Tuesday, August 10, 2010

India - A Fake Democracy

Often we pride ourselves with the fact that India is the largest democracy in the world. Theoretically, it is true, but practically, is there any democracy prevailing in India ?? Dear Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests, you might hold me guilty of being too cynical. But when I look around, I  start having serious doubts, about the relevance and meaning of democracy in this country.

Abraham Lincoln rightly defined Democracy as, 'Government, of the people, for the people and by the people, shall not perish from the earth'. He was indeed very prophetic, for the government, where people have a major say in  its working is bound to succeed and be popular. But does this definition hold good for Indian democracy ??

Is India really being governed by its people ?? A democracy means rule in accordance with the choice of the majority. While majority of our elected representatives are millionaires, close to 80% of our population still survive on less than one dollar per day. If you look at the statistics, these so-called people's representative holds approval of merely 10% of Indian mass. We project ourselves as a Young Country on world map with 70% of our population below 35 years, but two-thirds of our political-class are above 50. Some of them, including our prime-minister, are well above 70 and truly past their sell-by dates. But there is hardly any sign that they going to give way to younger generation.

Does the Indian government work for its people ?? When the entire country is reeling under double-digit inflation, we are still worried about fluctuating stock-market and Foreign Direct Investment in Insurance sector. Who cares about FDI in insurance sector, when thousands of children are dying of malnutrition every single day. When sugar-prices are shooting through the roof, our ministers are busy advising people How Reduced Consumption of Sugar is Good For Their Health. We want to ensure mobile connectivity to all parts of India, yet we don't have any plans to provide the poor with basic amenities like housing, food, water and electricity.

Is it a Government of the people ?? Three areas on Indian map stand out. Kashmir, North-East and Mineral-Rich Naxal-belts. We have tolerated  68,000 deaths in Kashmir over past couple of decades. We have a 700-thousand strong army calling the shots in valley, patrolling every single cordon. Even though, we have a democratically elected state-government, its powers are  severely curbed by highly undemocratic laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. To most Indians, North-eastern states are not even part of India. They feign ignorance, when quizzed about the problems faced by people belonging to these area. All of these states conduct elections and have installed democratically elected governments, yet all of them are policed by Indian Army. Can you imagine life being cut-off from outside world not for one day, one week, but for full 45 days ?? That's the plight of people belonging to one of the states in North-East, yet I don't see a single soul being moved. One third of India, mostly mineral rich forest land, is partially or completely under the control of Maoists, who have been left with no choice but to fight the mighty state to protect their dignity and freedom. We talk of having a society in peace, yet we are sending thousand and thousand of para-military forces to fight these so-called Maoist Insurgents. They have not descended from heaven, have they ?? They are nothing but our own people, the poor of the poorest. Yet we are trying our level best to annihilate them, if possible.

The pillars of democracy - Judiciary, Bureaucracy and Media are all in shambles and have failed miserably in performing their duties.

We have one of the lowest rate-of-conviction amongst all developing countries. In serious crimes, its merely 5 percent. There are cases, where our premier investigative agency have spent more than 30 years to investigate a genocide, but are yet to come up with a probe report. There are no signs either, of them completing the probe anytime soon. Our so-called fast-track courts take 5 cool years to deliver justice. We have more than 3 Crore cases pending in Indian courts. In some cases, poor people arrested on frivolous charges don't even get to see the light of Indian court-rooms and are left to die in prison, without ever being convicted. Yet, when it comes to resolving a billion-dollar  family-dispute involving Ambani-brothers, the same judiciary settles it within months.

Our media houses are more like corporate houses running after money and TRPs rather than following the 9is of investigative journalism. If a techie commits suicide, that is flashed as a breaking news. We have 10 farmers committing suicides every-day in Maharashtra, yet we see none of it being covered by Indian press. How many times you have noticed our media-houses busy covering a celebrity marriage and irrelevant news-items, side-stepping serious issues, which matter to public. When close to 1 lakh people died of flood in Bihar, we only had head-lines of it, but when an innocuous bomb-blast happens in Bangalore, supposedly the beehive of talented yet selfish IT-Professionals, media-houses make a beeline covering it. Media is living in a state of falsehood, reporting only the shallow exterior of face of nation and silently ignoring the dark underbelly.

About our bureaucracy less said the better. Its full of inept and corrupt civil servants, whose only aim is to earn more and more money by hook or crook. We have close to 50% leakage in all our government schemes, most of which have been converted into a honeypot around which these corrupt people have flocked. According to a World-Bank-Survey, out of 183 countries across the globe, India ranks 133, when it comes to ease of doing business. Even our troubled Jihad-affected neighbourhood country Pakistan is ranked 85, a cool 50 places above us, all thanks to this big-red-tape called Indian Democracy.

Should we still call India as the largest democracy in the world ?? I have my own doubts. To me, it looks more like a oligarchy, disguised as democracy. At best, Indian democracy is in  a state of emergency, urgently seeking attention of its people. If you stand at Greater Kailash in Delhi, it may look like a democracy, but if you go to Dantevada  or Vidarbha, its anything but democracy.

Over to you Toastmaster.

PS: This was my P2 speech@ PBC Orators  Toastmasters Session, which fetched me the Best Prepared Speaker Award :-)

Monday, August 09, 2010

Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Dream

It was mid of May. A tiny little girl, about 10 years old, was sitting with her friend Jyoti under a small cottage. It was built in the middle of a mango orchard in a remote village in North Bihar called Jagatpur. This non-descript village came under the very district Supaul,which attained nation-wide-media-coverage few months ago owing to the devastating floods, dubbed as a national calamity by our own prime-minister Dr. Manmohan Singh (Or should I say glorified care-taker of a real PM sitting in 10, Janpath !!)

The only middle-school that was existing in this village was founded by  our own Chacha Nehru during his hay-days. Although, he never came back to found another one. The end result ?? Even now there was no intermediate school in and around the radius of 10 k.m from this village !!

Here is how the conversation goes

Small Girl: My friend, Do you know today it will be decided whether I would be a special girl or a simple ordinary girl?? I do not know what God is going to do with me ??
Jyoti: Why ? what will happen today?
Small Girl: My father went to Supaul(near by town) to see my Navodaya entrance result.

Jyoti was somewhat bemused at this question of her friend. Apparently, she was thinking that since she already belongs to a socially affluent and financially well-off family in this village, this girl is already destined to succeed. Oh.. By the way Jyoti has never got a chance to attend any school !!

Jyoti: If you would pass your exam then what will happen?
Small girl:You do not know,it will change my life dramatically.it will be like I would go to heaven from hell.Please pray to God for my result.You know very well there is not a single good school in Supaul district except Navodaya(just to add, its a free govt school with all facilities including Fooding,lodging and all your academic expenses). Papa will not allow me to go to Patna because first thing that I am too young a girl to go outside. Secondly, our family won't be able to afford the hefty cost of my stay in a decent hostel.
Jyoti: You do not worry, you will surely get your goal.

Looks like God was also listening to this conversation, after all he is ubiquitous, isn't he ?? So God answered to the pray of these two little girls. We could see Papa coming towards her. Even though he was far off, we could see a great smile written all over his face(Probably he is not that good at hiding his emotions and so he was not at all able to hide a wide-grin). At that very moment, the girl I knew she got through it, yes she got it !!

Papa: Hey,dear do you know today you fulfilled my dream.I was not at all expecting it from you because you were looking youngest among all other students sitting in navodaya examination hall. Today its your day. You have made me and this village proud. Tell me, what do you want ?? Whatever you want, you can ask for, anything !! Today I am really very happy for you.
Small girl: I am also too happy.I want to do what you never allowed me to do. You never allowed me to take bath in pumping set water with my village girl friends. I want to do it please papa. This is what I want as my reward.
Papa: Ok dear. As you wish, I am sure you could have asked for more. Today you can do whatever you want.
Small girl: Thank you papa,You are so sweet.

The D-Day finally arrives and everybody from girl's family is inside the school-campus. The girl sees a very big school in front of her eyes,it was really like her dream school and she just stood  there, looking all around, trying to let the feeling of accomplishment sink-inside. She was very fascinated with the fact  that she is going to be part of school's hostel, where there will be a proper routine and school dress. Almost everybody from girl's family was crying profusely at the thoughts of being separated from this charming girl. Even her father's eyes were full of tears. But she was too naive to understand those high-emotions running through. Almost oblivious of all these happenings, she just goes ahead and starts running towards hostel gate like a horse and then returns back with equal speed. She does this round few times. Finally its time for her parents to leave. She looks back only once at her parents and siblings and swings her hand to say good-bye to them, before disappearing in the crowd of new students, all lined up to join the school on that very day.

This episode was shot at a time, when parents all over Bihar were so fascinated to Navodaya Vidyalayas. A typical middle-class family was not having any choice for their children, except Navodaya.

Thanks Navodaya.Thanks for all that you have provided. You provided the turning point when a girl stepped outside from the village and got a change to "Go, Kiss The World". We are not sure, if anything can be done to revive its fortune and flagging health in wake of mushrooming english-medium private-schools and people's obsession about these schools. But We owe our life, our success to you,Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Supaul !!

PS: I tried three times for Navodaya examinations impersonating as three different students :-) First time as Suman Kumar, Second time as Sumanjee and Third time as Suman Saurabh. But I was deemed not-good-enough for Navodaya Vidyalaya. But that doesn't stop me from admiring it, though !!