Where is India heading ?
- From: micrurusf <micrurusf@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 07 Jan 2009 23:29:59 +0100
The Constitution of India, a product of the sagacity, vision and the collective wisdom of a whole generation of our nation's leadership, is an embodiment of the values that we as a nation deeply cherish. It is, indeed, a codification of our fundamental objectives and methodology as perceived by men and women endowed with a broad and inclusive national vision, respecting individual freedom and assuring the basic needs of a dignified existence.
Unfortunately, over the years, growing sections, representing practically all walks of life, more so the political class and most worrisomely, even some associated with the other vital institutions like the judiciary, have begun to think that values and principles are dispensable attributes, giving primacy only to personal successes and achievements. Public service, including politics and other society-oriented vocations, are no longer seen as noble activities for the benefit of the people. Politics, in particular, today is seen as all about the 'art of the possible', which signifies that neither the means nor the end matters.
No society can insulate itself from the consequences of such perceptions for far too long. All the major maladies our society is afflicted with today, have their roots, in my view, in the pursuit of personal agenda devoid of values and in the thinking that it is the end that matters and not the means, although they preach otherwise for public consumption.
The ever-widening gap between precepts and practices and private and public morality have greatly contributed to the erosion of values, undermining the very nature and quality of our national life itself today.
Analysing the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire, the great thinker, Gibbon once said and I quote: When the people of Rome wanted not to give to society, but for society to give them, when the freedom they wished foremost was the freedom from responsibility, then it was that Rome ceased to be free.
Those sections of our society who question the quality and content of our national life and are becoming increasingly cynical about our political class and the public functionaries as a whole must ask themselves, 'where are we heading to as a society ?' Needless to say the present portrays an unacceptable situation, which must be changed by our collective will.
Recently, we conducted two Round Table meetings under the auspices of the Lok Sabha, involving many eminent persons to deliberate upon what ails our public life and the ways and means to strengthen our parliamentary democracy. There was a large measure of consensus on the credibility gap of our leadership at every level. They were also of the view that the present-day leaders do not inspire confidence in the nation because of their apparent unconcern about ethical conduct or means in the discharge of their public function.
One remarkable features of our struggle for freedom was the fact that it had at its helm men and women of impeccable credentials committed to larger national values. Those days, leaders lived by the ideals they preached to others and that was why our freedom struggle remained value-based influencing the people as a whole. People had genuine respect for the leaders and they had profound faith in their sense of values and commitment to the national causes, which, unfortunately, not many among today's generation of leaders can command. The downward trend is visible at every level from the village panchayat to the national Parliament and other constitutional bodies even.
Today, we have a fractured polity, which is almost totally governed by politics of confrontation, if not hatred of each other. The country is overtaken by intolerance, divisiveness, corruption, violence, conflict and disrespect for democratic dissent, which are seriously vitiating our political life, as well as social cohesion. Such confrontational politics has made caste, creed, language, region and religion divisive issues. Leadership based on such dangerously divisive factors seems to be oblivious of our most cherished national values such as secularism, socialism, respect for pluralism, inclusiveness, tolerance and co-existence.
What is even more worrisome is the fact that political polarization is sought in the name of sub-national, narrow and divisive identities, whose preferred language is often that of taking recourse to violence rather than the democratic and civilized methods of discussion and dialogue.
Criminals are being used to settle political scores and in the process criminals are crossing the line and entering politics. This has led to criminalisation of politics or rather to politicization of crime! The violent behaviour we see, in our legislative bodies at every level, is the result of not only the entry of people with questionable background into politics, but sections of political leadership taking recourse to questionable ends, which they believe will help them politically whatever may be the effect on the polity or people generally.
One most disconcerting trend, which has emerged in recent times, is that Parliament, the lofty temple of our democracy, has come to be the playground for acute confrontational and competitive politics. The malady of money power has become so deep-rooted that it has even begun to intervene directly with the functioning of our core democratic institutions. It was not long ago that we had to reckon with Members who were caught in the act of receiving money for raising questions in the House, to serve vested interests, an act which struck at the very foundation of our democratic practices. The sanctity of Parliament was desecrated in the process
But, even before the nation recovered from this shock, came another deadly blow to the dignity and decorum of Parliament when, some members waved wads of currency notes on the Floor of the House alleging pecuniary inducements for voting in the House. This was the day when values and Parliament as an Institution hit the nadir, the rock bottom in our public life, and undoubtedly the saddest day for every conscientious citizen.
There is today, no doubt, an all-pervading need to infuse various areas of our national life with moral values and, in this process, politics should come first. But, it is, by no means, the only area with which we should be concerned. It has affected almost all avocations unfortunately, including, if I may say so, a considerably large section of the business community and even a section of the judiciary is also under cloud today.
To be a respectable avocation, politics has to be based on certain essential and basic values. The nation as a whole must bring values to the centre stage of our public life. This can be achieved only if committed and conscientious people, particularly the youth, come into the arena of politics and deal with the problems from within, which obviously cannot be done by outsiders. People blame the government for all the problems in their life but they hardly introspect.
To me, shirking of responsibility is itself a reflection of the erosion of values in the society. The price we pay for political indifference is bad governance, which affects almost every aspect of our life. We cannot expect to get good governance from bad politics. Therefore, making our national life ethically and morally sound and efficient by the inclusion of committed and untainted persons in our mainstream politics is one of the most pressing needs of our times.
Today the nation is desperately groping for a political culture based on integrity and a national vision in our Parliament, the highest forum of democratic debate and civilized behaviour. We need to agree on the need and the fundamentals of value-based politics.
Somnath Chatterjee, -INFA
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