The India of rulers and ruled is a thing of the past, and a government that still believes it need not govern but can instead rule must go.
The city’s police are an unhappy lot. It’s bad enough they’ve been forced to pirouette endlessly over the murder of the journalist Jyotirmoy Dey. To show that they’re not completely left-footed, they’ve decided to teach the city how to dance and, in their usual subtle fashion, detain 31 youngsters at a Malad lounge bar for what they call ‘dirty dancing’. This throws up all kinds of interesting possibilities. Perhaps we can look forward to some terpsichorean initiatives from the city’s finest—arangetrams, perhaps, at the Police Gymkhana. Or the Malad mazurka, the Charni Road cha-cha-cha, the Salsette Salsa and the Titwala tango.
In a parallel universe, our Home Minister proposes a fandango of another kind. In February this year, his Ministry sent off to the Department of Telecommunications a visionary master plan to boost our security. “Our” is of course very loosely used here and excludes every citizen. 14 different services had to be “intercepted”, said the HM, and that includes Skype, video chats, cell phone messaging, email and more, all to be made available in “readable, printable and audible” formats. For reasons undisclosed, this leaves out all messages sent by smoke signals (why? Aren’t they potentially as dangerous?), dog barks (see further: 101 Dalmatians by Disney, circa 1996), Mexican waves, fluttering eyelids and Reiki. For good measure, our HM — once a mighty Supreme Court lawyer and therefore presumably familiar with something called liberty — said that if interception wasn’t possible, these services should be blocked. That this would bring the country, its business and all personal affairs to a grinding halt apparently occurred to none of his elves. Fortunately, DoT put a full stop to this nonsense.
All these actions are impositions. They come from the top down and they are uninformed by public opinion, popular demand or citizens’ needs. They serve no purpose and they are largely indefensible in a court when challenged, not because they violate some arcane legal principle but simply because they defy common sense. In areas where governments should act there is unconcern of monumental proportions. Consider the state of our Regional Transport Offices, to which we are all compelled to go for driving licenses and everything relating to a vehicle. The offices are water-logged — evidently the monsoon is an annual surprise to the RTO (just as it is to the municipal corporation which constantly blames “unseasonal rains” for potholes). The RTOs lack even the most basic facilities: there is no seating, no water, no restroom. They do, however, have one great feature, and it is ingenious: their yards are rutted, muddied and cratered. If you can drive there, you can drive anywhere. And this is true of almost every public department. In July 2010, the Supreme Court noted the dismal conditions of district courts — dilapidated buildings, often taken on rent, broken down furniture, unstable power supply. The court referenced its own order of 1993 which directed upgradation of these facilities and said that till 2010, this had “remained a dream”.
It is not a dream. It is a need, and the refusal to see the difference is perhaps the single biggest failure of governance. Funds required for these basic infrastructure facilities are simply not made available, and High Courts which oversee the functioning of courts below them must struggle for release of funds. Huge amounts are spent instead on splendid refurbishing of the offices and homes of ministers. Just as much as kickbacks, these misallocations are also forms of corruption.
“The trouble is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Despite our claims to democracy and voting power we are still a servile lot, used to being ruled, unaccustomed to being governed. We think nothing of public access points, parking places and concourses being blocked off for VIPs, roads being closed and traffic jammed because yet another intellectual pygmy from the north has taken it into his or her empty head to swan through the city, of money being spent on statues, of being denied basic needs. The Home Minister’s goggle-eyed cabinet colleague, Dayanidhi “superglue” Maran thought he could cling on to what Indians love to call his “berth” (noun; ‘a built-in place to sleep or stay; sufficient room to manoeuvre’) despite all the material against him. He was wrong and learned the hard way that there have always been crocodiles in denial. He was bound to fall; his case was beyond redemption.
This government is unwavering in its commitment to corruption of every form, and is single-handedly stuffing our jails. Yet, as scam erupts after scam, its spokesthings step before TV cameras to repeat the same litany: the opposition cannot afford to point fingers, they were worse; the government is ‘taking action’ and it is doing so in an ‘open, transparent process of governance’. What process would that be? The continued paralysis of top leadership? Another tea-party by our PM, the serial breaker-of-silences? It’s not our imagination: the UPA’s televised comments are now too shrill, too jaded, too hollow to carry any conviction. It is only in India that we see such power over so many so completely decoupled from any sense of responsibility.
So far we have suffered all this with Cheshire Cat chagrin. But this is changing now. Recent public protests and movements should tell our governments something: read the writing on the wall. The government may think it has outwitted Team Anna (and further devalued him by demonetising the four-anna or 25-paise coin) but already there are parallel movements, saner, subtler and tougher to combat.
In the last three days, governments have already been slapped twice, and hard. Both came from the Supreme Court, in the Salwa Judum case and in the repatriation of black money case. Both decisions have been criticized for their rhetoric, for the basis of their reasoning and, more informally, for judicial overreach. But here’s the thing: there has been no criticism of the actual decisions themselves. Nobody contends or could, unless completely non compos mentis, contend that the Salwa Judum ever had any legitimacy, or that details of illict funds held abroad should not be disclosed. It is not just a matter of judicial over-reach versus government under-reach; all governments everywhere under-reach. It is the nature of the beast. In its adherence to falsehoods, prevarication and sheer bloody mindedness, what this government does is something else altogether. Confronted with this, people have only one choice in the matter, and they go to the only institution that matters and has, so far, despite its own troubles managed to stay relatively unsullied. This is a heavy and often intolerable burden on our judges, but it is also one that only they can bear.
This is not the India an earlier generation envisioned in 1947. There was a dream then. And it will be realised, sooner rather than later. Public opinion is an unstoppable force. Governments can be removed.
The city's police are an unhappy lot. It's bad enough they've been forced to [pirouette endlessly over the murder of the journalist Jyotirmoy Dey]. To show that they're not completely left-footed, they've decided to teach the city how to dance and, in their usual subtle fashion, [detain 31 youngsters at a Malad lounge bar] for what they call 'dirty dancing'. This throws up all kinds of interesting possibilities. Perhaps we can look forward to some terpsichorean initiatives from the city's finest--arangetrams, perhaps, at the Police Gymkhana. Or the Malad mazurka, the Charni Road cha-cha-cha, the Salsette Salsa and the Titwala tango.
: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-06-17/mumbai/29669634_1_j-dey-murder-murder-case-underworld-and-crime "'J Dey murder: Police still clueless after six days', Times of India, 17 June 2011"
: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-07-04/mumbai/29735384_1_dirty-dancing-public-place-indecent-behaviour "'Moral police detains 31 for 'dirty dancing', Vijay V Singh, Times of India, 4 July 2011"