Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lopsided priorities, hazy vision!

Quarrels of a groping Nation

Karan Kharb

Wintry fog and haze in Delhi this year is accompanied by another kind of smoggy, hazy chaos. Delhi suddenly seems drugged and blinded in the midst of ticklish issues, fishy options but no solutions in sight. There is confusion and a strange kind of excitement all over. Delhi elections are over but there is no Government yet in place. Times were when political parties never lost opportunity and deftly cobbled up majority and invented coalition governments turning their pre-election enmities to avowed friendship and a willing power sharing consort. Amazingly, this time all three - BJP, Congress and the debutant Aam Admi Party (AAP) – abhor power! Incredible performance of AAP has not only befuddled the political pundits but also introduced a unique paradigm in the Indian politics. Crusade against corruption, probity in public life, transparency and accountability in governance and peoplising the power of State were boldly paraded as prime issues that Arvind Kejriwal’s outfit dared to espouse and declare. While they did take up the more tangible issues like bijli, pani, their kind of campaigning had never been seen before. Naming the Party as simply as ‘Aam Admi’, picking up the humble jharu as a Party symbol, crowning a redesigned Congress topi (dumped by Congress long since), fielding non-politician ‘aam admis’ and door to door campaigning on foot was starkly opposed to the flamboyance of the giant rivals who went about holding rallies and public meetings amidst dazzling hoardings, unending rows of cars and bravura of splendour and awe.

Congress that had jeered and castigated the new entrant AAP in the election fray now stands badly mauled and smarting under a humiliating defeat.  As if moved by a newfound sense of piety and benevolence, Congress has come forth to extend ‘unconditional support’ to AAP and encouraged them to form the government. Now with 28 MLAs in a 70 member Delhi Assembly, Arvind Kerjriwal is himself dazzled and faced by a perplexing dilemma whether to dare and step into the Congress trap of ‘unconditional support’ that would add up his number to the barest minimum majority number of 36 or to let the opportunity pass and head for re-election.   

Even as the blame-counter-blame game goes on among all the warring political entities in Delhi’s chaotic scenario, we find India’s angry old man Anna Hazare suddenly all praise for the political regime he had earlier vowed to vanquish. Today he is friends with his former enemies and enemy to his erstwhile beloved protégé Arvind Kejriwal! On 18 December 2013, the Parliament passed the long awaited Lokpal bill which undoubtedly remains short of Anna Hazare’s ‘Jan Lokpal’ bill from which he had not budged until the Prime Minister and the Parliament gave formal assurances to implement. Today he is celebrating a lesser Lokpal bill and eulogises Rahul Gandhi for creating history. As Chanakya said long ago, “there is nothing permanent in politics except the interests you espouse.” And when ‘interests’ become self-serving, humans are quick to adapt to altered circumstances. The high point of public confusion is there is no knowing who is right and who is wrong.  And the quarrels are only raging leaving the millions aspiring for a more caring, people oriented dispensation in Delhi yearning and waiting.  

               If you thought Delhi and urban India were not drugged and befuddled, here’s another weird agitation that should convince you we are a nation lost in bewilderment. There is another kind of uproar raging through urban India these days – demonstrations against the recent Supreme Court Judgement upholding the validity of Section 377 of the IPC and pronouncing the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and trans-gender (LGBT) sexual relationship as unnatural, against the order of Nature and therefore within the ambit of the law as a criminal act. That a miniscule section of society seeking legal and social sanction for their deviant carnal indulgence in private lives should dominate and sustain their hold on the national media obscuring bigger and more sensitive national and social issues is even more appalling.  Save in the case of the savagery committed by the rapists in the capital a year ago, the media has consistently failed to take up vital national issues with the same gusto as has been recently on display for gay ‘rights’.

               The ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kissan’ slogan having been dumped long ago, the farmer who feeds the nation is left to starve and languish in abject poverty throughout the country. What a shame that as many as 2,84,694 farmers have committed suicide in the past 18 years of a rising India! What is alarming is the fact that the annual average farmer suicides (16,264 in 2012) has been consistently rising since 2004 (The Hindu, Mumbai, June 29, 2013). What an irony that the farmer who grows food for us but remains hungry himself. We buy his onions at Rs 7/- per kg and sell it at Rs 90/- per kg. We buy his land at Rs 30 lakh per acre and sell it at Rs 25000/- per sq yard (ie, Rs 12.06 crore per acre)! A clearer, conscious view of the situation would be possible only if the media, activists, and opinion makers came out of their stupor.   

The story of the jawan who fights and does not flinch from killing or dying so that we could live in peace and safety, is no different. Consistently neglected and humbled by a stubborn dispensation that does not move until pushed by revolt, violence and destruction, the soldiers and ex-soldiers are unhappy to say the least. God forbid, if the simmering anguish within the Forces ever erupted into violence, it would be India’s saddest day in the history. Military role, culture and law are distinct from all others. While soldiers have been always lauded for their prompt and efficient performance in carrying out non-soldiering jobs in emergencies, non-soldiers cannot replace soldiers in the latter’s role because soldiers step in where all others have given up. Their requirements should, therefore, be proactively foreseen, anticipated and met because a contented, happy and proud soldier is an asset to the country. In the service and out of it, all military personnel are today whining against the raw deal meted out to them by successive Pay Commissions, especially in the post 3rd Pay Commission dispensation. What is simmering within the Forces can be surmised by anyone from the rising trend of suicides, insubordination, mutinies in units and a held-back response even in the face of enemy ingress as has been seen in some recent border incidents. Defence Minister AK Antony in a statement to the Parliament in March this year confessed that 368 soldiers had committed suicide during 2010-12. Are we waiting for the soldiers to give expression to their anger? A concerned media should have awakened the national conscience for causes like these because far from being ‘welfare matters’ these issues are in reality the core issues of our national security.

When will the political Parties and leaders start thinking seriously about matters of national significance?  There is a need and genuine urgency to put these issues at the centres stage of national debate before the country goes to polls to elect the new Lok Sabha – and a national Government.  Even the most laudable list of issues espoused by Kejriwal’s AAP has missed out these vital issues.  Hopefully, national security and military preparedness shall find their deserved slot in the political manifestoes of some parties if not all.  Surely, for media and rights activists too, these issues should become more vital in national interest because other issues will have no meaning if we failed to safeguard the vitals around us. Now, his Lokpal goal having been met, Anna Hazare – a kissan and soldier himself – should also express his opinion on these vital issues that affect the nerve centre of our nation and society. 


The writer is a defence veteran, author and a social reformist who runs the NGO ‘Turning Point India’.