Friday, February 28, 2020

Ethical Dissidence Strengthens, and Not Threatens, National Security

I feel saddened as an Indian to read media reports about the questionable and controversial circumstances of transfer of Justice S Murlidhar from Delhi High Court. I have had a very little exposure to judiciary but what I have come to know over the last one year during my several visits to Delhi High Court, as well as interactions with a larger number of lawyers, that he stood out, at least in the public perception, as a beacon of  “Dharma” and “Justice”, as enshrined in the Kautilyan principles of governance, among his peers. 

 This is not the first case where an upright public functionary has been humiliated under this government for standing up to values of professional ethic and integrity. There are many who have bitten the dust and paid a price for their unfailing commitment to integrity and the country. Some of these actions may appear legally justifiable but these will eventually contribute to our downward spiral both as a nation and civilisation. This has already impaired our collective capacity in a competitive word but it could soon become irreversible if we do not act fast.  

A country of India’s size can never be governed by brilliance of a few, howsoever well intentioned or virtuous they may claim to be. Integrity and efficiency of institutions is critical if we are genuinely serious about channelling collective energies of our people towards our great power aspiration both as a state and civilisation. The follies of such self styled brilliants, have gone on unprotested for far too long. If it is allowed a free run, it is certain to doom Prime Minister’s grand vision of resurrecting the great civilisational state of India. 

All is certainly not well with most of our governance institutions. This is particularly so with our Judiciary, which has remained trapped in the colonial aura and arrogance while dealing with ordinary citizens. It must  probably be the most dysfunctional institution of its kind in the entire democratic world, fairing at times worse than even a few autocracies or authoritarian states. Abnormal delays and routine miscarriages of justice, notwithstanding brilliance of a few judges and quality of some of their verdicts, have crippled the credibility and capacity of our criminal justice system to contain conflict, leading to a larger under-performance of our society and state. 

The entire issue of deep-rooted malaise  in judiciary needs to be examined and redressed. It would be outright disaster to crush few dissenting voices of sanity on advice of a class of professional cronies, who  have  flourished in this country for far too long. They have been selling their services to every incumbent in power- from Moguls to Congress and may be even this government. Such flawed advises to top incumbents in power has been nothing but an attempt to camouflage their own individual or collective aspirations. These include perpetuation of their own indispensability in the larger power equilibrium by causing artificial affront to authority of their masters. 

Such phenomenon has always brought disaster for every society and state afflicted by it. I am confident that Honourable Prime Minister will take note of it, and make serious endeavour to not merely make amends in such obvious cases but also root out the entire culture of cronyism and middlemen, which has turned out to be the biggest bane of India over centuries and not decades. It is this culture that induced our decadence and degeneration from pinnacles of prosperity, scientific knowledge and cultural advancement, much before the dark ages of medieval era, when we were trampled upon by a few herds of barbaric savages, who had no exposure to anything called civility. 

 It was culture of cronies and “Charans”, besides debauchery and decadence of most contemporary rulers, that had decayed our civilisational strengths and its eternal values much before the barbarics and even some of their slaves could pretend to rule India by virtue of their capture of Delhi. Of course, significant exceptions like Rana Pratap and Shivaji to several others, avoided our complete annihilation as a civilisation, giving us this day when we can still dream and aspire to not merely revive our ancient glory but also contribute to a better world through strength of our ancient civilisational virtues. 

Strength and glory of ancient India stemmed not from some brute and savage force of destruction but from our larger values and principles of governance where political power remained subservient to sagacity, wisdom and ethic. Net result was advancement of science, knowledge, industry and culture under the protective cover of a robust framework of governance including security of state and society. Much before the West could discover and build on the idea of reasonable restraint on arbitrary authority of the ruler, Kautilyan principles of governance had envisaged complete absence of any discretionary or despotic power for the ruler. 

Kautilyan King had no authority to force his decision on the council of Ministers, who were always the wisest and the most ethical men of their time. King could merely express his opinion in the council of |Ministers, and often the Kings were elected by an electoral college of wise. Members of the council of Ministers were expected to have sufficient integrity to arrive at a mature consensus, and not a majority vote over minority, through deliberation of issues with an open mind - in spirit of "Vaad" and "Samvad"- rather than prejudiced "Vivad". 

Of course we cannot and must never go back to the past. Scientific innovations and advancements in people-centric governance ushered in by the West and practised by independent India  have become part of our larger political and cultural strengths. These need to be refined, and not reversed, by incorporating some of our civilisational values in our governance principles. It is strength of our ancient civilisational values that have differentiated us from our rogue neighbour that emerged on the basis of a perverted version of Islam that was exploited and abused by a modern day monster called Jinnah who did the bidding at the behest of a receding colonial power. In the process, a set of philosophical teaching that were certainly more humanist in their context, but had been distorted soon after the death of Holy prophet of Islam, were further defiled.

It will be pity if a secular Hindu India tries to ape medieval Mughal or Turkic Values, where justice, including life,liberty and dignity of citizens or even state functionaries, depended on individual mercy or whim of rulers and their chosen cronies. It was hoped that decimation of certain political formations, that had been reduced to a facade for underhand and illicit brokerage syndicates, would usher in original "Indocracy" based on our eternal principles of “Dharma” based governance. This could have liberated us  from the shopkeepers model of superficial Western democracy that has been built on the miseries of colonised people from Asia to Africa and even original Americas but were further distorted in most developing nations. Sadly, such dreams and hopes appear to be on the verge of being of shattered. 

We have a long and uphill task to cover if we are serious about resurrection of glorious civilisational state of India as an inspiring pillar and beacon of hope for a more stable, secure and civilised world. Ethical dissidence, aimed at larger public good and collective well-being, would not merely be desirable but should rather be respected in the key institutions. This could be the most critical tool of transformation towards enlightened and efficient governance. Ethical dissidents can never bring down a righteous government and induce instability. But they can certainly usher in some sanity and discipline in the malfunctioning institutions of the country. Incompetent cronies, indulging in dirty machinations, criminal conspiracies and unspeakable forgeries, on the pretext of pleasing political masters, can only bring all round disaster for both society and their own masters. This class has perennially profiteered out of bad governance and it shall always have a vested interest in perpetuating the same to the detriment of  agenda of nation building. 

It is indeed high time that the government embarks upon a drive for major and sustainable restructuring of all institutions in public domain. A greater integrity, higher efficiency and larger internal and external synergy among governance institutions would be the sole bedrock of a powerful state and society that can unleash collective energies of our people in pursuit of the vision of India that Prime Minister spelled out soon after 2019 poll results.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

INDIA’S POOR NEED DIGNITY and NOT CHARITY

            (This post too was written on Facebook when my blog was inaccessible)


Competition among major political parties to promise regularisation of unauthorised colonies in Delhi may appear very laudable. Of course, all INDIAN citizens must have a decent roof on their head, along with access to nutrition, sanitation, healthcare, education and employment that guarantee both economic security and legitimate opportunities to better their plight.
These must not be treated as acts of charity or altruism but fundamental necessities for a stronger India. Only healthy and happy people can make a state, society and civilisation great. They can produce more wealth, generate powerful ideas and collaborate better among themselves.
We need a pool of physically healthy, mentally strong and intelligent, technically skilled and professionally honest citizens for making good soldiers, good industrial workers or corporate leaders or Journalists or civil servants or Politicians or even Farmers out of them. A good state and civilisation cannot leave its people on mercy of invisible forces. A welfare state with sturdy governance has been the foundation for a strong state and vibrant society through out human history. We need it all the more in the current world, which is far more complex.
A small section of genuine politicians across party line have contributed to some advancement in this direction in post-colonial India. But the colonial mindset of most post colonial rulers has always been visible.
Regularising unauthorised colonies is neither appropriate nor a sufficient solution to the problems. It amounts to mocking miseries of not merely few poor but that of the entire society. Our political class appears as a vulture thriving on insecurities, anxieties and vulnerabilities of people. They also seem determined to make dishonest people out of our citizenry in pursuit of their partisan ambitions.
Such moves have also been used in the past to grab some of the prime land in the heart of national capital by land sharks masquerading as Politicians. Help to poor has only been a pretext. Sadly, poor have been made partners in such crime.
People must get their rights through proper and transparent means. We need a suitable governance vision and mechanism to address these issues. These must not be matters of discretion or desire of political class.
Supreme Court must ban such poll promises and direct state to provide both suitable housing and job to every INDIAN, along with access to healthcare and education within the next 2-3 or 5 years like a fundamental right. Ironically, our governance structures and political system, in the current form, are incapable of addressing such governance needs.
But the current political, corporate and even bureaucratic class of leaders, like our colonial masters, seem to be so blinded by their own lust for their privileged position that they do not mind pulverising and decimating India as a civilisation and state. We must not invoke our ancient values for partisan political gains only.
Ironically, both Confucius and Kautilya had emphasised that the primary responsibility of a ruler is to build virtues (through observance of Svadharma as outlined by the latter) among citizenry. Such governance principles had provided a sturdier foundation for
material prosperity and scientific advancement of these two great civilisations. They were not perfect but certainly better than their contemporaries.
People in leadership roles in every sector need to be role models for the masses. Laws and courts can tackle a few deviants but these
Institutions too would be helpless if the onslaught on wider social values are so rampant.
Neither the hungry, unhealthy, insecure and anxious nor the greedy and arrogant can ever be virtuous. They can never form healthy and harmonious society. And the people centric governance has to address these twin challenges.
A little bit of land grabbing and evasion of real governance issues may appear innocuous to some. But it reflects a larger bankruptcy of the existing political system and outlook. Hope some sanity dawns and our so-called leaders seek to find a solution and not exploit problems for partisan gains.

DEFICIENT SOCIAL TRUST: PITFALL OF A CLOSED SYSTEM?

(This is yet another post written on Facebook on same day when Dr Wenliang died)


Chinese social media has been witnessing unprecedented levels of grief and anger over death of a young Chinese Doctor Li Wenliang early this morning. Wenliang had been arrested on charges of spreading rumour over his sincere efforts to warn about impending corona virus pandemic as early as on December 30th. He had apparently contacted the virus while attending an infected patient who was unaware of it. People believe that timely action on warnings of the deceased Doctor could have contained the corona outbreak much better. But he was humiliated and eventually paid with his life for his integrity and sincerity.
Many Chinese people have commented in various words that ‘liars and cronies were hailed as hero whereas an honest Good Samaritan was persecuted’. Does it happen only in totalitarian systems? Probably, declining and degenerating democracies could be similar or even worse.
The issue highlights how even a mighty state like China and its people are vulnerable in absence of a trust based society and transparent governance. One innocuous repression of intelligence and integrity can invite large scale disaster for all.
Of course, people need to be responsible in their utterances. But genuine mistakes in any sincere expression of opinion or facts must not invite retribution.
A democracy like India has been routinely witnessing repression of merit and verbal wars in the name of public discourses with lavish use of lies, deception and hateful propaganda. These are assault on Indian state, society and civilisation as these impede ability of people to excel and foster collaboration to optimise their collective strength. Democracy sounds hollow and hypocritical in absence of individual integrity and social harmony.
INDIAN society and civilisation had thrived in the past by its ability to create a trust based society where individual integrity fostered both excellence and stronger social bonds. It was decadence and decay, though not complete, that led to their ruination and pulverisation at the hands of barbaric savages during medieval era, which has been universally described as the dark age on the subcontinent. It had failed to promote science, knowledge and rationality as well as larger social harmony and dignity of individuals that India as a civilisation had boasted of, much before the rest of the world. When Europe witnessed Renaissance, we were plummeting to depths of perversion at the altar of debauchery, repression and eventually colonial plunder, with of course energised resistances from several quarters.
We need to learn lessons from the past but not get trapped into it. It can only take us down. It is not the identity but the values that matter. It is irrelevant whether overwhelming majority of people on the subcontinent converted to Islam out of fear or on volition. It is also a fact that invaders did not bring great civilisational virtues or stronger scientific values. It was purely failure of an inward looking, stratified and decaying India to civilise, and not convert, areas beyond the subcontinent that sent marauder and barbaric to plunder and pillage. We need to learn lessons in security and governance and not politically encash it.
None of the oppressive or even the so-called hardline protagonists of Islam on the subcontinent have adhered to the Humanist and egalitarian values that the Holy Prophet of Islam had tried to preach in his context. His values and ideals were decimated and hijacked soon after his death, which was manifest in killing and humiliation of his own descendants, including many women and children at Karbala. Islam became a pretext for loot, murder, plunder, pillage and rape, something that the Holy prophet of Islam had tried to resist and eliminate. And surprisingly in India, Islam discovered a humanist strand of Sufism and sought to discover and revive some of the real teachings of Holy prophet, which are more in sync with Upanishadic teachings that were reiterated by Lord Buddha.
Oppression, fear and hatred can never get the best out of any people and society, especially in a heterogeneous India. For the sake of rise of India, our democracy must avoid a return to medieval era mindset. Social harmony and social trust as manifest in some of the eternal values of pre-caste era of the ancient civilisation of the subcontinent are critical for a stronger India. These alone can contribute to a more harmonious world and not the “shop keepers model of representative government” founded on colonial plunder and pillage of the entire world, despite some brilliant innovations and practices perfected in recent centuries.
The entire integrated, interconnected and a somewhat leaderless world needs original INDIAN values more badly at this juncture. We cannot and must not go back in time. But fusion of modern Democracy with Kautilyan principles of governance, Buddhist notion of Dharma and Confucian principles of harmony can enrich and secure the world beyond all expectations and imaginations.
At the same time our alternative to extremism must not be corruption, perversion and yet another form of decadence or perversion symbolised by dynastic political syndicates. Sadly, they have been masquerading as political entities and thriving on subversion of governance, society and state. Probably Indians and the world need resurgence of civilisational values of original India and not the resurrection of decadent identity clashes of the medieval era.

Reform in Political Parties and Private Sector Would Be Critical for a Stronger India

     
 On January 19, I had the privilege of being part of discussion/talks at my alma mater JNU along with two very distinguished fellow alumni: Maj Gen (Rtd) GC Dwivedi, a 71 war veteran and now a highly accomplished academic, and an equally eminent and accomplished veteran journalist Shri Ajit Jha. Details were shared on Facebook by my friend Rajesh Kumar. 

   We discussed inherent strengths of civilisational values of India that have helped sustain democracy even amidst all forms of adversity and constraints. These values were revived by Mahatma Gandhi, who was probably the greatest mobilizer of people as well as an original humanist thinker after Lord Buddha on this subcontinent. We thoroughly discussed some of the key strengths and vulnerabilities of current Indian state and society. We also attempted to identify governance-security challenges and priorities of India in the contemporary era in presence of an enlightened audience. It was an extremely stimulating and vibrant session.

I had maintained that a country of India's size cannot afford to depend upon individual brilliance of a few.  We needed serious and sustained institutional reforms to not only synergise individual and institutional values, goals, orientation and interests in every sector but also among the institutions as well as between them and the larger society. The principles of fairer and healthy competition were critical for promoting individual initiative, industry and enterprise, which formed the core of democratic freedom at one hand and accelerated advancement of people on the other. 
I emphasized that we needed to overhaul entire criminal justice system, healthcare, education, R&D capacity along with civil service to make these competitive and professional, but the most critical area in which Indian democracy needed to take initiative were reform in political parties, corporate sector and media. These cannot afford to be controlled by self-seeking cliques. Political parties needed to be cohesive platforms  with appropriate structures for debate, discussion and avenues for entry and exit at different leadership roles. Political parties cannot afford to act as brokerage syndicates that had to subvert rule of law and integrity of governance for their sheer survival. 
Similarly, our corporate sector, notwithstanding all their virtues and some of the outstanding visionary leaders it had produced, needed come out of Sukhi Lala mode as portrayed in iconic Mother India movie of 1950s. They needed assert their credentials as legitimate stakeholders in governance rather being at the mercy of profit driven mercenaries lacking any sense of larger social commitment. There was certainly need to beyond emotions in pursuit of nationalism and national security.

Of course the other two speakers are very well known and they have been in public domain for too long and their views are very well known. 

 I am sharing some photographs for my friends.

ALLUREMENT OF QUOTAS: A SMOKESCREEN TO DENY DIGNITY AND ECONOMIC SECURITY TO ALL?

(Following is a post that I had written on Facebook. I was struggling to access my own blog due to suspected malice of some powerful cyber criminals) 

            Supreme Court’s recent observation that quotas are not part of fundamental rights deserves commendation. But the court should have gone on to declare that the access to high quality education along with jobs that provide basic level of economic security and dignity must be made fundamental rights. These have been part of directive principles for too Long.
        Caste based employment reservations must have been a necessity as an interim measure when the country gained independence. But their continuation even after seven decades has only perpetuated divides and fractured our social cohesion.
      It is not about government jobs but the negative impact on governance capacity of our democracy. It has encouraged political elite to abdicate their responsibilities towards universal access to education, health-care and employment. These are most critical vehicles for securing collective empowerment of India.
      It suits our rogue elite if people remain vulnerable in absence of rule of law. A hostile and corrupt government system will push them to caste based cliques even for defence of their basic rights. On the other hand, mighty and powerful can exploit bad governance to escape the clutches of law. Emotional identity divide can be a smart tool to destroy governance and popular accountability.
      Such phenomenon has encouraged rogues and crook to hijack our democracy. They can plunder and pillage the country being fully assured that a divided people shall struggle to demand transparency and integrity in governance. Their mind can be numbed by emotive identity divide. They would lose capacity to think rationally or judge and evaluate their representatives on the basis of their performance.
     A divided society and a divided house are certain to decay and degenerate. These can vitiate the larger ecosystem, obstructing merit and talent from flourishing. Under such conditions, people can never excel collectively or live in harmony.
      Sadly, we refuse to take lesson from our under performance as a society and state. We are no longer shaken by the expanding all round asymmetry (five times and growing) with our northern neighbour China that was equal to us until four decades back. It has nothing to do with the so called inferiority of democracy. It is more an outcome of subversion of governance systems.
      It has been scientifically established that Caste in India was originally not a hereditary phenomenon. It were greedy and dishonest elite that made it hereditary, oppressive and discriminatory. Once a society decays, degenerates and gets enslaved, it’s elite further lose their moral compass. Many become self seeking compradores to any power or authority that can protect their privileges. They do so at the cost of their own society. They oppress their own people and especially the down trodden. It was irrationality of a decadent elite of a Subjugated India that made the caste system so oppressive and cruel.
But it is time to move forward and do away with the very phenomenon of the Caste. It has to be abolished forever and not exploited for political rent. Following are some of the pertinent questions that every Indian must pose to himself or herself: 

Why, and how long, should an independent India remain shackled in a subservient mindset? 
Shouldn’t we move towards universal and equitable access to security and dignity?
 Why should some of us be hoodwinked in the name of quota and made collaborators in denigration of India? 
How long can we afford to fall prey to divide and rule trick of rulers? 
Why should housing, Jobs, healthcare, education and employment not be made accessible to all? 
Why should a bunch of parasitic forces relish mass anxieties and insecurities to exploit and thrive on these? 
Why should we be divided as a people and our civilization destroyed at the altar of political opportunism?
Doesn’t patriotism warrant the country getting precedence over politics?
Without solidarity and larger harmony among people as well as larger integrity, how can we work collectively? 

LOOKING AT UKRAINE WAR FROM INDIAN PRISM

INDIAN EXPERTS ON THE WAR      Discussions in India's intellectual spaces on Russia-Ukraine war were initially focused on humanitarian e...