By Dr R Balashankar
“Bahujana hitaya, bahujana sukhaya.” This has for long been the motto laid down for Indian rulers. The Indian ideal of statecraft so fascinated the sixth century Japanese prince Shotoku Taishi that he adopted bahujana hitaya as his country’s motto and carved the first Constitution of Japan as Seventeen Articles Constitution based on it. He took the Sanskrit text Usnisavijaya dharani which contains these verses for the consecration of the Constitution in 552 AD. He wrote commentaries and these verses are still recited in daily rituals.
On her second return as Prime Minister, after the defeat of the Janata Party in 1980, late Indira Gandhi dismissed all Janata governments and held fresh elections. At that time Congress adopted the bahujana hitaya as its election slogan and plastered all over Delhi posters with Indira Gandhi’s reassuring, smiling pictures with these lines on the top. Attending many election rallies as a cub reporter I remember the great BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee taking a dig at the Congress battle cry saying, ‘bahujana hitaya bahujana sukhaya is a fantastic ideal. The poet attributed these words as the utterances of Gautama Buddha as he renounces his kingdom, palace, beautiful consort and toddler son and takes to sanyas for the emancipation of humanity. The words jar on the lips of Indira Gandhi who is out to perpetuate her dynastic rule undermining all democratic norms.’
On this Republic Day, sixty-five years after Independence it is worth analysing if we are anywhere near this goal of bahujana hitaya, bahujana sukhaya. We are again witnessing a number of assembly poll campaigns. Indira Gandhi’s party under her Italian daughter-in-law seems to have rephrased bahujana (large majority) into alpajana hitaya, alpajana sukhaya (for the will and benefit of the smallest segment of the society). What else do we make of the persistent onslaught on Hindu interests and identities by a minority government, led by a non-elected, nominated Prime Minister, with all the major offices of the state and the ruling party reserved for individuals with minority tag and deliberate attempt to divide and subdivide and micro-divide the Hindu society in the name of caste, sub caste, mini and miniscule castes for special state patronage.
This is not the way of statecraft or nation building. This is deliberate and vengeful destruction of the nation and its moorings. Even the British did not perpetuate such cruel divide and rule policy on the people of this country. When free India adopted the new Constitution the ideal was to strive for the creation of one nation, one people where all minor identities were to enrich the macro Indian nationhood. The country was to be a model of welfare state. Democracy in true letter and spirit, with people as the sovereign was the goal. Not the repeated assertions by discredited politicians and media persons that Parliament is supreme.
We never envisaged a situation where the government on very flimsy grounds would pit itself against the Army Chief, who was forced to drag the government to the apex court for justice.
What it has exposed is the Achilles heel of the UPA government. It has lost all its moral authority. A sagacious and popular Defence Minister or Prime Minister would not have allowed the escalation of such a situation. AK Antony is a good man. He could be a good PCC president. But he as Defence Minister is a big anachronism of our democracy, a travesty of Sonia Gandhi’s whimsical selection of wimpy minions into onerous positions. The Army Chief who vowed to cleanse the system and restore the reputation of the Indian Armed Forces has become the fall guy. This is what happens when the system patronises mediocrity and denounces meritocracy.
Does our Constitution reflect in any manner the government of today? Power without responsibility, power without accountability, power without constitutional sanction. This is what Sonia Gandhi exhibits with unfathomable display of brazenness. And we have a political class that has forgotten the fundamental principles of political career.
We are saddled with the shameful spectre of over two-fifths of India’s children going to bed underfed. Infant mortality is one of the highest, not much improvement in literacy levels, access to safe and clean drinking water and countless other curses that afflict the poor. This is not the muckraking reporter’s fantasy for raising uncomfortable issues. I recently came across a book that masterfully narrates the macabre wave of crime that poverty and exploitation breeds in the society.
“…people say that they are going to Malaysia or United States with a glimmer of hope in their eyes. In Tsunami Nagar (Tamil Nadu) people speak that way about selling their kidneys,” says the book with a revelation that every single person there has sold his/ her kidney because of poverty. The book, The Red Market, by Scott Carney (reviewed in this issue), narrates a heart wrenching situation where blood dairies thrive sucking the human blood by modern day monsters. The report reads like this; recently, a few days before the Indian celebration of Holi, an emaciated man with graying skin, drooping eyes, and rows of purple needle marks on both arms stumbled up to a group of farmers in the sweltering Indian border town of Gorakhpur… At first the farmers ignored the man’s request for bus fare. But he persisted. He wasn’t a refugee, he said. He was escaping from a makeshift prison where his captor siphoned off his blood for profit. The farmers shook off their stupor and called the police.
“The emaciated man brought the officers to his prison of the last three years: a hastily constructed shack sandwiched between Pappu Yadav’s concrete home and a cowshed. A brass padlock hung from the iron door’s solid latch. The officers could hear the muffled sounds of humanity through the quarter inch of metal.
“They sprung the lock and revealed a medical ward fit for a horror movie. IV drips hung from makeshift poles and patients moaned as if they were recovering from a delirium. Five emaciated men lying on small woven cots could barely lift their heads to acknowledge the visitors…The Blood Factory, as it was quickly known in the press, was supplying a sizable percentage of the city’s blood supply…”
It is not only the blood and organs of the poor that is not safe in today’s rich man’s world. Even the dead body, hair, skin and burnt out bones are not enough to satiate their greed. Who buys all them? Only those who can afford. Where is the market? It is huge and mostly in the West elite circuit.
This is not the India of our dream. There is enough in the nature for the needs of every one, we often say. But not enough to satisfy the greed of even a few. The book says till recently, the trade in dead bodies was so extensive that just about every classroom skeleton in “America must have come from India.” This is a story of the invisible crime and racket that lurks in the wings of every miracle medical breakthrough and dazzling recoveries from the jaws of death. It also exposes the savage human cruelty on the hapless victims by the powerful only to preserve and protect their health and beauty.
Republic Day is not the time to entertain depressing thoughts. India’s economy is thriving in spite of Sonia and Manmohan Singh. Perhaps we will still continue to be the second fastest growing economy in the world. The European Union and the US are looking at India along with other BRIC countries to maintain the momentum of capitalist growth model. The other day The Economist in its cover story acclaimed India’s Unique Identity (UID) scheme saying, “one massive problem in India is that few poor people can prove who they are. They have no passport, no driving licence, no proof of address, The state spends a fortune on subsidised grains, for the hungry, but an estimated two thirds of it is stolen or adulterated by middlemen. Armed with the system, India will be able to rethink the nature of its welfare state, cutting back on benefits on kind and market distorting subsidies, and turning to cash transfers paid directly into the bank accounts of neediest”
But whose baby is the UID after all? Already 200 million identity cards have been made. Another 200 will be ready in the next one year according to reports. But the Planning Commission, Finance Ministry the Standing Committee of Parliament the sarkari NGOs and the Home Minister P Chidambaram have raised objections and it is being reported the scheme will be aborted. Is it that Sonia Gandhi does not want it? Because no other power in the UPA would have prompted such a massive opposition to a scheme launched with such fanfare. Perhaps an identity card might in many ways save the poor man from the crimes of the powerful as mentioned above.
India would have been a better place to live had its politicians been less self-serving and more patriotic. In no other country a coterie of religious minorities and foreign born citizens would have been calling the shots in a democracy. It is often said that India is a rich country inhabited by poor people. It is more appropriate to describe India as a rich country held hostage by a gang of super rich politicians. If not, who has stashed away Rs 25,00,000 crore from the country and why does the government not bother to get the money back? Not that all politicians are bad, but a vast majority are. If all this money had been put to public use, the Republic would have already become a superpower and there would have been no poverty, which according to a recent report leaves annually thirteen lakh children dead before their first birthday and 230 million Indians go to bed hungry, daily.