A survey of what is happening on the national scene gives a very alarming foreboding for the future of India. It appears the country is hurtling headlong into a situation that holds a potential for imploding with catastrophic consequences to its stability and integrity. The television or print media, internet or cinema are full of negative happenings in the society – unchecked corruption, murders, rape in all its depravity, divorce, honour killings, religious polarization, etc. which send disturbing signals as to where our society is heading. We pride ourselves as the world’s largest parliamentary democracy with a written constitution that enshrines the best features taken from other countries. As the country progressed, we have incorporated more than 100 amendments to our constitution to adapt to the changing situation in the larger interest of governance and to build an equitable and inclusive society.
For a country which is now in its 69th year of independence, comparatively young, the progress achievement whether in food production, education, science and technology, space exploration, nuclear technology, communication, etc. is enviable. We are presently poised to join the ranks of developed countries of the world. There is another face of India that is singularly striking. We have the unique record of not invading any country; on the contrary, we have been ravished by hordes of invaders for centuries and yet the strength of our 5000 years of cultural heritage and values was such that those who came as invaders got assimilated into the mainstream of life. Though comparison may be odious, it is disquieting to see how smaller countries like Singapore or Japan have made long strides in a short period, while with lot of potential, India with all progress made appears to be a failed state. Here lies the paradox as though India is living at two levels divorced from reality for what is generally construed as achievement of progress is only a surface phenomenon and misleading.
For example, our diaspora spread across the world has an envious record. To cite the statistics: 38% of doctors in US are Indians, 34% of NASA scientists are Indians, 34% of Microsoft employees are Indians, 28% of IBM employees are Indians,17% of Intel employees are Indians and 12% of total scientists in US are Indians. Therefore, it strikes me odd that it is the same educated Indians blessed with the same brain power are, in larger numbers, in India and yet the country has failed to marshal their potential. When analysed, our democracy has become fragile and is in danger of crumbling into anarchy with unpredictable consequences. There are many issues seemingly intractable that confront India and each one of them, when not handled wisely and firmly by the political establishments, has a potential to spiral out of control to engulf the nation in political and economic chaos. Currently, India faces its toughest test of existential reality of its democratic credentials .Unless the political rulers and the opposition rise above petty politics for personal gain, demonstrate their statesmanship to confront the economic and social challenges the country faces and work in the larger interest of the country, all the gains made till now may be seriously compromised, besides exposing the country as an easy target for inimical forces to strike.
Here are some instances of problems that India faces.
Wash out of the Monsoon Session
Perhaps in the history of parliamentary democracy, the recently concluded monsoon session ended without any major bill passed. It was apparent from day one the main opposition party Congress appeared determined not to let the parliament function. It was marked by frequent disruption of the session – both houses of the parliament rushing into the well of the House shouting away and tearing papers. The speaker known for her exemplary patience was forced to dismiss 25 MPs from attending the House for five days. It is a matter of shame for the country that MPs misbehaved in front of a gallery of important visitors from other countries.
Some important and urgent bills like the reformation bill on Goods and Services and the contentious bill on Land Acquisition had to be shelved.
Protest by military veterans on OROP issue
Our Indian Army is known world over for their bravery, discipline and fighting qualities. They have demonstrated their military prowess in three wars fought against Pakistan where our brave jawans sacrificed their lives. The jawans are subjected daily to cross-border firing in J&K besides fighting the terrorists infiltrating the border. This has resulted in both civilian and military casualties. Our military veterans who, during their active service fought for the security of the country, and the widows of those who laid down their lives for the country, are unable to lead a dignified life owing to poor pension benefits. It is in this context our veterans are asking the government to implement One Rank One Pension (OROP) which will give pension regardless of when they retired so that they can get adequate pension to lead a comfortable life.
Protest for reservation for Patels in Gujarat
The reservation has a chequered history. The definitive beginning was when the Mandal Commission was established in 1979 during the Janata Party rule under Morarji Desai. Its recommendation was all but forgotten and was revived when V. P. Singh became prime minister and his position was threatened. It took a dramatic turn when a student, Rajiv Goswami immolated himself in October 1990. Presently, it stands with the Supreme Court limiting the reservation to 50%. This has thrown up a different dimension with each and every caste protesting, from time to time, in a competitive bid to gain the ‘backward community’ tag trying to claim a share in the pie. Reservation has become a contentious issue with political parties reducing it to vote bank politics.
The latest incarnation is the emergence of a middle class, well-employed 22 year old Hardik Patel agitating for reservation status for his community. His agitation claimed nine lives after his arrest and seems to throw a new dimension to the reservation policy. In his interview to The Hindu on August 27, 2015 he says: ‘Our people don’t get jobs despite scoring 80-90 percent marks, so they are forced to do their own business, because of reservation system’.
Meanwhile, M. G. Vaidya, RSS ideologue says that caste based quota should be abolished. This development may trigger an anti-reservation policy. This is going to result in political turbulence for the implied message in Hardik’s agitation is also abolition of caste-based reservation since merit is ignored. Meritorious people, particularly in forward-looking communities will welcome this agitation as this skewed reservation policy has acted against merit. Hopefully, the reservation policy will get a new look so that economic backwardness would be the criteria, and not caste.
Litterateur M. M. Kalburgi shot dead in Karnataka
In a heinous crime, a scholar and a star in the literary field, M. M. Kalburgi was shot dead by unidentified persons posing as his students in his home in Dharwad on August 30, 2015. His killing has been widely condemned. He was known for his outspoken attitude which landed him in controversy several times. It is possible he may have made enemies as evidenced by some rabid persons who gloated over his killing and warned others of his own ilk. The government has tightened security for such persons.
This raises a pertinent question – to what extent freedom of speech prevails. Our Constitution gives us the right to freedom of speech and it is equally important to exercise that right wisely. We seem to be not living in normal times; tolerance and patience appear to be in short supply. It reminds me of Mr. Nani Palkhivala’s comment “I think we Indians have too much of independence” when asked for his thought on India’s 50th year of independence. There are other two statements worth quoting – the French writer and philosopher, Voltaire who says “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” And, a Sanskrit saying which goes like this – Priyam bhruyat, satyam bhruyat, na bhruyat satyam appriyam which roughly means – always tell what is pleasant, what is true, but do not utter truth that is not palatable. I hope the killers of Kalburgi are caught and punished.
Tribal protest in Manipur
Lack of clarity in explaining the objective of passing the Manipur Peoples Bill, 2015 and the two amendments by the Manipur Government which were interpreted as ‘anti-tribal’ led to protests by students which, unfortunately, took the life of five persons and injured many. The fact that the Chief Minister’s house was targeted and houses of four MLAs were set on fire shows a deeper malaise that has gripped not only Manipur, but indicates a general feeling of rebellion against the government. This feeling seems to be spreading across the country where a small incident acts as a trigger and explodes into a rage with unpredictable aftermath. It shows the governments are not only unresponsive to the aspirations of the people but also exhibits an arrogance of power.
The above issues point out to an atmosphere of rebellion building up for years against the authorities everywhere. The reason is that the general public remains a silent witness to the inequity in the system where corruption and money power have a stranglehold, subverting all institutions, to serve their selfish aims. Government policies are designed to create caste and religious differences and help retain power with vote bank politics. Once elected, the majority of MPs and MLAs forget that they are peoples’ representatives and behave like potentates enjoying all kinds of privileges, while the aam admi suffers untold miseries. Successive elections, a symbol of democracy, have failed to deliver justice as only the corrupt get elected in election after election. The rash of protests erupting all over shows the people’s disenchantment witnessing the arrogance of power. The present situation is a warning to the governments to reform themselves, or else the silent rage building up may burst enveloping the nation with disastrous consequences.
Mr. H. R. Bapu Satyanarayana is a freelance writer based at Mysore. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org