Rahul Bajaj's yeoman service to the national cause
His comment on the state of fear will give courage to business, academic and opinion leaders to speak truth to power
- Published 5.12.19, 1:52 AM
- Updated 5.12.19, 1:52 AM
- 2 mins read
Rahul Bajaj must be applauded for his recent remarks on the pervasive state of fear in India. He has done yeoman service to the national cause. Speaking at a formal awards ceremony in the presence of senior businessmen and cabinet ministers, Mr Bajaj made it clear that a mere denial by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government about the state of fear would not do any longer; concrete steps and positive answers were required. Mr Bajaj’s comments were addressed to the Union home minister, Amit Shah. These remarks are important in many ways. Coming from a respected and senior industrialist, the words carry a lot of weight. Mr Bajaj is not someone who is stringently opposed to the BJP. Hence, it may be difficult to readily dub him an ‘urban Naxal’ or an ‘anti-national’. Mr Bajaj’s comment will also give a lot of courage to leading businessmen, academics and opinion leaders in other fields to speak truth to power. Many more voices of dissent may yet make the ruling party change its strategy on handling criticism in an open democracy. A day before Mr Bajaj made his remarks, Manmohan Singh, the former prime minister, had voiced similar concerns regarding the growing climate of fear and how it was adversely affecting business optimism and investor confidence.
There are many implications of creating and maintaining a climate of fear, an ambience in which criticism can be punished severely with the help of trumped-up charges, midnight raids by enforcement agencies and even jail without trial. Different instruments of intimidation are used for different people. For businessmen, the easiest way to turn the screws is by what is being called ‘tax terrorism’. The visit by the taxman would be followed by a visit by the Enforcement Directorate or by the Central Bureau of Investigation. For business people, the stakes are very high when it comes to getting entangled in these mazes. Apart from personal slander, there are steep costs incurred by employees when something happens to the company.
Mr Shah retorted that the fact that Mr Bajaj could make such a critical statement proved that nobody feared the government. Since then, however, Mr Bajaj has received a lot of flak from BJP functionaries. It appears that the BJP is in no mood to learn. Fear does bow to power, but only for a short while. History has demonstrated that fear inevitably turns into hatred and leads to chaos.