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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Some postings on India Policy Institute

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1 out of 150: Reply



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Postings not related to the writing of the Manifesto or policy chapters
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Hi Sanjeev,

I was away on assignment to the mela area for coverage. Sorry for the
delay.

First and foremost, get well soon. We are already missing your
perceptive moderation.

About my entering politics: Good tomatoes and bad tomatoes are
segregated by the vegetable seller. In the same market, bad tomatoes (or bad cars)
have lower price. But not so in politics, unfortunately. Criminalisation of
politics began (or was perceived) from emergency imposed by Indira
Gandhi.

These bad elements are entrenched in our system. Willy-nilly, even the
so-called good (Mr/Ms Clean) in today's politics, Manmohan Singh or Atal
Bihari Vajpayee have to look the other way. They seem to lack the dynamism
needed to counter the 'bad' elements. There are no role-models in today's
politics. Or no peer pressure on the bad from the politicians
themselves.

We need to correct the perception of politics and politicians before a
good man can convert his goodness to votes. People do not just exercise their
choice, most often they are made to exercise their choice. A good man
would not know how to counter false propoganda, mud slinging, et al. He would
be shocked into his shell. I have seen this happen.

A good guy will not hire hoodlums to capture booths, change ballot
boxes, etc. He cannot motivate bureaucrats to rig election in his favour. He
will not use transfer and promotions as political weapon. Who will help him?

Even the media barons are bought and sold by politicians. Their dynamism is
mind boggling. Unfortunately, the brand loyalty of the 'bad' is stronger.
This is the case in Hindi heartland.

Cost of election is a major factor as well. Though my wife tells me that
cost is not a major factor. She is a teacher in a girls' school. She says
that she would prefer social work to politics. I as a journalist would like
to collect news, not become news myself!

Yes it is possible for me to do a research on the politicians/election
system. This has to be done discreetly. Information will trickle in.
These have to be gathered like a bee collects honey. I will do my best. More
later.

Rgds,
Arindam Roy,


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1 out of 150: AR's Reply



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Hello Umesh,

I agree with you. Many a times, people up there, on the pedestal are more
ordinary (or silly) than the most ordinary amongst us. We journalists see it
happen almost everyday. This is as far as your experience with Seshan is
concerned.

Yes, though we broadly agree on various issues, our individual perceptions
and sensibilities differ. Just as Sanjeev has suggested a para titled,
'Citizen Bureaucrats wanted' for inclusion, a similar para may be suggested
for the politicians, basis your point. Their freedom of expression (thought
& speech) may be independent of the party line.

My other journalist friends would agree with me that a similar insecurity,
fear and frustration lurk in the minds of these politicians. How many times
such people air their honest inner feelings in private! They too should be
free to uphold their honest views thru the media, if the party bosses ignore
their personal political aspirations, in the garb of partyline, party whip, etc.
After all, they should be allowed to feel that they are responsible to the
electorate first, the people who voted them to the Assembly or Parliament.
Their accountability should be obligatory, statutory and mandatory. And
the party should not interfere with this fundamental political freedom of
theirs.

Do you agree with me? This is for your kind approval.

Regards,
Arindam Roy

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Arindam,

I think there is widespread agreement about the deteriorating state of our social,
moral , and ethical values, and most of what you said is not in dispute.
Each one of us can associate ourselves with this grim reality if we happen to know
anything about present day India. When you say the following :

"How can I sing a happy song when there are tears all around me ?"

I think I can relate to it. This sad reality is just the sad reality of our own
society, debates cannot justify facts otherwise. All of us feel bad about it. But
some of us must overcome the pain and look for reasons to keep hope alive.

Just as we are less then perfect in reporting about facts in news media these days,
we have been equally irresponsible about recording our own recent history
which would show clearly that until even this 20th
century, killings and murders on the basis of caste and religions were
not just some academic statistics, but there were real faces of people
who could not live their lives because others thought they didn't
deserve to live. We only remember the generalized sweeping reforms such
as Gandhian revolution that marked the beginning of the end of
untouchability, but thousands, or perhaps millions of those who suffered
while the practice was prevalent, largely got ignored by historians or
became parts of some generalized statistics. If we care to recall the
past with our own life experiences, I think we are getting better, even
though some things might at the same time, be getting out of control
unless checked soon enough.

On your example of the plight of the civil servants. What you said is
generally true, except for the fact that, there is,though very
insignificant, nonetheless, other side of the coin. Politicians are
generally considered corrupt, and Civil servants, the bureaucrats are
generally considered more educated, morally and ethically better, and
still, most of the times, frustrated because of not being able to do
what they consider to be the best thing for the country. Facts generally
support this assumption, and therefore, there is nothing wrong with
being compassionate about this issue.

However, there is another part, which could be termed as a sort of
"superiority complex" that many of our bureaucrats go through believing
they deserve more respect and power then the "Doti clad", less educated,
and often not that sophisticated politicians. If I may guess, there is
perhaps some passed on legacy of british colonialism in it.

Anyway, rather then generalizing on issues, and believing on someone's
opinions, no matter whether the individual is a Civil servant or a
political activist, I prefer getting closer to individual facts and
forming opinions purely on the basis of facts rather then where it came
from.

I have a very good example of a famous bureaucrat, who has done wonders
for India. I think you know the name of Mr. T.N. Seshan, the firebrand
former Chief Election Commissioner of India, who is rightly recognized
for overhauling the election commission and with his firm,though
somewhat high-handed approach, he managed to return people's faith in
one of the basic foundations of our democracy. He was awarded the famous
Megaseysey award.

This famous Mr. Seshan came to the United States couple of years ago.
Before that, there were rumors about him running for the Presidential
elections, and Bal Thakre of Shiv Sena had already offered his support
etc. Just like millions of Indians who followed his tenure as CEC, I too
was sort of a fan of Mr. Seshan until I got a chance to see him speak
his mind.

I had known all along that though the integrity of this gentleman could
not be questioned, but he seldom believed in other people's ability to
do the right things. In his club, he is a dictator, and only he is right
all the time. Knowing that I took interest in matters related to India,
I was summoned to participate in this get together where Mr. Seshan was
to speak.

We, as a community, being so hungry of Charismatic leaders in our
society after the demise of the Nehru Dynasty, the hosts left no stone
unturned in trying to praise Mr. Seshan. There was even explicit demand
stated by every speaker who spoke before and after him, about conferring
"Bharat Ratna" to him.

Mr. Seshan starts to speak, and he clarifies that he hates
environmentalists like Medha Patkar etc. who are creating troubles in
implementation of Narmada Projects etc. Till that point it was all
right, then Mr. Seshan goes on to the extent of not recognizing the
territorial sovereignty of Pakistan while trying to suggest that there
is land on that part of the world that belongs to India (not talking
about Kashmir here). Finally comes the point of question answer
sessions, after he himself had clearly stated in his speech, rather
arrogantly that every politician of our land is corrupt, and he hated
every political party as well as politician, and that he deserved to be
either the President or the Prime Minister of India (by this time I was
thoroughly puzzled and started wondering whether Mr. Seshan believed in
our democratic system or not!)

Anyway, I submit my question to him, which was skipped by the moderator
in an effort to filter out difficult questions. Then I got a chance to
confront him and directly ask. Since he himself expressed his desire to
be either the Prime Minister or the President of India, and despite such
vast pool of talent in India, which is famous for its achievements in
the fields of Information Technology, Science, Engineering etc. around
the globe, and not much of that talents goes towards the profession of
politics, why doesn't he, him being the rare personality who has done so
much for India, take on the task of encouraging new generation to join
politics and clean up our democracy?

His simple answer was, "For that to happen, I am going to have to join politics!"

His one line remark had told me a lot, lot about his personal beliefs,
his lack of respect for the democratic institutions. It was almost
frightening to see such a popular national figure, a darling of
millions, make generalized statements about politics and politicians,
had such unsophisticated opinions about neighboring countries, and yet
he almost demanded that he deserved to be the Prime Minister or the
President of India.

Our system is bad enough, we don't need to form sweeping opinions as to
whether Civil Servants are morally better then the politicians or the
politicians are generally corrupt. Every time such a generalization is
made, my heart goes to the politicians I personally have been following
for years, and who are sort of my heroes, who go on doing their duty,
for they believe in our system of democracy and care enough about the
poor and ignored.

Thank You.

Umesh



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CITIZEN bureaucrats wanted



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Postings not related to the writing of the Manifesto or policy chapters
are likely to be summarily rejected. Thanks for your understanding. IPI
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On Thu, 28 Jan 1999, Arindam Roy wrote:
Some IAS officers,in private discussions, accepted that the
media's harshest criticism was for their own good, a guideline of sorts.
But when it came to action (corrective or obligatory), there was little
that they could do. Too many pressures (insecurity included). They are
frustrated. Individually they are amongst the best brains of the country.
They are trained to tackle crises. Yet they feel that solutions are
slipping away like quicksand.

For inclusion in manifesto under Governance

"Bureaucrats in free India will be CITIZEN bureaucrats. They will have
rights to speak out as citizens, both on general issues of governace as
well as on the private secrets of political leaders, which are not
covered under the Official Secrets Act. They wll not merely watch as
helpless spectators of the decadence they observe around themselves. If
they do so they would be discharged from service once their connivance
is discovered. To allow a corrupt Minister to linger on in power through
negligence to build a case and to inform the people, is a crime and
would be treated as such."

for approval.




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National Debate



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are likely to be summarily rejected. Thanks for your understanding. IPI
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Hi Sanjeev,

The profound debate on National Policy is most illuminating. I agree
with Swaminathan Aiyar that economists, world over, by and large have
failed.

There is more to system correction, that needs to be dealt with at the
grass root level. I am sure that you must have tackled the subject of
integrity, individual and collective, before in great detail. Pardon my
ignorance as a new entrant. As a journalist, I confront these problem
almost everyday.

Take local bodies for example. The Panchayats have some powers, but all
these are on paper alone. The village landlord and/or moneylender still
calls the shot. Except in some villages in Rajasthan and Gujrath (plus a
few exceptions in Bengal and Kerela), in most of our villages, things
haven't changed much. In the Hindi heartland, particularly Bihar and UP,
the shackles of caste and class is too strong. And to punish the poor
(often Dalits), their women are molested, raped, paraded naked in the
villages and stoned, by the feudal lords.

Next, this terror is utilised by these landlords during elections in the
country. Government servants, who go on election duties have,
off-the-record, told me that they had been advised by the 'Mukhia's men'
to cooperate, otherwise.... No one dare oppose these hoodlums. For this
favour, the poll party is taken care of (good food and other 'Sewa'). In
some places, the ballot papers are stamped and put in the ballot boxes,
the previous night, or early morning. The 'Sarkari babus' sign on the
dotted lines, and prefer to forget the experience.

In moufisil towns things are no better. In cities, the municipal bodies
and corporations are in bad shape. The Development Authorities have
become a cess pool of corruption. Nothing seems to work. For doing the
job, most government servants are supposed to do, bribes are demanded
and given openly.

All our laws are obsolete. The mind set is to make a fast buck, no
matter how. Even in relatively nobler professions, corruption has seeped
in. In UP and Bihar, quite a few journalists collect 'Hafta' from the
police stations. Similarly, doctors and the judicial services,
particularly at the lower level, have less credibility. It is a sad
situation.

How are we supposed to tackle with these problems?

Rgds,
Arindam Roy,
arindam@nde.vsnl.net.in


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Re: 1 out of 150: Reply



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Postings not related to the writing of the Manifesto or policy chapters
are likely to be summarily rejected. Thanks for your understanding. IPI
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Hello Umesh,

Thanks for your reply.

I agree with you. In fact, both of us are saying similar (though not the
same) thing. When I said that often Good people have to look the other
way, I did not imply (or want to imply) that such people are powerless. In
a way, their tolerance for the Bad expands.

An example.The honest few amongst government officials, who still do not
take bribe, in cash or kind, do not mind a little 'Nashta-pani' (tea
&snacks). Our fathers' generation would have despised such behaviour. To
them even this was bribe, but not so any longer. Next, various arguments are
forwarded by these so-called good people like 'Sanskar', 'Sistachar', etc.
Thus, what was poison for one generation is food for another. I had several
such experiences.

While we are talking of TQM , ISO, etc in various other areas world over, we
seem to have settled for a lower value in our day to day life. To my mind,
human ethics perched techno-ethics and in fact are more important. This
concept needs to be popularised in public life for a meaningful condition,
and a pre requisite for a better election system, etc.

Sorry for the delay in replying. Your note caught me in a busy schedule.

Regards,
Arindam Roy



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