Monday, August 15, 2011

Wishing you a 'meaningful' Independence Day



A huge dilemma has to be resolved before one embarks on writing an article on 'Independence Day'. Whether to highlight the achievements the nation has made in the last 64 years or to adresss the question as to are we really independent, free though we may be from any imperial/colonial power. After a few minutes of futile pondering, i decide that i will not touch upon either of them since any article written today will talk on these lines only. Instead here i put some of my suggestions that will go a long way in making this Independence Day a meaningful one to you and your family.

*No holidaying on this holiday.
In case you had thought that you will wake up late since there is no office, have a lazy brunch and watch dvds of the latest releases lying on the couch the whole day and maybe go on shopping at night, DROP THOSE PLANS. i know shopping malls have special discounts today, restaurants have special dishes up on their platter but i also know that such offers will keep coming and going throught the year. Independence day comes only once. I am not telling you not to indulge yourself, but just take care that even for a moment you don't forget why you got this day off in the first place-it is the day when India had its greatest tryst with destiny till date. If you are a school or college student and had planned to bunk for there will anyways be no study, DROP THAT PLAN. You should feel ashamed that when there exist people who, for meagre salaries, away from their families, stand guard in the -50 degree celsius of siachen in order to preserve this hard earned independence, you don't care enough to even symbollically pay your respect to it. If today you don't feel patriotic, i doubt you ever will. And yes, most newspapers and magazines carry brilliant articles on this day-tracing the developement graph of the country, its ups and downs, joys and sorrows, telling stories of  its sons and daughters who shone with their brilliance and made the country proud, the best films, books, movies made on the freedom struggle, famous speeches made on this day by leaders and what not! Even if you are not a great newspaper enthusiast, make sure you go through at least the editorial section of the newspaper you have at your place, just today. Believe me, you will find yourself much more enriched than you could by going through a history book instead.
*At least on this day, feel proud to wear your Indianness (if there is no such word, then well just swallow it that i coined it lol) on your sleeves.
Feel the tingle of goosebumps while listening to 'aye mere watan ke logon' and don't fight your eyes getting moist while watching the climax of a Kranti or a Shaheed or a Lagaan, if you please. I might sound a hopeless romantic here but just try it, little things such as these only sprout into something big. The surge of patriotism in you may make you gather your neighbourhood kids and tell them the story of our freedom struggle, screen a, say, 'The Legend of Bhagat Singh', tell them of the glory of our past, make them realise the value of our present independence and most importantly, explain to them why they must be proud to be Indians, no matter how grim the present situation in our country might be. Or you might go to a slum, distribute laddos and flags and let the children who don't go to schools have the pride of standing upright and singing the national anthem. the point is make an effort to meaningfully celebrate the day.

You need not necessarily follow me word by word, do your own things but just remember that
*you owe it to the greatness of this day to do something worthy, worthwhile.

The term 'present situation' tells me that many might say there is nothing left for us to feel proud-rampant corruption leading to umpteen scams, each bigger than the previous, the Transparency International ranking us a lowly 83 out of 187 countries, mudslinging between the govt. and the civil society activists on a daily basis now, repeated intelligence failures leading to terrorists attacking us repeatedly where it would hurt us the most, soaring inflation, in short total governance deficit (for how else would you explain the rotting of tonnes of foodgrains while millions starve?) and now to add to it the surrender of the no.1 rank in test cricket to England, in such a hopeless manner that we would like to believe it was England's conspiracy theory to send Duncan Fletcher to coach India and do jadoo-tona on our players (kidding man!). Yet there is a silver lining for those who have the eyes to see. The atmosphere is charged, people have realised that they have been taken for rides enough number of times and now the level of awareness on the part of the common man regarding the happenings in the country is such that there is no way we can be fooled yet again. The swell of support for Anna Hazare's call is a classic case in sight. Even the dabbawaalas of Mumbai have promised to stop their services for a day in solidarity with Anna's cause. Now whichever party comes to power in 2014 will be bound to put up with expectations greater than ever and will, if sanity happens to be one of their features, stay away from the forbidden fruit called 'corruption', at least in comparision to the UPA lootfest. The media has had a big role to play in this awareness drive and kudos to them, in spite of all the sensationalism they create now and then. That the people who are openly abusing the politicians who happen to be the 'all that be' in our country, those who are burning drafts of a bill tabled in the parliament in front of tv cameras are still able to do as they wish, say what they wish, in public is a shining testimony of the fact that we are a living, breathing democracy. I see i have deviated from the issue at hand and have embarked on a path i had said i would not in the begining. To continue with my suggestions, next one is 
*take an oath to play by the rules, always, however difficult that may appear to be. Corruption has its origin in our 'it is gutsy to break rules' or 'everybody does so these days' kinda attitude. Breaking a rule amounts to corruption, yes, be it jumping red lights or getting proxy attendance for lectures in college. Lofty though these ideas may seem, if every person in tthe country becomes so, our biggest problem will be automatically weeded out. A Lokpal might serve to be a watchdog over our politicians, but who will watch over us? we ourselves. We can't be such hypocrites as to expect our politicians to be totally clean in midst of all the charm that sorrounds them and have our own hands dirty! If we desire that the Lokpal must be a doodh-ka-dhula person, we should all try to become so so that the next crisis confronting the country is not that there's not a single morally impeccable man to don that hat of India's Ombudsman.
I read it in the newspaper once that the Japanese follow traffic rules even in the mid-night, when one could say, there is no need to do so! How about emulating that?
By the way, I wish all my readers a very happy, peaceful and meaningful Independence Day. On this day let's not ask what our country has done for us. Rather, for a change, let's reflect upon what we have done for our country and what we 'can' do. Jai Hind. Vande Mataram.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Supporting Anna Hazare's fast? Think Again.







When Santosh Hegde, Lokayukta of Karnataka, member of the civil society's representatives for drafting the Lokpal bill, says that Anna Hazare should drop his plan of going on indefinite fast on the 16th of august, the natural reaction of a common man would be surprise, or rather shock! After all, isn't every right thinking man in the country against corruption, supporting Annaji's fast?

But the problem is, not every right thinking man has cared enough or is capable enough to actually think over the issue keeping in mind the DNA of our democracy-constitution.
At times things are not as simple as they appear to be on the surface and we might do well to scratch, even that, which appears to represent all that is good and transparent. Startling though that may seem, Santosh Hegde's comment on the issue deserves serious contemplation.

Now before you start writing me off me for a mindless UPA loyalist who has written this piece to defend the Government's toothless bill on Lokpal tabled in the parliament a few days back, let me make it very clear that I am NOT against Anna Hazare or his Jan Lokpal bill in its entirety and I do NOT favour the version of the Lokpal bill drafted by the Government, again, in its entirety.
It is only the inherent anti-democratic tendencies behind the attempts at moral cleansing that appear disturbing to me.
I only question the method chosen by Annaji and not, in any manner, his intent.

The first time that he went on fast, the kind of public support he generated didn't come as a shock considering the direction the country has been moving in the last three years- a series of scams, from the CWG lootfest, the mind-boggling 1.76 lakh crore rupees 2G scam, the Adarsh society scam to ISRO's S-band spectrum scam, were a blow, one after another when the country had already been bruised badly by the 26/11 carnage. Add to that the soaring inflation and the Government's apathy towards the poor (foodgrains rot and millions starve) and the SC's observation that the Government was doing absoloutely nothing on the black money issue and you have a country that is in a state of rage, an air of distrust and suspicion everywhere to be felt, the atmosphere actually charged due to the huge governance deficit and people just waiting for somebody to initiate a sort of uprising, to tell the Govt. who the real masters were.

Anna Hazare was the man, or messiah should I say. Everyone will agreee that it was absoloutely necessary that Annaji went on fast the first time round for it drew attention of the general public towards a bill that successive governments had sat over, for nearly a decade. People who, a month back, were not even aware of the existence of Lokayukta in states and about the institution of Omsbudsman in the Scandinavian countries, are now asking why it can't work here if it can work there, why don't we have a Lokpal yet if the concept has been there in front of us, successful, all this while. So the act in Jantar Mantar, i feel, is totally justified (though one is tempted to feel that it might set a bad precedent).

But this does not and should not, in our minds, give automatic sanction to the second fast to be held on 16th august.
Here are my reasons, which i hope, every rational being will agree with who holds the parliamentary democratic nature of India dear to him:

1. August 16th is an arbitrarily fixed date. Considering the fact that the Monsoon session has just about started and not much time has been given to the parliament to debate and discuss on the issue, august 16th appears to be too early. Those who have the slightest idea of how a parliamentary democracy functions, will acknowledge that the bill that has been tabled does not hold the status of a bill that is passed and it will now be referrred to the Standing Committee on law, justice and personnel and there will be fresh debates between the Standing Committee and Anna's team, hence giving ample opportunities to both the sides to revise the bill. To add to that we have a vibrant opposition (of late) which to Anna's pleasure, is in favour of having the PM in the ambit of the Lokpal and the hence ideally shortcomings of the bill must be overcome by amendments in parliament, moved either by the government or the opposition and not by fasting outside it.


2.Referendums to gauge popular support can be myopic, for not every individual is an intellectual, well versed in the modus vivendi of a democratic nation and the nuances of governance. If Annaji says that 85% of those asked were against the government's version of the bill, that does not give him the concession to go on fast against it.

Picture this: Geelani conducts a referendum in J&k and subsequently sits on a dharna for Azad Kashmir or Arundhati Roy conducts a referendum on the 'armed Gandhians' as she chooses to call the maoists and subsequently sits on an indefinite hunger strike asking the government to step down, both having gained majority suppourt, does it make sense or can you even imagine the government giving heed to their demands, just because it has popular support?

You may say that Annaji's issue and image both are different from Geelani's and Arundhati Roy's and are the former is morally impeccable. But dear reader, I never questioned these; my only attempt is towards making you realize the folly of basing our judgement on popular support garnered through media and referendums.

The mob does not always think.

3.The fasting method is fast turning out to be a sort of blackmail. If the country's lawmakers are held hostage constantly by activists then it is very much possible that India, someday, plunges into the status of an anarchic mobocracy. Annaji should let go of this method lest it should backfire and shake the very innards of our constitutional state, in the hands of obnoxious elements in the future.

4.For the largest democracy in the world, having a multy-party, pluralist nature, it would be a disgrace to let a non-representative, extra-parliamentary force influence the proceedings of the parliament. Yes there is always a place in democracy for civil society movements but the responsibilities of governance rest exclusively with an elected leadership.
Having hijacked the public mood, the civil society activists are now aiming for nothing short of a parallel system of governance which might prove to be disastrous.


What hence is imperative is that the civil society puts pressure on the government within the frameworks of law, by lobbying with the MPs and holding discussions with the opposition, if doing so with the ruling party has reached a dead-end, and not try to usurp it.
The following lines of renowned columnist Swapan Dasguta eloquently conclude my take on this issue, "If the moral depravity of politics is substituted by the pious tyranny of the self-appointed, it would be an equal disaster."







SUDHA SHAHSWATI SAHOO

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Divine Union



It was only a casual, passing glance but perhaps just long enough to make me go weak in the knees. Another furtive look in the direction, and I was convinced my heart had been captivated.

Of course, I had strength of character enough to make nothing apparent on the outside, but the flutter inside my belly was making matters worse every passing second.          
On top of that, the ostensible indifference of my object of interest! The message seemed to be that I would have to make the first move!


Sure enough, I had the delicacy not to appear desperate, but I was afraid, my eyes, banished to cold impression, were every moment giving in to the attraction of speaking more. It became obvious that indeed I was the one required to make the first move but I decided to allow myself the indulgence of being seduced a little more. I lifted up my eyes, sunk as they were in the ground in perpetual fear of expressing more than I desired them to, and looked for signs of invitation.

The same ostensible indifference! And believe me, it created another surge of attraction on my part! I could hold it no more, that was it. The thoughts of an important appointment and the past resolution of not giving in to any more seductions too easily had been immediately done away with and I found myself walking……..walking with the poise and confidence of a seasoned enchantress, fully aware that the work on the other side had been done and now the turn was mine…. to make it big.

However voyeuristic I might sound, the intensions of that drumming heart of mine were, upon my word, pious.

I only wanted the union to be impeccable, the kind that would raise us both in the eyes of the world, and in the process, take us closer to the divine power that had thrown the two of us together.

Time seemed to have flown. We were close to each other now, very close, and I let my fingers run over the blank, pristine, white sheet of paper. I felt yet again, the divine pleasure of knowing that soon it will be filled, intimate to all my hearts musings and hoped, the union will be fruitful.