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Mainstream, VOL L, No 6, January 28, 2012

Need of the Hour


Tuesday 31 January 2012, by SC

Exactly a year ago, on the eve of our sixtysecond Republic Day, it was written in these columns:

...if one speaks of the political class, there is hardly any political leader of the Right, Centre or Left worthy of emulation in today’s India. They have all compromised themselves... At the same time the country is inexorably hurtling towards full scale polarisation resulting in political confrontation between the Treasury Benches and Opposition in Parliament where the winter session saw the unique spectacle of both Houses failing to transact any business owing to the ruling combine-Opposition standoff on the issue of setting up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam that has, apart from resulting in the resignation of Telecom Minister A. Raja, placed the PM completely on the backfoot thus impairing his manoeuvrability...

In this dismal setting constructive intervention by healthy sections of the civil society does not brook the slightest delay. For, in the final analysis, they are the only hope for the people at large to save the Republic betrayed as it is by the power-hungry elite representing diverse elements among the vested interests who have launched an all-out onslaught on the basic tenets of our Constitution.

After one year, as we approach our sixtythird Republic Day, it is most heartening to note that—keeping pace with the spectacular Arab Spring revolt in North Africa and West Asia that swept away autocratic dictators by dint of people’s power and the extraordinary anti-capitalist mobilisations in the West, best manifest in the unprecedented ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in the US—the anticipated “constructive intervention by healthy sections of the civil society” did take place in our country in the last 12 months with the emergence of a concerted crusade against allround corruption and black money to which the government of the day, despite initial mishandling, was compelled to respond in a manner that did not invite public antagonism. Yet, as the events in Parliament at the fag end of 2011 bore clear testimony, it was constantly dragging its feet on the vital issue of setting up a strong and effective Lokpal and did its level best to prevent the Central Bureau of Investigation from coming under the Lokpal’s control while simultaneously frustrating all moves to equip the office of the Lokpal with an investigating machinery. And all this at a time when the magnitude of corruption having reached astronomical proportions, the people in general are becoming increasingly restless for launching a full-scale war against the scourge eating into the vitals of our polity, something which the political class is unable to notice due to its sheer shortsightedness and the proverbial frog-in-the-well approach to problems, big and small.

Sixtytwo years ago, that is, two-and-a-half years after our attainment of independence, we were able to draft, finalise and adopt a Constitution while proclaiming free India as a Republic. This not only consolidated our liberation from colonial yoke but also helped construct a democratic structure which has weathered many a storm and enriched in the process the quality of our nationhood while projecting our country in the international arena as a leading member of the developing states worthy of emulation. At the same time it has ensured our undeniable advance in various sectors of science and technology in particular while guaranteeing a noteworthy rise in our GDP of late.

And despite all these successes resulting in the emergence of a burgeoning middle class, there has been a conspicuous widening of disparities between India and Bharat, the haves and the have-nots, the handful of top billionaires of the world enjoying Indian citizenship and the multitude of the poorest of our poor comparable with the hapless populace of sub-Saharan Africa. Needless to underline, such a stark contrast—between the small segment representing our wealthy class on one side and those subjected to incessant penury, destitution, deprivation, oppression and exploitation and living in abysmal conditions in our rural and urban areas on the other—cannot last for long and is bound to enfeeble, weaken and destroy the fabric of our democracy, one of our most coveted possessions. As a matter of fact democracy is at a discount in vast tracts of our landmass where the Dalit assertion at one end and the Maoist upsurge at the other are eloquent expressions of the enormity of the problems confronting us. The mass struggle to uproot corruption is a reflection of the public impatience with the status quo that has contribured to our present-day maladies which the unscrupulous elements in our society have harnessed to reap massive benefits at the cost of the bulk of our citizens. It must be also borne in mind that the neoliberal paradigm of development—which our political leadership, wholeheartedly backed by our elite, has unquestioningly embraced—is at the source of such phenomena that pose a serious challenge to our sovereignty, independence and secular democracy.

In such a setting the civil society’s anti-corruption initiative needs to be reinforced while eschewing every form of sectarianism based on a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. At the same time bonds of solidarity must be forged with all the marginalised sections of our populace, both in the nation’s heartland and the periphery (and J&K and the North-East in particular), so that their sense of alienation is removed through painstaking endeavours. Simultaneously fissi-parous trends fostering casteism, communalism, regionalism have to be firmly rooted out from our body politic.

And in all such tasks we have to fall back on the teachings of our outstanding freedom fighters—notably Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. We have just observed Netaji’s 115th birth anniver-sary yesterday. It was he who had called for organising a band of ‘morally-prepared’ young men and women to selflessly carry out the noble mission of serving the motherland. With all his differences with Gandhiji, he never allowed those to cloud his vision; and it was he who first characterised the latter, in his broadcasts over the Azad Hind Radio, as the ‘Father of the Nation’. In an address in Paris seventysix years ago Netaji had also lucidly explained:

There is a belief abroad that the influence of Gandhi has died down. If I were to interpret the modern situation in an objective manner I should say that M. Gandhi has not lost his influence.

Within the Nationalist Party there is criticism of his tactics, but this does not mean that he has lost his popularity. The private life of Gandhi has enhanced his reputation...

Our movement aims not only at national liberation, but also at social freedom. It is now felt more than before that our country is faced with the issues of the landlords and the peasants and capital and labour. The feeling is growing that the Indian National Congress should declare itself more explicitly on the side of the masses. The net result so far, of this criticism, has been that within the Nationalist Party people are beginning to think more on the social question—we are moving in the direction of socialism.

It is time we comprehend the full meaning of those words and accordingly chalk out a holistic strategy for the upliftment of the masses in order to bring about people-centric development as the essential precondition for genuine national regeneration.

That indeed is the need of the hour on this January 26.

January 24 S.C.

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