But, is it nothing to know when you are dying, when you are about to take leave of this world, of its joys and sorrows, when the past of your life is unfurled before you, when eternity opens wide its portals, is it nothing to know at that last awful,supreme moment of your lives, that you have not lived in vain, that you have lived for the benefit of others, that you have lived to help in the cause of your country's regeneration?

-Surendranath Banerjea

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jai Hind *Choking with frustration and petulance*!!

Down the lane of history,at a midnight,63yrs back,not an Indian might have slept a wink.The moment his long-awaited,long-struggled-for dream comes true would not have allowed him to drown in the oblivion of slumber. To have a leader among his peers who he fought the Victorians shoulders at par with ,take Oath of Allegiance to a state which just took birth,would beyond doubt have given him goosebumps. The hope of a better tomorrow without having to be the foot-board of the White would have given him solace. The prospect of becoming an inevitable part of the system of governance in his country would have given him pride. More than all,the accomplishment of his swaraj andolan would have made him feel triumphant.

We witnessed 63 Independence days. Every year we witnessed a new resolution,a new promise,a better tomorrow.
We travelled a long way. Like a bird without its wings flanking both the sides were we,without the erstwhile East and West Pakistan. The communal riots that followed partitioning independence was not just traumatic,but left us amazingly resilient. We became a republic. Developed ourselves into the largest democracy in the world where we are governed by ourselves! We secured a strong framework of secularism which allowed a Muslim President and Hindu Prime Minister and Christian Defense Minister shoulder the responsibilities without communal feelings. We guilelessly practiced non-intervention,yet duly showing the empathy to the needy,thus helping the East Pak transform into Bangladesh and the Lankans get rid of their villain although loosing a PM as a scapegoat!

Now we are surging ahead in our way to be a Global Power,which no international cop can ignore,rightly as Nostradamus predicted. Yet,have we accomplished what we ought to have when compared to the other colonies of the 50s and 60s like China and Singapore. Are we any close to what Japan is,taking into account the crushing dilapidation that it endured.

We still have dirty roads,filthy streets,poverty and squalor,corruption and nepotism. Inefficient roads and under-productive electric grids. We have over a 110crore population,which would have made us claim ourselves to be the greatest exporter of human resource,yet making a Yankee call us a chop shop. We have Nobel laureates who brought us back nothing. We have great IITians and IIMians who left nothing but husk in pursuit of money and power abroad. We still uphold secularism,only to include a new clause of caste in the coming census. We still uphold equality only to widen the range of reservations in the educational instis. Have we accomplished what we aimed at??

In the backdrop of 63rd Independence Day and the hangover that Mr.Kelley's feedback on his visit to India left on me,i would like to post a conversation with a friend. Consider it an interview of an aspirant civil servant Y by a wannabe journalist X.Consider it the frustration and anxiety of the newer generation who would soon be given the wheel of administration. Consider it any shit,but give it a thought. Isn't the glass more than half empty??

To begin with,i would like to quote the travelogue of a westerner who has travelled across the globe and happened to sweep across India twice. In that he criticizes mercilessly,though ostensibly with a pinch of bonhomie,dirt and filth that India bears. The inefficient rail-road services,the rickety buses,the pollution,the useless electric grids which consumes more electricity than it produces,.and more than all,the don't care attitude of the Indians.

He also gives innuendos on the natural and intellectual endowments that India has,yet rendered useless.The many Nobel laureates who brought back nothing.

As an aspirant civil servant,tell me,what are your ideas to tackle these issues. I know nothing can be solved overnight. But in your reign you at least ought to take one small step!

The criticism is acknowledged. An all India solution doesn't exist. It doesn't because of the proverbial diversity. I can take one or two examples. If i were to be handed the superintendence of a district in Bihar, i will make it a point to study the ground realities. In this hypothetical case, i am most likely to encounter a lawless, illiterate, reactionary, sensitive and under developed area.

1. Get in touch with the religious leaders, the local political personalities, the powerful landlords and other powerful people. A personal rapport can do lot more than a formal contact. Get to know the local dynamics. Who can be trusted and who cannot be. What are their concerns and commitments. What are they capable of doing. Who can be played against whom.

2. Use of media to force the hands of bureaucrats and people alike. Like making media report a khap panchayat's brutality which will force political forces to compel district magistrate to take strong action. Meanwhile the collector remains a helpless executor of the will of political class.

3. Develop a small army  of loyal bureaucrats.

4. Close coordination with police. Now, all these form the prerequisite build up of forces that are necessary. The steps are to follow.

1. Literacy. Here, massive investments from state and union governments cannot be expected. Nothing will change that way. Tweak local support and sentiments. Manage support from the local landlord by naming a new adult coaching centre in memory of his late mother or father. Make the religious and political busy bodies commit themselves for campaigning and for putting their personal weight behind the project. The collector should be able to quote Mark and Mathew while joining the Christians for Sunday mass and on being asked to say a few words by the vicar of the parish. He should be able to help some from his district to be on the government list of people who are sponsored for annual pilgrimage to mecca. He can derive huge local support from all these and perhaps make use of it, in making poor parents send their wards. He can talk to children in the local school and make them aware of a world beyond the narrow confines of a village. Let him tell them about the super 30, the coaching to become a chartered accountant , a lawyer , a journalist. Let the children come forward for college education. He can write letters of recommendation, can help them choose colleges after exams, help them get passports quickly for studies abroad. It takes just one generation of successful students to change situation. This is about studies.

2. Law and order. Have the communal forces under control. Introduce novel schemes like community policing. Make people aware of mechanism for quick disposal of cases.ADMINISTRATION-  Establish computerization of district courts and usage of novel communication methods. . Call centre for registering complaints and sms to know status of an application. Tie up with postal department for issual of government certificates and approvals quickly to the needy. Popularization of right to information act. Usage of civil service clout to get government schemes in his district. For example, a request to include his district among those where unique identity project will be experimented. A speedy disposal of requests for loan waiver guaranteed by union government.

To improve infrastructure nobody has to unleash anything revolutionary. Ensure that quality is maintained while building roads under prime minister's rural roads programme. Perhaps a little bit of activism will help. It will be beneficial if the collector can successfully vouch for world bank funds coming in state's way. But, the horrible infrastructure is not the result of inactivity but that of gross impropriety and corruption. Then an active collector can do a lot of things. Banks are ordered to open rural branches and provide loans for agriculture and education. Telecom operators are ordered to maintain sufficient cell phone towers and maintenance facilities. Both never do that. They have redundant branches in Delhi and useless collection of towers in new mumbai. All that has to be done is enforce the regulation. Make them do what they are obliged to.

If civil servants can remain uncorrupted, all these and more are nothing but routine jobs.the men and women who have managed to traverse the corridors of LBSNAA are capable of pulling off any feat. It is a sad reality that 50 batches of amazing talent have gone waste.

I understand and acknowledge. But taking into account the beastly population which still ardently practice honor killing and female infanticide,I'm afraid if the implementation of the suggestions is light years ahead!

A huge leap forward might be impractical.but a lot of that is down to earth and practical. Look at kerala. It is possible to convert one district in north India into something that has features of one in kerala. Kerala is not Singapore. Need not be. Do what Bhaskaran Nair, Jacob Thomas, Padmakumar, Babupaul did in kerala. They didn't make it like helsinki. But, they implemented national education programme, got some districts cent percent literate, reduced chances of communal disharmony. Helped achieve targets of medical coverage, universalised vaccination programmes. Et al. What we see as the human resource rich kerala is the baby of giants of men like them. Would you dare deny the stupendous success that is kerala? Kerala is eons away from being singapore. But, kerala is possible. And if kerala can be replicated in 200 districts in the north, we will enter a whole new era.

If the mental asylum that was kerala can boast of progressiveness in human welfare, distance of the order of astronomical units can be scaled.

"Use of media to force the hands of bureaucrats and people alike. Like making media report a khap panchayat's brutality which will force political forces to compel district magistrate to take strong action. Meanwhile the collector remains a helpless executor of the will of political class."

This was your point. How far is media capable of ensuring law and order,say in today's case,curbing the honor killing?

We have laws that addresses such needs of criminal justice system. Implementation is found lacking. A police superintendent or district collector has his hands tied because political masters want to cater to demands of such systems and people for tactical gains. However, this tacit support has to remain outside the purview of cosmopolitan middle class, judiciary and concerned authorities at central level. They cannot support these measurers legally. They thrive on lack of awareness and lack of spread of information. If such news hit national media, they can't go against national human rights commission, the supreme court or a directive from union home ministry. They will the district authorities to take action and action they take against the accused can't be subverted because of the vigilance of media. They won't be able to sack the district authorities. They can't stop supreme court from  de recognizing those who bend the laws for narrow gains. It will act as a watch dog. For in a parliamentary democracy with an independent judiciary, public opinion is essential for survival of political class.

** The conversation continues,veers,and gets totally attenuated. But the fire is still alive,ready to be flared up. What shall we do about it? Can we hope of a better India while we are alive or is that left for our great-grand children to witness??

Khuda Hafiz

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A continuation..

Reflections on India by Sean Paul Kelley.. It was pretty much of an interesting read in ZB's.. A westerner ranting and raving on how bad India is.. How vile Indians are.. Well,i could do nothing but agree with 95% of what he told.. Of roads,of electric grids,of dirt,of filth,of bureaucracy,of corruption.. The rest 5% accounts to the exaggeration.. The long queue in the railway station which made him wait for 30min was nothing but an overstatement.. Pro'ly he found no one to teach him how to book tickets online.. Well,poor soul,.had one heck of a hardship coming to India..

It reminded me of Slumdog Millionare which sweeped the academy awards.. We then berated on how manipulative and critical westerners are.. We still do that.. But jokes apart,is there anything we can do about it? Is there anything we can contribute by staying back to work in India and not oozing out its resources leaving the husk to pursue financial heights?

We rave of brain drain. But why do we have that? It's true that India still cannot afford the invaluable Indian brains.. But apart from that,there's definitely one thing India can provide,.recognition.. When we still have appointments based on caste and creed in this 21st century,and deny the most eligible candidates based on anachronisms,how can we justify ourselves in blaming the non-resident Indians,in being non-resident??

Frankly speaking, I'm frustrated,.and at the same time confused.. Which is the way ahead? Is there any way we can contribute to a better India? Is there any way we can shape an India which is beyond the dirty reproach of the westerners?

Khuda Hafiz