India Conundrum - Season 3 Bonus
- Shiladitya Sarkar
We are witnessing in the country, possibly the grimmest time in our reckoning. There is a template for success in every sphere. The one for political success is the ideal recipe for all that is baleful to superior evolution. A vortex, sucking morality to lowest levels. Minority appeasement, growing bigotry amongst the majority, unemployment, violence, rising crime, unfettered corruption, cringeworthy opulence juxtaposed with grinding poverty and a palpable atmosphere of general unrest are facts we cannot turn our face away from.
The jostling of ideological hubris amongst various political outfits is a mere charade to their manoeuvrings to satisfy political ambitions. The ideals of true democracy have long been trampled under the foot of populism. However, people cannot absolve themselves of the onus of their disappointment. We are not dissimilar to our elected representatives and deserve only as good as what we have chosen for ourselves.
Dadabhai Naoraoji’s polemic against British economic exploitation in his “Drain of Wealth” is now anachronistic. If finds a sardonic resonance in the wilful “brain drain” that is taking place nowadays. The best young talents are migrating to the developed countries, proudly branding themselves “skilled workers”. Immersed in their adopted countries, the loyalties to their motherland are as tenuous as their contributions to India’s betterment. Apart from lip-service and camaraderie with popular visiting leaders, they are often found expressing views on India that are dripping with academic analysis, but consummately out of sync with the ground reality back home.
Population, the bane of economic development has haunted the country ever since the year of the great divide of 1921. The governments at the centre as well as the states, show scant
appreciation of this appalling reality and have busied themselves in securing vote banks through doling out freebies. A win-win scenario for the elected, where people subsidise themselves while the leaders run away with the glory.
Corruption here is rampant to the extent that honesty in public life is considered an aberration and at times a prudish asininity. Agencies seem to work at the behest of ruling parties and apparently humongous open and shut cases of corruption drag on for years, quirkily popping up before one election or the other. There are hardly any convictions and most of these incidents end up as mere prattle in road side tea stalls.
Despite all the number crunching and chest-thumping about our economic growth, the fact remains that the urban-rural divide and the vicinal coexistence of dazzling affluence and abject poverty in the big metropolitan cities are reminiscent of nothing short of Victorian London. The dismal living standards in the urban slums are a cause of many chronic and endemic outbreaks. As a corollary it leads us to the state of our health infrastructure. In some states, government hospitals are in deplorable condition, while across the country treatment in private hospitals are beyond reach of all but a miniscule section of the population. Dwindling interest rates on fixed savings, the scrapping of pensions in government jobs and the virtual absence of social security schemes of any substance, have rendered the situation vulnerable for the aged and the middle-class.
Among the innumerable social fault lines, the one that is the cause of most consternation is religion. In all fairness, the British imperial policy of “Divide and Rule” had initiated a smouldering fire. An uneasy equilibrium is of course in place. However, a gradual religious impetuousness has been carefully drafted into the political narrative. The lofty philosophy of Hinduism in its pristine version is yielding place to jingoistic bandwagon. While the majority is contrived into trying to undo the historical injustice meted out to it, the minority is left alienated and tentative. The leaders make the most out of this at the hustings. As the nation
grapples with a potential threat that might have implosive impact in the long run, it is only the next election that there is in the leaders’ minds.
A generation of millennials, modishly christened “netizens” stand addicted to the social media., whiling away their vital formative years in useless scuttlebutt. Millions from the business are pouring into the coffers of the foreign multinational companies, drawing an eerie analogy to Britain’s opium trade with China.
So, is this a cathartic oeuvre? it is not intended as one. However, it does not deflect from the fact that though we have made considerable progress, economically, politically and socially, it has not been as inclusive as it could have been. The perpetuation and extension of reservations to even more categories are a pointer to it.
However, the most critical development of all is the subversion of the institutions by the legislature. A judiciary sitting on heaps of unsolved cases and quibbling over the constitution of a collegium to appoint its top brass, an executive without spine or independence, and a fourth estate up for sale to the highest bidder.
Somewhere we have deviated from our egalitarian principles. In the hunger and happiness indices we are sliding. The mixed economy is shrinking with government gradually divesting its share. Whether private sector is able to achieve the commercial success expected of it without compromising too much on the welfare aspects remains to be seen. An early indication would be the improvement in terms of trade reflected in the reversal of the current free fall in the value of the Rupee.
None of what has been mentioned thus far is intractable. Being one of the largest markets in the world provides our economy with the resilience to impart the necessary momentum to our financial parameters. Wealth creation coupled with fairer distribution will automatically assuage a lot of pitfalls, easing employment gap, inter alia. However, there is no silver bullet for all our problems.
The culture conundrum the country is stricken with these days is a trust-deficit arising from growing intolerance in all walks of life. Our aggressive resistance to dissent is creating fissures in society that may prove impossible to bridge. Eclecticism and constructive criticism have underpinned our status as a vibrant democracy and a mature nation. The way forward cannot be any different. The populism fuelled fanatism that has now pervaded our polity and society cannot last forever, but the sooner it goes the better for us.