The TimesNow news channel has taken up, under the guidance of its committed executive editor, Mr. Arnab Goswami, a campaign against the privileges of the VIPs for these are not only widely misused but cause untold disruption to the normal life and to the common man. The campaign is for abolishing VIP privileges altogether and making these VIPs go through their affairs just as do the commoners.
To illustrate, a Chief Minister or a governor of a state – not to speak of the Prime Minister or the President of the country – should not be allowed to hold up traffic for that may cause a pregnant mother not to reach hospital in time or the victims of an accident to be dead en route to a medical institution, not to speak of students and employees being delayed in reporting to their offices or educational institutions. So, the argument goes, by withdrawing VIP privileges all such things could be set right! And it does sound perfectly logical that a single or a handful of individuals cannot be allowed to hold a vast number of people to ransom!!
This is perfect, but also simplistic! For, such a line of thought and such a campaign trail strikes a chord with the people, a vast majority of whom are deprived of privileges and many among them are green with envy at the privileges enjoyed by a chosen few. And for good measure, the contemporary socio-political term, ‘EQUALITY’ lends this feeling of jealousy a democratic and egalitarian legitimacy. Underlying this is a provocative propaganda gimmick to raise TRP ratings for a TV channel! But why are so many analysts and intellectuals taken in by such a maneuver as is evident on the Channel’s debates? The core reason comes from the mindset that sees EQUALITY as a material and symmetrical notion rather than something like EQUITABILITY that sees equality as a overall product. Of course, other reasons can be adduced.
Racism Against VIP’s
For example, the widely prevalent perception of commoners that these VIPs do precious little other than enjoying their privileges for their own sake, that is, a FEELING OF ABJECT LET DOWN, is another.
Next, democracy institutes a make-believe egalitarianism that unfortunately makes everyone assertive as to his/her importance. But do all this justify decrying VIP privileges in a modern society? Is the state craft itself possible at all without hierarchy and the special attributes that go with it? If only Mr. Goswami realized that privileges go with the nature of work and the kind of responsibilities vested in, he would have understood that privileges are intended for a speedy and efficient execution of work and for in-built flexibility. It is certainly true that some officers or political leaders do not measure up to the task, but that does not in any way invalidate the principle. It is like saying since some secretaries are careless or prone to abuse, computer systems should altogether be abolished and all the secretaries as a rule should henceforth be forced to adopt the age-old paper-pen method!
The Actual Problems
What pits general public against the VIPs is basic lack of infrastructural planning. Thus, if a governor or a Chief Minister has to have his right of way without disturbing the general public, road network should be planned with an additional track exclusively for such a task. But such has not been the case perhaps even in our capital city. So is the case with the incidents that took place with Mr. Rijuju and Mr. Fadnavis recently.
There simply is no alternative air-network to cater to urgent and high profile movements! And our police, more often than not, are under-trained in crowd management! The Rajahmundry stamped, on the first day of the Maha Pushkaralu, occurs not just because of the presence of the A.P. Chief Minister, with a posse of cameramen, but because the police are not imaginative enough to handle the extra pressure. And, asking a CM to cancel such a program in anticipation of possible deaths is asking him to first presume utter incompetence of his police and administration!!
Mr. Goswami would do well to note that stampedes occurred, just a day or two later, at Vijayawada Railway station and even at Puri during rath yatra even though there is no CM or other VIPs of any state or Centre present there.
Why, stampedes do occur even at cinema halls on the first day of the release of a hugely popular hero’s film without any VIP exercising his privileges to get the first tickets there! Asking, say, the governor of Maharashtra, to go to Shirdi like a commoner – booking tickets on sleeper coach by standing in the queue and travelling by train to Shirdi, waiting there for Darshan for hours or days together – all this makes a good film-script meant to demonstrate sufferings of common people, but does not underscore immensity of the work that beckons the governor of a state.
While it is legitimate to question pomp and show accompanying reception of a head of a state (with small ‘s’), this should be done with full knowledge of conventions and traditions of the temple and any religious/cultural significance attached to such visits. Again, any devout Hindu would like to take a dip in Pushkaralu at the most auspicious time, it cannot be construed to be a VIP’s fad and penchant for exploiting his/her privileges.
Indeed, heads of state participating in cultural and religious events perform a crucial function, that of fostering this very consciousness in the people by setting an example. This may certainly serve to consolidate vote banks of political parties, but beyond that fosters a respect and reverence to the culture of the land.
De-boarding passengers to accommodate Mr. Rijuju and his colleague is certainly regrettable, but the news presenter should also inform himself/herself about the conditions under which this had to be done and how those passengers have later been treated. Unless it could be shown that such an action has been undertaken to accommodate Mr. Rijuju’s personal work, such actions cannot be shown as instance of VIP Racism.
The problem with Mr. Goswami’s debates is that he starts off with a certain viewpoint – apparently to sensationalize and garner TRP – and wants the participants to endorse it, come what may!
Thus, for Mr. Goswami, if Mr. Swaraj Kaushal’s five star hotel bill is footed by Mr. Lalit Modi, it is in view of a ‘quid pro quo’ for the help rendered by Mrs. Swaraj in her capacity as external affairs minister. The thought that Mr. Kaushal, a legal advisor to Lalit for over 20 years and intimately connected with Lalit’s company affairs, could deserve it on his own standing does not occur to him!
So is the case with Andhra MPs who created, in 2014, on the eve on AP bifurcation, scandalous pepper show in Lok Sabha. The TimesNow debate invites them for a debate but does not want to hear their point of view! Just calls them names and closes the debate!! These MPs are just presumed as goons and hooligans and not as respectable and enlightened citizens and MPs on their own! This is an example of judging people superficially and conveniently in order to brand them negatively ostensibly to uphold, in this case, parliament’s dignity that has been more severely violated by taking away these MPs’ right to vote and protest and finally suspending them.
Mr. Goswami does not want to understand that these MPs were fighting to prevent a permanent downgrading of Telugus’ political clout in the national affairs!!
Finally, the term, VIP RACISM, is repulsive. It serves just to pit the country against their elected representatives, creates bitterness, distrust and shows these VIPs as callous and irresponsible while what is necessary is fostering of trust and oneness of purpose. It also betrays lack of understanding concerning special powers and privileges vested in persons exercising wide range of crucial functions in view of their seamless execution. It is one thing to fight corruption and dereliction of duty. But it borders on sedition if a campaign has the effect of assiduously sapping confidence of people in their elected representatives. Yet, when we talk of VIP privileges, is it not the case that even the Chaprasis at government offices exercise their privileges by asking Chai-paan from the visitors for ostensibly letting them into the offices! I wonder if the TimesNow office is any different!
By Dr. Codadu Pratap