THE more things change, the more they remain the same. I do not know who said this, but he must have been a very wise man. Look at what is happening in the Middle East where nothing less than a revolution is said to be sweeping that part of the world. Revolutions don’t come easy. They mean violent deaths, killings galore and uprooting of thousands of people – men, women and children – not to speak of loss of property and all-round devastation.
But people who have returned from Egypt and Libya say that things are not all that bad in these two countries. In Cairo, only the Tahrir Square has been affected but things are normal in the rest of the city. Offices are open, embassies are doing business, bus services are more or less normal and there is no shortage of food.
Prices are normal too. In fact, things are so normal, people wonder where there was really a revolution. Hosni Mubarak is, of course, in jail and keeps going to hospital every other day, where he is received by his former officers, most of them military men, many of whom are now in the new government, occupying the same old jobs, though many have been promoted. In fact, Mubarak must be wondering that if he had stayed put a few days longer, he would still be in office and running things more or less as before, as his friends in Yemen and Syria and doing.
The real change has taken place in Libya which has been divided into two parts – the eastern part which contains most of the oil wells and refineries, and the Western half which contains Tripoli, the capital, which continues to be in the hands of Gaddafi and his family. Things are likely to continue like this for a long time, as Gaddafi has many friends in high positions in the West, including Tony Blair, who are protecting him. So nobody is in a hurry to get rid of Gaddafi who will probably go on for six months, if not longer, which is long enough for things revert to normal, which means partition of Libya into two parts, one remaining with the Western powers, and western half left to Gaddafi. What the Westerners always wanted was oil, which they have got, and all this talk about democracy is just a smokescreen to hoodwink the world.
Nearer home in India, things are a little different but not much. Libya has at least a Gaddafi in Tripoli; we have no government worth the name, at least in Delhi, and nobody seems to care. In India, you don’t really need a government, as we have a bureaucracy which actually runs the administration, and that is what really matters. And, of course, there are ministers like Sharad Pawar, who hardly ever spend much time in Delhi, as they have other responsibilities elsewhere, which are much more lucrative than keeping tabs on rice and wheet.
We have had virtually no government in Delhi now for the last few months, and no Prime Minister either. Dr Manmohan Singh is what Bahadur Shah Zafar was just before the 1857 war, which means he is just a puppet whose main job is to sign some papers placed before him and make an occasional speech in the Parliament which his clerks write for him. I do not think we have ever had a less effective Prime Minister than we have now, a man who is totally ignorant about things going on around him, either because he doesn’t want to know, or is being deliberately kept out of the loop.
Take this question of corruption. Singh says he knows nothing about it, and apparently couldn’t care less. He is happy attending cricket matches here and there, and when things are too quiet, he goes to unlikely places in Asia Minor, places with unpronounceable names and unpronounceable Prime Ministers or Presidents. Singh can always come back and say that he was the first Prime Minister of India to do so, just as he is the first Prime Minister who cannot even name his own ministers.
Does that mean that the country is going to pieces and things are falling apart? Not by a long chalk. We have our own Montek Ahluwalia who comes out periodically with economic forecasts that invariably predict huge GDP growth rates, endorsed by none other than his godfathers in Washington. India is still the second or third fastest growing country in the world, even though our farmers regularly commit suicide and our industrial tycoons are perennially busy transferring their spare cash to numbered accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere. This has apparently no effect on their profits in India which keep growing, and with these, the sensex. And Ahluwalia keeps sending his reports to his bosses in Washington!
Now take this corruption business and the new body that Anna Hazare has set up against the wishes of his rivals in Delhi. Congress leaders think that Hazare is a pain in the neck but there is little that they can do about him, since he is so popular a man, just like the common man of RK Laxman. The Congressmen will try to finish him off – not physically but otherwise – but not before he is given a long rope. Which is why they have a man like Pranab Mukherjee in the committee, a man who is handy with ropes and can use them to great effect.
In India, half the things – and people – you see are fake. Take our economists. Almost all of them, including the redoubtable P Chidambaram, are either from Harvard or Cambridge, England, but they have messed up not only India’s economy – high prices and no jobs – but almost the entire world. for the last three years, the economies of the United States and Britain, have been on the skids which all their economists cannot put right. You may say that they are all fake economists and have no idea what makes things run. Montek has been saying for months that inflation will be brought down in a couple of months – he used to even give actual dates – but that has not happened. Have they forgotten their economics or are they fakes?
We have fake pilots who run planes on the basis of fake certificates. We have take revolutionaries who flee at the first sound of gunfire. We have fake Gandhians who wear fake khadi. We have take secularists who suddenly turn very pious at the first sign of trouble. We have take educationists who run universities though they have never seen the inside of a high school. We have take scientists who pose as environmentalists, and we hare fake environmentalists who pose as scientists. The only genuine people in India are the common people who do a genuine job, raise genuine families, and have genuine faith in India. And it is because of them that we are still in one piece as a nation, while others are collapsing around us.