Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bring Private Sector, MNCs, International Donor Agencies, Media, Political Parties, Religious Trusts, Stock Exchanges under the RTI and Lokpal

If at all such a person or such a set of persons can be found out from our system who will be damn honest, whose integrity would be beyond doubt, then why should that person become just Lokpal and why not the Prime Minister of the country. Why should we presume that a Prime Minister, who comes through election, is likely to be corrupt, hence a more honest body or person should be there to supervise him and his work. Let us all be ruled by that set of honest body or people only—let no body have any sense of power without being accountable directly to the people of India.

It is now twenty years since the process of liberalization and globalization started in this country. Since then a kind of parallel set up has emerged in this country in the areas of banking, insurance, education, health etc all of which are directly associated with the common citizens and their resources and expectations. It is strange that the clamour for bringing in probity and integrity in public sector, has not matched similar demands in the context of the delivery system in the private sector. Can I as a common citizen ask as a matter of right how does a private bank or an MNC calculate interest rates on our loans? How do private educational institutions or hospitals do their recruitments? How does a media house decide to run a story of corruption when similar stories remain unreported? On what grounds an international donor agency chooses its partners and invests in social sectors in India?

Are the honchos of private sector more powerful than even the Prime Minister of this country? When there can be a talk of bringing under Lokpal, right or wrong that only time will tell, of the Prime Minister of this country, who is technically elected through a democratic process by more than 75 crore voters, why should we shy away from demanding that the services and conduct of the private sector honchos should also be under the progressive laws like RTI and Lokpal. The Vohra Committee had reported that the nexus between the politicians, bureaucrats, mafia and the corporates is at the root of the large scale corruption in the country. Then what will we gain by only being concerned about the conduct of a babu or a neta, when as seen in recent scams like CWG or 2G, for every neta or babu, a corresponding corporate honcho or a lobbyist or a journalist completed the chain to fleece the national resources.

I wonder, whether by raising the pitch about corruption and inefficiency in the public sector, there is a ploy to keep under the carpet the similar problems in the private sector? When the public watchdogs have failed, they have failed for the Private sector too. My concerns stem from the fact that questioning the mysterious manner in which the private sector works---quite typically symbolized by the robot-like faceless and nameless customer care executives whom we converse with on tall free numbers---the idea may not be palatable for many, whether belonging to civil or uncivil society, because questioning it may actually mean questioning the existing social and economic order and discourse.

Moreover, one thing really baffles me. If at all such a person or such a set of persons can be found out from our system who will be damn honest, whose integrity would be beyond doubt, then why should that person become just Lokpal and why not the Prime Minister of the country. Why should we presume that a Prime Minister, who comes through election, is likely to be corrupt, hence a more honest body or person should be there to supervise him and his work. Let us all be ruled by that set of honest body or people only. Let no body have any sense of power without being accountable directly to the people of India whether Prime Minister or Lokpal or MNCs or Private sector or the Media or Donor Agencies so that the concept of public governance with its idea of creating a just, equitable and egalitarian society as enshrined in our Constitution occupies centrestage of all debates and concerns.

Actually in the climate and culture of corruption, creating a way out is like the story of the King with golden touch with suitable modifications. The so-called system and the people who man it have become so hollow that whatever they touch would turn hollow and making new bodies to stem the rot would take us on a wild goose chase. It is time we get back to the basics and analyse the ideals behind the creation of public offices like those of the Prime Minister without trivializing them, but adding value to them certainly.

Let us get our perspectives clearer…


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Waiting for the Barbarians-Poem by Cavafy

This poem of the Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy (April 29, 1863 – April 29, 1933), written in 1904, is noticeable for its ‘Modernist’ tone and for the lack of excitement about any possible change in the society because ultimately system knows how to handle and assimilate the forces of change. The title of this poem was taken by the South African-born author J. M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003 for his famous novel written in 1980.


Waiting For The Barbarians
-What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?
The barbarians are due here today.
-Why isn't anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
What's the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they'll do the legislating.
-Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city's main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor's waiting to receive their leader.
He's even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.
-Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.
-Why don't our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and they're bored by rhetoric and public speaking.
-Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people's faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?
Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven't come.
And some of our men who have just returned from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.
Now what's going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

Constantine P. Cavafy

Monday, January 17, 2011

Some ‘Uncommon’ Sporty Bookish Expectations!

During the Commonwealth Games, one important addition to the whole event had been exhibitions and other programmes put up by many art and literary organizations of the city. Sports and its traditions in Indian art, literature, painting etc were explored and synchronized with the main sporting event. However, one wonders whether these lateral interventions were flashes in the pan as once the Games got over, the creative world got back to its own shell with the sporting arena going the other way as is the norm in our society, where sports is taken purely as a physical activity as distinct from creative or intellectual activity.

If this is going to be the trend then it would be the most unfortunate thing to happen. Because India cannot possibly hope to become a major sporting nation without writing and researching about sports and the customs and traditions and folklore and healthy ideas attached with it. To put it differently, can a nation hope to become a truly committed sports country if its intellectuals and creative writers are not game for it? This question needs to bother anybody who is looking for some kind of revival or rejuvenation of sports in the country as a fall out of the Commonwealth Games at Delhi.

Beyond the arena of track and fields, the 1982 Delhi Asian Games are distinctly remembered for the revolution that it brought about in terms of penetration of television technology among the masses with the classes switching over to colour television technology. Can the Commonwealth Games persuade the research organizations, universities, publishing houses etc. to take up the study of sports on a panoramic scale so that we as society can understand the great role that sports and sportspersons play in the making of a merit-based, equitable and inclusive social framework?

The sportspersons, that is the ones who are active on the fields, are generally patronized by our railways, airlines, banks, corporate sector, PSUs and others. But the organizations that are engaged in creation of knowledge are generally found missing on this count. It may be asking for too much for the creation of multi-disciplinary departments in our ‘mainstream’ universities for sports research and writings; patronization of active and budding sportspersons by research and higher education organisations like IITs, IIMs and central universities, research foundations etc to follow and study their career growth as ongoing case studies; well-thought out and active support by publishing houses to the publishing of such studies for the general masses etc. Such perhaps ‘uncommon’ expectations from the Commonwealth Games may sound utopian. However, the fact of the matter is that no human activity, and sports no less, can stand on its own in true sense if it is not supported by a genuine and serious thinking about its relevance and significance by the writers and reading public of the day.

In colleges and universities, it is quite common to talk about sports in terms of the ‘quota’ that is offered to the sportspersons to get admission in various courses and also for appointment in jobs at various levels. The margins on which such admission takers or job aspirants are relegated are something that need not be overemphasized. This mindset can be corrected only if the centres of higher learning can free themselves from shackles of intellectual prejudices and take up sports studies not only as a separate field of study but with multi-disciplinary approach. Biographies, autobiographies, memoirs of sports persons, sports trainers, coaches, commentators, linesmen, umpires, referees, physiotherapists, filed curators and other such host of professionals involved in the creation of the ‘entertainment’ of sports with post-colonial analysis, dalit and feminist approaches, sports events as microcosm of social and cultural melting pot---the possibilities and expectations of research in the field are immense.

Some work is still being done on these lines but the gaps are too many and it would require the entire spectrum of thinking public, intellectuals and governmental and non-governmental creative agencies to make it a common pursuit to put the whole debate of creating a culture of sports and sports playing and loving society right in the foreground of public debate. Is anybody game for it as a corollary to the euphoria of the Commonwealth Games and also the Asiad?