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Quo Vadis, India
|by Subra Narayan|
‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’ says Marcellus in Shakespeare’s classic, Hamlet. Today something is indeed rotten to the core in the state of India. Who needs reality TV when you can entertain yourselves with stories of scam after scam being unearthed in which babus, politicians, media, journalists, lobbyists, entrepreneurs form the main cast while the ‘aam aadmi’ can only be a silent spectator, a mute witness. As the nation enters its 62nd year of being a Republic, what is appalling is that you pay a heavy price for honesty in the land of the virtuous, as was the case with Yashwant Sonawane, an unblemished, honest Additional Collector of Malegaon who was burnt alive in broad daylight while trying to expose the oil mafia. Has Corruption become so systemic that it is the norm rather than the exception? Twenty years ago you would hear of an occasional mega scam as in the case of Bofors (which still refuses to go away) or the Harshad Mehta scam, but the alarming frequency at which new scams are tumbling out of the closet makes you wonder if India is on its way to becoming a Banana Republic, as Ratan Tata alluded to during a television interview.
How did we stoop to such levels in a mere six decades after Independence, considering the stature and integrity of our freedom fighters. Is this India Shining? The amount of money lost to the exchequer in the 2G spectrum scam was so huge with so many zeros in the figure that the media had to come up with the term lakh-crores. Remember that the concept of zero was invented in India and now we tend to use it liberally after any number when it comes to looting the nation! And now the Government actually denies that there was any fraud, castigating the Comptroller and Auditor General in the process. Our ‘chalta hain’ attitude has led us to this juncture, where nothing ‘runs’ smoothly, unless palms are greased over and over again! You may not be corrupt to begin with but in order to be part of the system you are forced to aid and abet corruption! The recent story of IAS officers husband-wife duo stashing away crores of rupees in Madhya Pradesh highlights the cancer that has spread throughout the nation at every echelon of society. As T.S.R Subramanian, a former Cabinet Secretary recently observed, some sort of chemotherapy is now required to cleanse the entire system.
After being awarded the Padma Vibhushan on Republic Day for his exemplary work, Mr Aziz Premji, Wipro founder, recently commented that there is a serious breakdown of Governance at all levels and termed it abject, for our morals have sunk to a low state, at the very bottom of the abyss.
It is time for some very serious introspection of the ‘soul’ of India, which right now seems to have gone astray.
As if all this is not enough, the honorable Home Minister suddenly announces that the government would start the process of forming a separate Telangana state and then retracts his statement later, as if dangling candy in front of a crying child only to take it away! And now the entire nation is in a wait and watch mode to see whether Telangana will become a reality or not! What next, Gorkhaland, Vidarbha, Belgaum? Are we trying to divide the nation or unify it? Haven’t the British done enough already? Let’s turn back a few pages in history to understand a little bit more about governance. I am neither a historian nor a policy maker, but am taking the liberty of indulging in some academic arm-chair theories about potential solutions, which may sound preposterous to many or even laughable. If you look at the history of India say from 5th century AD onwards up until the Sultanate time frame, then we typically find that India was divided into four major regional centers. After the Gupta Empire had fallen, King Harsha ruled over much of India until he shifted his capital to Kanauj, whereby his dominance weakened and he was followed by the Gurjara Pratiharas who ruled most of North India up until the 10th century. Harsha’s move from Pataliputra to Kanauj enabled King Shashanka of the Palas to rule over the East. At the same time the Deccan Plateau was dominated by the Chalukyas, notably Pulakesin II of Badami and Rashtrakutas. And in the South the formidable Pallavas ruled from Tondaimandalam and eventually the Cholas took over. Granted there were a lot of numerous smaller kingdoms amidst the major ones and they fought intermittent wars, but clearly the nation was primarily made up of the four regions as outlined here for several centuries. What prevented one regional King from dominating another was the fact that they were more or less equally matched in resources, administrative and military capabilities, and strategic concepts, as noted by Kulke and Rothermund in ‘A History of India’. Interestingly when the British East India Company eventually took over administration of the nation, they formed the Presidencies of Bombay, Madras, and Bengal for ease of governance although a number of smaller kingdoms and princely states were spread around and owed allegiance to them.
Thus you are not necessarily dividing a nation into states based on the language they speak or the regional culture they align with but merely a simple zonal division based on geography for easy administration at the Center. And certainly every Indian should be allowed to reside in any part of the country where she wants to or hoist the national flag anywhere. Sharing of river-waters will be somewhat easier as language doesn't bifurcate rivers and streams. Thus instead of breaking the country into several more states, big and small, a paradigm shift in thinking is required, whereby the country is split into four Zones that are allowed to prosper. In fact all IPL matches should be held only between Zonal regions, to foster a sense of Zonal identity, since cricket is the national religion that speaks no language. I am afraid these ideas might not resonate with a broad spectrum of readers but hopefully some day the ‘aam aadmi’ can hold his head high, not having to worry about that dreaded word, Corruption, and proudly say ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’!
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