Wednesday, 17 October 2007

"Utho Nahin, JAGO!"

This Tata Tea commercial says it all about the state of Indian politics today. Our politicians are chosen on the basis of their caste or class affiliations. How many of them have an education that would equip them to actually solve the problems that beset India today? In many cases, they and their offspring are the problem. Remember Buta Singh and his charming sons, Lovely and Sweety? The rumor doing the rounds of Delhi was that these two young men would get up to all kinds of shenanigans and Daddy dearest would use his influence to get them out of trouble. Daddy didn’t mind doing all this--after all, he was following in the footsteps of his great leader, PM Indira Gandhi, who allowed her son, Sanjay, to exercise extra-governmental authority during the Emergency, and when he died in an air crash in 1980, elevated her reluctant eldest son, Rajiv, to the general secretaryship of the Congress, a post which her grandson occupies today.

Well, there you have one part of the problem in a nutshell. Even when the politician comes from a so-called well-qualified background (exposure to the freedom movement at a young age, a good education, running the organizational set-up of a political party) he or she would like to set up a dynasty, perhaps in homage to India’s regal past or to keep intact the political legacy. However, dynasties are not what should exist in a republic. Dynasties drag a republic towards a monarchic form of government--as happened to the Roman republic, under the Caesars.

And we can see the damage that dynastic, casteist and classist politics has done to Indian institutions. Our students’ unions in the Universities are not nurseries of democracy but hothouses for goondas rooting for a particular political party. In any other country, the students’ unions would actually work together with the university administrators to provide better services to the student community instead of acting as henchmen for a political party. Students who supported a particular political party would set up an association to study that party’s ideology and its position on various issues of the day. They would learn to debate and argue rationally, instead of behaving like a bunch of goons, as one frequently sees them do on Lok Sabha TV.

And how do these political brats behave when put in charge of the Indian police and bureaucracy? They’ve completely politicized the bureaucracy--any minister, when he or she shifts from one department of the central or state government to another, takes along his coterie of favorite bureaucrats. The police services, in turn, have also been politicized--witness Mayawati’s sacking of the policemen recruited by Mulayam Singh Yadav when he was UP CM. The CBI, which has now been asked to take over the Rizwanur Rehman case from the West Bengal police, was responsible for issuing a clean chit to Jagdish Tytler for his involvement in the 1984 riots. And this politicization of the bureaucracy and the police leads to the Indian public losing its faith in these institutions and their ability to provide prompt and impartial service to the people. And hence to mob violence and a possible revolution or dictatorship.

Another thing--when you wonder why the average constable does not do his duty vis-a-vis the Indian public, please take a look at his working and living conditions. In many cases, policemen and their families live in sub-standard housing, receive poor healthcare (look at the many obese cops), barely enough education for the kids and malfunctioning equipment for the man on the beat. So now, do you wonder why Bollywood would rather have the vigilante or the crook as hero rather than a cop?

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I work as a freelance editor and writer in New Delhi. 


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