Wednesday, October 10, 2012

India that is a banana republic
I am told that Robert Vadra, son-in-law of the country’s ‘first family’ has called India a banana republic and its common people (áam aadmi’) ‘mango people’ in jest. When the whole country is worked up over the way he was “handling’ his affairs, this guy could boast and jest is a sign of confidence reaching the level of arrogance. And why not? He is a VVIP who is registered all over the country’s airports as one who needs no security check. He is no ’aam aadmi’’ going by the size of the reputation, mango, though the king of fruits, is too small to define his ego, he should be called the ‘jackfruit chap’.

I for one, would once again be on Mr.Vadra’s side in the fresh controversy. (By the way, was he not a Vadera when he married Priyankaji? I cannot find any reason for changing the spelling of the surname unlike in his grandfather-in-law’s case. The clever Parsi lad had high-jacked not only a Banya surname but also the family name of the Father of the Nation in one go! It has to be numerology in Vadra’s case. And the divine numbers are working overtime to boost his wealth and well-being indeed.) Did he not tell the truth when he called this country a banana republic? Honest to God, yes. I feel just as hurt when former Singapore Prime Minister called India a ‘soft state’ for equally good reasons though. But truth shall prevail – Sathyameaeva Jayathae! This country is indeed a banana republic of sorts, though claims in official records as a Sovereign Democratic Republic.

Though unrelated, I remember a primary school teacher in Malayalam write late Karoor Neelakadapillai’s story, ‘ädbudhamanushyan’ or ‘Miracle Man’. The poor teacher goes to a fair ground and is attracted by a signboard announcing a ‘Miracle Man’ inside an enclosure. He byuys the entry pass with the only coin he had in his pocket, that too confiscated from a student who had ignored the ban on bringing cash into the classroom, with the only intention of informing the students all about the strange sight. What he sees inside was an ordinary mortal, idling his time. The teacher explodes in anger over being cheated; asking the fellow what was special about him. Theman evades the question and says quietly that he would return the money with a small increment, provided the teacher manned the position when he was having his lunch. Trapped, the teacher accepts this offer and takes the role. That was when the school manager and headmaster arrive to see the ‘miracle man’ and seeing the present incumbent they seethe in  anger. The Manager threatens  to sack the teacher for undignified behaviour, and asks him to explain what was miraculous about him anyway? Cornered, beaten, and dejected, our teacher then shoots off a number of unpleasant truths about his service conditions and remuneration to the manager, and asks whether it was  not sheer miracle that he survives, and supports a family of five?

Similarly, I am going to examine our country’s politics, economics and governance  to disprove its  claim to the status of a ’mature democracy’ and a Sovereign Republic when Mr.Vadra’s in-laws have been guiding the affairs of it. I bet you will agree with Mr.Vadra and me that India that is Bharat is indeed a banana republic.

By the logic of events leading our Independence, India that is Bharat should have been guided by Gandhian principles: Peace, non-violence, non-exploitative society, simple living and high thinking. Ha-ha, I feel like the blind grandma at her son’s funeral asking the grandson whether she was actually at the grave of her late son. That was when the priest spoke kindly of the dead man during the graveside service. He was actually a drunkard and a rogue. So is the case with our country. An old man in our village put the situation graphically for me. Had he been alive, Gandhiji would have died a miserable death akin to that of a salt stone at the seashore dissolving in wave after wave lashing at it.

Here is the scenario as it was enacted during the last phase of his mission: Nehru on Gandhi – from Freedom at Midnight (Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre): Nehru contemptuously told Mountbatten in his first meeting with the new Viceroy about Gandhiji’s work in riot-affected Bihar and Noakhali that “the man was going around with ointment trying to heal one sore spot after another on the body of India instead of diagnosing the cause of the eruption of the sores and participating in the treatment as a whole”. He was talking about the communal divide and Gandhiji’s objection to the partition! This lead the Viceroy to focus on partition as a ‘solution’. Lester Pierson, Prime Minister of Canada (1962-68) and winner of Nobel Peace Prize, mentions in his memoirs how shocked he was when Nehru spoke of his mentor Gandhiji as “an awful old hypocrite”. Great start it was for a Gandhian Ram Rajya!

Nehru the Prime Minister (he was the External Affairs Minister, and also in charge of most important portfolios) surrendered the country’s British-inherited extraterritorial rights in 1954. Later we gave back the strategic Haji Pir after the 1965 war!  Indira Gandhi had this country foolishly return the territorial gains of the 1971 war and the 90000 Pak PoWs without securing any tangible diplomatic reciprocity. Now after all the atrocities being committed by Pak-sponsored-trained terrorists peaceniks in India are recommending the unilateral transfer of Siachen Glacier to the attacker of Kargil. Under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 India agreed to give 80.52% share of the 6-river Indus system with Pakistan, the downstream state. That is more than what the United States agreed to give Mexico under the 1944 US-Mexico Water Treaty. According to the 2030 Water Resources Group, India confronts a 52% deficit! In the 1996 Ganges Treaty India offered an almost equal division of down-stream Ganges flow, guaranteeing minimum cross-border flows in the dry season, which is a new principle in international water law. It may be remembered that tiny Bangladesh has an average 8252 cubic meters of annual per capita water availability while India has just 1560 cubic meters. Now Manmohan Singh government is anxious about a Teesta river treaty to Bangladesh’s advantage. It may be remembered that India is most dependent on Himalayan-Tibetan water for a dozen important rivers flowing down, getting almost a third of the yearly water supplies of 1911 cubic kilometres from Tibet. But China now challenges India’s interests with its extensive upstream infrastructure.

Have a look at our record in the field of diplomacy. No less a person than Nehru, the ‘international leader’ had designed our foreign policy. Panchsheel signatory China first attacked India and snatched away a large swathe of land. They now demand return of Arunachal Pradesh because Tawangs had paid tether to the Ming Emperors! We do not have anybody in our neighbourhood as a close ally or friend, period. Our External Affairs Minister had just made a trip to Pakistan as a confidence-building measure, as he reached back, they confidently raised the Kashmir issue in the UN Security Council. That is rotten egg on the face of our great diplomacy.

There are no two opinions regarding when the country was on a fast down-slide in every field. Corruption, institutional emasculation, moral decadence, poor governance, everything peaked since 1970. She played politics with everything. Following her sad demise, her son who had absolutely no political education or administrative experience succeeded her as PM. Power inflated this young man’s ego and he fumbled along to destroy the country, and on to his own assassination at the hands of a militant group he had our army train and  arm.

PV Narasinha Rao government was perhaps whiff of fresh air in the matter of democratic succession. Though now credited with “opening up” the economy (people forget that one year after the opening up, his party which lost some by-elections had him return to the old ways mostly) the PV government set up a paradigm of misgovernance by giving the country its first major scams – the bank scam, the urea scam, the sugar import scandal and the telecom scandal. It was during this infamous chapter of Indian history that P.Chidambaram, the Present Finance Minister had his Rs.2.5lakh worth shares in Fair Growth go up to Rs.75 lakhs within 8 months thanks to Harshad Mehta’s manipulation. The present Prime Minister, and his party, who selectively remember the period’s economic reforms and achievements, forget his preposterous comment after going into hiding for about a week after Bank Scam that it was on account of “systemic” defects.
1993 December 6 – Motilal Vora, Governor of UP promulgated an ordinance repealing the Anti-copying Act enacted by the former BJP government. With 16000 cases pending against students who copied in the annual exams of 1993 April, Congress party thought they would get votes. When BJP didn’t come back to power, The Times of India reported the Act as a cause, and editorially condemned the “perverse opposition by students and teachers” to the Anti-copying Act.

It was during the regime of scholarly PV that Soniaji complained of the CBI assiduously pursuing the Bofors Case, and the Minister in charge of the department of Personnel, which ruled the CBI was changed, and soon Octavio Qattrocchi fled the country. Does anybody with even a five-year-old chimpanzee’s brain wonder how an employee of Snamprojetti  in the business of power-fertilizer projects could get a 3 per cent commission on the Indian Army’s purchase of Bofors Hovitzers from Sweden? That Qattrocchi family was friends of Prime Minister Rajiv’s and they had holidays together was no secret. That was the beginning of big money corruption which now has gone up from Rs.64Cr to Lakhs of crores. In 2006 ONGC Videsh Limited acquired Block No.128 in South China Sea and spent $50 billion exploring oil till 2011 and assessed the prospects of finding oil "limited”, and took a “technical” decision to end further investment or abandon it/return to Vietnam! I wonder whether that much money was actually spent or just accounted for !.

Half of the 71292 Cr spent on Andhra Pradesh by the late Christian Chief Minister YSR’s Jalayagnam irrigation project is feared swindled. Documents obtained under the RTI Act show the irregularities that were committed range from violation of the common tender document to illegally made excessive payments for the works done and fraudulently claimed to have been done. Irrigation projects in Andhra Pradesh involving a combined outlay of Rs 1.8 trillion is reported to have come under the scrutiny of the Prime Minister’s Office following corruption charges. The PMO has, reportedly, sought details of the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts awarded by the AP irrigation department, spelling potential trouble for the projects undertaken in the past five years. But then the PMO is answerable to unheard of levels of scams and corruption! In Maharashtra, another congress-ruled State, where an equally impressive line-up of irrigation projects have swallowed some Rs.70000. Corruption in India comes in many more forms. NREGA wages are paid to beneficiaries only after a cut. Fictitious beneficiaries are enrolled as below poverty line and paid. Roads and sanitation are not built although they are paid for or built poorly.  The pay-out proposed in this year’s budget proposals is 31000Cr, it may be remembered.

On November 8, 1993, the Times of India reported that the CBI had implicated Congress MLA Ms.Santokben S.Jadeja, and Mr.Kandhal S.Jadeja in gun running for the ISI, connections with Punjab-terrorists (associated with the dreaded Lalsingh alias Manjit Singh and ISI agents). In July 1992 Rs.2 Crores worth arms were seized in Ahmedabad (Paldi and Juhapur). That is Gujrat Congress party’s brand of patriotism.

Do you remember the Mandal Commission Report and Nani Pakhiwala’s fervent plea before the Supreme Court of India not to divide the country once again on caste-lines? The author of the Mandal Report recommending reservation for the OBC, Bindeswari Prasad Mandal the scion of 5000 acre land lord was the only student who had his personal servants in the Patna University College Hostel, eminent historian RC Sharma, a contemporary, remembered. Mandal was a Yadav from Madhepura (Rome hai Pope ka, Madhepura hai, Gope (cowerds or yadavs) ka !)

Secularism is a great concern for most political parties seeking power in India. But it is some kinf of “minoritysm” that is played out. Which country, which democracy, will have a PM make “cringe-inducing, dhimmi-like remark” that the minorities of the country have the first charge of nation’s resources? Yes, this is the political culture of vote-banks, of course.  Bihar has an Arabic University established by Laloo dispensation and for 13 years no student was admitted to it, I read sometime in 2005 or so. Later Laoo offered an Urdu Directorate to the Muslim voters! In the context of the entire liberal Left and secular people bending over backwards to be nice to Muslim fanaticism, even to the point of condoning the sporadic bomb blasts all over the country, someone had said that compared with the murderous Muslim fundamentalists, the Hindu extremists in India offered the liberal secularists and leftists a “lover cost of dissent” as  it costs them much less in terms of personal danger  to life, limb and property to cock a snook at the so-called violent Hindu than at the Muslim terrorist! 

For all that you see, the Sangh Parivar tries to use the glorious past of India and fuse tradition with modernity to reinvigorate a society that has lost its moorings thanks to the long foreign rule and the British education. It is a fact that in spite of the alien rule and a democracy guided by communist fellow-travellers, the ideal of a ruler guided by ‘dharma’ exists in the Indian imagination even today, because of the astonishing continuity of Indian civilization. A majority of the people of the Indian sub-continent are yet deeply religious, and it is not inappropriate to turn to tradition to seek that moral core that can shape our polity and civic life. As Gurucharan Das said, “Fusing tradition with modernity could help restore the moral core in a meaningful way in support of the modern rule of law to re-invigorate India’s democracy.” But The Sangh Parivar is the most reviled and despised group in the country. The Left liberal pooh-pooh patriotism as a base sentiment.

Unfortunately, it is generally believed now that the core values of the present Indian Civil Service happen to be self-aggrandisement, non-accountability, turf-protection, and a divine right to rule over others. They seem to have lost integrity as well as the sensitivity to discharge their functions. There is no system of performance-monitoring or efficiency-linked compensation as in the private service. Matters have worsened to a situation having a politician-businessmen-bureaucracy-criminals nexus firmly in place. The credibility and legitimacy of the Union government has fallen to unprecedented levels thanks to the governance deficit and disconnect between people and politicians in power.

Air India, the so-called national carrier has over Rs.40000Cr debt. Knowledgeable people say that this money is enough to start 80 airlines! Overstaffed – 475 employees per air craft (IndiGo has just 70!) On an average 30% of AI planes are grounded on account of slack maintenance. Air India’s Cost per Available Seat Km (CASK) is probably the highest in the world. CASK is the industry benchmark globally for measuring airline efficiency. This sort of colossal mis-management of scarce national resources through-out the entire public sector barring a few, is allowed/encouraged when according to recently published poverty metrics of the National Planning Commission show that 29.8% people of 360 million Indians out of the 1.2 billion population are below the poverty line.

Everywhere in the world, the laws of economics drive the geography of business activity, more and more in the difficult times. Not so in India, this banana republic. Politics, and political advantages to the Congress party alone, decides the course of economic policies of the Government of India. It is not just the Congress, but take the case of the CPI (M) which ruled West Bengal for continuous 34 years  and Kerala every alternate 5 years besides terms in Manipur where they have cultivated and exploited  a grievance-guilt syndrome and nurtured a romance of poverty and suffering to sustain it, to come in power. In West Bengal Jyoti Basu’s 23 year-old rule saw destruction of education, collapse of infrastructure, de-industrialisation and an exodus of professionals. MA Baby, Kerala’s Minister for Education during the previous government, had chosen to set the education bar lower and lower offering perhaps an unintentionally terrifying example of the spread of lowest-common-denominator culture and education with high passing percentages. The CPM-led government was rewarding students who are increasingly unwilling to devote time and attention to reading books and learning with educational qualifications and freeing a salary-obsessed and politically active teaching community from teaching. The CPM has the largest Student-Teacher’s Unions in the State.

GARIBI HATAVO: Why was not poverty banished from India? Everybody knows that poverty can be removed by home-grown methods by our domestic reformers groping their way towards more democracy, cleaner and more accountable government, and free markets. It has not happened in India, the banana republic. Most of Congress Party promises to people have been akin to the Bernard Madoff Ponzi schemes: remember, Madoff’s pedigree was great too; and that indeed was the reason for his success. In India too, pedigree is what decides leadership. Who become national leaders? The ability to connect with a broad swath of people—across political, religious and other lines – is an attribute a national leader must have. Does the Congress president have these? What about her son? Sonia G, after all, is the idol of only a crawling swarm of small souls like PC, Salman Khurshid, Manish Tiwari and the likes.

Democracy presumes that all are created equal; experience proves we are indeed not. We talk about a level playing field because that is perhaps the least we can do in the face of nature's injustice. Some people are born strong or stretchy, or with luck that takes them places, positions them in exalted perches. Some of us have inflated egos, or else with a permanent inferiority complex. Robert Vadras of our world have everything going for them. The “cordial hypocrisy” of media enterprise will see him soon let off the hook. As it is, by sheer force of habit, aided by massive propaganda, we Indians have been posthumously adding a few inches each year to the height of leaders from the Nehru family. Nehru, Indira, and Rajiv were overrated in their prime and bizarrely venerated by acolytes even now. We also forget and forgive fast. Someone from that family is waiting in the wings to assume “higher responsibilities” in Government.

Satyameva Jayathae: Mahatma Gandhi would be turning in his grave as the Indian rulers hold forth with blatant lies, terminological inexactitudes, half-truths and damned lies, every day.  So tell me, my friends, aren’t Vadra and I right about this country being a banana republic? Where else you can find an apparently clean Prime Minister governing a ministry which the CAG insists had doled out largesses to private corporate bodies floated in some cases only to trade in coal, huge blocks of coal for mining to cause revenue losses amounting to nearly Rs.2lakh crores? Where else in this world a cabinet minister over-rules the PM and ignores practices and rules to give away communication spectrum licences to his favourites, some of them in real estate business etc. to make money for himself, his party, and for those who chose to look the other way, and eventually to cause the Exchequer over a lakh and quarter crores of rupees, and the PM defends him till he had to be thrown out of the Cabinet and put in prison? Where else in any decent system of democracy with a responsible government even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Judges of the Supreme and High Courts happen to be admittedly, not above board? Where else in the whole wide world a foreign woman with apparently minimum education and practically no communications kills apart from reading speeches scripted for her, ruling a country of 1.2 billion people using other people as cats paws, simply because she was the wife of a former Prime Minister, and he belonged to a dynastic family in a curiously democratic polity?

 And what do we do about it? I remember reading that Gandhiji said once that if all Indians spat in unison, we could form a puddle large enough to drown 300000 Englishmen who ruled us. Something like that should be tried to drown the ruling elite of this banana republic.

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