As an independent country India is now 65 years old. One would have thought that it would be recognised as an old and mature nation, a model for others to follow, or at least to admire. The picture as of now, alas, is only disturbing and noxious.
Writing in Business Line (August 15) BS Raghavan, a distinguished bureaucrat has only tears to shed. As he put it, “no other Independence Day has filled the nation with so many foreboding as today’s has. It is past the stage of gloom and despondency and taken on the complexion of anxiety and even alarm about what the future hold.” In a long article he has so much to mourn. To quote him, even partially: “Until about a couple of years ago, India’s credentials to emerge as an economic power on the would stage on par with the US and China and pushing Japan behind, was acceptable without question. Not any more… Of late a mocking and derisive tone has begun creeping into many of the writings on India by political and economic analysts… Not to put too fine a point on it, the time has come for Manmohan Singh to become an emeritus Prime Minister…” Raghavan wants Manmohan Singh to retire quietly. And, one suspects, he would also like to see the last of Sonia Gandhi.
Writing in The New Indian Express (August 15), BG Verghese, a well-known political commentator noted that “corruption is a scourge and gains salience only because of policing, the criminal justice system, ordinary systems of governance and accountability have broken down.” His article was titled: Anarchy in Governance. Nobody will charge Verghese with being an NDA stooge.
In its own editorial the paper (August 15) said “the public standing of politicians in general is at its lowest ebb…” Good leaders, said the paper, are hard to come by and the young are lacking direction. “There is” it added, “a dire need for electoral reform so that criminals are not able to get elected to legislatures”. Deccan Herald (August 15) said “When we look back upon the road traversed, the state of the nation is not one of hope, confidence and achievement, but of despair, diffidence and failure.” “The Prime Minister” it said, “should feel this disorientation heavily in his heart.”
The Times of India (August 16) merely took note of the shenanigans of the likes of Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, of Uttar Pradesh PWD Minister Shivpal Yadav telling officials that if they work hard they “can steal a little” and the political class of the world’s largest democracy “appearing hostile to dissent”. Said the paper pompously: “The freedoms our democracy guarantee were hard won. Let’s live up to them.”
Writing in Organiser (August 19), one among practically all contributors, Dr JK Bajaj, Director, Centre for Policy Studies noted that the UPA seemed to be floundering, and that “even those who are normally positively disposed to the Congress… have become scathing and dismissive in their criticism” with many hoping that “the elections of 2014 shall overthrow this patently and corrupt government”. There is little or practically no faith in the Prime Minister – and that is the worst tragedy of all. He is generally dismissed as a man of no consequence.
The New Indian Express (August 16) noted that his Independence Day speech was “an exercise in fulfilling a ritual rather than an inspired address fired by enthusiasm and optimism.” It was, said the paper, “the address of a tired leader who has lost the verve to govern, But is persisting with his task with no desire to break new ground.” Stating that Singh “did not give any clue about his government plans to address the challenges India faces”, the paper said all in all, the speech was “pedestrian and devoid of conviction”. Practically almost all the English dailies made the same point, with Deccan Herald (August 16) noting that “the address might be thought of as an opportunity lost, a forgettable exercise in generalities and inanities”. Inanities? Yes, inanities! But probably, the most damning indictment of the government – especially against the background of recent developments in Assam – comes from Gen SK Sinha, who was once Vice Chief of Army Staff and has served as Governor of Assam (apart from Jammu & Kashmir) and can speak with authority. His article in The Asian Age (August 15) calls for special attention. As Governor of Assam in 1998, he had submitted a 42-page report to the then President of India pointing out that “illegal migrants were not only changing the demography of Assam, but posing a gave threat to our national security.” In that Report he had made fifteen recommendations, including effective border fencing. The Government ignored them. Worse, twenty Congress MPs from the North-East appealed to the President to recall him “for dabbling in politics”!
The then Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi did much worse. He sought to damn Gen Sinha for his “constitutional impropriety in