The fundamental problem that confronts us is how to govern a large-scale nation like India with small-scale local minds.
The recent Singur incident provokes me. How can we keep quiet when the destructive mentalities of some people who have chosen to rule us cause irreparable damage to the reputation of a nation with promising and performing entrepreneurs?
We now know for a fact that large scale land acquisitions have been possible in Bengal even near SIngur for the many new industrial projects there. The high profile Nano project just provided the ripe opportunity for a political party to meddle with public sentiments and make its presence felt. Oscar Wilde said “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live. It is asking others to live as one wishes to live”.
Look at what China has achieved in whatever they have chosen to do. When the massive earthquake hit the Sichuan province on 12th May, 2008, it claimed over 60,000 lives and rendered about 5 million Chinese homeless. In an admirable show of strength and solidarity, the Chinese people and its leaders swiftly reacted. Compare that with how our people and the leaders react to the fury of river Kosy that has claimed many lives and made matters worse for the poor homeless villagers. Within a few months of that calamity, the Chinese showcased a spectacular event for the Olympics and topped the medal list with 47 Gold. The recent Olympics are a testimony of that nation’s tenacity. China is on top of the world shadowing many nations in the west. It is really a super power. It is a matter of shame and concern that our political leaders have the cheek, impudence and nerve to talk about competing with that nation that is ruled with stern discipline and determination. Even twinning of India and China on discussion forums seems ludicrous to me. Their achievements overshadow and drown our pride as a nation that only asserts to be democratic. And we saw the spirit of that democracy right in our homes through television channels that aired the wads of currency notes. There is nothing called national pride now.
In an earlier essay on Governance (GOVERNANCE – What does this really mean?), I had discussed about India’s low ranking as a nation on the Worldwide Governance Indicator’s Report 2007 from the World Bank. This report now for 2008 makes matters worse for India with even lower scores. It is available athttp://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/mc_chart.asp. If you read this report in conjunction with what I had written earlier, you will be conscious of my concerns. It has aggregate and individual governance indicators for 212 countries and territories over the period 1996-2007, for six dimensions of governance namely Voice and Accountability, Political Stability and Absence of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law & Control of Corruption.
On Political Stability and Absence of Violence we are at the real bottom – bottom most – , lower than Russia (compared with the 10 largest countries by GDP) China has a better score than us. The report says “This component measures the degree of tension within a country attributable to racial, nationality, or language divisions. Lower ratings are given to countries where racial and nationality tensions are high because opposing groups are intolerant and unwilling to compromise. Higher ratings are given to countries where tensions are minimal, even though such differences may still exist”.
Again on Political Stability and Absence of violence, while Japan and Germany are on top of this list, countries like France, Vietnam (Yes, Vietnam) & USA (in that order) come next followed by Brazil, China, Mexico & Turkey. India is on the lower quartile and keeps company with Egypt, Thailand, Indonesia, Iran & Philippines. Really at the bottom with a red indicator are our neighbours Bangladesh & Pakistan and countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria.
To add insult to injury, we have also one of the lowest scores on Human Development Index (HDI). (HDI is a comparative measure of well being amongst United Nations Member Countries. It is also used to measure the impact of economic policies on quality of life.)
In a revealing and sizzling essay “Will India become a Superpower?”, Ramachandra Guha, a leading historian, has touched upon a number of vital issues that threaten to test the strength of this ageing fabric called India. I recommend that you read this at http://www.outlookindia.com/fullprint.asp?choice=1&fodname=20080630&fname=AGuha&sid=1
India is a complex country. Look at some of its perennial problems for which there have been no determined efforts to find solutions. We have problems on all fronts everywhere. Sample this:-
· With over a billion people and still growing at an alarming rate, the quality of life for the teeming millions of poor people is disgraceful for a nation that boasts of high growth rates.
· We have not made any strides at reforming our governance ethics.
· The recent spate of violence in Jammu and Kashmir was unprecedented and again was as a result of an issue on land. Jammu & Kashmir are now divided on communal lines, with the people of Kashmir asking for freedom.
· The growing religious intolerance and its political fomentation and exploitation are dangerous signs of instability waiting to be exploited and exploded by clever criminals.
· Fundamentalists amongst religious orders have become more assertive and aggressive. The recent attack on Christians in Orissa caught the attention of the international press and even the Pope.
· The growing tendencies for local and regional parties to play at the national levels are fraught with the danger of narrow mindedness and divisive tendencies.
· States are increasingly asserting their individualities and pride.
· Nepotism in political parties is on the rise. This is a dangerous phenomenon where responsible ministerial seats are now bequeathed / gifted.
· Local language is again becoming a contentious issue. Look at what is happening in Mumbai.
· Water is a matter for quarrel between states.
· India has a wealthy middle class whose modern living styles can now be openly sampled in the new malls that adorn many metros aggravating the divide between the aspiring poor and the growing rich.
· There are no focussed or serious programs to control the explosive growth of the population.
In the words of Ramachandra Guha “——then, the government was run by men and women of proven intelligence and integrity, who were deeply committed to the values and procedures of democracy, and wholly aware of the threats posed to these values and procedures by men such as ———–. Now, the Government of India is run by men and women of limited intelligence and dubious integrity, who know little about and care less for the ideals on which the Republic was founded. (As the late Pramod Mahajan once candidly confessed, the first time most Members of Parliament see the Indian Constitution is when, after being elected, they are made to take an oath on it.)
I am really worried about the future of my young children who have five or more decades of life in front of them. My fear is not without any basis and this fear has understandably gripped many of my friends too. Will this country that is still called a young democracy at 61, stick together as a nation? I recall with alacrity as to how the Soviet Union disintegrated into pieces and how people suffered. Please recall that the central piece to the whole disintegration of the Soviet Union was a weak Central Government and certain coercive forces (the growing strength of provincial barons) that accelerated the collapse. And imagine we are increasingly closer to such a situation with weak central governments plus the right mixture of dangerous ingredients like unaffordable prices for basic necessities of life, joblessness, inequalities, angry youth, communal violence, diverse languages, growing intolerance, internal insurgencies, a huge and unmanageable population that has not stopped rising, growing regionalism and above all lack of bold and determined leadership.
This fragile fabric called India has shown considerable elasticity in the last several decades. If we do not immediately arrest those forces that puncture holes and try to tear it apart, we will soon become another Soviet Union. If this shall not happen to India, then ordinary mortals like us should be prepared do extraordinary things.
Our present prosperity and peace are as a result of the countless sufferings and sacrifices of people of yesteryears who made India a reality. Selfish and self centred pre-occupation with work, personal wealth and glory will all become meaningless if we can’t leave India as a safe place for our children to live peacefully and enjoy the fruits of our hard earned wealth. Many of the super rich have already their second homes in the west and if trouble erupts here, they have their safe heavens to run to.
So what do we do? Do we also buy properties in Dubai or Spain? There is no running away from this responsibility. Take a look at the number of bold individuals who with a missionary zeal are trying to bring that positive change all alone. There are a number of very credible not-for-profit organisations run by dedicated individuals. Support them in their quest for truth and accountability. Help the good people in government do their jobs without fear of the corrupt and the powerful. Let me know if you will be willing to join a National Network for Good Governance. If a hundred thousand dedicated and educated people can come together in a robust National Network and a think tank, then it will become a movement that can demand good governance. Let us campaign for a responsible government who can give us Good Governance.