PUBLIC memory is usually short; that is why many politicians literally get away with murder charge. It is the duty of the media, therefore, to give the background to every event whenever something important takes place, like the TDP ‘yatra’ organised by Telugu Desam’s former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu against the Babhli project in Maharashtra’s Nanded district bordering Andhra Pradesh.
The technique adopted by the media consists of “breaking news”; Chandrababu Naidu leads a group of 74 Andhra MLAs and when they tried to enter Maharashtra territory they get arrested under Sections 135, 143 and 188 of the Indian Penal Code. Chandrababu Naidu protests, claiming that he and his followers “were illegally detained” and that, too, in their own territory! Big news.
No paper attempted to give a background to the construction of the Babhli barrage across the river Godavari or show a map indicating where Babhli is. No one even knows much about the differences between Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh on the barrage issue. DNA (July 20) made the point that “projects in one state have to be conceived and designed with the impact they would have on neighbouring states” and that “it is not such a bad political idea to take care of the concerns of neighbours”. “Natural resouces” said DNA, “have to be shared” and “the solution lies in evolving a national water grid on the lines of a national power grid with transparent rules of sharing”.
The paper added: “This is an issue that goes beyond the political fortunes of Naidu, Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, and Andhra Chief Minister K Rosaiah”. They could have got together and worked out a plan mutually agrreable and acceptable. What is wrong with our stupid politicians? When will they ever grow up? In its own editorial The Asian Age (20 July) pointed out that “it is time the Centre took a strategic view of the management of all rivers water in the country and helped resolve disputes”. The Centre does not seem to exist. One notices little leadership in Delhi. When Chandrababu Naidu was arrested, Delhi must have immediately called Mumbai to see that he is not detained. It was stupid on the part of Chandrababu Naidu to seem to lead a procession to the Babhli site, in the first place. It was worse manners for the Maharashtra government to get him arrested. As The Asian Age rightly pointed out, water is “always an emotive question” but such questions should be tackled with statesmanship.
What the arrest of Chandrababu has shown is that this country has no leaders in Delhi. Just as painful is the lack of moral leadership in the states. The country is going to the dogs. Elected representatives to the various Assemblies are behaving like rowdies with no sense of shame or decency. Deccan Herald (July 23) drew attention to the behaviour of Karnataka MLAs eating, making merry and sleeping overnight in the well of the House, a more sickening sight it is hard to conceive. The paper also drew attention to opposition MLAs of the Bihar Legislative Assembly “hurling footware at the Speaker and flower pots at the Assembly’s watch-and-ward staff”. The photograph of a woman MLA, apparently gone mad, breaking flower pots appeared in many papers. The Indian Express (July 23) admonished the MLAs saying that “while they have every right to make a demand and even press for it, they had no right to create ugly scenes in the House”. The paper said that “they could even bring forward a motion of no-confidence against the government” instead of preferring “to spend the night in the Assembly premises”. “Many MLAs seem to believe” said The Express “that their popularity in their constituencies would improve if they resort to theatrics”. The truth of the matter is that we have no leaders of eminence to lay down the law whether to Congress MLAs or Government officials. Secretaries to Ministries speak out of turn and they are not told to shut up, and commenting on public affairs is not part of their job. The tragedy is that we now have coalition governments and senior IAS officials feel they can do what they like considering that there is not one single party in power and the leading party in the coalition doesn’t have the guts to lay down the law. It is to such a sad state that we have been reduced.
Who is the Railway Minister? Has anyone heard of Mamata Bannerjee? “Didi, Shape up or Ship out” screamed The Asian Age (July 21) but does Mamata care? Does Sonia Gandhi? In 14 months there have been 200 railway accidents, over 400 deaths and more than 600 injured. But Mamata behaves, as the paper said like “an absentee landlord”. As for the behaviour of MLAs, Inder Malhotra, writing in the same paper asked “why is no one protesting against the indignity the Congress and the Janata Dal (U) MLAs are inflicting on the Legislature by using the chamber as their eating and sleeping place”.
Noted Shri Malhotra: “Nothing better is expected from Mr Gowda and his cohorts. But has the top leadership of the Congress lost all control over its Karnataka unit?” But why blame the politicians alone? What about permanent officials who are more knowledgeable than their illiterate Ministers and who should be educating them?
In the case of the railway disaster involving the Uttar Banga and Vananchal Expresses as Hindustan Times (July 21) said explicitly, “the danger signals have been flashing for the least a decade now but inexplicably no one in the Railway Ministry seem to have taken them seriously”. How can they when no one knows who is in power? The officials get their salaries and their perquisites, as do the Ministers and they have no one to control them. There is no moral leadership, let alone technical guidance. Ministers and officials speak out of turn with no one to control them. The Home Secretary says something forcing the External Affairs Minister to criticise it. Politicians sit tight in their well-furnished homes in Janpath, Delhi, Declining to visit other states and meet state leaders, let alone ordinary people. Somebody must shake these good for-nothings from their stupor before Indian goes into pieces, when will our so-called ‘leaders’ learn from history? Did Bhagat Singh, Sukhdeo, Rajguru, Mallappa Dhanashetty, Jagannath Shinde and a whole lot of others give their lives so that the Thackerays and the rest of their type break the country into pieces?