In a way this book has already been read twice over – first, when these articles were published and second time when you read the title to this book. That begs a question – why then this book? Thoroughly disturbed by the seemingly irreversible downward spiral in the affairs of the country, I had been attempting to faithfully capture them in my weekly columns in Rediff.com, without any personal bias. As I looked back on the collective thrust of my articles spread over between 2011 and 2013 the leitmotif in my writings – the gargantuan failure of the Manmohan Singh Administration –- was clearly visible even to me, probably for the first time.
Frankly I am amazed by the big picture that presented before me.
The failure in governance by the Manmohan Singh Administration has been extraordinary. Future historians will note that these failures encompasses virtually every sphere of our public life - from tax-administration to external affairs, from economics to environment and from defence to infrastructure. Surely, the rot is far deeper than is visible on a superficial examination.
The great management guru, Peter Drucker, perhaps in a clairvoyant reference to Dr Manmohan Singh’s prime ministerial tenure, said that the bottleneck is at the top of the bottle. While the stench of the rot is becoming unbearable by the day, what adds to the consternation is the crass attempt by the elite to market his regime as a success. Obviously the state of affairs within the country calls for multipronged response to tackle the extant crisis. But where is the question of a diagnosis, much less an effective remedy, when this decade of mis-governance has robbed Indians of their collective will to think, analyze or for that matter fight back?
This book – a collection of my articles - is an attempt to sensitise my countrymen to the state of affairs in the country.
A reference to the great Indian epic Mahabharatha, at this point in time, will perhaps be in order. Of the eighteen chapters that comprise the epic, the twelfth named Shanthi Parva – the longest - assumes a venerated significance when it comes to the art of governance. It is in this chapter the sagacious Bheeshma, from his deathbed formed out of the arrows that had pierced all over his body, obliges Dharmaputra by advising him on various aspects of Rajneethi (a term that is, today, used more by film-makers than by Indian politicians).
Among other things, some of the profound advices that he gives are:
- The eternal duty of a king is to make their subject happy, to observe truth and act sincerely.
- The foundation of good governance is Dharma.
- For the sake of appearing to be good, no ruler should be tolerant of bad behaviour. Quoting Bruhaspathi Maharishi, he says that only because a mighty elephant shows extreme tolerance, a man who is very weak in strength also can ascend on the elephant and sit on its head. Likewise, an extremely tolerant ruler will be an object of ridicule.
- A ruler should always be a beacon of truth. Except the most confidential matters pertaining to national security and political governance, he should never hide the truths.
- He should be the protector of the people and not of his chair.
Of course, the Dharma that was applicable in those times may not be applicable to the current ones in totality. Nevertheless, governance and ethics cannot be given a complete go by even in these modern times. Precisely that is what has been happening in the past decade or so in India.
The one line story of India’s last decade is "India decayed".
History of loot and plunder
Indian history for the past thousand years has been a one of loot and plunder. The Lodhis, Khiljhees, Mughals, French, Dutch, Portugal and finally the British carried on (not to speak of sundry tribes and groups) invasions at various points of time in India and stripped her of her wealth. The Indian self-rule is no better with the Congress party having ruled India for a majority ninety percent of the period since independence must have an exalted place in this hoary list.
That is not without reason. Whenever Congress, in any form, gets to rule India, the one thing that was never in short supply is “Scams”. From Mundragate to Nagarwalagate to Boforsgate to Spectrumgate to Coalgate to Choppergate - all the way it is “flood gates of scams.” Sadly, apart from excited debates in TV channels to stellar performance by the opposition parties for the benefit of cameras, nothing serious has happened to those who govern. All this is probably because the society is not galvanized into action. Is this fatalism genetic where we as a nation accept all this invariably as Karma – the fruit of our past sins? Or is it systemic when the British model of governance inherited by us with so much fanfare is by and large suited for an imperial power and not for an independent nation?
Whatever be it, to a common man, 2G is a two month affair. Anna Hazare’s fast is a two week entertainment. Delhi gang rape is a two days news item. (Is that why Dr. Manmohan Singh a two term phenomena?). It is really unfortunate that despite compelling reasons, leadership and media support the extraordinary spirit displayed by the common men in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen was sadly missing in India. Or is our crisis a product of democracy – one that allows a citizen to feel empowered, exercise his franchise and assume that he has ushered in change? Believe me democracy has its pit-falls. Crucially, it is a twenty-four by seven job. Unfortunately vast sections of our population consider it to be otherwise. That explains the general apathy. As Rajaji once famously remarked – a deaf leader and dumb electorate do not make a great democracy.
Inquisitive if not investigative
In this gloomy scenario, getting despondent is an easy option but fighting it is a challenge. But is there a choice? Fortunately I am continuously guided by great opinion makers like Prof Vaidyanathan, Dr Subramaniam Swamy, Shri S. Gurumurthy. Written at various times the sole intent of my efforts has been to sensitize my fellow citizens a wide vista of subjects, with the focal point being the critical review of the governance. Lest I be accused of being an arm chair critique I have attempted to lay out suggestions and prescriptions to get out of the maladies. As most of the articles have been essayed, based on certain issues or events, I must concede that they are definitely reactive but I sincerely hope not even one can be found reactionary.
Almost every nation has its economics intertwined with politics, but in India, it is far more complicated. The reason is, while in every nation, a politician who gets to govern attempts to put his hand in the till while conjuring economic policies, in our blessed nation, politicians seek to invent economic policies with the sole idea of enriching himself and his clan. Isn’t it there for everyone to see that in the past ten years there has been not only been abject mis-governance but more importantly unfathomable levels of corruption and financial misdemeanours causing gargantuan levels of losses to the country not to speak of unabashed attempts to conceal the same.
Surely, you cannot shame the shameless! And this book does not attempt to do so either.
Mosaic of views
The accountant and the economist in me made me look at various issues with critical and close outlook– and the inquisitive (if not investigative) journalist in me made me to get in to the depths of certain matters. In 2G spectrum scam issue, the wealth of information unearthed by persons of eminence like Shri Subramaniam Swamy that squarely point out the involvement of many of the top brass and my articles raising several queries throw myriad unresolved issues. That it is becoming a massive cover-up operation of the UPA Government is another matter.
In the Coalgate issue, where the PMO is directly involved, the all the time great UPA batsman who always scores only ‘zero’ but yet managing to stay at the crease forever, Mr Kapil Sibal’s lies were nailed in the few articles that you would find here.
Economic reforms was one of the most trumpeted achievements of the UPA government captained (at least, on records) by Dr Manmohan Singh. The reforms that were decidedly designed to make India better have so far only made those who had such expectations, bitter. Even the tokenism that one would normally see in Shri P.Chidambaram’s budgets presented to the nation are perceptibly absent these days in the area of reforms. As observed in one of the write-ups, what we seem to be heading up are economic deforms and then perhaps to economic disasters.
FDI in retail, one of the most debated issues in the nation is a definitive pointer. The plethora of well meaning objections by some economists, principal opposition parties and the huge portion of the public were simply swept under the carpet and the UPA bulldozed the decision, succumbing to pressures from Obama and Wal-Mart. Not too long ago, Mahatma Gandhi, during the freedom struggle that he so eminently led, exhorted and even led by example to desist using foreign textiles. That in turn ignited the minds of the ordinary Indians.
However today, India under a different Gandhi is rolling out the red carpet to the very same people whom we drove out with such fanfare just a few decades ago even at the cost of decimating the local commercial community. From Mahtama Gandhi’s times to Sonia Gandhi’s times – it is not just a slide but a nose dive! Surely the original would be squirming in his grave.
Passionately written columns on this aspect have been brought in to this book, if not for anything, at least to remind ourselves of our freedom movement. What is galling is that in our enthusiasm to integrate the national economy with the global we are forgetting one simple aphorism in national building – economic independence cannot be divorced from the political one. Those who forget the history of East India Company are condemned to repeat it. If Mir-Jafars and Ettappans “sold” India to the foreigners then, can someone please tell me what are the economic policies of Dr. Manmohan Singh different? If we still believe what is happening within the national economy is reforms under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh, in the least let us not besmirch Mir Jafars and Ettappans.
The precursor of the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 was a massive outcry on the black money stashed in Swiss and other banks in the tax havens. Sensing that the sensitivity of the people who were sufficiently aroused by Shri LK Advani’s clarion call, armed with the Task Force report that was brought out by some of the best minds that BJP could get for the job, the Congress Party Manifesto gave a 100 day timeline to bring out the black money stashed in tax havens, if voted back to power. But Dr. Singh, as is his wont, remained Silent. The opposition parties did raise routine, prosaic but muffled screams on this from time to time. Even then Dr. Singh remained silent. As we are nearing the end of his term, the hundred day countdown is yet to begin. The Mahatma experimented with truth. And Dr. Singh ends up being economical with truth.
The readers of Rediff were presented with the author’s view points on the various dimensions of this notorious issue and more particularly, whether at all the politicians want the black money to be brought back and what serious efforts can be taken by a sincere administration. A series of such articles have been presented in this book, as it is an ever-green, nay, ever-black issue.
The assorted issues covered by the articles presented in this book, were not meant to be ‘holistic’ in the first place and as the readers may kindly discern, they would apparently even look ‘disjointed’ but what brings them in a single mosaic is the bigger picture of maladministration, maladies and malaise all put together by one single phrase Viz., Manmohan Singh governance. The Prime Minister in-office has been exactly the opposite of what Bheeshma Pitamaha wanted a ruler to be.
In the 65 years of independent India, in my considered opinion, there is no parallel to the state of drift we find ourselves in.
Some of my friends discussing this book in my office likened Dr. Singh to a clock that has stopped working. He was instantly corrected by another. The second one reminded that a clock that stopped working would yet show the right time twice a day. The third disagreed with both. His observations are not for public consumption.
To rise above the sense of depression, disappointment, dejection, despondency and to hope things would turn for the better, one requires remarkable resilience of mind. Naturally one tends to compare the despondency in the state of the nation in 1915 just before the arrival of the Mahatma as much as in late 1976 in the aftermath of the imposition of emergency. I must confess, the current period may not be exactly comparable to those, but that we tend to drawn comparisons to these two dark periods in the past hundred years of Indian history is a telling commentary of the state of affairs of the nation.
The great Tamil poet Bharathiyar lamented even in 1930s as "Nenju porukkuthillaiye – intha nilai ketta manitharai ninainthuvittal", meaning 'my heart is unable to bear when I think such unscrupulous people', while referring to the Indian populace majority of whom silently were enduring the tyrannical British Raj. If he was alive today, no…… one shudders to think how he would have felt.
With all this, we must hope that better times are not far off. After all, hope is our only hope. In 1915 the arrival of the Mahatma changed the mood of the nation. In 1977 it was divine intervention that led to the collapse of the emergency regime.
The nation is awaiting the next Mahatma as much as it is awaiting divine intervention.
At the outset my sincere thanks to the staff and editor of Rediff, especially Ms. Nandita for her kind support. It was Nandita who constantly encouraged me to write and diligently followed up with me week after week. I also take the opportunity of thanking my readers who provided me the feedback and thereby the necessary incentive to do better next time.
This book was brought about by a dedicated set of volunteers headed by my good friend Mr. Ranganathan. Naming all of them would be virtually impossible who amongst themselves coordinated and cooperated to bring about this compilation.
These articles were invariably written on Sunday mornings. My sincere thanks are to my family members, wife and my sons who missed me on several occasions but never once complained. Finally writing on a myriad of issues week after week is no easy task. I need to thank the UPA Government for providing me the necessary reason for writing and the Lord, the ability.
M R Venkatesh
22nd May 2013