‘India Shining’ !!

There has been much talk about India Shining' of late. In ancient times India was known as a golden bird. Much water has flowed in the Jamuna and Ganga over the centuries. There obviously have been many moments of glory. In more recent history the great war of independence in 1857; the moment of India's freedom in 1947; the leadership provided by India to the Non Aligned Movement and the oppressed of the world, the establishment of huge edifices of public sector industry, the defeat of Pakistan Army and birth of Bangla Desh are all shining examples. There was a shine too when Rakesh Sharma's voice crackled over the radio from space “ Sare Jehan Se Achcha Hindustan Hamara. We felt proud when the world applauded Indira Gandhi as the Queen of Heart. But of course there were many moments of sadness too “ the debacle on the Chinese border; the droughts and hunger, the blindings at Bhagalpur, the communal riots, the assassination of Gandhiji, Indiraji, and Rajivji. Terrorism swept a pall of tragedy and gloom in Punjab, J & K, and the North East. And who can forget the dark day of 6 December 1992 at Ayodhya?.

So what does one make of feeling good? Have the dark spots all disappeared? Is the mist gone for ever. Are we no longer sad, hungry, jobless, scared and oppressed? No body really would justifiably complain about any part of India shining. The complaint is only that the shine may not travel far enough. There is even greater complaint that the shine for some may be at the cost of the rest. Obviously neither the claim nor the complaints are wholly true. But the fact is that the pain of the masses must inevitably be more important than the pleasure of some. This is not just a moral issue or a matter of common sense. Even from the point of view of the happy few any hope to make the feel good' factor sustainable makes it imperative that they share their well being with their lesser-placed co-citizens.

Let us look at the source of the shine and its substance. Significantly the NDA refrain is that there is a feel good factor, not that the people have never had it so good. The BJP is very good at creating feelings “ of nationalism (of their kind), of patriotism (of their kind) of religious cause (of their kind), of truth (of their kind). Their contribution has been to divide our people, to take cash for defence deals, to allow our neighbours to occupy large tract of our land and then sacrifice hundreds of young lives to take it back, to make a promising young leader of India, and after his tragic death, his family for another seventeen years, suffer the pinpricks of falsehood. The price paid in each case has been devastating. I shudder to think what price will now be demanded for the feel good factor. There is no doubt that a good monsoon has a great deal to do with the feel good factor. But a good monsoon does not guarantee another wholesome one the following year. Similarly 100 billion reserves are a good feeling but they can give a bad feeling too if there is a sudden flight of capital, not unknown the world over. Many other things said to be part of feel good are standard ingredients of modern governance. It is amusing to read that in 50 years the Congress Party facilitated only a handful of Internet connections whilst in BJP's their five years there has been a great flood. That's like a man's wife taking credit for his personality, overlooking his mother's contribution. Anyone who owns a hen can count the dozens of eggs it lays and take credit for it. But should he be forgetting how that hen got to him, the egg from which the layer was itself hatched. So, much as the egg might shine, let us not forget the hen. Furthermore if we eat up all the eggs there will be no hens in the future.

Economic welfare is obviously a paramount concern and many problems of an ordinary citizen's life would naturally be resolved if his or her pockets are full. But the fact remains that the life of an average person, particularly in rural India (where 80% of our people live) is like walking blindfolded through a minefield. Whilst the crime graph continues to rise, confidence in the police continues to dive. General insensitivity compounded by an inclination to cooperate and collaborate with petty criminals is as inevitable for the police as an illequipped and inefficient infrastructure.

In education and health, as in many other things, we have the best practices in the world. But even middle class families cannot dream of treatment in our best hospitals or of educating their children in the best schools. And what the government provides can at best be described as rotten. For an average person a brief stay in a District Hospital should be a good reason for seeking treatment elsewhere. A few years of what passes as education in government schools sould need a long course of corrective education. On municipal facilities, the less said the better. In many UP cities and towns I would not be surprised if the pigs think humans have wrongfully interfered with their environment. Any body heard of sanitation and a sewer system? Honestly, 250 crores of whatever else the NDA government is pouring into the shinning India advertisements cannot convince me that the choked open drains of our polluted cities are shinning. Let me put it another way there may be a little shine on the face of India but are we sure it is not just a reflection from the fears that flow from the eyes of its people?

Salman Khurshid

27/12/2003



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