India is a big country passing through a defining moment in its history because of complex transitions in values, ideology and idea of India. Notwithstanding the best intents and motives of the government, unpleasant and heartbreaking things happen every now and then in one or the other part of the country. It breaks our hearts to see how encephalitis kills our children in the most brazen and brutal way (Gorakhpur) and people going to their homes through one of the most dependable means of transport, the Indian Railways lose their journey of lives midway meeting accident (Muzaffarnagar). Girls are not safe, even from higher middle class, while going to their workplace and coming back home (Chandigarh). A 10 year girl gets pregnant due to sexual exploitation by a relative and compelled to give birth to a child. A son kills his father; a husband kills his wife on trivial issues.  A working girl is trampled by racing cars while going to attend her duty in a hospital in the National capital. Political activists and whistle blowers are being killed in broad daylight. Half the Lok Sabha members have criminal antecedents and intellectuals seem to be sold out- be it universities or media!

Who is responsible for making our lives a hell?

The buck stops at escape goats- the helpless link in the chain of events-now mostly bureaucrats. The mighty, especially the politicians throw the blame on each other. Who is responsible-Government or people or both? Let’s stop the blame game and come to terms with serious issues encircling and troubling us because the societies which are afraid of examining themselves are condemned to degenerate. We are busy in trivial, the main concerns have lost our attention. Propaganda has come above governance and delivery.  Let’s courageously examine our follies and find way. The above mentioned sad events are not isolated events. If we regularly read our newspapers and watch television, it seems that there is an eerie continuity of the ugliness in our present day lives so much that we cannot ignore thing which shatter our hopes every moment. It seems that we are not reading the “Times of India” but reading “Hell Times” or watching “Hell TV.”

People say government is responsible, government says people are responsible. In fact both of them have their own share in degenerating life in India. People are not benchmarking their values and virtues from family to work place and to market place- they want all for them and their family members in the shortest and fastest way and no price seems bigger to them, even moral and ethical issues to achieve their unbridled and irrational dreams.

On the other hand government has become an agglomeration of ambitious people who despite their limitations want to be in power for ever; no matter if it amounts to permanent damage to the socio-economic and politico-cultural environment of the country, shattering the collective dreams visualized as tryst with destiny. Intellectuals today have generally relinquished their responsibilities as torch bearers and turned out to be stooges of people in power. Media has turned out to be a cheap entertainer and perpetual noise maker scuttling important news and issues. I am tempted to say “all of them sold out”, but I will not, because I can see that in polity, public and intellectual arenas still there are people who really love to be moral and ethical, patriotic and sensitive, no matter what price they pay. A time of introspection has come. We need to realize that it is time to set our objectives right and blame game will not serve any purpose. It is the time to dream together, sit together and take our own share of responsibilities if we fail our dreams and find collective and consensual ways to come out of the living hell we are facing every moment.

Will it ever be possible for the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers to be present in every heart shattering event for rescue? What is team India, where is team India? What is its role? Equally important question is whether we can/should absolve the government from its insensitivity, wrong priorities and above all accountability? What are the preferences and priorities of the government- main issues or trivial issues? Why things are so? Who is responsible?

What is good governance?

Good governance means that people and institutions in power and authority deliver the services unfailingly with care, quality and speed which they are supposed to do and keep their windows open to all the stake holders to complaint if there is any slackness and a quick redress system to address the complaints. Good governance is also about right priorities and preferences given limited time and resources and plethora of constraints. Good governance requires boldness in our national ambitions as well as prioritization of goals. First, we must win the fight against poverty within the next decade. Second, we must improve moral standards in government and society to provide a strong foundation for good governance. Third, we must change the character of our politics to promote fertile ground for reforms. (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo). This cannot be achieved as long as there is corruption and lack of accountability. The issue of corruption as we have taken up now in India is only a part of corruption- ill begotten money. But this is just an important symptom of corruption, not corruption per say. The root causes of corruption are socio-political, deep seated feudal attitude and colonial legacies- all freeing the people in power in social, political and economic arena from accountability. All kinds of dereliction of duties- dereliction of duties by common man/ worker or by bureaucrat or by politicians or by intellectuals- all fall in the category of corruption. Corruption is siphoning up of development money without audit assurance. Corruption is misleading people through media, speeches, provocations, and propaganda. Corruption is business without ethics. Corruption is teaching students or treating patients without ethics and morality. Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It’s self-defense. It’s patriotism. (Joe Biden). Corruption is the enemy of development, and of good governance. It must be got rid of. Both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective. (Pratibha Patil).

Are we pursuing the priorities of Indian Nation?

Is killing milch cows a big problem in India? Are Muslims not fond of milk, butter and paneer? Are they stupid enough to kill milch animals and cows? Facts are different. We know India as the biggest milk producer in the world, despite minimal institutional support. Are all Muslims pro Pakistan, anti- national or terrorists? Is love Jihad is the biggest problem facing the country of youth? Is Hinduism at threat? Are Muslims beneficiary of appeasement so they dominate places of power and wealth in India? Are scheduled castes of UP are creating problems against the upper castes? Are all tribal people and their supporters extremist and anti-national? Are all civil societies and non-governmental organizations are anti-national? Are all voices which criticize an ideology or government anti-national amounting to sedition? Should everybody take government policies uncritically? Is there a proximate threat of war with Pakistan and China or are the tensions new and they have now increased far more than earlier? Is foreign policy becoming hostage to domestic electoral machination?

Main issues versus trivial issues

For quite some time it is these issues which are reigning political discourses, TV talks and even most of the newspapers. We need to think whether these issues are really the primary and priority issues confronting India or the problem of low growth, low employment, inflation, lack of schools, colleges, universities and their falling qualities, lack of hospitals, lack of infrastructure, all weather navigable roads in rural areas, railways, ports, power supply, poor arms, ammunition and equipment of defense forces, lack of research and development, poverty, disease, malnutrition, gender inequality, social and economic inequality, agricultural distress, farmers suicides, non-performing assets in the banking sector, real estate crisis, and to cap it all an inefficient administrative and judicial system, moral crisis, etc?

Consequences of wrong priorities

If trivial issues become the main issues and main issues are put under the carpet, we cannot avoid the ugliness that break our hearts every day. We are fortunate that we did not admit our children in Gorakhpur hospital or we were not travelling in the ill fated train which met with an accident in Muzaffarnagar. We are fortunate that our daughters came safe to home from their universities and work places. But can we guarantee that next time we will not be the victims when things are not in order, when system fails and when trivial issues become the main discourse of our times leaving aside the core issues, because politicians have to do successful propaganda and social engineering to win the next elections. Common people are becoming fodder to illegitimate and immoral aspirations of the ruling elite. Let’s re-examine ourselves and our ways. History may seem to be mute for the time being, but it passes its judgments in due course. Let’s not do things, which shame us in front of mother India when we look back after say a decade. Future generations would not pardon us if we fail in our responsibilities in making India democratic and human. The colonial deprivations get vent in our ambition of being a super power, but what kind of super power we want to be is a relevant question.

Need for setting our goals right

Setting all discourses for ideological gains and electoral gains is a big problem. Emotive and provocative issues make good electoral dividends. These make good breaking news. Palpable politicians become more amenable to corporate sector designs of profiteering and crony capitalism. It can be seen how these combinations make an immoral but win-win coalition of interest.

Ultimate responsibilities lie with the people

If people do not use their wisdom and control, promises and slogans/ jumlas are successfully used by politicians to seek their favours like “bagula bhagat” does to cajole fishes into its trap. People often ping-pong (change positions) between political parties in the hope of solace- from secularism to Hinduism, from redistributive justice to market orientation. But still their hopes are betrayed.  The people, however,  cannot blame systemic failure on political leaders and governments.   They choose their government and in this sense they get the government that they choose or deserve. If people’s morality and discretion get polluted, we have third grade leaders. If people just get swayed by impulses, whims, fancies, propaganda without using their rationality and wisdom, and if they are guided by their own vested interests and narrow categories like caste, creed, religion, race and region, problems do not have any immediate chance to get solution. We are not only observing it; we can now feel it on our skins!

 Let’s come out of the cobweb of trivial issues

Trivial issues seem to have come to dominate for long, because people have started liking it till something bad happens to them. Politicians, media, business and mischief mongers know it. But people are unaware that they are becoming victims. Life, however, is not a cheap laughing programme on TV. It is a serious business. Leaving shallow is an index of moral degradation.  People, nevertheless, enjoy mocking on the men who are sensible and people who question and raise voices. Today we are not ready to accept any counter argument- one-upmanship is becoming the norm and in difference, revenge and retribution the natural consequence. The culture of debate and discussion is being despised. Many of the intellectuals have surrendered their principles for fear or greed.  This is making our life hell as chances of examination and course correction are rejected for “god worship” of the people whose credentials and intentions are doubtful. But there should be no confusion. If we choose, it is we who would, needless to say, suffer. As you think, so you become. And as you sow, so you reap. Our thoughts are guide to our action. And actions determine the outcome. If the main priorities are neglected and we start focusing on the trivial issues because our leaders say so, we turn out to be herds of sheep— dumb driven cattle!

Right thinking, right action

Are we sure that we are thinking and acting in right direction?  Are our priorities right? You cannot be retrograde and progressive at the same time or promote the rogue and be secure at the same time. Bereft of values and ideology, you lose all your control. You become a straw and just flow as the system takes you. It is only the chance that would decide your fate; the next day is for you to suffer and more so if you make mockery of wisdom and morality. You cannot have the cake and eat it too. You will have to sacrifice the trivial for achieving the main priorities of our country.  If you start liking trouble mongers, authoritarian leaders and manipulators, the future is crystal clear to see. Do not repent on sporadic accidents. If the way we think and act does not change, such accidents would be more frequent.  As you sow, so you reap. Governments will come and go but we cannot get our lost children and family members back who become victims of insanity and insensitivity of the whole system and its leaders who remain busy all the while in trivial issues or propagation of their skewed ideology. People are the last priority, votes are the first priority. Leaders today scarcely have time for governance. And when governance fails, accidents and mishaps are bound to occur time and again. It happened in the past, and the tradition continues, eluding achche din!

It’s time to take a pause and think. Let’s think what our priorities are and create effective pressure on the system to pursue them- question is not about right or left ideology, but about honesty and probity, integrity and accountability for both people and politicians. Indiscipline begins at the top, so said Loknayak  Jayaprakash Narain and it is visible! Politicians are changing ideologies as boats, indulge in irresponsible and dirty sludge fest and do not mind playing with the idea of India- tearing apart unity in diversity!  People as ever are followers, some commentators liken them with herds. Are we herds?

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