WHAT on earth is happening to this great country, India that is Bharat? It is impossible to open the pages of any newspaper or switch to any news channel without getting depressed. It is no use blaming the media which is like a mirror. One can fool many but the mirror cannot be deceived. It shows us for what we are; moles, warts and all. First and foremost the corruption that is eating into the vitals of our society and spreading the cancer of lawlessness across the nation.
Practically all classes of people are now affected by it, including Ministers, bureaucrats and even the media, a good section of which seems to be publishing “Paid News”, inviting derision and a sense of hopelessness. As the Bible says, if the salt itself hath lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is not the clerk at his desk or the policeman on his beat who is demanding his bit of flesh. The chairman of the Indian Medical Council, Ketan Desai was arrested and was found to possess wealth, not only in cash but in gold and other precious metals that even a Rockefeller may have envied. Fancy a Post Master General of Goa-not just a controller of medical education in India-getting arrested while allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 20 crore! And then there is the case of a mere police inspector in New Delhi owning assets worth Rs 12 crore!
Ministers, of course, seem to make personal corruption a hobby, as much as a way of life. Take the unbelievable case of Madhu Koda who has allegedly amassed a fabulous sum of Rs 4,000 crore during his Chief Ministership of Jharkhand! And it is now common knowledge that two DMK Ministers at the Centre, A Raja and TR Balu both representing the DMK – have not only “brought much odium to the first UPA government,” but thanks to the policies pursued by one of them, “A Raja”, the national exchequer has suffered a collective loss of about Rs 50,000 crore! “Keep Raja and Baalu Out” screamed a national paper, but to no effect.
Such is the disdain of the UPA government that one of them was holidaying in an island when the budget was being discussed in the Lok Sabha, Unemployment is rampant. It is neither “Shining India” nor “Incredible India”. There are a lakh of aspirants for a mere 20,000 posts in the Indian Railways but more sickening is to realise that the question papers for the All-India Recruitment Board (RRB) examination were secretly leaked by a relative of the Board’s chairman to as many as 440 odd aspirants for the petty posts of Assistant Station Masters. In another context, the highly popular Lokayukta of Karnataka, Justice N Santosh Hegde felt it necessary to resign his post in sheer disgust because he had little power to bring the corruption-guilty at the highest level to book. Lakhs of tonnes of iron ore were being not only illegally mined, but openly exported with the connivance of officials of various departments, including the police. And no one has asked how much money the mine overlords have made and where they have deposited their ill-gotten gains. They seem to have bribed the politicians in power as well.
The Governor of Karnataka, HR Bharadwaj claims he is determined to get two Ministers-the Reddy Brothers-out of the BS Yeddyurappa cabinet but the Chief Minister has given them a clean chit. They claim to be as clean as 24 carat gold. So all corrupt cases end up as a day’s headline, to be as quickly to be forgotten. Violence in the country is endemic. Little attention is given to Marxist depredations and killings in the name of defending Tribal Rights. In the last five years, over 10,000 civilian and security persons have been killed and a total of 83 districts in nine States have became Naxal-infested, but it hardly concerns state governments. Kidnapping, killings, arson, loot and what else have you, are the order of the day, all in the name of social justice, and our intellectuals fall prey to these wiles.
The Maoist movement has evolved into an insurgency. As one newspaper noted: “A democratic state as envisaged in the Indian Constitution is unacceptable to the Marxists. The adivasis, victims of the inefficiency and callousness of elected representatives and public officials, are only used as a front to promote an ideology, that is inherently undemocratic”. But the cult of violence continues unabated. Trains are derailed, buses are burnt along with the passengers and landlords mercilessly killed in true Marxist spirit, but little is gained. The government apparently has a plan- a belated one, incidentally – to spend Rs 13,742 crore in Maoist-hit districts, which seems too little when one realises that as much as Rs 10,000 crore has been spent on just one national project in India-Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. Besides, who knows what part of the Rs 13,742 crore go to middlemen hungry for easy money? Cheating takes place on a huge scale and all that is literally taken as part for the course. Parallel to the Maoist killings are the more than 1,000 “honour killings” that take place every year in mostly rural India where caste is all-pervading. These “Honour killings” take place predominently in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, not just among Hindus but among both Muslim and Sikh communities. This is barbarianism in excelsis. To add to peoples’ miseries, there is the matter of inflation which has been defying Ministerial and bureaucratic predictions. Contrary to claims made by Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, inflation is riding high, deeply hurting the pockets of the Fixed Income salaried, the Low Income Groups and the poor in particular.
Just in June 2010 prices of primary articles, including food and non-food items rose by 16.6 per cent and the prices of pulses by as much as 32 per cent. Even manufactured goods registered a 6.6 per cent rise during the same month. The aam aadmi has to bear it all. He has no options, unless starving is one. The price rise, no doubt was, in part, fuelled by the hike in fuel prices and that is another sad story. All this must surely be affecting the people whose anger is often seen in reckless violence among the educated youth. And finally, if one might say so, is the painful division of India along linguistic lines, making one wonder whether our elders were wise in agreeing to the division of the country along linguistic lines. It has done more harm than any good. The violence is most noticeable in west India, between Maharashtra and Karnataka. In recent times there has been agitation over whether Marathi-speaking villages, now part of Karnataka should be handed over to Maharashtra on “legitimate” grounds. Maharashtra Government’s argument is that as many as 865 villages now within Karanataka State and are all Marathi-speaking, legitimately belong to Maharashtra and should be handed over to it. All kinds of vile arguments are being adduced, including one which says that these village people feel enslaved! Tempers have risen to such a high pitch that a bus from Karnataka which had to pass through Maharashtra territory was set on fire and reportedly this action was replicated when a bus from Maharashtra entered so-called Karnataka territory, it is to this level of barbarity that our people have descended, making a mockery of Indian unity.
It is an insult to indiahood. The octagenarian Shiv Sena leader has threatened even to beat up Kannadigas in Mumbai, claiming that Maharashtrian patience is getting exhausted.
Raw linguistic chauvinism is the meat of all fascist organisations and it is threatening the essential unity of India that has long been our pride. We have now reduced ourselves into being Maharashtrians, Kannadigas, Malayalis, Bengalis and Andhraites. It is a crying shame. That Marathi-speaking people reportedly are unsafe in Karnataka and vice versa, calls for study. But what is more shocking is to learn that 74 leaders of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) including 50 MLAs and MLCs led by a former Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, were arrested when they tried to enter what is called “Maharashtrian territory” if there is such a thing, to visit the Babhali Dam Project on July 17. Maharashtrian territory? Are we all gone haywire-totally mad? If a former Chief Minister-let alone an ordinary non-Maharashtrian -can be arrested on grounds that he has entered “Maharashtrian Territory, then what is Indian unity all about? What kind of Great Power will we ever make? It is just this kind of behaviour that enabled the British to pitch one Indian group against another to win over all India. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra should have told the Marathi-speaking people in Karnataka to behave like good Indian citizens to become model Indians.
The Maharashtra Chief Minister should have especially told the Marathi-speaking people in all those 865 villages to behave like good Indian citizens and become models for all Indians spread across the sub-continent. By his behaviour, Maharashtra’s Chief Minister has brought disgrace to the holy name of India. Through his and the behaviour of others like him, great damage has been done to India’s sense of one-ness.
India is on the verge of slipping into a third rate nation and the rulers in all states should be warned that their attitudes are unacceptable. It is bad enough to have hostile neighbours, and weak political leadership. It is worse when cheap politicians attempt to sell India for petty reasons. India is one, indivisible.
(The writer is a senior columnist and former chairman of Prasar Bharati and editor, Illustrated Weekly.)