In the last three decades our nation has been plagued with more controversies, scams and contradictions than what can be considered as growing pangs for a developing nation. Controversies, scams and contradictions are expected and factored in any growth story. But then there is a limit to how much can be factored in and absorbed without compromising on the real growth and development. Unfortunately for us in India, growth and development seem to have fallen by the wayside, particularly in last ten years, as more and more people who are responsible for the same have instead opted to be selfish and focussed on their own growth story instead of the nation’s growth story. Today we are in living in an environment where each and every aspect of our governance, both in public and private sector, reeks of corruption, dubious dealings, deceit, cheating, mistrust and illegal gratification at all levels to the detriment of the nation as a whole. This is not all. As a result of all this the Indian society as a whole has become so noxious in nature that attributes like nationalism, honesty and integrity do not figure anywhere for most of us. If he can do it why not me seems to be the logic that most live by to justify their misdemeanour and acts of misconduct. The only saving grace of these three decades has been the breakthrough growth during the five years starting from 1991 when late Shri PV Narasimah Rao was the Prime Minister and later from 1998, a comparatively stable five years of governance when Shri Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.
The rule books in India are so voluminous and detailed that they will possibly put all other nations to shame. But when it comes to implementing and enforcing the same rules, we are probably the worst nation from among all the developed and developing countries. Those who are responsible to enforce rules are ever ready to compromise in their never ending quest for personal gratification in cash or kind that is invariably on the wrong side of law. Gone are the days when a civil servant or a public figure sought personal gratification based on the honest work that he could do. The few who still believe in the later have hardly any impact since their sincere contribution gets drowned in the sea of malpractices that prevails across the nation. Those who are supposed to obey the rules have over the years got totally disenchanted with the system and the establishment. It is no secret that if one was to follow the book, it could be a never ending fight to get any job done since most public servants would not be interested in such an approach as there would be nothing in it for them. There could be any number of delays, queries and impediments in the process however irrelevant or in fructuous they may be. To avoid harassment and delays there is always the other option where for a consideration in kind or cash, the job could be done in a jiffy, at times even if the rules do not permit the same.
India seems to have a detailed law on nearly everything. If there is none on any subject it does not take long for our law makers to add one. However the law enforcing agencies and the judicial system has done more than their bit to take the nation to the contemptible and pathetic state that we are in today. The logic of ‘innocent till proved guilty’ has been stretched so far that it has now reached a stage where even the obviously guilty are treated as not guilty. The fact that court cases can be dragged to linger on for decades by lawyers without much problem also ensures that the guilty continue to be not guilty and carry on with their sinful lives with near impunity. Exoneration of Ms Jayalalitha by courts, continued freedom being enjoyed by the likes of Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav despite being convicted, government protection and support for known anti national elements in Jammu & Kashmir, inaction against corporate defaulters like Mr Vijay Mallaya are some of the glaring examples of the way justice is dispensed in our country. It is on records that over 34% of our members of parliament in Lok Sabha have criminal cases registered against them, yet our electoral system continues to allow them to be elected to govern the nation. Can anything be more bizarre and detrimental to nation’s progress than this? Premier investigating agencies of the government have proved to be rather inadequate when it comes to investigating cases referred to them by the government. Their failure stems from various factors like lack of expertise, inept handling and more often than not succumbing to political and other pressures from the highest levels. The sincerity, integrity and commitment of such agencies have always been under a cloud. On the other side we have common people who have been in prison for over decades for minor offences or acts of corruption amounting to a few hundred rupees. What does this tell a common man on the street? It just tells him that law may be effective for a common man at times, but when it comes to people in power, including those with money power, then the law is invariably an ass.
The last fifteen years have been particularly eventful in terms of scams, illegal activities, and shameful acts of impropriety and ineptness of the law enforcing agencies to take most cases to their logical conclusion. Indian growth story of the nineties also gave birth to growth story of major scams and corrupt practices. The increased media penetration across the nation has been mainly responsible for bringing the rot that has set in the system out in the open. At the same time media is guilty of not being impartial in its coverage and on occasions there have been question marks over the integrity of many media houses. The judicial system too has not crowned itself in glory, barring a few isolated cases, since a lot has been said and written about the corruption in judiciary at different levels. Successive governments have come and gone without changing anything despite tall promises made during run up to elections. The current government raised the bar to new heights as far as promises to revamp the systems and establishment go but as on date the ground report continues to be same. It just shows that no political party or leadership is ready to bite the bullet since the benefits of a corrupt and dishonest system have always been shared by all concerned, whether in power or out of power.
When it comes to nationalism, as a nation, we are left wanting both in act and in spirit. A common man has no time since he can barely manage to eke out a living, in some cases not even that, therefore he has neither the time nor the inclination for such frivolous things in his otherwise dreary life full of misery. Unfortunately nearly 65% of our population falls in this category. The not so common man, that includes most government servants and others who earn a reasonable living, could not care less since his basic needs are met but his aspirations and other wants are never met and that makes him a bitter human being who spends most of his spare time in criticising the system and blaming his luck. Majority of them, who hold positions of power, adopt the practice of misusing their position to extract gratifications from other fellow citizens. Nationalism once again takes a back seat for this stratum of society that forms bulk of the educated citizens in the country and accounts for over 30% of the population. The balance 5% of the population comprises of politicians, senior government functionaries and people in business including those with well paying corporate jobs. For most of them nationalism is important as far as words go and as far as pretentions go. But when it comes to action, money and more money is the only mantra that keeps them going. If in the bargain some national interest is served then they will stand up and take credit and profess to be nationalism personified, if not it does not trouble them in the least as long as money has been made, by means fair or foul.
Last but not the least there is a miniscule percentage of citizens in this country which is less than 0.3% of the population that not only wears nationalism on its chest with pride at all times, but also displays it in their acts without seeking any additional favours or rewards. Yet rarely, if ever, do they speak about the same. This elite band of citizens is the armed forces of our nation including the para military forces that invariably go about their task of protecting the nation from all external and many internal threats. It is a different matter that the nation’s leadership and government take them for granted on most counts and invariably give them a raw deal. But then a man in uniform is not a common man who will fret, crib and cry for his dues or recognition. The man in uniform belongs to a brotherhood that has always been above certain issues that plague our country like greed, mediocrity, caste and religion. It is a unique example of how people from different societies and social strata can live together harmoniously with the sole aim of doing what is best for the nation.
Are there any lessons to be learnt from this band of men in uniform and their unquestionable nationalism? Yes, certainly there are a few important things that can be learnt and implemented for the betterment of the entire nation. First it is important for the government to stop classifying or dividing the society in different groups like scheduled castes, backward classes, minorities and so on. Just treat every individual as an Indian. Any division will always create rift and resentment. Next do not appease any particular section of the society instead be fair and treat all in the same manner. Reservations, freebies and concessions are always counterproductive in the long run. Focus on training the youth for productive growth since training imparts discipline, self confidence, self respect, team spirit and ability to do ones job efficiently. Training is a continuous affair and required at all levels, unfortunately this aspect is not understood in most government services. Another important aspect that can be learnt is the need for a strict and fair assessment system at all levels to separate the chaff from the grain. As a corollary to this is the fact that merit based promotion is the correct way to go forward instead of allowing people to be promoted to senior levels just based on length of service. Another important feature that can be learnt is the ability to deliver both punishment and praise at the right time. It is particularly important that punishment must be timely and in most cases targeted towards improving an individual rather than being vindictive in nature. The armed forces have proved beyond doubt that effective and good leadership can motivate the people to give their best for the sake of the nation. Last but not the least, every Indian has to learn from the men in uniform that doing your job and serving the nation is a matter of honour and cannot be linked to any additional incentives or gratifications. By not doing the job entrusted to one or seeking any gratification in cash or kind from another citizen is akin to betrayal of the nation and unacceptable at all levels.
The blame for the current state of the nation is invariably dumped on the politicians. They are guilty no doubt, but not the only ones. They do great harm to the nation by taking politically motivated decisions, encouraging corrupt practices and playing with caste and religion to further vested interests. While the last in the list cannot be checked by the bureaucracy and other administrative services, they can certainly put brakes on the first two. Unfortunately the bureaucracy over a period of time has played into the hands of the politicians and today they just do their bidding at the cost of the nation. Therefore the bureaucracy has to share bulk of the blame. If they decide to remain upright and act in the interests of the nation at all times as per rules, no politician can force them into any wrong doing. This in itself will cleanse the nation of most day to day problems that the common man experiences. Last but not least it is the common citizen of the nation who has to become more demanding of the system, cast his vote carefully and not get carried away by dubious politicians who make false promises to take him for a ride. For this to be a reality in the future, the nation needs to invest in education and growth of the 65% of the population that lives either below or close to the poverty line. The aim has to be to achieve a sustainable growth story that is devoid of the culture of freebies and reservations. The target should be to make sure that each Indian stands proudly on his two legs with his head held high and trusts the system to give him a fair opportunity to make a decent living with his two hands. In short, each Indian has to be a soldier of the nation, whether or not he wears a uniform. In such a situation the nation will never be found wanting for ‘nationalism’.
Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.
Dear Saroj Chadha,
Please accept my utmost appreciation of your analysis, diagnosis, and solutions for what ails India. You reflect my own views like a mirror. I have never seen an account that so completely agrees with my own views on the subject, word for word. I’m sure it will be the same with every patriotic Indian. Little wonder you are an ex-serviceman. The motivations, the training, and the experience forge us in to the hardest steel that has been through the hottest fire. It stands us in good stead throughout our lives. Historically,military weakness and disunity have been the bane of our otherwise advanced & sophisticated civilization. We don’t seem to have improved on that. I feel NCC training should be made universal & compulsory. It will bring cohesion & coherence in the citizenry, making sweeping social changes possible. That in turn will increase productivity and efficiency all-round, changing the quality of life for millions of my countrymen. God bless us.
Dear Wg Cdr Rao,
It is indeed kind of you to send your comments. I agree with you that a right minded Indian will think in a similar manner, unfortunately we do not have too many right minded people in the nation. At the same time the government must realise that they should not play with this all important and ever reliable resource, nor should they take it for granted. If they do, it will be to detrimental to the overall health of the nation.
Being an ex-servicemen and presently practicing as an Advocate for the past 28 years, in High Court at Hyderabad, Telangana; I avail this opportunity to express my views.
1. In the first instance, I totally agree with the critical analysis made by Shri Saroj Chadha in respect of the ground realities that are subsisting and existing in each and every walk of life; thus affecting the common man. I do express my appreciation thereof.
2. In my personal opinion, root cause for majority of evils in society as on to-day is failure to enforce of Rule-of-Law uniformly, without fear or favor, by some of those black-sheep, who are masquerading themselves as Law-abiding citizens and displaying their functional ability, for the benefit of the vested interests.
3. In the event of all those Public Servants (as defined in Sec. 21 of I P C) discharging their duties and/or displaying their functional ability, by taking cognizance of Fundamental Duties specified in Article 51-A of the Indian Constitution, more than 70% of the problems confronted by the citizens can be taken care of automatically. So, the issue is, who should make these Public Servants display their functional ability, in consonance with Fundamental Duties.
4. Many of the citizens agitate for their fundamental rights. Instead, they should be requested to give a thought of Fundamental duties also.
5. Spirit of Nationalism and/ or spirit of patriotism can be ensured only with an element of inclusive growth; while generating a feeling of participative growth among citizens. In my opinion, this can be achieved with the co-ordination of intelligentsia and law-abiding citizens in the society and powers that be should attempt to devise a mechanism with public-private participation, for the benefit of all citizens.
Last but not the least, all the right thinking citizens should live on the HOPE that some good days are likely to come in this KALI YUGA, with the grace of magnanimous law-abiding citizens/ people, with spiritual bent of mind and secular outlook.
Dear Mr Sharma,
Thank you for your comments and you have made very valid points. There is no doubt that if a normal government servant, at any level, discharges his duties as specified and expected in the constitution, bulk of our routine problems will vanish. The moot question is how to inculcate that honesty and sincerity at all levels. This is more a societal and social issue than anything else. Inclusive growth is always a good way to start but for that as citizens we will need to be honest to ourselves, to all around us and finally the nation. If we can imbibe our future generations to speak up, be upfront and not expect nonsense from any one, we may achieve some semblance of order in our country.