Independence Day celebrations this year were marked by some unexpected developments in the country.

There is this swine flu scare that kept away large sections of people from the usual crowds we witness on this historic day.

Many schools  in the cities, including in Delhi and elsewhere, in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore ‘cancelled’ the celebrations and thus we saw the more sober atmosphere on the day. Then, came the drought situation and the failure of monsoons, the consequent distress news across the country, farmer’s suicides in AP and elsewhere and the national mood not in a celebratory mood.

So, we saw the Independence Day falling on the very many unhappy events, deaths by HINI virus, on the very day in Bangalore and in other cities. On Saturday, on August 15, 165 persons tested positive, the highest on a single day, two deaths in Bangalore, of the new cases reported 97 were from Pune and the maximum of 69 cases were from Pune.

Then in places like Bangalore the maximum samples were tested, 124 samples as against the maximum capacity of 40.

In fact, what was more worrisome is the fact that along with overcrowding and the over-reported cases were the shortages of many things, from testing kits to what have you.

The one distressing overwhelming thought was the unpreparedness of the government, of course, the Central government, the only authority to which the entire nation looks up to, the state governments are clearly helpless, and given the nature of the epidemic and also in Karnataka, in Bangalore we saw the reporting of the other dreaded illnesses, chikungunya and dengue.

The newspapers have of course given enough publicity and guidelines are also widely publicised in all media.

Yet, there is this persistent thought. The thought of somehow the government not rising up to the challenge and reassuring the people that the government is pro-active.

It is a bit painful to see the deployment of school children in the Independence Day ‘parade’ or the media reporting” school children brushing aside swine flu fears and participating in the march-past”. What a shame, what an insensitive politics!

The President’s address and the subsequent Prime Minister’s address are duly broadcast and the TV and the print media seem to be very duty-bound, the protocol seems to be in perfect order. We, Indians seem to be very courteous and of course we are a courteous people, why not and in the case of observing due formalities and due obeisance to a higher authority, we Indians don’t seem to be a bit behind other nations.

But then, do we have the leaders who can inspire the people who are in a despondent mood like the one as present times? Do we have the leaders we deserve?

What the Presidential message on the eve of the Indepdence Day conveyed? Can anyone recall? Recall for the sake of deriving some inspiration? For some memorable phrase, natural or constructed for the occasion?

Or, in the case of the Prime Minister’s address on the majestic ramparts of the imposing Red Fort? Any memorable phrase or word of inspiration?

No, I am sorry to write in this tone; otherwise I would btray my own conscience and become one more useless citizen and a moral burden on this nation. The Prime Minister in his wisdom chose to deliver a text that was already prepared. Nothing wrong. But then what relevance the text has when he reiterates about the rate of growth of the economy would be likely to be 9 per cent. And, the horror of horrors, he would raise the agriculture growth by four per cent! In the midst of the current gloom!

When he expects to reach this goal? Orm, about the recovery of the economy from the universal meltdown?

He is clearly a tired man, a tired mind and given the peculiar buildup with which he is sustained in his office by the peculiarity of the Congress party and the party leadership, the Prime Minister’s stature is genuinely lowered today and his image is distorted and the countrymen are asked to pay lip service to his authority and there is no substance in what the Prime Minister talks and what the country is going through.

The Prime Minister, naturally is expected to touch upon some urgent issues that are uppermost in the citizens minds, foreign affairs, Indo-Pakistan relations, Indo-US relations, Indo-China relations, all there very critical  issues on which there have been some movements, hopefully  forward and there was none of this side of the country’s  relations at all.

As for the domestic issues, the current pressing problems were obviously swine flu scare and its control, then, the drought and the need for urgent practical action on the farm front.

But none at all from the Prime Minister’s Independence Day speeches.
At least the Central government could have announced an urgent allocation of say, Rs.1, 000 crores, to upgrade, say one hospital in each affected cities for testing the flu samples.

This costs money and not many private, why even the government hospitals are not equipped with the costly   equipments. There is no war-like drill of any kind.

There are still, even in a city like Bangalore (where we are located) a clear direction where the citizens to go first when there is an emergence.

Not many govt. advertisements in the newspapers even.

Everyday, for the next few days till the situation is brought under some control, there must be clear guidelines for the people to feel assured there is an immediate outlet.

So, where is the urgency on the mind of the Prime Minister?

Now, as for drought and farmers’ distress, we have been writing for long. The TV visuals brought home the seriousness of the poverty of the poor farmers households.

The visuals are really killing the conscience of the average citizens. The PM must have called for speeding up the co-op farm loan component to reach the distressed families.

The PM has not mentioned the farmer’s distress and the farmers suicides seem to create a great sense of guilt in the government.

That is why no one is mentioning the farmer’s suicides. The agriculture minister is nowhere it seems in the deliberations. The farm situation is no less an emergency. Even now, the PM harps on supporting the short-term crop loan interests rate payments!

The rural employment guarantee scheme must be put to use only in a situation like the present and there must be an alert on the part of the rural development minister. Where is he at this juncture?

One more news item. The Karnataka government had made a list of prisoners who can be released on the Independence Day. The formality is that the Governor “orders” the release. It is a mere formality, once the government decides, after all the government goes through all formalities.

In this case, the Governor, a new appointee (an appointee whose credentials are suspect) and the Governor, it is reported in the press wanted the files to be sent to him and he would go through each person’s case individually.

What arrogance! The arrogance of an individual? Or, the arrogance of an undeserving person? Or, the arrogance that speaks volumes about the sort of society the Congress wants to promote in India? In the place of modern-day civilised humane society treating unfortunate prisoners in a more humane way, showing arrogance of authority and power while both are false and empty!

Indian society and polity must transform, must transform into a new kind of a more civilised and sensitive behaviour towards citizens, in or out of prison, so to say!

So, we have had another Independence Day and given the nature of the politics in the states where each party seems to be at loggerheads with the parent party in Delhi and the very dynamics of the Indian polity seems to be changing.

In Rajasthan we see a revolt against the BJP which, after its defeat is undergoing an internal crisis. In UP too we see a sort of internal chaning in the Samajwadi Party which is changing its strategy towards the Congress.

The Congress might look like a united party but only those who are insiders know well the Congress is the most split because of the sort of people who congregate towards a party in power. In Maharashtra there is going to be an election soon and where the Congress has no clue to win and influence voters. There is no overriding ideological inspiration from a party that is tied by vested interests of all sorts. In West Bengal, the party has a difficult future. In Tamil Nadu, the party simply had pawned the state unit to the overweening DMK supremacy. So, if we look at political parties and take an over-all view of the developing nature of Indian democracy, there is no underlying basic structure of a shared political value system that binds the Indian people in their democratic governance.

May be it may sound old-fashioned but at any time, democracy demands some involvement from the citizens, citizens have to give, sacrifice and participate.
Writes  Sonia Faleiro, a writer (Outlook(24 August 2009): “So this Independence Day, instead of celebrating the patriotism of others, let us consider the strength of our own patriotism, weigh it  by the righteousness of our own actions rather than by own speech, and ask whether it is worth celebrating. I’m afraid I have come up short”.

Once the citizens become disillusioned or disinterested or somehow neglected by the party or parties in power, when the leaders become self-centered, or self-obsessed, then there is a gap or gulf between the people and the rulers. That is the beginning of the weakening of the democratic ties or democratic values.

Where does India stand at present in this scenario?
I leave this question to our visitors and intellectuals for their responses. Jai Hind!

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