On my Radar: Indian Democracy at 70, Success and Failure 50:50

On my Radar: Indian Democracy at 70, Success and Failure 50:50

By Man Mohan | 13 August, 2017
Ramachandra Guha

Indian Democracy at 70, Success and Failure 50:50

This 15 August India will be celebrating the 71st Independence Day. Ask eminent historian Ramachandra Guha to describe the journey since 1947 and he says, “Indian democracy today stands at 50:50 success and failure ratio.” He is happy that India has defied the “western doomsayers”, who had predicted its breakup in several pieces because of its diverse cultures, religious multiplicity and multi-ethnicities. But bureaucracy has become a hostage to the political masters. 

Recently, Guha was in Jammu to read out “The Report Card of India at 70” while delivering the Balraj Puri lecture. He focused on the progress through four determining factors—political, cultural, religious and economic democracies.

Appreciating the progress made on the political front, “from universal franchise to self-assertion” by the weaker sections like the Dalits and women, Guha regretted that “the legislative institutions have developed dysfunctional and the bureaucracy has allowed itself to become a hostage to the political masters”. “India has progressed in the linguistic multiplicity and has rightly discarded one-language disaster,” points out Guha. In his opinion, the imposition of Urdu in Pakistan had resulted in Islamabad losing East Pakistan, where Bengalis wanted to speak their own language. “If a similar thing would have been done in India,” he says, “the nation would have broken into 22 pieces.” Guha also says that nationalism and patriotism have been made “indistinguishable”. Minorities are at the receiving end during riots and now aggressive and violent “cow protectors” have increased their fears.

‘Good Morning Squad’ will check open defecation

It can happen only in India, especially in Punjab. A “Good Morning Squad” has been formed to “greet” and check people found defecating in the open. Members of the squad will impose a fine on them. An exercise is being started by the Muktsar district administration from 5 to 7 am. It is not yet clear—the officials do not want to disclose the strategy—as to how they would like to go about it.

Asked whether the squad would approach the person face-to-face while he or she was busy in the nature’s call and say, “Good Morning” or whether they would wait at a respectable distance for the person to finish the job, a senior official said, “Let us see. We will go by the ground reality.”

Asked whether the squad would approach the person face-to-face while he or she was busy in the nature’s call and say, “Good Morning” or whether they would wait at a respectable distance for the person to finish the job, a senior official said, “Let us see. We will go by the ground reality.”

About 175 toilets have been built in the village to make it open defecation-free under the Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. “In the beginning,” an official says, “we will not impose any penalty on those found defecating in the open.”

But he was not clear as to how the persons found “guilty” would be fined. Asked whether the persons caught doing open defecation would be issued a challan on the spot, as no one carries a purse along for such an exercise, a district administration official said, “We will work out the nitty-gritty of all such things.” Punjab’s nine districts have been officially declared “open defecation-free”. The deadline is 31 December to make the remaining 13 districts “free”. 

Work needed to attract FDI

It was year 2013, exactly one year before the arrival of the Modi Raj. This writer happened to find himself sitting on a lunch table in a five-star hotel with Amit Shah, now the most powerful man, after NaMo, in the BJP as its head as well as in the government unofficially. The occasion was the celebrations of a Hindi daily, Naya India. Almost all guests had gone when Shah arrived.

When asked whether the BJP would be “vindictive” in troubling the Congress leaders, if they came to power, he said, “Not at all. But if someone would move a PIL in the court for investigation into a leader’s role in a scam, and the judges ask our government, we would be duty bound to assist the judiciary.”

Asked what would be their “business vision”, Shah had said, “We will not discriminate with any business house, whether they are Ambanis, Adanis, Tatas or Birlas. We would assure them of all help on one condition that they would start a defence factory. India is procuring its nearly 80% defence products from abroad.” Excellent vision, especially in the light of the Chinese dragon building pressure points on the long Indian border and Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir. But Amit Shah needs to work with his usual high efficacy to ensure his wish comes true. In the past three years, the country received a mere Rs 1.13 crore FDI in defence under its Make in India programme. The Ministry of Defence had touted the FDI in defence as a major shift in policy and okayed up to 49% stake for foreign companies to come and partner private and public Indian companies. The figures are startling. In the current financial year, “no FDI came till May”. In 2014-15, the total FDI was $78,000; mostly from France. In 2016-17, the investment was a mere $1,000. The “biggest” FDI inflow was in 2015-16: $95,000.

Guns Against Patel Are Not Silent Yet

The nail-biting victory of the master strategist of the Congress, Ahmed Patel, in the Rajya Sabha election from his home state Gujarat has not silenced the BJP guns. They are still not able to digest their defeat in stopping him from coming to the House of Elders for the fifth time. Though Amit Shah has walked into the House after comfortably win along with Smriti Irani, he is aware that Ahmed Patel would be taking oath along with him. For Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, it was a touch and go affair. Shankersinh Vaghela had made an elaborate chakervihu, but Patel was too familiar with such games. The Sunday Guardian has learnt that the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate got active within 24 hours of his election. The ED’s Wednesday searches at four locations in Mumbai are seen by Congress sources in this context. Meanwhile, as the Congress, on Patel’s morale boosting victory, sings, Jo Jita Wohi Sikander, a BJP controlled WhatsApp Group says: “Patel was known as 50% PM in the corridors of power during the Manmohan Singh government. We lost a big opportunity. We failed to cut the Congress lifeline. But we will get him sooner or later.”

Light shed on Hasan Ali Khan’s contacts

Remember Pune-businessman Hasan Ali Khan, popularly known as “Ghode Wala”, as he owned a horse farm? Khan (62) has been facing charges under the stringent Prevention of Money Laundering Act since 2007 but so far agencies claim that nothing concrete has been found against him. Last month, the CBI had asked Khan to come to Delhi on 4 and 5 July for interrogation in a “fresh case” filed against him for alleged criminal conspiracy and corruption. Khan did not come, citing poor health. The ED sources say that while the first complaint did not name any government official or politician associated with Khan “a new probe has now thrown some light on these contacts”.

The Hasan Ali case dates back to 5 May 2007, when in raids a laptop was recovered. It contained only “scanned copies” of documents stating that Ali had accounts in UBS Zurich and Singapore, with deposits in excess of $8 billion. In March 2011, Khan was arrested on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. It was alleged that he was handling the hawala money of some top businessmen and politicians. The Swiss and Singapore banks have denied the existence of these accounts.

‘Dadu’ Kovind celebrates first Raksha Bandhan 

Last Monday, it was the new President Ram Nath Kovind’s first Raksha Bandhan ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. A group of schoolchildren, mostly girls, was there to tie a rakhi to him. This writer was visiting his sister’s home in Dwarka. The next-door neighbour, Akshay Anand, an urban development expert, and his wife Dolly Singh were also there. Just after lunch, their nursery going daughter, Aashi, walked in, bubbling with excitement. A student of Sri Ram Global School, Dwarka, the three-years and nine-months-old Aashi had come from the Rashtrapati Bhavan.Impressed by the grandeur of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Aashi said: “Papa, do you know that I, Manvi Ma’am (coordinator) and Geetika Ma’am (class teacher) went to a big house of a Dadu after you dropped me in the school this morning?”

“The big house had huge gates,” prattled Aashi. “There were a lot of policemen who kept looking at us. Some were smiling. We walked through a small gate. It made a loud beep-beep sound as we crossed it, just as in the Metro stations and the airport. Then we reached a big hall, where a lot of girls and boys from other schools were there.” “Papa, lots of people were there in different dresses, like the police. There were some men who were wearing huge turban caps; they looked like the waiters of the restaurant we go to. The ceiling was very high.”

“Manavi Ma’am and Geetika Ma’am took me to two chairs on which Dadu and Dadi were sitting next to each other. Dadu was wearing a blue dress and Dadi a yellow sari. Dadu and Dadi were wearing glasses. Dadu had less hair and they were white. Dadi’s hair was black. I said good morning to Dadu. He said good morning. I asked him to give me his hand to tie the rakhi. Smiling, he extended his hand. I tied a rakhi on his wrist. Papa, there was a big tray full of chocolates near his chair. I tried to pick up one, but Dadu picked up one and gave it to me. Then Dadi put her hand on my head.” “I was happy. But one thing I did not like. Whatever gifts we gave to Dadu, a tall man in a green dress (must be the President’s bodyguard) snatched it from Dadu’s hands and kept it on a table. I said bye to Dadu who also said bye to me. I like this Dadu.”“We were given a food packet. They also gave us a pencil box on which a picture of Dadu’s house was printed,” Aashi concluded.

Her parents asked, “What is Dadu’s name and what does he do?” The little girl said, “Our Ma’am had told us, but I don’t remember.” Her father told her that Dadu is the President of the country and his name is Ram Nath Kovind. When he added that this Dadu was earlier the Governor of Bihar, where her real dadu lives, Aashi clapped her hands and said, “That is why Dadu was smiling…we must go again to meet him with our own dadu.”

Man Mohan can be contacted at rovingeditor@gmail.com

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