G. L. Batra, Writer & formerly Addl. Secretary, Indian Parliament and Chairman, Public Service Commission of the Indian State of Haryana
Continuing from where I left in my last article on `Indian Context: Family, Education & Justice System’ a fortnight back.
The degeneration of morality had its side effects on the political front as well. In India, every person of age 18 and above is eligible to vote, and persons above the age of 25 may contest elections, whosoever she/he may be, wherever she/he may be placed and whatever may be her/his background. The electorates are also very demanding – they desire to be benefitted by hook or by crook, irrespective of whether the law permits it. The person elected is dependent on the electorate and has to oblige them. All this has led to criminalization of politics, and a nexus has developed between criminals and politicians. The criminals have become indispensable for politicians, and the effects of this nexus have become visible and apparent, and have eroded and adversely affected even the proceedings of Parliament. It has led to lack of faith in the politicians, in the eyes of the public. Though there is no dearth of wisdom, brilliance, intelligence and sincerity in the members who constitute Parliament.
The situation, as it prevails in the country, though not dismal, is definitely frustrating. This is in respect of every front or field concerning our country and its people. Decidedly, we may have progressed in the economic fields, but in that too, nowhere is there any definiteness. We are to see whether the progress in various fields has occurred, as was dreamed, desired and planned by our forefathers, who made tremendous sacrifices for the attainment of our nation’s freedom. What is widespread in the country is dissatisfaction, and it is this dissatisfaction that is leading to all ills and degeneration of morality in public life. The reasons for this dissatisfaction need to be investigated. Primarily, it is because of the disparities which exist between individuals, between classes and castes. Though our Constitution envisages equal rights for all individuals; it seeks to ensure that all those who are similarly situated, are treated equally, but whether the implementation and spirit of that aspect of equal rights is honestly and truly implemented in letter and spirit, needs to be introspected upon. If it had been so, there would not be dissatisfaction, as dissatisfaction arises because of non-equal treatment of even equally placed people. If we only believe in the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest, without guarding individual rights, those who are patronized by persons wielding power, will receive advantages which they don’t deserve, resulting in jealousy, dissatisfaction and annoyance in those who are not given the same opportunities to live a peaceful life. This adversely affects their mental balance. It is these things which lead to criminalization. The unemployed, even those who are educated and deserving, don’t get the opportunities that they should ordinarily come in their way, and this has an adverse impact on their mental and physical health.
Politics is a great menace. Politics, as practiced nowadays, is no more statecraft or a public welfare vocation but more of a menace to the society at large. Where otherwise, politics should carry certain political believes based on principles which are in the interest of people at large or in the interest of the nation. It overrides the principles of administration, circumvents the provisions of our Constitution and its spirit. For example, states which are ruled by a political party different from the party in power at the Centre, very often, are denied benefits, which other states ruled by the party in power at the Centre, may get. When we say ‘equal distribution’, it does not mean that equal rights be given to everybody. You will have to see that those who are the most deserving and needy, be preferred, so that they can live to survive. More than seventy percent of our people live in the villages, where they have no access to even basic amenities. The graph of unemployment in the rural areas is alarming. On an average, not less than 300 matriculates per village are unemployed. They are without work and their attention is diverted to different vices, and ultimately, they become a burden on their families and on societies as a whole. They take to activities like thievery or gambling and become vulnerable to all types of crimes. We need to set up a committee which can go into all these aspects to give suggestions to improve the situation. Decidedly, even after the 60th year of our independence, the progress which we have made is surely not commensurate with the sacrifices which our forefathers and freedom fighters made for freedom.
Somewhere, sometimes, it is seen that even the police, who are to look after the people and protect their rights, and to ensure that the dictum ‘might is right’ does not prevail, act in clear dereliction of their duty. Several times, the actions of the police are so cruel that a fear psychosis is created in the minds of those who want to live peacefully, as they know that they would not get any justice from the police. It is invariably seen that the aggrieved find it exceedingly difficult to file a complaint with the police. Peace-loving citizens find it below their dignity to go to a police station as they know that they would be ill-treated.
We are in fact sitting on a volcano, though we feel proud by going for nuclear treaties and agreements which certainly are in the interest of the security of our country; but we must simultaneously see whether the majority of our citizens are leading a satisfactory life or not.
The latest figures of per capita income at less than half a dollar a day (Rs. 18.90) and the below the poverty line population being about 40% paint a very grim scenario indeed and are warning signals to the ruling class.
One day’s worth of leftover food from a five star hotel can feed hundreds of people who are starving. This is a rough estimate that no-one can deny. Food preserved in hotels, after a certain period elapses, is thrown away as waste. The disparities existing in the country are alarming. Some people can afford to fly from one place to other, live in a five star hotel for a number of days, eat nourishing food of their choice and waste the same also. But there are people in our country who stand in queue to get rationed provisions on their ration card and have to return empty-handed due to the dismal Public Distribution System in our country.
It is only our ancient values and ethos, which have saved our country so far. People in rural areas still eat only dry rotis with only onions and red chillies as seasoning. Some people can only afford to drink buttermilk for their night meal, and yet sleep peacefully thereafter. There are people in our country even today, who do not have a roof over their head, or even a hearth to cook their daily bread. A look at the health and social statistics, throws up a dismal picture. India, as of 2006, had a comparatively high infant mortality rate of 58 deaths per 1000 live births. Much of the funds diverted towards programmes and policies for the upliftment of the poor and underprivileged masses, are embezzled by corrupt officials and politicians, and these policies and programmes, ultimately yield hardly any benefit for the target population. Rajiv Gandhi once famously remarked that less than 15 paisa out of every rupee assigned by the government for developmental projects, actually reaches the common man. It needs no repetition that poverty, hunger and unemployment are the grave challenges that are facing our nation today. No amount of economic progress will be of any use, unless the most underprivileged sections of our society get the benefit of it. It is the need of the hour that the government set up a system to monitor the implementation of policies and programmes envisaged by the State for the citizens. It is equally important that once such a machinery is set up, the government must take steps to ensure that it functions sincerely, and in the right perspective, so that it does not become merely an exercise for compiling statistics to justify its existence.
To remedy this situation, the Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Part IV of our Constitution, deserve and require to be treated as fundamental rights. It is only when this is done, that the dreams and ideals of the framers of our Constitution, in the present circumstances, can be achieved.
During the wars with Pakistan and China, no one can deny that all citizens of India, irrespective of their status in life, were united and ready to sacrifice their lives for the nation. Rather, the downtrodden were more readily coming forward and offering to go to the front rather than the rich, who might have been more worried about the protection of their wealth and the empires they had built. Even here, my impression is that the extent of anxiety towards the nation, and the required patriotism and devotion of the people, which was seen in the 1962 war against China, was affected and somewhat subdued during the 1971 conflict with Pakistan, and even during the recent Kargil conflict. This is probably because India being a developing country, people are more and more occupied and involved in the process of making money ‘rather than earning money’.
The framers of our Constitution, in their wisdom, strove to achieve for every citizen, equal rights and tried to ensure that all are be treated equally. The law is to treat everybody equally, but is it really happening? Is there any necessity to cite instances? I write this in great anguish, as no one, after reading it will be able to confront me – sometimes situations are so apparent and visible, that it is futile to give instances and examples. Our leaders must strive to see that they earn the valuable votes of citizens; they should see that none of their constituents or voters’ rights are impaired in any manner, irrespective of whether they have actually voted for the leader. There is a need for our leaders to carry out a powerful, honest exercise in that direction.
Prominence of caste in politics, caste war, criminalization of politics, impairment of moral authority, lack of leadership qualities are some of the crises facing us. Leaders are born and brought up through struggle. A country is defunct in the absence of competent leadership. Leaders are those whom people follow, not those whom people are made to follow. Now-a-days, people are not only made, but forced to follow a person who poses as a leader.
The crux of the solution, to the moral problem which our society faces, lies in having a regard for human bonding. This would include care, cure and recognition of others’ rights. We have a plethora of laws. Most laws are directive in nature, and many of them carry penalties for non-adherence. However, every law imposes, apart from the penal provisions, an inherent and implicit duty on the citizens, to comply with these laws. These duties may be vis-à-vis other citizens, or the State. It is time we all realize and accept these duties, and fulfil them, not out of fear of being penalized, but, out of a genuine respect regard for them, so that the purpose of these laws, namely to benefit every citizen, and secure every one’s rights, may be achieved in letter as well as in spirit.
The State also has an important role to play in promoting moral and ethical regeneration in the country. While the government has created posts for ‘welfare officers’, it is not clear what role they are performing in reality. I believe that it is not merely the duty of the government, through the people to look after the welfare of the people alone. The welfare officers should regularly visit the people, especially in the villages and guide the people about their rights and the duties enjoined upon them. They must play the role of ‘preachers’ of the State to guide the people to preserve ethics, family bonds and love and respect for each other. The State must monitor the performance of these welfare officers to ensure that they are doing their job sincerely and effectively.
A nation is known by its people, their culture, moral principles, patriotism and valour. We Indians are proud of our ethos and moral values which are glorious golden threads in the rich tapestry of our culture. Without meaning to cast aspersions on any other country in the world, I feel, that we possess these values, in high degree, and of a high standard, more than people of any other nationality. To a large extent, Indians, even today, are not materialistic. Indians are even today humane and believe in human dignity, tolerance and brotherhood. This does not to mean that we are timid. We have time and again proved our valour and patriotism, whenever our nation and its pride and honour have been threatened. We Indians have always respected everybody and been true members of the world community, and at the same time, maintained the sanctity and unbreakable unity of our nation.
What we need today, is a sincere and commanding politician and national leader, who believes implicitly in the guiding tenet that every person born on Indian soil, should have, in the least, garments to clothe the body, a roof above his or her head and three square meals a day. Only when this is achieved, can every citizen of India work sincerely and whole-heartedly towards the fulfilment of the goals which our forefathers aspired for.
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