Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Before & After


Anyone who has been watching/reading the news the past few weeks would have gathered the essence of year 2010 for India- Scams. Every news hour invariably has at least three fourths of its telecast dedicated to the number of scams which have been unearthed this year. Rather than analyzing already dissected data on what this means for various political parties, this article intends to delve into a broader and deeper question instead.

Every democracy goes through phases. In India, for example - the phase of debating on the basic foundations on which our country was built in 1947, the phase of the demand for the freedom of the press during the emergency in the 1970s, the often quoted phase of liberalization in 1991 etc. are some of the prominent incidents which altered the course of the country’s social and economic structure. It is this evolution of democracy that is the underlying basis of development. The results of each of these phases have such profound impact on our lives even today. So, the broader question to think about is whether this chapter of scams is just a political hungama that is to fade away with an election? Or does it mark another phase in the history of Indian democracy, the outcome of which will cause changes that affect generations going forward?

Majority of Indians today have lost faith. Faith in the political parties/bureaucracy (2G scam, the Adarsh Housing Society scam), the corporate sector (corruption statistics, land acquisition), the media ( the Radia Tapes), the regulatory agencies ( the independence of the CBI, the integrity of the CVC) and judiciary ( the uncle judge syndrome at the Allahabad high court). The common man does not need the media to know the extent of corruption in our society today. The common man's life involves enough instances that make him more than aware of its prevalence. But this can neither sustain the belief system of basic right and wrong on which our country was born, nor the fabulous Indian growth story that we talk about everyday. There has to be a point where the county will have to take a step forward. What could this step be?

One may believe that this year’s incidents would result in the political parties having no option but to ensure structural changes regarding tackling corruption as the only possible propaganda to contest for governance. This would mean that these scams could result in effective independent investigation agencies and controls, a structural change essential for our country’s continued prosperity. One may believe this would result in a media which not only treads carefully interacting with persons of influence, but also does not shy away from being critical of the objectivity of its own peers. This would mean a renewed belief in the fourth estate, a belief that could make the media a champion of public opinion rather that a medium for political campaign. One may believe that this year would result in a reformed and strengthened judicial system, a catalyst to transparency in the society. One may even believe that this will result in a system that allows a common man to view business as a result of entrepreneurship, hard work and unique ideas rather than the clout, influence and corrupt practices. Time only will tell the role of this year in shaping out democracy's growth.

It is often said that the common mans thoughts can change the nation. It is something which is not really believed to be true in our country, given the diversity in religion, economic well being and opinion. But today, there is a resounding unity in the common mans thoughts. It no longer revolves around the growth of the Indian economy, and neither does it revolve around religion and the freedom of expression. The common man of India today desires fairness, accountability and systems to support the same.
India needs to respond to that desire of the common man. Can it?

Indian Express
Dated Dec 30th, 2010