If one wanted to have a bulletin on the health of our nation, one could do no worse than look at the front page headlines of The New Sunday Express of 21st July 2013. For those who do not subscribe to this paper, let me list them below:
The pride of place goes to “Nitish Govt. Knew It Was Serving Toxic Noon Meal.” On the sidelines you will read “Armed Gang Loots GT Exp Passengers;” “Seeking Probe into Murder, BJP Calls for State Bandh;” “9 Newborns Die in Odisha;” “Parents Want Fresh Probe by CBI or SIT into Ilavarasan’s Death;” “Six Get Life for Swiss’ Rape;” “3 Die in Himachal Downpour;” “Hands-On Defence Minister With Hands-Off Policy.” The results of the Express Poll of the Day, that asked the question: “Do you agree with the Prime Minister that a bad year does not mean bad performance for his govt.?” are: 88% NO and 12% YES.
After reading such a catalogue of the deadly diseases that have paralysed the body of the nation into a deep coma, the black box item requesting help for Kedarnath comes almost as a relief since it speaks about a disaster that has “happened” and is no longer looming on the horizon. A catastrophe of this magnitude that has been described as worse than the 2004 Tsunami was just waiting to happen considering the colossal damage that has been done to the ecology of the area. But it has already been forgotten, and the authorities are busy micromanaging newer fires that are springing up continuously in various parts of the country. The New Indian Express group is asking for donations with the slogan, “Even as we mourn the dead, we need to help the survivors.” It is a slogan that the government and its mandarins too could adopt in pursuit of vote-banks while pushing such populist schemes as the Food Security Bill, because in their calculations the population of India consists only of “survivors.” We are all survivors of the greatest tragedy that could have befallen a nation. The dead, mercifully, are gone and shall suffer no more. Tokenism of all kinds will be used to mourn them. Those who have to be afraid are the living because it is in their names that the politicians are continuing to loot and rape the nation without let or hindrance. The Mid-Day Meal scheme, thought of by K. Kamraj and first implemented by M. G. Ramachandran in Tamil Nadu, was designed to bring children away from daily labour into schools. A path-breaking scheme was soon announced as a national scheme, but the denizens of our nether world converted it into a gravy train. There were unaccountable sums of money to be made. What did it matter if a few underprivileged children lost their lives? Even when a whole school burnt down in Kumbakonam with the fires of the mid-day meal kitchen, roasting 94 innocent children alive, there was hardly any outrage. It is nine years since this tragedy, and yet, parents and relatives of the deceased are still waiting for justice for the death of their loved ones even after the Supreme Court stipulated deadline, to complete the trial in six months, was long over. After all, who cares for the have-nots? One more scheme can be thought of to fob them off at the next election!
This kind of unabashed loot has happened under the continuous rule of the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and the UPA Chairperson, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Dr. Singh may not have added significantly to his own material possessions, but there are some people who find it headier to remain at the apex, and for that they will make any amount of compromises. Position, by itself, is their reward. If he lasts this term, he will be the only person after Jawaharlal Nehru and Mrs. Indira Gandhi to complete ten years at the helm. The manner in which he has outsmarted the other aspirants without having to undergo the rough-and-tumble of elections shows what a shrewd mind is hiding behind that bland expressionless look. He has so successfully neutered the chances of his rivals in the party that he continues to be the only Prime Ministerial candidate that it can project. By a deliberate willingness to look the other way while his colleagues loot the country, and by keeping his hands firmly in his own pocket, he has created an impression among the intelligentsia that he is the only honest man in the party, and thereby, has made himself irreplaceable. The media has bought this spiel and almost all columnists are willing to give him the longest possible rope. All his acts of omission are forgiven with a statement that “the personal integrity of the Prime Minister remains unquestionable.” His handling of the Anna Hazare phenomenon further reinforces this theory when he kept himself in the background and allowed Pranab Mukherji, P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, and others to tie themselves up in knots and stand exposed and discredited in the harsh glare of the media light. Even Rahul Gandhi played into his hands when he made his intervention in the Lok Sabha by committing himself to a stand against the popular Jan Lokpal Draft Bill.
The premier opposition party continues to be confused about its role and instead of asking the government uncomfortable and awkward questions, it is busy with meaningless agendas like Ayodhya and Hindu nationalism. Instead of debating the disastrous Food Security Bill, the BJP appears to be acquiescent as it is scared of being labelled anti-poor. When the Food Security Bill passes, it will certainly ensure that the poor in India become poorer and continue to remain at the mercy of the mai-baap sarkar. Similarly, the party has not even raised a whimper against the bonanza gifted to Reliance Industries by the doubling of gas prices. To complicate matters further, the President of the party suddenly lashes out at the English language and tries to put the blame for all our ills at the door of this foreign import. There is a lot of talk about the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, but not one word about sanskriti.
After glancing through the headlines of the front page one really needs a lot of courage to open the other pages, as more of the same damaging information comes across. The nation is so far gone that not one organ of its body seems to be functioning. The almost unbeatable combination of two Sardar economists, after great intellectual effort, have come to the conclusion that with Rs. 32 a day a citizen can lead a comfortable life, and would not need any support from the government. Earlier one of these two worthies had commented that increase in petrol prices was “good”, as it would demonstrate to the West how serious we were about economic reforms. The only people I know who can subsist on Rs 32 a day are the Members of Parliament. This fact can be verified by having a look at the price list on the menu of the Lok Sabha Canteen. With such Doctors leading the team, no wonder the newspapers continue to read like obituary columns!
Tomorrow’s newspaper is unlikely to carry headlines that would cheer the common man in this unfortunate country. With the rupee having plunged steeply to sixty-and-above per US Dollar, and the liberalization of the FDI policy having come at a time when foreign capital has lost its confidence in the country, you can bet your bottom paisa that the prices of petroleum products, including domestic gas, will continue to be increased; food prices will skyrocket; real estate will become more expensive as a cheaper Rupee will bring NRI funds into this sector; and the RBI will further revise the interest rates upwards, thereby adding to the inflationary pressure. The Planning Commission will also, in the fitness of things, present a revised figure of Rs. 40 per day as the threshold income for BPL classification, and feel proud of its magnanimity. The depredation of our natural resources will continue unabated, while floods and earthquakes will strike some other parts causing havoc, but providing our politicians with plenty of opportunities to conduct aerial surveys and get themselves photographed with their panoply of grandeur.
Image Source: Brisbane Times