Do  the elite society play any notable role in the public life of India?

In the Western societies, including USA and Western Europe, in France and other liberal democracies  there are who are commonly called public intellectuals. They are either academics or even philosophers or literary figures who speak out openly for the common  public good. There are so many examples. They are usually independent-mind  thinkers or writers, poets and art  and culture people.

Jean Paul Sartre

Jean Paul Sartre

Jean Paul Sartre was the most famous among these people in our opinion who dared to reject the Nobel Prize awarded to him. Such was his power and popularity ,he became a cult figure   for a generation or more. There are many other names too. Picasso, the famed painter was another such such figure and they have all helped to shape the public taste and belief systems. That is why these countries are called liberal societies and earned much respect and  status in the international arena.

Intellectuals help shape public opinion and an enlightened public opinion raises the quality of public life. In India we have experts, scientists and economists but these experts don’t talk on issues of public importance. The difference between experts and intellectuals must be clearly understood. Here we see still a sort of slavish mentality, among the bureaucracy, why even the uneducated or poorly educated mass of people who get seized by mass frenzy, get attracted my demagogues.

That is one reason why extremist politics too thieves at certain levels of society. So, let us understand the public intellectuals whose roles are very critical for a liberal society culture. Even in India we see, in West Bengal and Karnataka, some sections of intellectuals called by those in power to consult and gauge public opinion. Recently, the West Bengal Governor called the members of the intelligentsia for tea! To discuss public issues! Very fine indeed!

Why, even in Communist countries like China and Russia there are even today daring such individuals. The Opposition leader in Russia was barred from standing against Putin, the current President and  there are such daring opponents of the regimes. In China too we have such individuals who are put behind bars.
England is known for its liberal traditions, Karl Marx himself found a safety net only in London!

How far India is a country that tolerates such dissident, independent minded intellectuals. It is a matter of much regrets that in recent times some of the dissident writers were killed by opponents. The rise of Hindutva is one recent phenomenon.

Usually, the Rightwing and the Leftwing are seen as opposition forces. They need not be. Rich nations like the USA is also now seen as a violent society. Gun culture there is a new phenomenon.
The rise of terrorism is another feature of modern world.

The point is that as education spreads there must be more appreciation of different points of view and there must be more elite groups, well-off middle class and also an open society of sorts. The dury of the elite sections is to see that this culture of open debate and discussion at the universities or cultural sabhas  are giving  society a new  open society culture.
It is a matter we have to discuss more and more freely.

The common man must feel elated by the freedoms he enjoys and also the other classes, from the upper strata to the middle and  lower sections helps to build  harmonious social climate.
Any society that wants to earn the respect and admiration of other societies have to keep this larger good as their goal of development.

Even now, China with all the restrictions on freedom of expression and other freedoms allows the Chinese people, the common man much freedoms, you know?

When we visited China not long ago we spent time in Shanghai city and there in the Nanging street every evening and even other times, we saw people dancing, singing and other concerns in the public spaces drawing people in large numbers.

The point here is that only public debate and  discussions and open society atmosphere can help people, the common citizens to grow in mental and moral  health.

Public libraries and a book policy are all important, so too the various national level cultural bodies, Sahitya Academy, Sangeetha Nataka Academy and Fine Arts body must all have the right type of leaders and spokes persons. Women leaders must play a more pro-active, prominent roles in these bodies.
We have to encourage such a secular and open society culture here too. Freedom of the media is already creating a positive environment.

The quality of public life, eradication of corruption in politics and business and high sense of individual morality etc are all important.

The nitty-gritty of education! Yes, education for what? Skills, jobs or migration?

rteIndian education, in our view, is in deep crisis! No one in authority has a clue where our education is heading! It is heading simply in the way market forces to push education pursuits. The rising middle class, not the old middle class but the new middle class that comprises a whole lot of new social strata that often takes the political roles, one political outfit, we hesitate to call it a political party; calls the NEET to be abolished or tailored to promote students from one state only and no consideration for even the whole country.

More and more democratic politics becomes populist, more and more demands and more and more education streams are likely to permeate all sections. May be who knows a time may come when even quotas for admissions to LKG and UKG might come! The Right to Compulsory Education (RTE) has done wonders for school enrolment and there is now a sense of equity and equality in the sort of quality education. May be we have to see what new forces might come about from the more and more deprived sections of society.

Democracy in India is well-established at one level of looking at realities at the ground level. May be a time might come also for further levelling up. The exams also might become more liberal and why, even irrelevant and the attempts now made to introduce exams at the 8th or other levels might be given up. You see we have already levelled up education quality by many reforms. The very competitive providers of education call them by any name you like but don’t call them as educators, they are education entrepreneurs and there is such a fierce competition that newspaper, why even the TV channels are competing for ad space! Such is the education scenario now. Everyone is into the tuition industry and call them by whatever fancy name they are capable of.

Illiterates are educators now, the more uneducated the more clever they are. Tamil Nadu has the dubious distinction in this category of 100% pass producing schools that at one Delhi’s better colleges the entire class of Commerce is filled with students from South Indian towns. The so-called cut-off marks syndrome is broken! This is the most degrading type of education. Skills? What are the types of skills? The very many competitive education market had almost destroyed all principles of good education, liberal, rational and philosophical foundations of a creative, cultural and innovative society.

India has become a material society pursuing all material wealth and education is all about scoring marks, writing further competitive exams and also committing suicides for further pursuits. Where are the education thinkers, policy makers, wise men and women?

The South vs. the North! Some general observations!

Villages of India (6)Too much of political news is not good for any society. More so, in India where we see some of the curious scenarios.  One is more about party politics and that too after the 2014 elections there is too much distortion of certain issues of society. So many communal flareups! Why should people resort to violence in the name of cow slaughter?

Or, crimes of all sorts, too many to describe here  Delhi tops as the crime capital! May be as the sociologists say  Delhi is near UP, another crime state  of dubious nature?

One doesn’t know. What gives anxiety when we want to write and reflect on such issues, it is the  media freedom. Anyway, it is all agreed by almost all sections of opinion is that the state in the North, UP, Bihar and MP and also Rajasthan and some too make up  the Bimaru states, that are the most backward by all indications of social development. In education, healthcare and why even in terms of poverty, nutrition and girls education, women’s advancement these state are still backward.

Now, as for the states in the  South with which we are a bit more familiar ,may be the two states, namely Andhra and Telangana are the rural ones, we mean predominantly rural ones. We have some experience of travelling through AP and we were shocked  to see how backward AP interiors could be. In particular we have driven through Chitoor district, one the way and also back to Bangalore to Tirupathi, we were shocked and surprised at the state of backwardness.

All the villages in this district are remote, not any new reads and the more you drive in the interior, towards Madanalle, the more you are intrigued but the remoteness of some of the villages. What was common to these villages was the statues of leaders made in bronze (or painted in gold?), we don’t know. But then the poverty  still prevalent adds to the political  advantage of the parties? We don’t know. Once driving through the southern part of the district, from Chitoor to Bangarupalayam we were really dazzed by the remoteness. May be we  would be attacked by some maoists? We shuddered for some time till we really reached the Bangalore highways!

Now, looking at the Telangana state and the politics and the new schemes announced for the farmers it looks the state is really  for some definite change for the better. The new agri reform policies announced by the Chief Minister only warrant for an optimistic opinion. Now, Karnataka. Bangalore had brought a new image for the state as the IT capital, even an international hub for IT outsourcing. There is no doubt the  capital attracts the best talents, more capital and thus a gateway for modernisation in all respects. New housing, new roads, new social infrastructure and also as the centre of some vibrant culture, science and art and literature.

But when you travel outside Bangalore, be it to Mysore or North to Gulbarga and or even to the West Coast , Mangalore and e beyond w you sometimes think time has stopped. Times stand still! Why even on the way to Mysore, you  sometimes see the old village, on the way to Somnathpore, the temple town, on the way we saw some of the old villages, they seem to have stopped changing! What we used to see in the old Tamil Nadu villages some  fifty years ago, the same entrance, the same doors, and windows and there is not much movement of people too in these idylic  and cute little village fronts.

The development in some social indicators, villages without any degree education holders, other indicators of literary, healthcare are abysmally low.

Of course Tamil Nadu and Kerala are f different ball games, so to say! In Kerala you see the most advanced social statistics. From women’s emancipation to women nurses going out all over the West, the Gulf migration had changed the very landscape. In Quatar in the Gulf wherever  we went in the little time the Quatar Airways transported us, we saw all the good coffee shops, we were told one chain was owned by a Gulj Malaya lee. They are all so enterprising and  the money pouring in from  the Gulf into Kerala is unbelievable!

So, Kerala tops in any development chart. So too the Malayalee bureaucrats in Delhi! All the government offices are filled with these enterprising people.

But then  the one blot  is no major industry has come to the state. Rather reverse is the case. All the major heavy industries on the way to Cochin, the FACT, being the large one  are closed. The Communist culture has done much good but some pretty bad habits to  go on strike are a special Kerala contribution to labour welfare.

Now, Tamil Nada. So many contradictions! The state is the most highly urbanised one. The roads are fine and literacy is high. But the state has some notorious character. In terms of corruption it sets a world, record, it seems.

And  violence is also on the rise. It seems the only state where major office bearers of political party are put in jail under the Goondas Act!

Film heroes are now agitating to enter politics in a big way and likely further to make matters worse! Even the spread of education hasn’t led to improvement of standards in politics and reduces corruption in public life. The two former CMs were embroiled in corruption on such an unprecedented large scale. This sets TN apart from other states. Either in the South or in the North.

Films seem to dominate the imagination of the people.TV news channels run by rival political parties further likely to lead to deterioration of public taste and also public morality. On the whole, the states in the South are developing faster towards modernity while the states in the North, including West Bengal are lying in some medieval age.

Only healthy political culture can wake the Indian state and society. God bless us! The population growth, the new census towns and the number of villages that are getting the status of new census towns must all contribute to up gradation of our villages.Now,electriciy to the villages is another goal. Plus the new highways must all contribute to  the modernity of Indian society and polity.

Lessons learnt and unlearnt!
A new political horizon seems opening in India at the moment.
It is the outcome of the election verdict and the immediate developments.!
The Karnataka Assembly election results surprised everyone  concerned.

collage 2_6There are many stake-holders, so to say. Of course it is another matter that stake -holders also had their own separate agendas! Who won and who lost, the strategies and their own faces? There will be long drawn out debates in the days and months, why even to the last minutes of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections! That is the importance and the impact of this one assembly elections!

The  hung Assembly led to some irrational political action. The Governor called the single largest party, while the combined Congress and JD(S) parties commanded a majority. The Governor followed precedents but there were many contradictions. What  the Centre did in states like Goa, Manipur this time didn’t do in Karnataka.

So there was a hue and cry and this led to the Congress approaching the Supreme Court and through an all-night hearing, this in itself was somewhat unusual and the apex  court gave a verdict that stunned the ruling combine at the Centre.

The Governor’s  generous  time of 15 long days was cut short by the apex court and  reduced to just 24 hours! Thus the Supreme Court had set a new precedent, one hope that would now become a standard in the much abused horse trading that have unfortunately come a standard practice till now. So, in a way this verdict has more than one implication.

First, the Governors’ rather arbitrary exercise in the name of so many arguments would now become a thing of the past and might set a new restraint in the exercise of Constitutional powers by high Constitutional authorities.

Why, the coming into existence of the Congress-JD(S) government, whatever be the nature and duration of the government has now led to ask some  serious questions for the coming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister and his party president  are now open to criticism for the many other unsavoury speeches and comments and controversies during the one most keenly contested state elections. The Karnataka election was perhaps the last one before the next general election in 2019 and the one that had upset the calculations of the BJP regime in Delhi.

Also the way the  Governor’s planned or natural selection of a Chief Minister went the way it did the Opposition parties for the first time, it seems, have got a rare opportunity to come together in their ambitious  attempt to form a federal front to take on the much-stronger and also in a way much-feared strength of the BJP party.

How would the Opposition parties and their leaders  conduct themselves from now onwards is the one subject on which the political debate might turn on. How, also, the critical question, whether Rahul Gandhi, as the formal president of the Congress party could lead the debate or some other regional leaders like Mamata Banerjee, K.Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), Mayawati and Akilesh Yadav, Sharad Pawar and  some dark horse even!

Politics is both a power struggle  as well as a principle-based belief system. In India politics still now and more so right now is seen as a power-grab and any means is justified.

The time has come, the Karnataka verdict gives us a warning that politics has to be pursued with some restraint, and Constitution has to be scrupulously followed.

Right now, how far we are  from the observation of Constitutionals propriety? This has to be  examined by the incumbent government? There are very clear indications for anxiety.

Already some uncomfortable words and observations had been made both by the ruling party and also the Opposition. The very words and observations and also the way the government has conducted in the Karnataka affairs give room for much anxiety. The famous political philosopher, Thomas  Hobbes(1588-1679) had called political power and man’s instinct is that political power struggle is “solitary, poor, nasty and shorter”.

Politicians, please read these words carefully. Don’t rush and turn the established principles, know the Greek and Roman traditions, the rule of law etc.

You can’t violate  the time-honoured traditions and history. Julius Caesar violated  the code of Command and crossed the Rubican and the rest is history.

Now, coming to the current realities on the ground,  the whole exercise in government formation to selecting the ministers and their portfolios are all small matters as far as the impact on the whole country is concerned.

As one expert, Sanjay Kumar, director of Centre for  the study of developing societies (CSDS)  the next big  thing is all about how this state election  would upon the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and also the role of the Congress party.

Another impact, though the expert didn’t talk much about it is the likely shape of the federal front. This is the most challenging task of all two have the genius for leadership and a sort of vision and even a coherent ideology that would bind  the Opposition parties.

In India, unfortunately, according to my thinking and study of issues there is no thought whatever at the top leadership levels across all the major parties as to the role of Opposition in a democracy like ours. We are not China or Russia, we are a sort of Western democracies for all of which the role of Opposition is well defined and well-understood.

Here individual ambitions and egos seem to be  the  only driven forces. Parliamentary democracy is not well-understood here. After Pandit Nehru no big leader seems to have spoken about it. Here, some points only.

Who would be the next Prime Minister if the Opposition wins?
Rahul Gandhi said he would be if his party wins. There are not takers for this claim right now. Given the new dimensions of the new political landscape it could be many others too with much more talents and superior wisdom of experience and acceptance.
Any other leader, be it Sharad Pawar or Chandra Babe Naidu, why, even Mamata Banerjee or K.Chandrashekar Rao, Mayawati are acceptable if the current scenario is taken into account.
So, individual ambitions and egos have to be given a goby and every player has to restrain his or her ambitions and see first that a federal front really emerges as a coherent goal.

Also, an ideology and vision document is also crucial.

You can’t have your pet projects, separate state or regional autonomy etc. in such a new challenging situation. Of course, the front has to be anti-Hindutva, religious polarisation has to be ruled out, or new caste equations strengthened. To put it short, we have to subscribe to a liberal democracy, secularism and a sort of autonomy for regional parties and at the same time a wholesome Indian unity based on tolerance, social harmony and an equal and egalitarian society and polity.

Now, it is time for the aspirants to come out with their own positive contributions.

As for the Congress party which I know somewhat well from the Delhi angle, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have to change their ways. They must be accessible and also more modesty, how to handle the new set of players on the national front would their biggest challenge.

Telangana Chief Minister’s revolutionary farm reforms!
Let us congratulate the hon’ble Chief Minister!

Agriculture is never easy. It is a tough field. It requires tonnes of nerves and unlimited will power. For politicians lately, agriculture has become a plaything. How many Chief Ministers, the ambitious and the cunning ones, specially have promised instant farm loan write offs!

Yet, how long the Indian farmers are in distress?
Who dares to ask and who is ready for an honest answer.

Chandrashekhar RaoAgriculture at the national level is an election stunt. At the grassroots, it is a bi bundle of outdated laws, landownership laws to land leasing laws are steeped in antiquity! Anyone who lives in the villages knows well it is a hell out there!

That is one reason we believe why the elder politicians, past the 80s and beyond are all so choosy to live in Delhi and do “politics” in the cool Lutyen bungalows!

Who among the rich and well-off choose to retire to their states and that too to their villages?

The one big leader we remember is the late N.Sanjeeva Reddy whom we travelled all the way from Bangalore to meet and he chose to live in his ancestral house in the distant Ananthapur. Even he had to shift to Bangalore in his last days for various reasons. Now, medicare and other needs drive people to urban centres and as for politicians the money factor has to be taken into account. The point here is that in the face of so much neglect of our agriculture, you see there is still, after four years of the Modi government and much of the modernisation of the e-market in the farm goods mandis, the latest heart-rending news is the farmer in Madhya Pradesh in Vidisha district had to die, horror of horrors, in the scorching sun in which he stood in a queue for long   for four days!

And yet he could get his crop to be weighed and sold! What use the e-market; one is tempted to ask the government. So, here is some green news. The TV channels show the green Telangana, full of cheering faces, the farmer ploughing his land, the rice fields full of latest ripe crops, the farmers’ wives smiling and as they attend to the haystock and every moment is a joy to watch a such promising land reform package, the Telangana government has announced. First the land records updating. Oh, this is almost an impossible task, given the age-old laws, the age old revenue department and the corruption that grips this one of the oldest government departments. How many reforms had come about in this sector and yet, you please take this as a test and ask any ordinary farmer!

How to get your basic land record? Then you will understand the age in which our hapless farmers are living. Life for an average Indian farmer is hell. Either the farmer is a debtor or a litigant! Or, both! How the rest of the society thriving on this hopeless mass of poor farmers.

So, the Telangana government has announced the Rythu Bandhu scheme under which land records would be cleaned, creating satisfied farmers. The budget allocation is Rs. 12,000 crores. 93 % of the farmers would be turned into litigation free! Oh, the hon’ble Chief Minister! If you can do only this and not any other programmes, the country would salute you! We salute you just for this one step of reform of the land records. 1.43 crores acres would be covered, says a government advertisement in all some 58 lakh farmers would benefit, and says the government.

Pattadar Passbook cum Title Deed with 17 security features and the first Cheque to be distributed to 58 lakh farmers.  From 10th may 2018!

This really a herculean programme of updating and purifying the revenue records in just about hundred days. The programme has already deployed 1,523 teams in 10,823 villages in 568 mandals of 30 districts in Telangana (excluding Hyderabad), verifying a mammoth total of 2,38,551 acres of land! Only those who do  actual farming, one who lives in the villages know the hardships suffered by the farmers!

The government proclaims that this  is a novel initiative  by a visionary government, the first time in the history  of India! Yes, the Telangana government has attempted this bold Rythu Bandhu reform. We know the many hurdles in the way of implementation. But why not?

Come what may! We wish the hon’ble Chief Minister to taking up such a revolutionary step! May the Telangana government deserves all praise and let other states, their chief ministers  draw inspiration from what the hon’ble Chandrasekhar Rao  has  done for Indian farmers’ welfare!