By intentionally mishandling the playing of the national anthem during the President'svisit to Infosys? Mysore campus, chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy has inadvertently brought to the forefront a growing conspiracy to demean and banish symbols of national pride and culture from public life. Any Indian who feels ashamed of singing the national anthem in the presence of foreigners, no matter how eminent he/she may be in his/her chosen profession, is ill-qualified for public office, and it is to be hoped that the ill-conceived proposal to moot the Left-leaning Mr. Murthy for the President'spost will now die a natural death.
Anyone who displays such a callous disregard for the national anthem will hardly have respect for the Constitution, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, and can therefore not be allowed to occupy the highest office in the land. India'snational anthem is intimately linked with her geography, and I am curious whether Mr. Murthy'scasual dismissal of it is in any way linked with current internationally-sponsored attempts to redefine our national borders. The suspicion cannot be dismissed out of hand because there is a noticeable trend among our super-elite to subordinate national concerns to presumed economic betterment by kow-towing to the West. It will take a while for this bubble to burst.
While the political conspiracy to banish all symbols of Hindu culture from the public arena goes back to the era of Nehruvian Stalinism, the new assault of the nation'sfoundational ethos has taken the form of juxtaposing economic development vis-?-vis the concern for cultural autonomy and self-respect; and now, the staggering assertion that foreigners would not like Indians to show respect to their own flag and national anthem in their presence!
This is an unheard of explanation! In diplomacy, it is an standard practice for visiting dignitaries to be welcomed by playing the national anthems of both the host and guest countries, and national flags are also publicly displayed and honoured at such occasions. So when Mr. Narayana Murthy and Infosys learnt that protocol required playing the national anthem at the start and conclusion of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam'svisit to their campus, no one imagined they would not do so. A funny band was engaged to play the anthem tune and while the nationalist President sang enthusiastically, everyone else followed the chief mentor and barely moved their lips.
Mr. Murthy later claimed the company had arranged for five persons to sing the anthem, but cancelled the show because it would embarrass a handful of foreign trainees present on the campus! This is the level of his personal respect for India. Will he change the map of India because his trainees do not like its present shape? It must be said in defence of the maligned foreign guests that there is no evidence that they did have objections to the singing of the national anthem! In fact, it is normal for visitors who do not know the anthem or prayers of a foreign country to maintain respectful silence.
Amazingly, when cornered over the issue, Mr. Murthy had the audacity to try to wriggle out by saying: ?I apologise to those who may have been hurt by my comments on the instrumental version of the anthem played during President Kalam'svisit.? May have been? Excuse me, does he mean that he cannot fathom the extent of hurt caused to the President and the nation? Does he mean he personally has no regrets for his conduct?
This incident comes close on the heels of an attempt by another leading Indian industrialist to bail out the American Dow Chemical Company from its duty to clean up disaster-hit Bhopal after the gas tragedy two decades ago. As is well known, the deadlock over compensation for the victims of the Union Carbide gas leak is yet to reach a fair conclusion.
Now, in an act of contempt for the suffering victims, Dow Chemical Company'schairman Andrew N Liveris has written to Indian envoy Ronen Sen stating that Indian government representatives at the US-India CEO Forum in New York in 2006 had absolved Dow of responsibility for the Bhopal disaster. Mr. Liveris therefore wanted the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers to withdraw the order asking Dow to pay Rs. 100 crore for cleaning up the disaster-hit area.
A copy of this letter has been forwarded to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia by industrialist Ratan Tata with a plea to accept Dow'sposition to help ?break the deadlock?. In other words, Mr. Tata wants the Government of India to simply let Dow go scot-free.
This information has come to light following an RTI query by Ms. Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action. Ms. Dhingra rightly fears that Mr. Liveris? view that ?resolution of the Bhopal legacy issue must be seen as a tangible, deliverable outcome for the CEO Forum? confirms fears that the Indian government is being pressurised to indemnify Dow against liabilities arising out of Bhopal.
This pressure is being exerted by Indian captains of industry seeking to magnify personal profits through corporate deals that compromise the lives and health of the Indian poor, and help them stash fortunes abroad. It is pertinent that Mr. Tata had previously proposed that the government allow corporate India to bear the cost of remediation; no doubt, he would also expect a tax write-off for this task. Mr. Tata is co-chair of the US-India CEO Forum, a body of Indian and US industrialists created to foster bilateral business relations, and his suggestion to treat the sufferings of Indian citizens lightly should be dismissed as reflecting a clear conflict of interests.
It is high time the Manmohan Singh regime reversed the disturbing new trend of permitting corporate India to dictate national and foreign policy at the expense of national interest and sovereignty.