The answer is simple. Blame not anything else, blame ourselves for we have not risen to the lofty ideals our founding fathers, with their collective wisdom, have incorporated into our constitution.
It is the cumulative failure of all the politicians, the bureaucrats, the traders, the professionals and the people from different walks of life that have led to the mess that we see all around us. It is not that we have not achieved anything, but we could have reached greater heights had we tapped our human resources and natural wealth in the best possible manner. The reason why we floundered and dithered is the thing to think of. It is the quality of the human material that corrupts itself at the cost of the common good. Let us not blame the institutions and statutes that reinforced the foundations of our democracy.
Who is to blame if a state assembly becomes a replica of a street scene in Lucknow? Who is to blame if MPs rough up to a minister only to tear off a bill he is going to present. In many states hardcore criminals and history sheeters have become MLAs and ministers. Politics has become sound investment where one can make quick bucks and make the government machinery dance according to the tune of the wily vote catcher. Scams have been mushrooming, but there are few politicians who have ever been convicted. Sheshans, Gills and Vittals may come and go but politics has yet to become a respectable profession. Can we ever find a Subhash, Patel, Prasad, Shastri or B.C. Roy among the existing genre of politicians? What a fall, my countrymen.
It is not politics that alone has become a muddy pool, stagnant enough to be a breeding ground of mosquitoes that suck the blood of innocent millions who eternally survive on deferred hopes? The employees of the Uttar Pradesh State Electricity Board were on strike for 11 days and the state spends over Rs. 500 crore every month on salaries and other establishment costs. What do these employees give in return to the state for the Rs. 500 crore they get? Two of every five units of power it generates are lost in transmission or distributions—pilfered by non paying consumers in collaboration with corrupt linesmen.
Don’t be shocked if the UPSEB loses Rs. 50 crore every week I Many of the other state electricity boards are virtual facsimile of the UPSEB, though many states have done or are doing their best to mend matters. Corruption and black money still rule the roost despite the central vigilance commission and the CBI. Many sharks are still at large while the small fish are trapped to die a slow agonising death.
Justice? It eludes the poor who cannot afford the rigmarole of litigation and those who dare to knock at the door are killed by the cruel delay of justice. Our over crowded jails and hundreds upon thousands of under trials languishing behind the bars are symptoms of a sick society.
On the golden jubilee of the Supreme Court of India, even the first citizen of India, the late ex-President, Mr. K. R. Narayanan himself bemoaned the plight of the underdog. “Mysterious are the ways of justice. That is why it has been said that the law court is not a cathedral but a casino where so much depends on the throw of dice.” In a veiled reference to the Priyadrashini Mattoo Case, he said the judge had let a person, accused of murder, go scot free on the ground that clinching evidence was lacking, though the judge was convinced that the person was guilty.
If millions of cases pile up in the corridors of justice (over 30 million, to be exact in December, 2000), one can’t blame the courts, least of all the supreme court that has stood as the last hope of all, with its epoch making judgements on different spheres where the executive has awfully failed to take action. Call it judicial Activism or anything else; the Supreme Court has become a sheet anchor of liberty, equality and justice. The contribution of the Supreme Court in upholding constitutionalism, rule of law, personal liberty and human rights, secularism, gender justice and democratic values has been quite significant.
We are passing through the best of times and the worst of times. While some of our achievements as in space research, information technology, milk revolution and the like have earned us worldwide recognition, there are yawning gaps in our socio-economic achievements that make us laughing stock in the eyes of the world. We carry many of these festering sores right into the new millennium, millions of childrens still labour the livelong day for their own survival and survival of their own families.
Child labour still defies a viable solution as we miserably fail on yet another field, Primary Education. We harbour the largest number of illiterates and we are doing precious little to exercise control scourge of illiteracy. Commission after commission has been set up to study the ills affecting the educational systems, but the system is still crying for reforms.
Schools without roofs, schools without teachers, without dedication and curriculum growth fail to sustain the interest of children. Where do we go from here? Illiteracy is further compounded by a galloping population growth. Quality of life is about to deteriorate when the systems cannot cope up with even the minimum needs of the burgeoning numbers in cities, big and small. Civic services like drinking water supply, basic sanitation, and disposal of solid wastes are on the verge of collapse even as women and children walk long distances in the villages to fetch their daily requirements of water.
The man in the last row does not follow you when you talk of liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation. He must have a roof over his head, he must have a job to keep the starvation away, and he must satisfy minimum needs.
Millions like him still use the open fields even for nature’s calls. Are the poor beings taken for a ride in the name of globalisation and liberalisation? We heard the warning signals in this regard at Seattle (USA), and later in Davos (Switzerland), and our Finance Minister warned of the grim consequences if the west sought to force on the East their concept of globalisation. Unleashed consumerism is already taking a heavy toll and we should guard ourselves against skewed priorities.
In his Republic Day message, the President Mr. K. R. Narayanan, has given a wake up call. “The unabashed vulgar indulgence in conspicuous consumption by the rich has left the lower class seething in frustration. One half of our society guzzles aerated beverages, while the other half has to drink muddied water. Our three way fast lane of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation must provide safe pedestrian crossings for the unempowered India also. Among this ‘unempowered’ segment are our women, still treated as second class citizen’s right from the cradle to the grave.
Female infanticide is still rampant in certain parts of the country. Dowry is still a curse that neither the most stringent law nor education has been able to banish. Dowry deaths and rape still stalk women right into the new century. The plight of widows is all the more miserable. Raja Rammohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar will be turning in their grave if they see the plight of ostracised widows in the holy places of Vrindavan and Varanasi.
Everyone has to change if India is to change for the better. The laws can only show the path. It is the people who will have to take initiatives; everyone has a stake; the politician, the bureaucrat, the technician, the teacher, the doctor, the engineer, the lawyer, the common man. All have to work together to make India a nation of which each one of them could be proud. Let every Indian recall to his mind the talisman of Gandhiji “if any work you undertake is going to help the last man in the last row, go ahead or otherwise abandon the project.”
Amid the encircling gloom, there is a ray of hope. The new leadership has a vision of a new India. They are trying their best to shed the old baggage and to propel the country forward for a change, India has not only the best brains, but brave hearts that mean what they say. The future could be still ours if all of us unite, persevere and dedicate ourselves for the common good of the country. ‘Nation before the self should be the mantra. There are many stars that illumine our path. Our own Gandhiji, Abraham Lincoln, JRD Tata, Sir Henry Ford and there are living stars like Bill Gates and Lee Kuan Yew who inspire us. “We can do it if we have the will”, said Swami Vivekananda “Infinite energy is at the disposal of everyone if he only knows how to get it and use it for the well being of all.”