the descendants of the thugs are still very much active in these parts even today.
Talking about social ethos, much has been said about Bihar but we continue to hear more shocking stories from that state. A report narrates the gunning down of a senior lawyer and his wife with an AK 47 rifle in broad daylight in Siwan district and a similar killing of yet another lawyer in Bettiah in West Champaran district. The report concludes that most of the crimes are committed by the gangs having political patronage, and they go undetected as neither the policemen nor the politicians are interested in pursuing them. In Bihar again, a Cabinet Minister, a Vice-Chancellor, an IAS officer (Secretary) and 26 others were reportedly involved in a racket of award of as many as 40,000 bogus degrees to teachers from several states after collecting huge sums of money. There was also the case of a school boy who was declared topper in the class X examinations conducted in Bihar and being admitted to a well-known Delhi school. The boy could not pass a single examination held by the Delhi school during a whole year, resulting in his expulsion. What will happen to the country if the doctors and engineers passing out of the Bihar universities year after year with such dubious degrees taking up medical jobs to treat the sick people? What will be the fate of the bridges they may construct?
Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa are in the grip of a drought. Though the drought has been brought about by the continuous failure of seasonal rain, the acts of omission and commission by the administration are no less a contributory factor. While mass migrations are taking place to cities by the poor seeking employment and sustenance, hundreds and thousands of cattle have perished. In the midst of all these unfortunate events comes the heart-rending story of a number of peasants from Andhra selling their kidneys for sums of about Rs 50,000 each. A national daily reported that about a hundred farmers had gone to Delhi for the purpose, and there were at least 26 known cases of kidney selling. Where have the donated kidneys gone and who were the beneficiaries? Were they sent to the Gulf and did the middlemen make a huge profit in the process? What is the role of the state and the Centre? How is it that the district administration did not hear about these events happening within its jurisdiction? Should it not have intervened to give some immediate relief to avert it?
From Chandigarh comes the report of an erstwhile Home Secretary of the Union Territory being arrested by the CBI on corruption charges. But the reports of corruption among the Indian cricketers really take the cake. The lid has just been prised open, and the forthcoming revelations may lead to a sense of outrage and may indeed be like a slap on the face of starry-eyed young cricket fans of the country.
These events call for introspection and soul-searching by all thinking people. Is the social ethos decaying steadily or are these only aberrations?
Factors behind Chinese trap
CHINA has entered into an agreement with the USA paving the way for its entry into the WTO. But it is only likely to prolong the agony of the people because the fundamental problems have not been tackled in the process. In fact, the agreement will pave the way for the continuation of the not-so-healthy state of affairs of the Chinese economy.
China has been the envy of globalisers during the last decade. Its ability to attract huge foreign investment, inflows, to maintain a nearly two-digit rate of growth continuously, and its burgeoning trade surplus do appear to be remarkable feats. The Asian Development Banks Outlook 2000, for example, expresses confidence that a rate of growth only somewhat lower than that at present obtaining can be sustained. Nothing to worry, it would seem.
But the facade of Chinas economic miracle is torn away when we compare its present performance to that five years ago. In its Outlook 1996, the ADB had painted a glowing picture of the improvement in the conditions of the average Chinese then: Considerable benefits, including welfare improvements to a majority of the population, have been achieved since the reform process began.... The official unemployment rate remained low at an estimated 2.9 per cent... the non-state sector has taken the lead in generating additional job opportunities. At that time the ADB had estimated the number of the unemployed and the underemployed in the rural areas to be 120 million. With such euphoria, we may have expected all to have been well five years down the road.
Alas, no. Outlook 2000 paints a rather different picture. The ADB now warns that despite having lifted 227 million people from absolute poverty, it is difficult to assess the extent of unemployment. Unofficial sources indicate that about 150 million, or 30 per cent of the rural labour force, are either unemployed or underemployed. The official unemployment rate has since climbed to 3.1 per cent. The number of the unemployed in rural as well as urban areas has increased despite the miracle.
In fact, the ground reality may be much worse. According to the World Bank, the poorest 20 per cent of the Chinese people got 6.6 per cent of the national income in 1994. In 1999 it was down to 5.5 per cent. The miracle brigade should ponder as to why the common man is getting no respite.
Gone too is the exuberance of the mid-nineties that the private sector will generate additional job opportunities. It has been replaced with a warning that the crucial challenge before the government is to ensure that economic growth generates enough jobs to hold the unemployment rate in check. The ball has landed in the court of the government five years later.
The ADB was all gung-ho about FDI inflows five years ago. The inflow of FDI had increased from $26 billion in 1993 to $34 billion in 1994. The ADB had at that time happily proclaimed that infrastructure, technology and capital-intensive projects accounted for the largest proportion of approved projects.
The supposedly high growth rates which are at the centre of the globalisers envy are suspect too. The present growth estimates do not account for the huge bad loans being extended by the government to the ailing PSUs. It is only when these are written off that the true picture will be known. Chinas situation may be similar to the profits shown by our sarkari banks earlier. The simple method adopted by them was to debit interest on the bad loans and credit an equal amount to profits. It is only when the RBI established strict norms for disclosures of non-performing assets that the skeletons came tumbling out of the cupboards.
Has something gone wrong with the miracle? To unravel this mystery we have to understand the basic process of globalisation adopted by China. China attracted huge FDI inflows. This money was used to provide loans to the public sector units which were continuously running in loss. The losses were due to the Communist Party officials bleeding the PSUs; and they being encouraged to increase exports even at below-cost prices.
This has turned China Inc into a company which is continuously selling fresh equity to make up for the losses. Fresh FDI inflows are being used to provide cushion to the PSU bureaucracy and subsidies on exports which ultimately benefit the foreign consumers. FDI is needed by China to keep this unfortunate process going.
China has managed to land itself in a rather unsavoury situation. It has no recourse but to attract more FDI to stay afloat. And in order to assure foreign investors that it will not renege on globalisation it has had to join the WTO. In the process it has had to give many concessions.
As part of the WTO agreements, China has also agreed to open up its services sector to foreign investment. As a result, FDI inflows may pick up. This is, once again, likely to be a short-run phenomenon like in the mid-nineties because the underlying rot in the system is not sought to be corrected. The rot will only be perpetuated by these inflows.
It is in the interest of
multinational corporations and multilateral agencies like
the ADB to continue painting a rosy picture of China
until they have firmly secured their catheters to draw
its wealth. But North Block should beware. Before getting
carried with the Chinese model of the FDI-led coverup of
the domestic rot, the wise men should take a closer look
at the underlying shakiness of the Chinese economy, and
not push India into the same trap.
THE word but has many dimensions and hues and can be used very interestingly as different parts of speech. It would be, therefore, necessary first to dwell on them a little in order to choose the exact form for our present exposition.
Any book of grammar will tell us that but can be used as: preposition (None but the brave deserves the fair); adverb (he is but a novice); noun (You will give us a treat and let there be no buts about it); pronoun (There is not a man but feels pity.); verb (But me no buts.); conjunction (He is slow, but he is sure.). It is as a conjunction that the word is at its stimulating and ironical best. In this form, it can juxtapose the differences, heighten the contrast and turn the tide, all with great effect. It can set at naught all that has been said before. According to Bulwer, but has the prowess to cool a warm impulse, stifle a kindly thought and kill a brotherly deed. Let us explore some of these charms, twists and turns.
There is a story by E.M. Forster about the meeting of the Russian king, Frederick the Great, and the French Philosopher Voltaire. The meeting took place in Russia, and both were overwhelmed. After a few days of holidaying, Voltaire wrote a letter to his friend back home in France. The letter stated:
The king was extremely cultured, but...
The courtiers were charming and my stay as a guest of honour immensely comfortable, but...
The music in the kings court was exquisite, but...
The ladies were most beautiful, but...
The country was fair and the view breathtaking, but...
The but changed everything; it was like mingling contempt with praise. The fact was that Frederick was a tyrant, even though he was a benign dictator. This disregard for equality and democracy was something which the free spirit of Voltaire could not accept. All the charm faded, as a consequence.
Here is another anecdote which portrays the predicament of a lover. To use his own words: When I spoke of art, she yawned. When I deplored the sordidness of the world, she laughed. When I told her what a treasure of beauty and freshness she had, she ridiculed. When I reproached her with her brutality, she became angry. But.... Let the reader rack his mind to find what followed but, or let him provide an imaginary description which would be most appropriate to the context.
One more example from the home turf. Summarising his stay in India, a foreign tourist bemoaned: In India, telephones dont work; the food is oily and dangerous; hygiene and cleanliness are a scare; bribery is a part of the culture; public services are bogged down by red tape; travel by any mode is neither safe nor sure; women of any age or colour are unsafe on the road. But.... I think most of us can supply the anticlimax without waiting for the tourist to conclude his harangue.
At on place Deniel Webster employs the conjunction very ingeniously to emphasise the enduring value of mental edification. Says he: If we work marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble to dust; but, if we work upon immortal minds and instil into them just principles, we are then engraving upon tablets which no time will erase; but which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.
However, the most skilful use of but comes from Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. After Brutus had assassinated Caesar, he explains his reasons: ... If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more... As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.... To control the fury of the people at the ghastly event, Antony made a stirring speech: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears... Come I to speak in Caesars funeral / He was my friend, faithful and just to me / But Brutus says he was ambitious / and Brutus is an honourable man... I speak not to disprove what Brutus says / But here I am to speak what I do know...
Such was the power of these orations that they swung the ire of the mob. These elocutions are considered as unrivalled models to channelise and rein mass hysteria.
I have no doubt that the
reader will come up with more brilliant and fascinating
vignettes of but. And if his imagination were
to be so ignited or memory so actuated, my purpose would
have been duly served.
As state withdraws
IN our times, bureaucratic reshuffle at the Centre has been considered story-breakers especially when there was no other big event. What ministry will go to whom and why were endlessly analysed, citing the respective incumbents previous achievements and expertise. They were all played up as page one lead. Political, regional or business lobbies were yet to emerge as string-pullers. The bureaucracy had still enjoyed some respect and integrity.
As the system degenerates, politicians and bureaucrats are increasingly seen as Siamese twins. We all have contributed to the erosion of the system. Cynics among us have made it a fashion to blame politicians as a class for the steady decay of the system as they held mixed economy responsible for the alleged stagnation. Gandhians were scoffed at, communist veterans condemned and the RSS old guard ridiculed even by some post-reform BJP leaders. This makes it easy to target the remaining few honest men and women spread over the political spectrum. This cultivated contempt is reflected even in the headlines like strange bedfellows on a mission, ex-PMs search for a job and our past masters in search of chaos.
The irony has been that if the politicians as a class had failed us by violating the political dharma, much of the blame for it should rest collectively with we the people as a class. We, the voters as a class cannot shirk the responsibility for electing criminals and dacoits to Parliament and legislatures. Had we used our power of votes to punish the crooks and brought up the politicians with integrity and selfless service many are still left that itself might have helped clean up politics. Instead, those of us who denigrate the entire political system themselves helped create a situation where only those with muzzle and money powers could dominate politics.
While politicians and bureaucrats themselves should share the blame for their own steady devaluation, the way they are being deliberately demonised does have a deep design. It will apparently enhance the inevitability of the new gods and goddesses, some indigenous and mostly global. If the politician-bureaucrat nexus has been the main reason for all our decay, the new saviours alone could take us to salvation. Even the NGOs are a bunch of selfish groups bent on obstructing development and coming in the way of good governance. Bollywood heroes, worshipped for decades, have already got entangled with underworld dons and ISI. Now the long-time idols, demi-gods for millions of cricket lovers, remain shattered like a fallen glass jar.
Everything has a pattern. After demolishing all institutions and old pantheons, we are now looking for the sex symbols, beauty idols and models as saviours. Their long interviews stating their determination to fight social evils and removal of poverty are gleefully highlighted on front pages. The consumerist idols have their own utility as tools of commerce. In the olden era, business and trade were never a holy cow. Even the establishment had at times tried to confront them for their greed and exploitation. This writer was witness to the hot exchanges at an Ahmedabad reception in1969 between the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Gujarat chambers. You cant bully me, an angry Indira Gandhi shouted and had walked out.
Efforts at devaluation of the old order without providing for suitable alternatives invariably lead to erosion of the established social and moral dharma. Until recently, every criminal action, violation of law, tax dodging, hawala racket and plain cheating were all blamed on the permit, licence quota raj and the Mahalanobis model. Now we realise the harsh truth that the removal of restrictions have only led to new controls and new quotas to favour a new genre of holy brahmins. Lobbying for favours has become more intense and widespread than the days of the licence raj. One can feel their subtle presence every-where in the capital five star hotels, sprawling bungalows, and the main blocks and bhawans constituting the establishment. To grab the best PSUs, for suitable strategic partners, getting joint venture deals without open bidding, tax concessions even for institutional investors whose contribution to asset formation is nil. Name anything you will have them provided you know how to pull the right string. Through the regional bosses or the present political favourites in Delhi. This writer can say on oath that at least in the past 38 years, the lobbyists and liaison men and women have never had it so good in Delhi. The success depends on the right mix of politics with business. Thus the more the liberalisation and the withdrawal of the state, the more ubiquitous the shady operators. Some for the locals and others for the MNCs with higher stakes.
We have failed to notice the new phenomenon of a new set of lower-level operators determined to get rich quick irrespective of the means adopted. The urge might have always existed but the tight system and the latent moral sanction had apparently discouraged such elements. They have now spread everywhere. From middle class localities to small town peripheries. A feeling has gained ground among them that the new economic philosophy sanctions anything if it is for making money. No one seems to correct such views. On the other, everything favours the new breed of mushrooming racketeers. Society winks at them so long as the middle or upper crust is not directly affected. The Police, instead of checking crime, share the booty. Few seems to bother about the new emphasis on good governance to facilitate orderly running of the business.
In the late 60s, we had a solitary Natwar Lal known for ingenious cheating and getting away with it. His name had become a synonym for outright cheats. Now we have much bigger Natwar Lals in every locality. Some reported, others ignored just for their unpleasantness. Apparently, public perception itself is undergoing change. Take the case of how a couple of racketeers in Delhi ran a parallel New Delhi Municipal Committee (NDMC) department for over three years under the very nose of the Union Home Ministry. Finally it was busted by some public spirited workers. Yet someone had to approach the court with a PIL for proper police action into this most unusual challenge to the existence of the state.
A school dropout has been the brain behind this full-fledged NDMC office with a regular sign board and all paraphernalia. He recruited the staff and went on paying them monthly salary. Each candidate was asked to pay a premium of Rs 30,000 to 50,000 for the job on the NDMC forms. Written tests and interviews followed before the appointment letters were issued on the NDMC insignia. Most of them were getting a monthly ad hoc payment of Rs 3,000 for which they were to sign the regular roster and do routine NDMC work like painting the road dividers. While 300 employees were doing all this, neither the NDMC, the police nor any other authority took note of it. In the process, the racketeers had amassed property worth Rs 1.5 crore and a fleet of four new luxury cars.
Another group of two smart men opened an office of the social welfare department in Sultanpuri area of Delhi. They charged as much as Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.40 lakh depending on the grade of the job. Some were appointed as sub-divisional officers with regular appointment orders after due police verification. They were all issued with identity cards with the Ashoka pillar emblem. The culprits were finally nabbed by an alert victim. In small areas, this sort of privatisation has been going on unchecked. In most cases, the culprits either hoodwink the victims or simply disappear. Perhaps, many of us do not know the existence of a mritak sangh (dead mens association) in UP to fight for their cause.
They are the men and women got surreptitiously registered as dead in government records by the interested parties. Some may be relatives and others seeking to simply grab the deads property. Once such crooks manage to produce a false death certificate of the victims, it was impossible for the poor and infirm to challenge it in a court of law and prove they are very much alive. Thus these dead men live to tell their own sad fate. Their number is so large but neither the police nor society cares to provide them moksha from the property sharks.
When such wanton abuse of law takes place, the whole state really withdraws itself. Fancy terms like road rage car owners abusing, bashing and shooting down others on the road are only manifestations of such growing social malady. Road rage sounds a lesser crime just because the perpetrators belonged to the upper strata. The law and order machinery more respectfully handle the educated, cell phone wielding, high-style urban gangs than the normal criminals. It is high time for a serious study into the causes of the new phenomenon discernible all over the country and to find out to as to what extent they are connected with the recent trend of demonstrative consumerism.
Social psychologists attribute the new trends to a sort of acquisition-deprivation syndrome. The whole marketing strategy is founded on the principle of more and more acquisition and the pride of being in an exclusive club of users. While it serves the purpose of inducing the targets to buy more, it also leaves a deep feeling of guilt and deprivation among the rest. The envy, cravings and covetousness lead to suppressed anger. When deprivation and opulence co-exist, violence is perceived as functional to the satisfaction of needs that appear otherwise inaccessible. A weak state apparatus will find it impossible to deal with such complicated situations.
That is Fullness, this
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, V, I.
I protest by your
rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord,
The Holy Bible, I Corinthians, 15:31
Let a man be a Christian in the matter of mercy, a Moslem in the matter of strict observance of external forms, and a Hindu in the matter of universal charity, charity towards all living creatures.
Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna, chapter XI, 480
A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.
G.K. Chesterton, The Book of Job
Brahman is supreme; he is self-luminous, he is beyond all thought.
Subtler than the subtlest is he, farther than the farthest, nearer than the nearest. He resides in the shrine of the heart of every being.
Mundaka Upanishad, 3.1.7
A religion that requires persecution to sustain it is of the devils propagation.
I am for religion against religion.
Victor Hugo, Prefacto Les Miserables
To be furious in religion is to be irreligiously religious.
William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude, 1.533
I fully believe that it is the will of the Almighty that there should be a diversity of religious opinion among us. I look upon the various denominations among us as children of the same family, differing only in what is called their Christian names.
Thomas Paine, Common Sense
If one dies while
IT is understood that the Government of Behar and Orissa has addressed all local bodies asking them whether they were prepared to spend a fixed percentage of their total expenditure on the education of girls. Obviously this suggestion has been made on account of the very meagre amount spent by local bodies on female education, which is not making satisfactory progress. The fixing of a definite proportion of the total educational expenditure to be spent on female education will undoubtedly be advantageous. The question of importance to all Provinces in India. A more satisfactory method would be for Government to make a special grant for female education and the Municipalities and District Boards. It would be interesting to know what the opinion of local bodies is in this matter.
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