Whenever I return to India, once again from Bhutan, there is a sense of despair laced with an inner anger that overwhelms me. It has its roots in the glaring reality of complete inaction on simple, ordinary corrections and in the non-delivery of basic but essential services for any civil society. These range from courteous behaviour on the part of government functionaries at an airport or rail station, to smooth operations while clearing ‘formalities’ to enable bonafide citizens to return home. We are possibly the last and only country in the world that treats its own like pariahs. I am surprised that the United Progressive Alliance dispensations, both I and II, did not overhaul the archaic systems that belong to an age of colonial autocracy. The training of government servants is utterly flawed and is intended to serve only politicians and administrators. This breed of Indians is definitely going to be responsible for transforming a great civilization and a patient, long suffering people into an angry anarchy.
The prime minister should order the removal of the two most demeaning titles from the parlance of India — VVIP and VIP — because both are the faces of the failure of governance and symbolize the crass use of tools meant to conserve and protect the various aspects of civil society. Those men and women in cars with red lights and screeching sirens epitomize, for a majority of Indians, the worst and most damaging traits that have become second nature to civil servants at the cost of India and Bharat. Why is it so difficult for the government to make public its serious intent to bring further reforms and corrections? Are perks and kick-backs the only attractions for the young men and women who want to join the civil services?
Sadly, the same malaise has afflicted our political parties. The horrors of systemic corruption and of regressive mindsets have filtered into the public domain. These traits have been adopted with impunity by lumpen elements who believe that they too can get away with illegal and untoward actions. When politicians ask policemen to harass and commit unlawful acts, it becomes a way of life for the enforcement agents who feel empowered to exploit common citizens. Therefore, before we begin to damn the constables and station house officers for dereliction of duty, we need to pull up their ‘masters’ and bring them to the firing line and demand explanations and public acceptance of guilt. We then need to rewrite the manual for a clean, inclusive governance for the majority.
Elected parliamentarians should assemble at Vijay Chowk and renew the pledge, Satyamev Jayate, and stand in silence at dawn for one hour at least for the sake of prayashchit. Regardless of ideological differences, the men and women who are members of the Lok and Rajya Sabhas should shed their old skin and evolve into true patriots and stalwarts. They should cease to spend all their waking hours on television defending themselves and their follies. Instead, they should take constructive action on the ground. Preening on the small screen has diluted the ‘persona’ of the babu and the politician to a point of no return. A generation of men and women is watching this decline. The best and brightest amongst them will be driven away from entering public life because of the dreadful stigma that has affixed itself to the political and administrative classes. It is the responsibility of the politician to remove the stigma immediately if India is to remain a stable democracy. Nothing else is as crucial and important. We need a ‘congress’ of new ideas, debate and discourse, conflicting opinions and dialogue, all of which need to converge to create an agenda and restore the idea of India.