Thursday, 18 August 2011

Gandhian methods in motion.

For an average Indian, the acquaintance with Mahatma Gandhi is a daily occurrence; thanks to his pictures on the promissory currency notes issued by the Reserve Bank of India. But beyond this symbolism, not many people actually care to know the persona of Gandhi. Every child has read that this man almost single handedly drove the British out of India. We have seen Gandhi as a frail; almost tottering old man walking with a stick, in all those B&W archival video footages but we some how were never convinced that he could rattle the almighty British Empire. Yes, the historians have exaggerated a wee bit since the contribution of the revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was also significant. But even then Gandhi stood out from the motley crowd of freedom fighters and the reason was his concept of “Satyagraha” with the weapons of truth and non-violence. I personally was never convinced that Gandhi’s methods were as effective as it was projected, especially against an absolute colonial power. But believe me I was forced to eat the humble pie, (I am very proud of it) when I actually saw the Gandhian methods in motion, courtesy Anna Hazare. I will tell you why.

I don’t need to elaborate on the background of Anna Hazare’s movement since it goes without saying that people are aware of it. We need to look at the chronology of events of 16th & 17th of August 2011. Anna had declared that he will undertake his fast from the 16th. The police arrived at Anna’s residence in East Delhi and picked him up at 7:30 in the morning. The manner in which the police detained him is surely reserved for hardcore criminals or terrorists who are a threat to the society. Anna was moved around the Delhi roads to dodge the media and was subsequently taken to a police Officers mess. From there on he was shifted to Tihar Jail. All this while the Home Minister P.Chidambaram feigned ignorance about Anna’s whereabouts when the whole world knows that Delhi Police takes direct orders from him. After the spontaneous protests all over India against Anna’s detention, the government lost its nerve and decided to release Anna in the evening. The Congress party sycophants credited this decision to the intervention of Yuvraj Rahul Gandhi. But the government was in for a pretty prickly surprise; Anna refused to leave the jail till his condition of unrestricted indefinite fast was met. This was the revelation of Gandhian methods in practice. Anna steadfastly refused to move and this led to mass gatherings of people outside the jail and at other places. Just imagine! Any person in the world would not stay a minute in the jail after his release orders but here is a man who says very politely that I will leave jail on my own terms and the powerful government is negotiating those terms with him. Would you believe it? Any mere mortal would have been thrown in and thrown out of the jail in no time but Anna had employed the Gandhian weapon of Satyagraha to amazing effect. All those of us who had read about Satyagraha, had the privilege to see it in actual practice and I was simply bowled over. I could not believe the peaceful reaction of the people on the streets especially after their beloved Anna was treated like an ordinary criminal.

The ill advised government, instead of catching the pulse of the people, rather foolishly kept defending its draconian actions and made an absolute mockery of itself. The PM in his speech had the temerity to hint that Anna’s movement was to destabilize India’s growth story and some international vested interests were behind it. Our PM, who had not much of credibility, has now totally lost all grace. With a day and a half of terrible bungling and continuous flip-flops, the government finally surrendered to the Gandhian methods of Anna Hazare. The news coming on this 18th morning is that Anna is allowed to fast unconditionally for 14 days and there is no restriction on the extension of the fast if Anna so wishes. Just imagine that a 74 year old man who till yesterday was a threat to law and order, is now free to assemble as many people as he wants in the heart of Delhi and continue his protest till the time he deems fit. What an absolute victory without a single stone being thrown and without a single curse being uttered! My salutations to the youth of our great country who responded to the clarion call of Anna Hazare and came to peacefully support him. The legacy of Gandhi is very much alive and his method of non violent protest is relevant even today. It’s high time we rediscover the Mahatma of yesteryear and support his able pupil of modern times; the irrepressible Anna Hazare. 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Keep the faith.

Democracy has always been the jewel in the crown of India. Almost every country which got independence after the Second World War, could not sustain the uninterrupted democratic process. India was the only shining exception where Parliamentary democracy thrived and the military always remained subservient to the elected civilian government. An independent judiciary along with an independent Election Commission made India a complete working democracy.

An integral part of democracy are the politicians whom the people elect to govern themselves. The people of India have always expressed extreme emotions towards political leaders, ranging from eulogizing dynasties to being terribly cynical of self serving Netas. Due to various instances of misrule by our politicians, there has been expression of outrage and enormous anger by the people. But the things have gone so bad in the last few years that the people routinely treat our elected leaders with utter contempt and disdain. The respect which our political class somehow maintained in spite of terrible governance record has now been almost totally eroded. The main reason for this scorn is the corruption among our political class and the almost open loot of the public money.

As we are aware that for more than four decades of our independent existence, socialism was the economic system we had adopted. Socialism included state control of almost every part of the economy ostensibly to help the poor masses. In a closed; state controlled economy, hardly any wealth was generated and India remained a country with more than three quarters of the population in appalling poverty. The infrastructure was creaky and even basic amenities like clean drinking water and proper housing; even in cities was a luxury. Consumers had to buy whatever the government offered since the right to pick and choose commodities was non existent. The lack of wealth creation due to skewed economic policies resulted in neglect of even critical areas like defence, education and health care. Somehow we believed our leaders that India is an agriculture oriented economy and that western capitalist models were not fit for us. We as a nation excelled in almost nothing and with no economic progress in sight, the people were busy in religious, linguistic, casteist, sectarian and other similar divisive issues. But all that changed dramatically in early 1990’s when our economy was in dire straits and government had no money to pay its bills. Therefore, rather reluctantly we had to undertake economic reforms and the economy was opened up. The result was that enormous amount of wealth was generated and poverty figures were almost halved in the last twenty years. The face of the nation changed and then came the biggest byproduct of economic boom; “Corruption of monumental proportions”.

India has witnessed corruption scandals with alarming regularity in the last few years. The morals of the people in power eroded rapidly along with a rapidly growing economy. The present UPA government led by eminent economist Dr.Manmohan Singh has crossed all limits of moral propriety. Dr.Manmohan Singh has been awfully ineffective in tackling corruption among his ministers. The combined worth of present scams is around 2,50,000 crores. The worst part is that various revelations in the media have established the fact that Dr.Singh was very much aware of the wrongdoings of his ministers but he somehow chose to remain mum and looked the other way. PM ignored the nefarious activities of his former telecom minister A.Raja, since he had to keep his ally, DMK happy. The result was that A.Raja looted the exchequer in broad light and PM did not act till the media pressurized and Supreme Court intervened. Thankfully, Raja and his corporate cronies are in jail. But what about the corruption of Dr.Singh’s own party ministers? He surely had no coalition compulsions so why he didn’t act against the likes of Suresh Kalmadi and waited for media and apex court to intervene? Now here is another paradox. Dr.Manmohan Singh is the PM but is not the President of the Congress party, which of course is Sonia Gandhi. To make matters worse, Sonia Gandhi is also the UPA chairperson and the head of powerful National Advisory Council. Therefore it is amply clear that the real power is in the hands of Sonia Gandhi and her coterie and that Dr.Singh is just a figure head. So what's happening is that Sonia Gandhi has all the powers but Dr.Singh has all the responsibility! With such a power set up, little wonder that even the Congress ministers and MP’s choose to by pass the PM and this in turn has further encouraged  corruption.  

By bringing in a weak Lok Pal bill, the government has literally added insult to injury. The arrogance of power among the senior Congress ministers is palpable. They are mocking the people who are questioning them as if to tell them that you can’t touch us before 2014 when the next general elections are due. The failure of ineffective Dr.Singh and all powerful Sonia Gandhi, to tackle corruption has led to this mass anger against the political class which in turn is not a healthy sign for our democracy. I think people should keep faith in democratic procedures and with the help of a vigilant media along with an independent judiciary, corrupt politicians and their cronies should be pressurized relentlessly till they are brought to justice. We have a very long fight on our hands and we should remember that the will of the people is Supreme in a democracy.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Crown is slipping.

Team India's second successive defeat in England has left the fans in utter disbelief. We all know that winning and losing is a part and parcel of the game but the manner in which the Indian team has capitulated, is simply disgusting. The team just seemed to lack the stomach to give a fight to the English. There is no doubt that Team India is plagued by injuries to key players like Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir and of course Virender Sehwag is recuperating from shoulder surgery. But even without these players, the Indian team is a formidable unit and there was no acceptable reason to be pushed over by the Poms so easily. So what went wrong?

For starters, I think the team is looking listless and jaded. Indian cricket team always has played more international cricket than any other nation for more than a decade now. The BCCI has always been accused of making money even at the expense of fitness of players and the quality of cricket being played. If that was not enough, IPL came in with a bang. No doubt the IPL brought fantastic money to the players and also helped in nurturing new talent. But the problem is that around 50 days of IPL were squeezed in to the already cramped international schedule of Indian cricketers and that too in the peak of scorching Indian summer. Most of the players who were carrying niggles had their injuries aggravated but the lure of big money kept them going. IPL was over and then so many of the players excused themselves to either take much needed rest or to nurse their injuries. Therefore the full team was not available for the West Indies tour. Nonetheless the team did win in West Indies. But the signs of fatigue were clearly visible even in West Indies when in the last test, Dhoni decided not to press for a probable victory citing the risk of losing the match. But against the powerful and fresh England team, India was terribly exposed.

The club vs country debate will start again. Should the players in need of rest and who are recovering from injuries, keep playing for their clubs at the expense of their availability to play for India? The star Indian players are already very rich therefore should they still give priority to the club over the country? Don't the players realize that their brand value is due to their success while playing for India? If the players can opt out of playing for India citing injuries or to take rest, then why can't they give the same reason for not playing IPL? I am not against IPL but the BCCI and the players need to rationalize their priorities and always keep the country above everything else.

Technically, we can still retain our number one test ranking since two more matches are to be played. But more than the rankings, the fans would like to see some fighting spirit from the team. Indian team in any case was not going to hold on to the number one spot for a long time since the gap between the top three teams was marginal, but the fans would not like to behold the sight of the team getting dethroned in utter disgrace.