Powered By Blogger

Popular Posts

Search This Blog

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The cesspool that defines national politics

The recent statement by Masood the congress candidate from Saharanpur is reflective of the major malaise facing the political system of the country. While Masood indeed crossed all limits of social behavior, there have been similar incidents covering other political parties as well, though on a relatively lower scale in the politically volatile state of Uttar Pradesh. Is this reflective of the fact that goondaism has emerged as the core of the political system in our country I wonder?

How refined the language that the masses use is indicative of the state of development of the nation and if the recent statements that emerged during the ongoing Mahabharata are any indication, we have indeed come many notches down in so far as social values and behavior are concerned. The mere thought that people like Masood have a fair chance to sit in the hallowed portals of the parliament gives shivers to ordinary mortals like us. This thought also makes us hang our heads in shame as the parliament of the nation would stand disgraced by the presence of people like him as compared to people of the stature of Nehru, Shastri, Atalji, Piloo Mody and many others who raised the prestige of the august house by their presence and their words. Indeed the hallowed portals are meant for knowledgeable debates, not for flaunting muscle power or the ability to start or perpetuate goonda raj.  

And that leads me to wonder why all the leaders are not adequately vocal about the biggest malaise afflicting the nation at present – corruption. Why has no big leader ever expressed his resolve to root out this malaise from the face of the nation. Even none of our great and not so great prime ministers could find the courage or the resolve or perhaps the moral authority to announce the beginning of the battle against corruption while addressing the nation every independence day.

The answer is simple. The political as well as the bureaucratic system of the country is mired deep into corrupt practices and expecting one of them to announce the beginning of the battle would therefore be asking for too much. And it is not as if the menace is so big that it cannot be brought under control or eradicated. It merely requires the resolve and the morality of those in power who have the authority of the pen.

Perhaps the cesspool that the nation appears to have entered into is so deep and so thick that getting out of it is going to be difficult. Being a part of the system I appreciate the deep rooted spread of the mess, yet I wish that the leader who emerges would take this issue head on for only then the nation would have any chance of moving forward in the real sense.

If only wishes were horses!

Monday, March 24, 2014

March towards Inequality

Gun toting black cat commandoes leaning out of the car windows and shouting at passing vehicles to keep out of the way is a sight that most of us Delhites witness on a daily basis and detest from the core of our hearts.  How often have we experienced being held up on the streets of Delhi when driving, and being confined to the footpaths when walking, whenever top political leaders in power move on the roads of the capital and other cities of the country?  

Even while travelling on trains, how often we are inconvenienced by gun toting bodyguards of the so called representatives of the public, who apparently are more for display and less for protection?

Is it not unfortunate that in almost all cases a gun toting policeman is being utilized as a mere adornment by the democratic rulers of an under developed nation? The incessant clamour of the political classes for a red beacon atop their vehicles merely to distinguish them from the masses and elicit a superior service in the process is also indicative of a feudal mind-set.  Perhaps red beacons, gun toting accompaniments, opportunities for accumulating immense wealth and shameless flaunting of power over the masses are what attract people to the electoral arena, not a penchant to serve and take the nation forward. It is indeed unfortunate that even though the nation swears by a democratic system, the mentality of those who occupy positions of power is that of a ruler that has absolutely no intentions of serving whatsoever.

Somehow over a period of time, the ability to sidestep the rules of the society and the machinery to govern it has emerged in this nation as the most prominent symbol of having arrived. What a difference from the developed countries where the rulers and the ruled intermingle within the same set of rules without favour to any. How often we read with amazement stories of the siblings of the prime ministers and presidents of such countries being challaned like a commoner by an ordinary traffic constable, or being hauled up for violation of tax or other laws. Amazement as we are used to the other extreme, the siblings often bashing up the cutting level functionaries of the law enforcement machinery.

It is not only those in power but also those rolling in money who have the ability to sidestep the rules of governance as we have often witnessed in the cases of rich brats in fast moving cars running over pedestrians and then getting away with it. It is only in extremely rare cases that a man like Subrat Roy has to spend a couple of nights behind bars, for the sarkari and the judicial systems of the country have developed an uncanny ability to give way for the powerful and the rich.

Perhaps the origins of this malaise lie in the distortions that entered in the “varna” system put in place by the great rishis of ancient India. The “varna” system degenerated into a birth based caste system and ultimately led to various modes of differentiating between men.  And so now besides the caste system we have various other combinations – the poor and the rich, the powerful and the power less, the more powerful and the less powerful and so on and so forth. Therefore even though our constitution strives for equality, in practice however there are differences of various shades and hues in the entire social structure of the nation. Our utter failure in even providing a semblance of an effort in building a society rooted in value systems is widely visible.

Our inability to give our mother tongue the same status that France gives to French, Germany to German, China to Chinese, Portugal to Portugese and so on speaks volumes about our lack of inclination for nation building. While building a nation, the language comes first and that is what we as a nation totally forgot in our race towards acquiring individual power and pelf at the cost of the society. One hopes the ensuing samudra manthan would give us the answers and also the solutions. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Friday, 21 March 2014 | Ashwani Lohani | in Oped

Arvind Kejriwal must take stock of the reasons why he has gone wrong. He will discover there are many of them
The ascent and descent of Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal have a commonality — both have been rapid and beyond comparison. The rise from an RTI activist and a street-level anarchist to the Chief Minister of the country’s capital-State left almost all political parties gaping and gasping. The rapid growth in his popularity and the clamour of even the most ordinary citizens of the capital to see him in the hot seat and take the city forward was indeed spell-binding and at times extremely astonishing.
It was clear that the people, who, over a period of time had grown sick of poor governance and rampant corruption, were rooting for a change. The first person who appeared capable of bringing in that  change was lapped up. Mr Kejriwal appeared as someone who has the rare blend of commitment, capability and integrity. His appeal to the masses to overthrow the State Government that looted the exchequer in the garb of preparing for the Commonwealth Games in 2010, therefore, did not go in vain. For the first time in the history of the nation, school-children and auto-drivers alike were enamoured of this strange man who emerged on the national political scene, almost overnight.
The ongoing rapid decline that we are witness to these days is also as dramatic and as astonishing as his ascent, even though the election results alone would provide the real proof. Total disenchantment withMr Kejriwal and his ilk is visible in the aam aadmi’s drawing rooms as well as at road-side discussions. His posters on the auto-rickshaws of Delhi have now been replaced by the posters of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whom the nation apparently wants to see in the driver’s seat following the Lok Sabha election. It appears that Mr Kejriwal is a spent one-time phenomenon despite his integrity and a very short spell of governance. Even his detractors are convinced of his absolute inadequacy in giving results in the warped governance machinery of this nation.
So, what went wrong?
Mr Kejriwal went wrong in failing to live up to the expectations that he only helped fuel and fan. It is evident that he has miserably failed in his understanding of the tantra in his eagerness to govern. He raised expectations that obviously could not be fulfilled in a short time or in the flawed manner which he had adopted. This was his first folly.
The second was his penchant for taking up issues that were not within his competence. One fails to understand why he did not take up matters like improvement of infrastructure, schools, hospitals and basic governance that were within his domain. Instead, he wasted time and energy in trying to bring the police under his wings. Perhaps completing the ongoing improvement works at Connaught Place at the heart of New Delhi and giving it a new look would have given him a mileage that would have carried him far.
The third mistake on his part was his anarchic style of working. Threats and dharnas by the head of a State Government almost on a daily basis and then actually carrying one out in front of the Rail Bhawanearned him the ire of the masses. He failed to realise that even his supporters had turned away from an anarchist Chief Minister.
The fourth is his holier-than-thou attitude. He failed to realise that not everyone is tainted, when he painted everyone with the same brush. Mr Kejriwal’s accusations, sans substance, hurt him more than they harmed those whom these accusations and abuses were hurled at.
And, last but not the least, his utter failure in even attempting to build any credibility during the period he was in power, served as the icing on the terrible cake. He did not lose credibility — because he started with none and also ended with none. Had he moved in the direction of giving some results on the ground, results that the people of Delhi could have seen or felt, and then in a few months actually delivered something, his credibility, in the backdrop of his mass adulation, would have soared sky high. Even his acts of anarchy would then have been condoned by the people who have since moved away from him. His failure to appreciate that it is delivery and delivery alone that the nation is crying for, has cost him dear.
Mr Kejriwal frittered away that golden chance given to him on a platter. His is a case of failed and foiled hopes; a return seems unlikely. Perhaps it is in the fitness of things that the nation, for the sake of good governance, gets governed by those who know good governance, have the experience of delivering it on the ground, and who inspire confidence by their conduct, integrity and personality.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Still a long way to the gallows!

The decision of the Delhi High Court upholding the death sentence imposed by the lower court against the convicts of the infamous Nirbhaya rape and murder case of December 2012 was on expected lines. After all the four butchers deserve no mercy and if at all there was any punishment higher than the death penalty it would have also met the cause. Yet there is still a long way to the gallows, an appeal in the apex court followed by a mercy petition to the President is apparently on the cards. Absolutely legal delaying tactics, yet I am convinced that ultimately the perpetrators of the heinous crime would indeed pay back by hanging.

Despite the huge national outcry that followed the ghastly crime and the awarding of the death penalty, rape is not yet off from the daily headlines. Perhaps the reality that the wheels of justice indeed grind slowly in this nation of ours gives enough hope and encouragement to criminals of all hues and shades to carry on with their activities unabated. After all justice is yet to be finally dispensed to the murderers of an ex prime minister of the country and it often appears that perhaps by a quirk of fate they may even escape the noose that they so rightfully deserve.

And therefore crime continues unabated. The retribution for the crime is available only through the judicial system of the country that is definitely fair yet agonizingly slow. And that leads a common citizen to wonder, often at times when he feels threatened, that it may indeed be better for the nation to follow the punishment systems of the middle-east or a developed and almost crime free nation like Singapore where swift and deterrent punishment has almost eliminated crime and ensured adherence to rules.   

And justice delayed is actually justice denied. Even within the bureaucratic machinery punishments for obvious and glaring cases of misconduct as well as malafide take years to settle. Perhaps it is a case of those who can make a change being beyond the system and hence never being able to really appreciate the need for introducing systems that are the need of the times. 

Misplaced compassion is also often a reason. Even the greatest of our religious books, the Gita does not condone misplaced compassion on the underserving. Arjuna who is moved by a bout of compassion when he witnesses his own men poised to fight one another on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, is counselled by the lord to do his duty and not be moved by misplaced compassion.  

“Chalta hai” typically defines our national attitude. Concern only for the self without realizing that our welfare lies only in the welfare of the society, is perhaps the bane of our social system. Sadly confining oneself within the general rules of the society is regarded as a sign of a person who has not really arrived, in total variance with the conduct one witnesses in developed societies. It is indeed sad and a sign of backwardness of our social structure that social hierarchy invariably plays a vital  role in interactions, whether it is between a traffic constable and a bureaucrat in a white ambassador or a man on a bicycle and one in a car.

“Rules are for Fools” and “Might is right” are two proverbs that I came across right at the beginning of my career almost thirty four years ago.  And what a fit they have been. Rules and processes are discarded or applied on a case to case basis to favor or disfavor. It is not like the developed world where yardsticks remain the same irrespective of the power or wealth at the disposal of the individual under consideration and the judicial systems dispense justice that is swift and deterrent. 

Perhaps it is all about being a developed nation or being one of the developing ones. Yet the transition would only happen if we move forward as there is absolutely no premium on standing still. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Battleground India!


Tuesday, 11 March 2014 | Ashwani Lohani | in Oped
The Navy chief’s resignation after a series of accidents at sea will mean nothing unless the Government takes — and the people insist that it does — corrective measures
The recent catastrophe on the INS Sindhuratna and the subsequent furore over its batteries have brought out two things clearly: The first is the exemplary conduct of former Navy chief Admiral DK Joshi in resigning and taking full responsibility for the tragedy. How rare indeed is such conduct especially in the current age when the ruling classes cling to their jobs at any cost. Admiral Joshi's resignation reminded one of the resignation of Lal Bahadur Shastri from the plum post of Union Minister for Railways over a railway accident almost 50 years back. It, therefore, gives satisfaction that providence has a way of throwing up individuals even in the sarkari tantra, individuals who take the buck even when things go horribly wrong, besides not being enamoured of the seat of power. The second is that the processes in the Government machinery, be they decision-making or contractual, are inadequate to meet the needs of the nation and have, therefore, been failing us with astonishing regularity.
A lot of water has since flown since that famous tryst with destiny in 1947. The high ideals on which we all piggy-backed to independence have almost evaporated — ‘almost’ because at times people like Shastri and Admiral Joshi do emerge from the shadows in absolute variance with the prevailing conduct of the ruling classes. The incessant clamour for power that the nation witnesses in its two most powerful tribes — bureaucrats and politicians — lies at the root of the problem.
Power is always meant to be wielded for the good of the society and not for self-gratification. Yet invariably the ability to ensure self-gratification and self-perpetuation has emerged as the reason for the incessant battle for acquiring power and, therein, lies the great tragedy of this nation. In over 67 years of self rule, the populace has merely witnessed aspirations for occupying high chairs. After all the realisation that a post is only a means to serve the society, and not merely to satisfy one's own ego, does not seem to be dawning on the tantra.
And now about the batteries of INS Sindhuratna: We now know that the batteries did not cause the fire. Instead, burnt or damaged cables in the mess deck resulted in the accident. Still, that does not change the fact despite repeated reminders, new batteries never surfaced — old (but usable) ones were borrowed from another submarine which is under refit. It leads one to ask why the officers manning INS Sindhuratna were not empowered enough to be able to purchase an item as routine and petty as batteries. The answer lies in the complexity of our procedures and a total reluctance to delegate, perhaps in the mistaken belief that simplification and empowerment would lead to increased cases of graft. This is a classic example of not having faith in your own men.
The practices that the British created for ruling over the ‘natives' being wrongfully continued in a republic speaks volumes of our maturity as a free democratic nation. Sometime back we witnessed anarchy in the garb of winds of change. India is indeed desperate for change and reform, but that change can only be brought about by men of integrity with deeply rooted convictions and a thorough understanding of the way the machinery works. Change can only be brought by those who realise that nation-building requires the toil of generations spread over years, if not decades. A casual approach directed at short-term impacts (not gains) is going to take the nation anywhere but forward.
Our biggest tragedy is that the nation, despite being a regular witness to scams and catastrophes, merely agonises. It does not take measures to remedy the disease. Unless we learn from every catastrophes — and scams are indeed the major ones — and take corrective steps, we will never move forward.