By Syed Ilyas Basha
I am neither a pessimist, nor over-confident. Not even a reformist either. I am happy to call myself as a Humanist and worried citizen. Floods or drought; inflation or un-employement; Pandemic or normal; peace or wartime; festival or earthquake; the lower middle class in India today is left to mend its ‘own way’, thanks to the leaders and an arrogant administrative machinery. The way the migratory labor in various states, ‘the equal-owners of this land’ were treated so badly by us (yes, by fellow countrymen) recently. Their ‘forced’ migration has brought economy to a grinding halt amidst their chants of ‘will never come back’. Their plight has been worse than that of refugees of Syria who migrated to foreign lands in Europe. Top economists have opined: COVID19 pandemic season seems has taken the country’s economy back at least by 15 years in terms, in the post Demonatization of 8 Novermber, 2016 jolt. Though the present one a natural catastrophe, earlier was an unplanned management of entire affair which resulted into a massive inconvenience, mis-trust and irreparable damage to their poor. The demonetisation had already halved the purchasing power of the middle and lower middle class. Problems like un-employment, farmers’ suicides, law and order, education, ill-health, a collapsing banking industry (with hundreds of ATM kiosks carrying ‘NO CASH’ stickers) and dwindling economy continue to haunt the worried citizens all over the country. CORRUPTION in public life is no doubt root for many issues. Matters more serious for the majority of the poor and common man, like access to clean air, water, food, public health, education, safety to life and honor are out of reach. The discovered family background back home of many migratory labor reported in the media bear witness to it. Not that we are not aware of the situation. We know the reasons too for this condition. The irony is, we have become adapted and adjusted to it.
Nor enough perhaps; now there is a major trouble at borders. Earlier government was notorious for its in-activeness. Todays establishment is ‘famous’ for blunders right from the start.
One wonders, in what state we prefer our future generations inherit the society and country when they grow up? Frankly speaking, my reading of situation suggests, country has lost the path of progress and abandoned the spirit of Constitution. Condition of majority of the common man, his state and health symbolizes the progress nation and society have achieved. We set targets in every field for development but serious efforts for its achievement are not ensured. Some times, accuracy of data provided by the governments too is becoming controversial and subjected to scrutiny. Honesty, morality, justice, integrity, fraternity, patriotism and allegiance to constitution in the ruling class, are missing. We have all the material to make the country a ‘super power’. With a highly experienced administrative machinery, it is not impossible to set the things right and address the day to day needs of a common man. We only need a sincere will-power and dedication. Without honest effort, achievement of unity, peace and strength can only be a day-dream. Today, the nation needs some ‘self-less’ souls to protect it from disaster. Internal strength is more important than external one for nation’s security. Transparancy in decision making process of the government, its implementation is largely missing. Sense of accountability in personnel holding responsible position is also absent. Those having power have no concern whatsoever in exercising it in the interest of the society. Numerous nations with meager resources became independent much later than us. Countries like South Korea, Malaysia have not only outshined us in many parameters and doing well at international level. (Malaysia could get back the black money of its ex-premier from Sweitzerland in matters of few months. Unfortunately things move in reverse in our country as more and more defaulters, money-launders fled abroad.)
Though performed extremely well in infrastructure sector, the country is going back in the field of law and order, economy, health, fraternity and moral values. Legislature, the highest constitutionally designated centre for seeking accountability from the administrative machinery has lost its relevance. Maximum time of its periodic sessions is lost either in settling politicians’ own old vendettas, walk-outs, boycotts, strange behavior taking the nation to nowhere. Thus the election promises, sufferings and needs of common man are abandoned, the direction lost. The need of the hour is to realize our mistakes, rectify them and take a bold and positive step in every walk of life. We need to bring back our ancient values of ‘good governance’ (in reality, in word and in spirit) penned down in “Arthasastra” by Kautilya (3rd BC) well known to all Indians. To repeat for the benefit of readers few are as under:
“Praja sukhe, sukhamragyam; Praja nan cha hite hitam; Naatman priyam hitam ragyam; Parajanan tu priyam hitam”.
(Its meaning: In the happiness and well-being of the subjects, lies the well-being of the king; in the welfare of the subjects, is the welfare of the king; what is desirable and beneficial to the subjects and not his personal desires and ambitions, is desirable and beneficial for the king.)
Ethics, justice, moral values, honesty, integrity, fraternity and patriotism are more relevant these days, as in the past. In fact these can be called as main ingredients for building the country great and strong. It is pitiable that we are drenched in all possible unethical vices like corruption, immorality, profiteering, exploitation, opportunism, money-laundering etc in our society. All this has been resulting into serious and avoidable huge pitfalls for the country and its economy. We need to act vigorously with a clearly charted program, work with team-spirit, with transparency and in a time schedule. We need to involve experts in various fields, take the opinion of all stake-holders and ensure transparency. The country is suffering for long and fast losing its relevance. It appears, the rulers have no concern for the poor, destitute, voice-less and neglected lot. The common man is abandoned. Problems facing the country are only increasing amidst constantly challenging environment. Corruption and irregularities result in accumulation of wealth in few hands and bringing curse on the poor. In the post-World Economic Crisis of 2007; a direct result of Banks’ lending policies; we saw several countries suffer economically and escape catestrophies. With its multi-sectoral and vast base, India then could greatly save its economy from similar tragic fall thanks to its strong fundamentals.
There is urgent need today to take corrective steps in all spheres of life in the country. Nothing has changed so far in the country in matter related to public welfare. The condition, instead has further deteriorated on economic, industrial, moral, political, social justice and on external relations fronts. Policies related to Demonitisation, GST, labor migration, COVID19 adopted and implemented so far have greatly impacted common man’s purchasing power and hurt economy in terms of industrial, agricultural, SME sectors resulting in huge loss of employment. Soft going on the Banking sectors especially with regard to its NPAs has greatly contributed to present day fast collapsing of the industry. Merger of a ‘sick’ Bank into a Bank with strong fundamentals has been resulting in spoiling future of that strong Bank. Instead of getting tough from the stage of appraisals of loan, borrower’s integrity, those recommended the defaulter, mere recovery process was concentrated. That had not only been greatly causing increased pressure on banks’ profits but prrecious , huge time of bankers was diverted from developmental work to recoveries process. This has resulted not only in draining out the effort but also demoralized the personnel involved. Huge and ever increasing list of defaulters and funds involved inspite of numerous steps resorted to in recovery processes, legal actions and expenses vouch for it. Bank mergers were resorted to and now there is talk of privatization of Public Sector Banks. This suggested remedy for the disease surely is bound to prove worse beyond ones’ imagination. General Sales Tax (GST) aimed to simplify tax administration has raher further complicated it. The annual budgetary projections notwithstanding, the present today real picture needs to be taken up on war-footing. It is sad that the country does not know the latest figures of Census (2011); the rate of un-employment; suicides in the farm-sector, inflation rate, black-money brought-in figures etc. Country’s Constitution needs to be followed in word and spirit by everyone including the Legistatures, Executives, State Governors, and Judiciary at all levels. Only the perfect, professionally proven personnel need to be assigned top responsibilities. The following major policies should be implemented.
1.BRING IN JUSTICE: Ensure justice for all in the country by imposing ‘rule of law’. Bring in the following reforms immediately and complete within a time bound shortest possible period. The institution of good governance with transparency in actions be introduced in all administration. Laws, regulations and practices in the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary should be strengthened with all seriousness. The casual attitude in functioning of administration at every level should be done away with.in a time bound period. To achieve this, observance of ‘RULE OF LAW’ (in word and spirit) should be accorded top priority in the administration and accountability fixed with a matching price for dereliction of duty at all levels. There should be no discrimination, favor or animosity towards any one on the basis of religion, caste, colour, gender or language in any walk of life in the country.
2.ELECT & SELECT THE BEST TO RULE: Several electoral reforms were initiated right through the days of Mr.Seshan during his tenure as Chief Election Commissioner. That should be carried forward for futher improvement in public values, ethics and moral values to strengthen the electoral system and take the administration closer to the masses. Laws enacted in this regard should be implemented in word and spirit to ensure the purpose meant is achieved. The sense of accountability missing today should be addressed immediately. Its absence; once its main feature in the past and considered to be the essence of humility and humbleness, has been replaced by sit-ins, dharnas, boycotts, assaults, and fisti-cuff fights. The anti-defection law must be strengthened to serve the purpose. The so-called ‘horse-trading’ during such situations has unfortunately reduced our respected leaderst to a flock and herd. It’s indeed a pitiable situation arising out of corruption. This unfortunately is only distancing them from the electors and damaging the public trust in the system. This negative attitude in the society should be changed gradually through the following steps:
1) Stop people with criminal records enter the electoral fray and clean the administration.
2) Link the voter list to Aadhar Card onf the individual (in stages, on urgent basis and make it mandatory in electoral process), to avoid mal-practices and frauds.
3) Severe punishment be awarded to those indulge in cash-related offences on eve of election and related activities. Steps already initiated like limits for expenses by each contesting candidate etc should be strengthened and Cash seized should be confiscated and persons involved be severely punished.
(Unfortunately instances of such malpractices are found increasing.)
4) RECALL of the non-performing elected members should be introduced. The process will be linked to the attendance of the representative in the house proceedings and contributing to the improvement in health, educationl, economic, social problems of the area they represent. The performer should submit certified credentials, proofs and photos.
5) Unruly and violent activities should be done away.
6) Books of accounts related to Political Parties be made mandatory and subjected to audit. Remove the recently introduced and ill-advised ‘electoral bonds’ policy which only insitutionalising the political corruption.
7) Receiving of un-accounted donations by Political Parties from Corporates be stopped and declared illegal.
8) Shifting of loyalties to political parties has become common in exchange of huge favors in cash or kind. Unfortuately, this is being ‘practiced’ by every political party to day in the country.
3)ENSURE EQUALITY: Status in the society surely can’t be equalized in anysetup. Percolation of opportunites to the gross root level will help the needy meet his ambitions of his level. There is no impediment for the administrative machinery in creating awareness, sugest ways and attend to their needs. Expansion of ‘MNGREGA’ will definitely help attain prosperity in the lower class of the population. Implementation of this policy will help achieve progress and reduce the gap between haves and have-nots.
4) STRENGTHEN OUR DEFENCES: Ensure both external and internal securities are taken care of seriously. With vast borders and hostile neighbourhood we need to keep our defence preparedness always at the highest level. While we need to be modern, self-reliant and above the mark compare to others in terms of technology, our personnel should be smartly compensated, least troubled for internal assignments. With a highly experienced R & D infrastructure and personnel, we need to constantly upgrade our arsenal indegeneously. Foreign weapons sparingly can be welcomed only altechnology is available. The intelligence agencies and its deployment should be prioritized to give top priority to its independence, patrioritism, integrity and accountability. We may allow the law-enforcing agencies especially the para-military forces, police carry out their job in a professional manner to control crimes. Mis-use of Police force by the politicians for personal and party gains is rampant in our country. Little practically was done to check it. Instead, every leader was busy in its misuse for self and party gains. Several recommendting reports I am sure have never saw the dawn of implementation. This trend should be reversed and all ranks and files of the executive be made accountable with no exception. There should be NO interference in police administration and steps should be taken to protect and encourage the men in khaki with sense of morality, ethics and accountability to the nation’s constitution. We have police personnel with high caliber who are made teethless by the party in power. The force should be made directly responsible to its integrity, honesty and allegiance to country’s constitution. Such reforms in Police administration will ensure a strong nation.