Pratap Bhanu Mehta : Thu Jul 11 2013, 04:26 hrs
A story of destructive governance and citizens who did not speak out
First, the UPA came for the roads sector. They destroyed contracting. They slowed down road construction. They left highways half built. We did not speak out. After all, the only reason the NDA could have started the golden quadrilateral is because they wanted to spread Hindutva.
Next, they came for the airline sector. They let Air India suck more money from taxpayers. They let bad regulation destroy the private sector. They let crony banking sustain bad bets. They ensured India would never be an aviation hub. We did not speak out. After all, flying is what birds do, not humans. Besides, aviation is bad for climate change.
Then they came for the power sector. They confused creation of mega capacities with actual generation. They had no rational pricing plans. They were arbitrary in the awarding of licences. They could not make up their mind whether they wanted to protect the environment or destroy it. We did not speak out. After all, the only power that matters is political. Electricity be damned.
Then they came for education. They promulgated the RTE after 100 per cent enrolment. They expanded capacity, but cut-offs still rose. They regulated in such a way that there was a glut in some subjects and a shortage in others. They confused university buildings with building universities. We did not speak out. After all our, our low quality education left us incapable of speaking out.
Then they came for industry. They turned the clock back in every way and waged open war. Ensure that regulations become more complex and uncertain. Ensure that input costs rise. Ensure crummy infrastructure. Promulgate a land scam policy known as SEZ and sell it as industrial policy. They encouraged FDI. But they forgot which one they wanted: outbound or inbound. But we did not speak out. After all, India is a rural country.
Then they came for employment. There was some growth. But they decided that the only good employment is that which has the hand of the state. So the NREGA’s expansion was seen as a sign of success, not failure. By its own logic, if more people need the NREGA, the economy has failed. But we did not speak out. After all, the more people we have dependent on government, the more we think it is a good government.
Then they came for agriculture. First, they create artificial shortages through irrigation scams. Then they have a myopic policy for technology adoption. Then they decide India shall remain largely a wheat and rice economy; we will have shortages for everything else. Then they price everything to produce perverse incentives. But we did not speak out. After all, why worry about food production when the government is giving you a legal right? Is there anything more reassuring than social policy designed by and for lawyers?
Then they came for institutions. They always had. This has been Congress DNA for four decades. They drew up a list of institutions that remained unscathed: Parliament, the IB, bureaucracy and you name it. They then went after those. They used institutions as instruments of their political design. They demoralised every single branch of government. But we did not speak out. After all, this was reform by stealth. Destroy government from within.
Then they came for inflation. They confused a GDP target of 10 per cent with an inflation target. Inflation will come down next quarter, we were told. Then they tried to buy us out. Inflation: no problem. Simply get the government to spend even more. Then they pretended inflation is a problem for the rich. Then they simply stopped talking about it. We did not speak out. After all, for some, inflation is just a number
Then they came for the telecom sector. They got greedy and milked it. They got arbitrary and retrospectively taxed it. But we did not speak out. After all, new communication can be a threat to government. Besides, we can always revert to fixed lines. More digging is good.
Then they came for financial stability. They produced a large deficit. They brought the current account deficit close to an unsustainable point. They nearly wrecked the banking sector. They created every macro-economic instability you can imagine, which makes investment difficult. But we did not speak out. After all, what would you rather have: macro economic stability or a free lunch?
Then they came for regulation. It was back to the 1970s. More arbitrary regulation is good. More rules are good. Uncertainty makes business more adept. The answer to every administrative problem is enacting a new law. Multiple regulators are good because they represent the diversity of India. We did not speak out. After all, just like the religious confuse piety with mere ritual, the virtuous confuse regulation with outcomes.
Then they came after freedom. They promulgated more restrictive rules for everything: freedom of expression, right to assembly and protest, foreign scholars. They used sedition laws. They kept the architecture of colonial laws intact. They said they stood against communal forces. But then they let Digvijaya Singh keep the communal pot boiling. They matched BJP’s communal politicisation of terrorism at every step and then some. We did not speak out. After all, if they are not Hindutva forces, they cannot be a threat to peace and liberty.
Then they came for virtue itself. They preached, from the very summit of power: avoid responsibility. It will always be someone else’s fault. They legitimised being corrupt: you are entitled to it if you are the party of the poor. They encouraged subterfuge to the point that members of the cabinet were subverting each other. They pretended that integrity is a word that does not mean anything. To independent thinkers, they said: why think when there is 10 Janpath? We did not speak out. After all, virtue and thinking can both be outsourced.
Then they came for the poor. They visited their houses and slept in their homes. They liked the experience so much they decided to become growth sceptics. Enact policies that keep India in poverty a little longer. But we did not speak out. After all, once the poor have been used as an argument, all else is immobilised.
Then they came for the citizens. They used the secularism blackmail to reduce our choices. If you are not with us you are evil they said. Then they infantilised us. You are not capable of exercising choices so we will make them for you. They acted as if we were so stupid that the three topmost leaders felt no need to justify themselves to us. But we did not speak out. After all we do have the vote.
The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi, and a contributing editor for ‘The Indian Express’
Some additions to the above:
Then they came for states. They looked at all states in the country and found out that they have pockets where they got their maximum vote share. They liked retaining them so much that they decided to break them down just on the eve of elections to maximize their gain and minimize the gain of opposition. But we are not speaking out. After all, what was India but a loose amalgamation of over 600 princely states unified into one.
Then they came for national security. They looked at all borders and neighbors of the country and told themselves that non-alignment is just another name for inaction and chose to take no decisions at all. But we did not speak out. After all, who cares about national security when personal future is not secure without any dependence on government.
Vasanth Ramadurai •
On another side, perhaps I would add…
Then they came for those who decided to speak out. Lathis & water cannons were used on students who protested the brutal rape of a young girl. People who requested a LokPal Bill were hounded into silence. One corrupt minister replaced another in the cabinet – with utmost disregard for people’s faith in democracy. They mistook our patience as powerlessness. After all, they know a lot of us have a very short-term memory & they will prevail come 2014.
last but not least – Congress ruined India, But we did not speak out. After all we are Indians.
Just one point… WE DID SPEAK OUT but the FIREWALL called MEDIA, BLOCKED it out, and let their own PAID/TWISTED logic spread…
July 12, 2011 12:31:48 AM
Rathin Das | Ahmedabad
The Congress had always sought to underplay the differences between Nehru and ‘Iron Man’ Sardar Patel whose legacy gradually diminished with increasing stranglehold of one family in the party since Independence.
But, excerpts from the diary of Sardar Patel’s daughter Maniben would not only confirm the differences but also are likely to ruffle the feathers of present day Congress leaders with embarrassing disclosures therein.
For many of the entries jotted down in Maniben’s diary, being published in full for the first time, would bring out unpleasant truths that may prove to be uncomfortable to the Congress leaders.
One of the Nehru-Sardar differences was regarding the renovation of the Babri Masjid at Government expense, a proposal the ‘Iron Man’ had turned down as free India’s first Home Minister.
The entry in Maniben’s diary on September 20, 1950 says that Sardar told Nehru that the Babri Masjid’s renovation was different from reconstruction of the Somnath Temple for which a trust was set up that raised nearly `30 lakh for the purpose. Government money was not spent on reconstruction of the Somnath Temple, Sardar told Nehru following which the Prime Minister kept quiet, Maniben’s diary notes on September 20, 1950.
As Sardar Patel’s wife Zaverba died very early, Maniben had taken up the multiple roles as daughter, secretary, washerwoman and nurse to the ‘Iron Man’ till his death on December 12, 1950. Since 1936, Maniben had started maintaining a diary in which she recorded her illustrious father’s daily events and comments.
The 24 volumes of Maniben’s diaries are safely kept at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Memorial here, a heritage building whose renovation is currently underway. Ironically, the complete diary of Maniben is being published by the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Memorial Society whose chairman is a Congressman, Union Minister for Mines Dinsha Patel.
The diary contents would be first published in original Gujarati, the society’s secretary Prabhakar Khamar told The Pioneer. It would take about six months for them to come into print, he said, adding that later on the Hindi translation would also be brought out.
Khamar disclosed that Maniben’s diary deals with differences and controversies between top leaders of freedom struggle like Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Sardar Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and others.
“These differences did not come out into public then as all leaders had agreed with Gandhiji’s views as final,” said 80-year-old Prabhakar Khamar.
The contents of the diary which are going into print also throw some rare insight about other personalities’ comments on Nehru’s ‘secular’ image.
Nehru’s close friend Sriprakash told Sardar “there was no trace of Hindutva in Motilal Nehru. He was three-quarters Englishman and one quarter Muslim. How can you expect any Hindutva in his son?” Maniben’s diary notes on October 12, 1950.
Another entry, on September 13, 1950, quotes Ghanshyamdas Birla as saying “Nehru’s whole family would have embraced Islam is they had not come in contact with Gandhiji.”
With revelations like this, Maniben’s diary is sure to raise a storm once again regarding Nehru legacy.
K.N. Govindacharya is seen as the brain behind the current agitation and stance of yoga guru Baba Ramdev on the issue of black money and corruption.
Mr Govindacharya, a hindutva ideologue from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) think tank but left following bitter differences with the party leadership. In this interview with Yojna Gusai and Mukesh Ranjan, he agrees that Ramdev’s movement “is aimed at terrorising the government”, and says both the government and Opposition parties favour “corporatocracy”, not democracy, in India.
Q. What justifies the so-called anti-corruption movements around us? Is the Indian state in urgent need of an overhaul?
A. The Indian state is working against its own rationale of existence. The state is supposed to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Here, the state is functioning for a few beneficiaries at the cost of the vast masses of Bharat. The parliamentary democracy has degenerated into corporatocracy. Today’s government is by the corporate, of the corporate and for the corporate. In this context the organ of the legislature is also so polluted that it has lost sight of itself and its purpose.
The ruling and Opposition parties have abdicated their role, or are in connivance with each other. Both are working for the few at the cost of the masses. The principal political parties have allowed themselves to be dominated by the whims and fancies of money bags.
Q. How can you say that the principal Opposition party in Parliament, the BJP, is also responsible for the current situation?
A. In the parliamentary system, a clear distinction between the ruling and the Opposition parties is a precondition for the healthy functioning of democratic set-up. But in Bharat, the principal Opposition party is in no way different from the ruling party with regard to thought process, state of functioning and norms of political conduct. Therefore, Parliament has ceased to be the voice of the voiceless.
For long we have seen that issues are not being raised in the interest of the country’s poor. To my mind this has pushed the nation to the brink of anarchy. In this regard the principal Opposition party is more responsible than the ruling party. Governments have the tendency to act against the common people and the Opposition should fight for the cause of the people, not for corporate entities. Unfortunately, this has not been happening.
Q. So, this is why you justify what Anna Hazare did or what Baba Ramdev is doing.
A. Yes. Anarchy is looming on the horizon. At many places in the country statelessness is being witnessed by the majority of the people. Watchmen are turning into thieves. People are the ultimate sufferers. Therefore, mass agitations, led by non-political groups, are taking place.
To my mind, the consolidation process has begun. Various groups having different ideologies are converging to act in favour of the people. They are there not only to bring about change in political power, but to bring about a systemic change. Prospects of systemic change are round the corner. Be it Mr Hazare, Ramdevji, or hundreds of other such credible personalities, they are the hope with regard to salvaging the democratic set-up in the country.
Q. You have portrayed corporate houses as being the source of evil in the country. But Baba Ramdev heads a mammoth corporate, and you support him.
A. So far as Ramdevji is concerned, yes, he heads an organisation, but he has the courage to speak against those who indulge in wrong practices. He has made public his organisation’s accounts, and has invited government agencies to look into them. My contention is not “straightforwardly” against corporates. They too contribute to the Indian state and society. But that needs to be equitable. For Ramdevji, I can say with confidence that personally he lives the life of a sanyasi.
Q. Is Baba Ramdev’s fast-unto-death programme against black money different from Mr Hazare’s campaign for an effective Lokpal Bill?
A. There is no difference. Both are complementary.
Q. You recently said that Baba Ramdev’s movement is more credible than the BJP. Why? You were associated with the BJP for long. Why do you think as an Opposition party the BJP has abdicated space to civil society activists on issues like corruption?
A. The BJP has been claiming that the Prime Minister is weak. I am watching the ruling and the Opposition parties. The principal Opposition party is prostrating to save its one government in the south — Karnataka. Is this not their helplessness?
I don’t think the Prime Minister is weak. He is neither weak nor helpless. But I am bewildered to see that he allowed the current mess to take place.
Q. Do you think the time has come for Baba Ramdev to formally launch his political party? He has expressed an intent in that direction…
A. Who knows who will reap the electoral dividend out of the current spate of movements. To talk about a political party at this juncture would be entirely premature. Such suggestions are coming just to derail the movement. Status quoists are trying every possible way to split the agitation.
Q. People say Baba Ramdev is a proxy of the RSS?
A. This is a political stance. They will say this to break the agitation. They will ask that there should not be any political agenda. They say Ramdevji, you are good, and they are ready to talk. But then they say, the RSS is seen around you. On this question, Ramdevji has always asked if the RSS is not part of the society. In this movement at least 90 per cent are those who have no connection with any organisation or ideology.
Q. Is the movement aimed at terrorising the government?
A. Unfortunately yes. It is tragic that the people have to take to these means. This itself erodes the sanctity of the government. What stopped the government from taking steps on these issues some three months back? Annaji and Ramdevji had been crying from rooftops on these issues for the last one year.