Monday, 27 August 2012

Similarities and Differences Between the Neighbours

India and Pakistan are divided by the bloody past, but are united in the corrupt present.

The Pakistani PM, Raja Pervej Ashraf, or Rental Raja, as he is often referred by the Pakistani media has, for the moment avoided getting booted out of office by the Supreme Court, for not reopening a old graft case against the President.

A few hundred miles away, the Indian Prime Minister finds his hands and image blackened by the soot of corruption in coal.

The political class of India and Pakistan are divided by a hundred factors, but they come from the same school of corruption. The only difference is that the Indian politicians cannot cripple democracy with the sort of unlimited power that their Pakistani counterparts enjoy. They can hire the best lawyers to postpone the accountability to the judicial process, but would not dream of hampering the electoral process(Kudos to the Election Commission). On the other hand, in Pakistan, ballot is often subdued by the bullet.

The general public of both the nations(they are much better than the politicians) are utterly disgusted by the stench of corruption. Hence, every time somebody raises his voice against it, they automatically become eulogized and hero-worshiped.  Justice Iftikaar Chaudhry galvanized the general Pakistani to eventually oust the General(pun unintended). Across the border, India saw the rapid rise of Anna Hazare who caught the mass imagination to make the politicians shake in their boots.

Last time the Pakistani President visited India, I received a witty SMS. The President met the Indian PM and was asked to curb terrorism. The President replied, 'I am as serious on the issue of curbing terrorism as you are on the issue of curbing corruption'.

The Pakistani Prime Minister and the President are a joke in their nation. I hope the same is not the final eventuality of the Indian Prime Minister.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Unspoken in PM's Speech

Is it possible for two nations to live in the same country?

The PM's speech, spoke of a nation having a few problems and a bright future. He spoke of challenges, which he was confident of surmounting within foreseeable future.

Alas, I am not a citizen of the sunshine nation the PM so fondly spoke about. In fact, not many can claim the citizenship of the promised land. I live in a nation, where this independence day has bought ominous signs of foreboding, which fills us with gloom and despair about the future of this great country.

The PM spoke a lot and meant very little. The speech was laced with the names of  programs, the government had undertaken to improve the living conditions of citizens. What it did not have, is the description of the magnitude of failure these flagship programs have been.

He spent a lot of time talking about creating new jobs for the youth of the country, but did not answer the basic question of  "How was he going to do it?". Policy paralysis may create an air of denial, it certainly does not create jobs. When the rating agencies predict of a slowdown, it essentially means lesser jobs on the factory floors and more angry people on the streets. Europe is too fresh a lesson in this regards for any short/long term memory loss to erase.

The highlight of the speech was, off course, the promise of providing electricity to every house of the country in the next five years.  In fact, every time I sit down to write a blog, I pray that booting my laptop does not trip the whole of western grid.  Forget FDI in retail, even if you ensure electricity in every house, you would kickstart the economy, create jobs and ensure a next term in the parliament.

Another issue touched upon in the speech was the need of having transparency and accountability in public life, and the good progress the government had done in the area. This was like a student writing an exam, and then giving himself a 100% for the answers. The conduct and seriousness of the government in bringing an effective ombudsman(or lokpal) is no open secret. The speech could have outlined a road map for the plausible future rather than dwell upon the improbable past on this matter.

The speech finished with a comment that no power in the world could stop India from achieving greatness. I agree, we do not need world powers to stymie our growth when the government is doing an excellent job at it.

The only good thing about the speech was that it was over. But, at the end, I had a lingering doubt--- Should the Independence Day speech not be made by a person who is truly Independent?

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Politics of Politics

There was no Democracy during Mirza Ghalib's time, but he understood the ever persistent threat of betrayal in politics through the following couplet.

"Humne ki unse ummed-e-wafa, Jo nahi jaante wafa kya hai"

Anna Hazare made the mistake of trusting the opposition, to get the Lokpal bill passed. He corrected it by calling off the fast and deciding to clean up the cesspool of corruption himself. The passion and oratory seen in the budget session of the parliament, while opposing the formation of Lokpal was matched only by the debate for a self approved wage hike. Trusting them to get the Lokpal bill passed, from a government which has been singed by passing RTI, was living in a fool's paradise. And they have been rudely evicted from the paradise.

Now that Anna has decided to form a political party, he must understand that his fight will not be against NDA or UPA but against a system allergic to transparency. His party will have to withstand threat, coercion, pressure and inducement, including temptations aimed toward both ego and bank balance. It will also have to be given that politics, is long process of constant struggle and not instant results. More of Patience and perseverance(the Atal Bihari Vajpayee type) and less of rhetoric(Mamata Banerjee variety) will serve them well.

But this endeavour would need active help from the masses. One must remember, that urban India participates both in corruption and the fight against it in equal measures. We, who claim to be victims of corruption, never hesitate to make a side deal, when it suits us. When we break a law, instead of paying the fine, bargain with the authority for corruption rate of escape. We cannot pray for divine providence against corruption, if we are willing slaves to the same demon. 

Another piece of advice for Team Anna. Your conduct and character would be under intense scrutiny from the classes(i mean the ruling classes) and the masses. Any slippages and you shall be pilloried in the public and ridiculed in private. In fact, Ghalib had a couplet for your situation too, and you shall be well advised to keep it's counsel .....

"Hum aah bhi kare to ho jaige badnaam, woh Katl bhi karde to iss shehar main charcha hi na ho"