Do they Care for Nation?
There is no denial of the fact that the corruption and inflation are two most endemic diseases directly affecting the social and economic health of the nation. Handling them is largely an implementation issue that involves a large population including the executive machinery in the governance. But when I give a relook at the events and developments particularly during the last two years or so, I find there has been much larger focus and debate on the legislation than on the implementation in the country.
India is among a few countries in the fraternity of world nations which has a systematic and well documented written constitution in place. Besides it has, ever since the country was declared a republic, been amended from time to time as per needs. Further, several Acts have also been passed and enunciated by the law makers to address particular sectoral issues or problems. Notwithstanding above, an endless debate goes on ever and ever to strengthen laws of the land and / or creation of new laws.
I recall particularly in the context of the ill-fated and unfortunate ‘Nirbhaya’ case in December 2012, when there had been much larger criticism and debate on the laws relating to the rape, molestation and misbehavior against woman. It was opined by all and sundry that the existing laws are not sufficient and deterrent enough to deter and discourage criminal minds to refrain from such heinous crimes. Subsequently, the relevant laws were indeed amended and made more stringent and punitive keeping popular sentiments and demand in view.
The other day I happened to see an article in a prominent national daily sharing statistical data and information on the crime against women pre- and post-Nirbhaya case. If the statistics are to be believed, ever since this episode the number of crimes committed against women and reported in the law in 2013 have shown a phenomenal increase over 2012. As against this, the percentage of offenders tried, convicted and punished, have drastically gone down compared to those of the same category in 2012.
Now the increase could be explained by justifying that earlier victims were hesitant and shy to report such offences in the law for the fear of embarrassment and infamy but what argument would be given for the sharp reduction in conviction rate? Is it due to the reason that the judiciary is more cautious now due to the provisions of stringent punishment? Is it due to the false reporting of many cases? Or, the police and other law enforcing agencies are increasingly finding it difficult to enforcing new laws? Is it that a single factor is responsible for this trend or, in fact, multiple factors are behind this?
Finding the exact reason(s) could be a subject of the detailed study and analysis but one thing emerges very clearly that merely strengthening of laws have in no way helped the cause of the women otherwise the number of crimes would have been drastically gone down by now along with corresponding increase in the rate of conviction and punishment.
This is only one but an important illustration to show that merely the change in legislation shall not yield desired results. Then in the recent past, the nation has seen another more popular mass movement led by Shri Anna Hazare, a social worker of national repute, for bringing in stringent legislation on the Jan Lokpal. Among various objectives, the main objective and central theme behind the movement has been that the existing laws are weak and not enough to catch and prosecute politicians and senior bureaucrats committing crime and corruption in high offices.
In the beginning, the movement was apolitical and received a tremendous response from all sections of the society including some political parties. Over a period, the overall response has been lukewarm with declining interest of masses when it started picking up political annotations and overtures. Of late, we have seen emergence of a political party for the common man hijacking the agenda with aggressive posturing for the stated legislation, declaring the outfit as those of the only honest people ready to die for the cause.
Consequently, in a few months the nation and particularly the inhabitants of the national capital region have seen uprisings and installation of a government based on popular interests and sentiments. Then within a short time, we notice how an overgrown ambition can lead to precipitate a situation claiming a martyrdom to facilitate a run for a much larger consolidation and gain over the length and breadth of the vast country. Needless to mention, perhaps a far better approach would have been in the national interest to at least focus for some time on the territorial gains for the intended deliverables discharging the authority (mandated by people) with due responsibility and accountability.
But then India is a land of unlimited possibilities and opportunities. It is a unique and largest democracy in the world ironically divided on the lines of cast, creed, language, region and religion. Then the inter se dynamics of factors like rich versus poor, capitalists versus socialists, foreign investment versus indigenization, and so on so forth too are sports for the interested lot. So there is no dearth of issues and agenda, a man of interprising nature can pick any of the items with a mass appeal and play own music to receive enough patronage, success and popularity.
Let us consider the dynamics of the large population in cities like Delhi and rest of the country. Here a majority of people are from service and business sectors with some definite source of (monthly) income compared to those who are living in villages and smaller cities largely depending on agriculture and allied occupation with a low or no monthly income return. Further, relatively and on average, they are more educated and conscious too about their rights and privileges. Hence more than concessions and freebies, they perhaps need more education and awareness about their responsibilities and duties of a civilized citizen and society towards the nation. Unless there is a uniform development across the nation, it will only divide the society creating more and more and larger interest groups across the country.
If a party or popular leader feels that the rates of a service or commodity such as electricity are high and unreasonable and consequently a burden on common man, they need to take recourse to a serious and well thought out long term strategy and action plan to find out where inefficiencies, indiscretions and malpractices actually exist, and take the long term remedial measures in the system accordingly. Apart from this, efforts should also be made to augment efficiency through reduction in losses, conservation through the energy efficient equipment and devices etc. Besides, every government owes certain responsibility to citizens, and they must see that much needed assistance through subsidy or otherwise is provided to only those below the poverty line and/or other identified low income groups. Similarly, as against the much talked about free water, in fact, there appears a for more need to implement the proper metering and billing at all levels among households to recover minimum cost of the service in corporations and municipalities.
When we talk of legislation, let us realize that we are not living in a barbaric society with archaic laws. For illustration, in the erstwhile tribal groups, the words of the ruler of a tribe, often whimsical, were laws and final verdict. Anyone who didn’t subscribe or submit to his words will be declared hostile and punished. But there are several stories and instances that even they followed certain ethics and principles. What we notice today that many politicians or leaders today are ready to go to any extent to meet their intended objectives and goals beyond any ethics or principle.
Years back, I read a Hindi novel Grih Sansad (Home Parliament) written by a renowned writer Shri Gurudutt. It was an interesting story wherein all major and crucial decisions were taken in the family either by consensus or through a majority of votes, and members were allowed to do prior canvassing in a democratic manner to explain their reasons and viewpoints to their relatives on various issues. So if a party or leader is convinced that a particular legislation is vital in the best interest of the contemporary society, they must follow the laid down rules and procedure and open dialogue with opponents and adversaries to take them along. One can’t simply behave in an autocratic manner, insult or violate the due process and try to give color to his consequent failure as martyrdom.
There may be instances where a contemporary law, rule or procedure needs a change. In such an eventuality, efforts should be made to change it in a constitutional manner following a due procedure rather than rushing it or forcing it on others at whims. Recent fiasco and failure on the much publicized Jan Lokpal Bill in the capital was indeed of this nature. If you are honest, allow others to adjudge and talk about how honest and well intentioned you are. You don’t need to announce it all the time that other than you and your handful lot, everyone else is corrupt and dishonest in the country. Those who resort to such tactics are, in fact, doing more disservice to the people and nation than some others who are conventional yet well-disciplined and disposed.
This also reminds me of the plight of the erstwhile king turned a well-intended politician. Way back, his frustration with the contemporary colleagues in the governance led to his populist move in politics of taking along a particular segment of large population on the caste lines. In a short while, his agenda was taken over by the provincial leaders from the respective communities, he was marginalized in the national politics and the already divided society was further divided in general, other backward classes and scheduled castes/scheduled tribes paving way for more conflicts and interest groups in future.
But then our leaders don’t take lessons from the history. Instead, many of them believe in creating and writing their own history. It is not surprising then that a majority of them will go to any extent to give wings to their personal ambitions and short term goals rather than worrying much about the problems of people and nation. Who cares if personal ambition, greed and action lead to more and more polarization and division of the society and nation?
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Dr. Jaipal Singh
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