From smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve

Its a free country, isn’t it

In blah, opinion, rant on December 2, 2008 at 6:11 am

It’s a cacophony of strident voices calling for action. The course is not very important, that there be one, is, very. Depending on what proportion of the words being expressed get the benefit of some cerebral horsepower, the courses vary from lighting a bunch of candles to giving the law enforcers tank armour for vests to installing battletanks outside hotel entrances to exercising our nuclear options against the neighbour, all accompanied with varying levels of reasoning underlined with “Take action!” then of course there are the opinions that aren’t saddled with the baggage of logic. These mostly involve rescinding the “secular” sections in our constitution as a fitting riposte to those who believe that making ones point involves plastic explosive and Kalashnikov rifles.

There is one underlying assumption in most of those lines of thought, that the root cause of our vulnerability to terror attacks is incompetence. The picture in everyone’s mind is a bunch of bungling bureaucrats and officials who can’t tell an approaching group of terrorists from the local group of party workers (actually, who can). Sure, it probably does not help that the average years of education imbibed by each of the elite members of parliament or legislature could be counted on one hand, but I believe, the root cause is beyond incompetence.

What do the Rs 100 payoff to the traffic cop at the signal for overlooking the slight infraction and the Rs 200,000 paid to the local corporator to ensure uninterrupted water supply have in common? Zoom out a little, and you have going rates for any kind of permission or right. Building contractors haggle over how much they need to pay the local representative to garner the plum contract. There is a line of work that involves getting agricultural land classified as commercial, thus multiplying its price literally overnight. In the nation’s capital, every confrontation resulting from a fender bender begins with reeling off the names of politicians that each participant has on his cell phone and can therefore the extent to which they can defy the law. Corruption. It’s a way of life, so deeply embedded in the Indian psyche that we look at it as fair cost of conducting the daily business of living. Sure, but what does it have to do with machine-gun toting maniacs?

Simple really. Does power corrupt or does it attract the corrupt? The latter, I believe. Just look at the profiles of each of the respected MPs or MLAs that govern this nation. Toss a stone and you’re more likely to hit one charged with multiple homicides than a novice who was just booked for disturbing the peace. These are the people who decide everything from expenditure on infrastructure, education, defense, law enforcement. Everything. A look at the income tax returns filed by these individuals does not require the paranoia of conspiracy theorists to guess that the only function of governance is to bleed the country dry for personal gain. The wealth amassed is then used to defend the fortress of power by making sure corruption reaches the grass-roots, in the form of television sets or bags of rice. In the midst of all this, they make some mundane decisions about whether India should sign the nuclear 1-2-3 agreement. Definition of a soft target anyone?

This august group is now responsible for developing the capabilities to evaluate and identify threats to India’s national security. To fund the right programs that enable building capabilities to erode the capabilities of terrorist groups to launch attacks, to develop early-warning systems to consider scenarios and ever-increasing means of attack, to address the root of the causes that precipitate local support to the outsiders. Is it not so much easier to reshuffle cabinet and post a truck full of soldiers within shouting distance of the gateway? Unless, someone tells them the contract sizes involved in installing a closed-circuit network across the city…

A lot of what I’ve said was under the premise that educated and driven leadership would de facto see beyond their personal gains but a slew of saber-rattling emails on a forum for supposedly measured and insightful discussion suggest that maybe the latter group might be afflicted with whatever leads a drunk to look for his lost keys under the lamp post and also punch the lamp post in the process. But hey, isn’t that one of the perks of democracy.

  1. The perks of democracy are something the people of this country haven’t really started to take advantage of yet. I hope the fear or whatever it is that has moved people this last week sustains and turns into productive action beyond rattling off angry emails.

  2. Anon: It comes down to the question; is democracy a right or a privilege? We tend to think of it as the former and hence expect things to happen for us while the latter line of thought would necessitate our own actions to improve things around usYou’re right that angry emails won’t get anything done

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