Life is a voyage and we come face to face with our destiny at least a few times during its course. This is true for individuals and even for nations. Liberated India had a few such occasions during the last 60 years. In 1947, we had the best opportunity to start on a clean slate with genuine secularism, essential socialism and progressive nationalism. But we missed the bus completely and boarded the wrong ones of pseudo-secularism, non-alignment and what not. Then we had another opportunity during 1980s when a government came to power with two-third majority in parliament and a youthful leader at the very top. We goofed again with retrograde legislations and blundering peace accords.
The price we paid for all those blunders have been heavy so far. If only we had utilised those historic opportunities properly, India would have been among the top five nations in every sense by now.
After a long gap, the year 2007 looks promising for the Indian nation with several historic opportunities once again. At least three unrelated developments in the last few weeks have sounded the bugle for the leaders to wake up. Two of them have come from the court rooms in India and another interesting one has come from the cricket fields of distant lands. But those who sound the bugle are not the ones who can fight and win the battle. It is up to the leaders and laymen to act and convert the opportunity into victories. And that is not an easy task. Leaders must demonstrate vision and their political platforms must provide adequate political and legislative momentum for taking tough but correct decisions. If we need to reverse our direction in certain wrong 'comforts' we are used to, it should be done with full understanding. Decisions must be taken after as much consultation as possible but once taken it must be enforced with force if needed. A little pain now will only lead us to prosperity and happiness in the days to come.
Reservation and Minorities
It is quite common in democracies to find the Parliament and Executive getting restless over the impediments put up by Judiciary during their sincere attempts to accelerate progress and development through unconventional (and often unconstitutional) fast tracks. But we in India have witnessed exactly the opposite in the last few weeks. Indian judiciary has offered historic opportunities for the nation to change for the better in two very important aspects of our social regime viz. reservations and minorities. While Supreme Court stayed the controversial 27% OBC reservations bill, Allahabad High Court has observed that any religious community with more than 18% of the population cannot be considered as a religious minority. Both are extremely controversial subjects in India and most of the real intellectuals keep away from it for fear of getting branded. But it is high time the patriotic Indians from all sections of our society got together and used this opportunity for building a better Bharat by 2025 AD.
Those who are used to the convenience of irrational and illegitimate reservation policies so far are the real trouble makers. Their nuisance is compounded further by the proponents of vote-bank politics found in all mainstream political parties. It is a totally distorted notion that is spread by 'reservation-maniacs' that all those who are criticising the current reservation policies are dead against social justice and reservations. It is hard to imagine any Indian who has no sympathies for the socially and economically backward classes. We have suffered and struggled so much under foreign occupation and various forms of internal discrimination that reserving a part of our limited resources to the deserving few has become part of our culture itself. But is it rational for reservation to be eternal and unconditional? Shouldn't there be a clear time frame to uplift all those who are currently backward? An all powerful commission (preferably apolitical) must go into all aspects of backwardness and put together a plan for time-bound reservations. It should be a comprehensive one-time reservation policy and all forms of caste and religious reservations must come to a complete full stop within a time frame. Thereafter all reservations must be based only on economic criterion.
The question of minorities is even more intriguing in India. While we are treating all religions as equal, as it should be, we are treating those who are following different religions differently. Some are majority and some as minorities. In twenty first century it is ridiculous for a secular state to treat its citizens differently on the basis of religion and caste. The concepts of secularism and minorities, now in use in India, are its Western versions and definitely not applicable for a country like India where followers of all types of religions and cults co-exist. Number of followers of various religions is ever varying and there are millions of people who are comfortable with multiple beliefs or beliefs of their own. Without going into the logic and wisdom of the Allahabad High Court, any rational and secular citizen of the country will hail the judgement. We can only hope that a majority of such people will also succeed in doing away with the concepts of majority-minority and caste reservations in our country forever.
India's well 'deserved' loss in the World Cup is yet another meaningful opportunity for the nation. Cricket of today is no more a game. It is an industry or a business with all its unethical undercurrents and manipulations unbefitting a sport. The alleged murder of a coach symbolises the sad state of this game more than anything else. Killing a teacher for failing in examination highlights the immoral depth to which a set of students can fall into. Millions of man-hours are wasted every day on cricketing industry and millions of black money is also generated by the mafia. The very nature of one-day cricket is such that there is absolutely no weightage for the health and stamina of players. All that matters is luck, manipulation and weather. A simple comparison of the competitive parameters of the players in games like cricket, football and hockey is enough to rule out cricket as a healthy game for a healthy nation. Cricket can never return to its 'test' days and the politicians will never get out of the lucrative cricketing grounds. It is time we abandoned this game and returned to hockey and football. Again the government can do this easily if the leaders have the will and society can pitch in with encouragement at homes.
Most of such debates aimed at strengthening our nation end up diffidently under long shadows cast by the calibre and integrity of politicians who lead us. One of liberated India's biggest problems is the proliferation of career politicians. While it is true that no democracy can thrive without the tribe of politicians, it is equally true that we can avoid (or discourage) the growth of those who consider politics as a means of living. It is time that we got over the sight of handicapped political leeches (living on public money) deciding the fate of a youthful and vibrant democratic nation of more than one billion. As our founding fathers envisaged, the nation should be ruled by the elected youthful leaders in the more representative lower house and not the nominated oldies in the upper house. True democracy is all about representation and only those who can get elected on the strength of a transparent manifesto should govern and decide our destiny. Historic opportunities come rarely and there is no excuse for those who miss it for any reason.