How the wielding of power and public morality evolved over the centuries?

Cicero(106-43 BC)Ever since the time of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, then in Rome  under Cicero(106-43 BC) the Roman Republic and its institutions evolved up to the French Revolution and  to the  modern day Constitutions, in democracies and authoritarian regimes, the abuse of power and the curtailment of citizen freedoms, we live through uncertain times. Some thoughts and reflections.

We, Indians, inherit what political Legacy?
Or, public morals and conduct?

These questions arise when we look at the way us, as a nation and people, live and thrive.

Just yesterday, the Supreme Court asked the government agencies, CBI and ED, in the open court:
Is there a hidden hand that is ‘manipulating’ the agencies to delay for so long in some of the sensitive cases, legal cases involving big money and also big people, that is, the high and mighty?

This was in reference to some high profile alleged corruption cases that involve the top politicians and their kinds.
It is a scenario that gives rise to some of the most troubling questions for the public life in India.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the world today is also witnessing some of the most challenging issues in world peace and political instabilities.

In the USA we see Donald Trump taking some steps that are almost all against the conventions of governance.USA is taken by the rest of the world as a model democracy, a republican government with Senate and Congress and the parties and the whole exercise of power on almost on the lines of ancient Rome.

But the America today is also faced with some of the most uncivilised outcomes. The rising gun violence fails our imagination of a modern and prosperous society. Such heartless brutalities against innocence children?

The President, given his peculiarities of character etc. is also proving helpless. Given the credit where it is due, Trump also shows enormous surprises, he is, for example willing to meet and speak with the North Korean dictator! The world is suddenly relieved. There is a heaving sigh of relief. At the same time, there is also the phenomenon of the opposite trend in the other two bigger democracies, or regimes that are both authoritarian and almost dictatorships.

In Russia we see Vladimir Putin seeking office after being in power for 17 years. What sort of political regime it is. Also, in China, Presdient Xi votes, himself casts his vote ,also the 3,000 member of the National Congress, Parliament, that  legitimatise XI continuing in power after the expiry of his two -term convention dran by Deng.

What is the sort of politics we, as people at large in India and outside, practice after the world learnt to practise democracy as established in Athens?

It was Plato, later Aristotle, who gave us the idea of a Constitution for political governance. Plato was present at the trial of Socrates and soon after Socrates was put to death in BC 399, Plato left Athens and he travelled to Syracuse where, we know, he drew a Constitution for the “Tyrant”, Dinosius.

We in India live by a political Constitution drawn by eminent brains since 1951. How do we live up to the our Constitution that had withstood the past 70 odd years?

The present regime seems to be doing not badly. But when it comes to some niceties, we seem to be lacking in some vision. We operate a democratic constitution. The basic aim of the Constitution is to ensure the freedoms of the citizens, equality of everyone before the law and we, for all practical purposes run a government by rule of law.

Our laws are derived from the principles of Roman Law. Our democracy is a Greek inspiration and also what we have learnt from the British Constitution and the British Constitutional conventions. These we derive again from what we learn from the British rule.

Is our freedom of the press real and alive? Yes and no!
There is freedom but there is widespread fear in the minds of citizens. The press is not throwing up uncomfortable questions. There is lot of blackout, right?

Our Prasar Bharati and DD and Radio are a sham, right? Our judiciary independent or handicapped. Just today I read something like 400 and odd vacancies in the High Courts!

What does this fact convey?
Why so many are languishing in jails without bail? Why still the delays in appointment of judges?

Here comes the pertinent question asked by the SC on the ‘hidden hand manipulating the delays in such cases like 2G scam?
So, we need eminent jurists to ask questions and worry about the state of affairs in sensitive areas>
Are there not enough talent in the judiciary and the bar?

It is here I thought of other histories, the life and works of the ancient Greek thinkers, the Romans. Figures like Cicero (106-43 BC) who was and remains to this day, the greatest jury, the greatest orator in the Roman Forum courts and also the Senate in the same premises.

You can see the monuments, the earth on which Cicero walked if you walk through the Roman Forum (as we did some time ago).
Cicero, whose writing, speeches, letters and other pieces are the greatest monuments of Latin literature and forms the foundations of education in the Western tradition. Others wrote in Latin, Cicero writes Roman, observed Cardinal Newman.

Fredrick the Great, that incomparable king in that un enlighted age called or claimed infatuation ‘for Cicero! Edward Gibbon, Macaulay and Samuel Johnson…there are no limit to great men and great mind who were not infatuated by Cicero’s wise thoughts. Others on the continent, in France, Diderot and Voltaire! Voltaire declared, ‘Cicero taught us to think’. Between 1465 and the end of the century 200 editions were printed of Cicero writings, the first Greek works in Greek type , other very many firsts in Cicero’s writings in the later fifteenth century.
Cicero became the founder of the Western classical education tradition.

Let us at least become aware of this history.
We have to learn and learn to adhere to the basic tenets of good governance.

No individual, however great or powerful can last for long.
It is wisdom to become aware of this reality, both the ground reality and also historic flow of events that unless men learn to conduct themselves with self-restraint, mass upsurges, revolutions, why even violence and terrorism becomes our day to day reality.

The finance ministry’s response is lethargic, to say the least!
We, citizens, know this is how the RBI is managed!

arun-jaitleyMr.Urjit Patel, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India has revealed, for the first time, we believe that the big bank scams and frauds can’t be   controlled! He cites the reasons. One crucial reason is the RBI doesn’t have any powers to control or correct the Public Sector Banks!

Of course it is another matter that ever since the big scandal of the one PSB, namely, the PNB (the Punjab National Bank, the second largest banks after the SBI) had been cheated by two big diamond merchants to the tune of Rs.13,000 crores!

It seems likely that this time in 2019’general elections’, the BJP has to face the onslaught of the Opposition parties over the Finance Minister’s series of a chain of scandals on unrecovered loans and newer finance frauds.

Also, the FM might have to explain to the voters why the Budget under him was passed without debates?

Also, how the Finance Bill, as pointed out by one brilliant MP, this time the honour goes to N.K.Premchandra M.P.  from the Revolutionary Socialist Party the Finance Bill “hid” amendments to 25 other laws.

These are serious lapses for a ‘legal eagle reputation FM’ for more than few months the Central government hasn’t acted in any really serious manner. The people were let down. The directors of the banks haven’t resigned/are sitting in their cool comforts and carrying on their jobs!

Is this an example of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claims of efficient governance? Things done seem to move fast.
How many days have gone after the major fraud in the PNB was detected. Let some heads roll and let the people feel that the government is acting in right earnest?

No, nothing of the sort we are able to detect from the way the administration is moving. Please move fast and show the people some visible action.

Can any private sector bank or an industry or any small person, be it a businessman or a farmer can feel these comforts?
How to understand the working of the government?.

Now, it is so sad to read also the finance ministry that is the controller and supervisor of the banking system is reeling out in its own pace some lame excuses.

The most outrageous statement is to tell us that the RBI has ‘enough powers to act tough prevent fraud’.

What to take from this statement of the finance ministry?
Also, relevant to see that the finance ministry is perhaps the most powerful and also the most glamorous of the ministries in Delhi.

But unfortunately, as we write the finance ministry is too much in the public eye today for the previous one case of money laundering is catching the eyes and attentions of the public to see what truth is and what is hype or even revenge. So many powerful actors are playing in this game of plain treachery to seek revenge by all those who have some scores to be settled.

You see the current scenario, the political and other areas of public life, be it media or judiciary or even such fearsome agencies like the CBVI or ED, everyone seems to be playing free.
Even the media is not a free agency as we, citizens, imagine.
The Chief Justice of India has warned of the media, specially the electronic media where the CJI has called the media as if it is playing like the Pope!

So, you can’t protest much given the state of the role of media, private and public, in today’s India.

Who doesn’t know that the media, again, specially the electronic media is heavily controlled by the big corporate houses? So, even the media, specially that is big and power run like other industries  have to control their freedoms ,if not for anything else, it is for sheer survival in the debt-ridden industry atmosphere.

So, it is no great sense of elation when we say that the media might look like all-powerful, it is not.

The media freedom, the so-called freedom of the press is not all freedoms, it is all serfdoms.

So, what we really feel possible today is to create as much of public awareness and public perceptions over the way our rulers are managing the affairs.

Every area seems to be dominated and directed by vested interests, a very tired old cliche, no doubt.

Or, if you choose something fresh call these vested interests as the new oligarchy! It is a rule of the few, in fact, very few of the very mass of people.

Also, who doesn’t know it are the wrong-doers who also seek publicity whenever they need, as we see lately in some of the new political initiatives after the rejection of the leaders and parties in some of the latest by-elections.

So, the electronic media is also sought after and you want news of yourself and want also the news to project you as innocent and all white and truthful.

But as vested interests you are there and you are also waiting to strike at us whenever we go out of the way to reach out the people in whose name we are all doing these activities.

Now, we have passed the Finance bill without any debate, why even the political funding route was also cleared and no one knows which party received how much and from whom?

Where we will lead the country with this sort of mutual anarchy rule?

Only those who some history, some long term outlook can fear for some outbreak of political instability and the resultant consequences.

We are proud of democracy? One can’t be sure seeing how the Parliaments are functioning. It is the supreme duty of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the ruling party to ensure some order and sense in the way we treat the truth and safeguard our own honour and the honour of the country and the people.

The media can’t let thing lying as they are. In the index of democracy and press freedom, India ranks not very high but rather lower than even the flawed democracies.

So, public perceptions and shaping public opinion the media has lots of burden in discharging its duty.

It is for the people, the youth, and the educated class that all these sad and disturbing developments to analyse and agitate.

Protests might be more if things are allowed to deteriorate further.

This is the perhaps the minimum possible protest that any sober media can make. Otherwise, it is the CJI’s warning and that might even go out of control.

For the electronic media has the potential to derail the current political order.

Some decisive action or some drastic action in the government and the governance pattern is urgently called for.

How long we Indians would be under the British syndrome trap? Why don’t Indians learn to think independently?

Why do we always look for outside opinion? Are we not dependent upon outside opinion to even understand ourselves? Why still the surveillance, servility of mind? What do we mean by syndrome? We mean a combination of opinions or a collective mindset. When it comes to India and we Indians seem to be still under the British-dominated opinions that we hold as a nation and people.

Prof. Tapan Roy Chowdhury

Prof. Tapan Roy Chowdhury

We have to read our history; history in general in new light. Our education is highly imitative and superficial. Everything is commercialized and there is no sense of any originality. The 10th and the 12th school exams have become a big mental burden for the Indian youth.

In a recent autobiography, the recently-passed Prof. Tapan Roy Chowdhury, a long-time professor of history at Oxford for over twenty years has left behind his views of India and Indians and also the British-Indian mindset as he had observed for so long. For Indian readers of this generation, I like to add some more additional information that might give more relevance to what I come to say.

Prof. Chowdhury is also a contemporary of Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate who had written an introduction to the autobiography. Prof. Chowdhury was also very close to the famous author, Nirad Chaudhuri, the author of the famous autobiography, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian which came out in 1951 and instantly established itself as a classic. He was an unabashed admirer of the British and the British rule in India.

He wrote the English language, said some British critics when the book appeared, “better than Jawaharlal Nehru”!  That was enough to make the book more famous! The point here is that most Indians who went to Oxford, there are several, from the old to the new generation, we learn from Tapan’s book; he devotes one full chapter on how the British academics tried to teach, I would say “brain-wash” the Indian students (this includes Manmohan Singh too!) that the British rule, the British empire was on the whole was good for Indians!

When Manmohan Singh was given an honorary doctorate, the former Prime Minister said famously at the convocation that “all the best that is with Indians in governance etc. was owing to the British rule in India”! When he said this, many took offence! In fact, I too wrote an editorial condemning Dr.Singh.

Soon after, Prof. Irfan Habib, the eminent Indian historian too wrote a stringent criticism for Dr.Singh’s rather pathetic words! Now too, there is still the same sort of serveillance, servitude and inferiority complex in the Indian minds when it comes to paying homage to the former rulers! I am sorry to say here some unpleasant historic truths. Even Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru were old-fashioned when they fought the British. In the end they capitulated to the British tricks and in the end we got freedom only after partitioning the country! It is a bitter truth we have to digest even now!

Even otherwise, we have remained an unthinking people ever since, right? Take our education, much of our interpretation of our own past, our culture and art and much else even in our capacity to think independent in matters like taking an independent stand on some leading intellectuals and intellectual opinions. James Mill, the father of the famed John Stuart Mill, wrote a multi volume history of India and this was prescribed for the British students who went to the Haileybury School which trained the British civilians who came to India as civil servants, the ICS!

Mill wrote it without visiting India and he wrote by reading and hearing about what he learnt from others. All the prejudices and ignorance is there in the book. No single Indian student, academics and others who later became famous for one reason or the other, mostly for serving the British, of course, ever mentioned Mill or others like Macaulay and many others. As a result, even till this day, we Indians never dared to challenge the British prejudices be it culture, art or learning. Do the British have anything like the Indian sculptures, the South Indian bronzes or temples or books like Bhagwad Gita or Upanishads? Did we dare to raise such topics in our discourse with the British, academics or administrators?

Coming to more serious issues, do we ever raise such issue like the long famines, disease, the hunger that caused millions of deaths and many agonies? So, in my humble opinion, this is my current view of the Indo-British encounter!

Our education, I mean our education vision and policy measures are patchy, to say the least. It is unfortunate that our current education ministers are still more pathetic. They have taken up funny subjects like Charles Darwin’s theory and also the physics of Isaac Newton! What a pity! What we Indians need is a new awakening. We have to learn to embrace the world currents in knowledge seeking; much sciences and social sciences and humanities so that the modern generation in India must be able to use and speak the modern jargon of sciences and technology.

Luckily, India has changed and is changing fast and so we should let the Indian people to derive all the benefits of modern day sciences, including the medical sciences. We have to combat the diseases that are still persisting among the people, more so among the poor and the vulnerable.

Let India become a modern nation. Let our educational thoughts too become current and let us become on par with other big nations. India can contribute to intellectual debates and we must be partners in these adventurous times.

Is this all to the eradication of corruption?

Under the Modi government?
And only this much of expertise from the NIIT?

Bibek Debroy

Bibek Debroy

Yes, this is a very timely book no doubt. It gets a collection of articles written by almost by all members who work at the NITI, the body that replaced the old Planning Commission with a new name.

Most of the contributors are described as young professionals working at the NITI. There are about 16 chapters by the same number of authors. The book is edited by Bibek Debroy and his deputy Kishore Arun Desai. There is a long introduction by the duo and it reads not like a straight introduction but as a fairly talk, about Lord Rama, Ramayana and also Kutilya etc.

Yes, the book “On the Trail of the Black” sounds well but in fact after scanning through the pages, of course in a rapid way, we find the book very disappointing. Why? First it turns out to be an academic book and it is meant to distribute the government departments where only it might not find many the time or the energy, much more the very truth we might be looking for who are all the major actors, major players and the genuine ones who really search for truthful action and some achievements.

Yes, there are some enough data on the major areas of corrupt Food grains distribution, Coal scam, 2G spectrum Belekeri port Commonwealth games, total black funds involved Rs.6,58,645 crores.

Is this all there is to corruption in India?

Not at all. There is any number of corruptions, from the states to the Centre.

The authors had chosen the easy way out. They have taken up the post 2014 General elections and they have dedicated the book to the Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi and it is all in praise of the incumbent PM! Does this need much imagination to see that this less than adequate, a bit immature academics joining together and paying tribute to the PM and his steps so far to tackle corruption?

When the public is fed by a series of, almost unceasing raids by the three prominent agencies, Income Tax, CBI and the Ed and that too almost all against the Congress ministers and functionaries? What sort of administration of justice, the running of the Special Courts that too ended up in much hallow ends.

Why the sort of fiasco had happened to the 2-G Scam?
It is this the way we administer justice?

After nearly 8 years of trial and after, adjourning, reserving judgements for more than a year, the final judgement came as a dampner! How much of the time of the common man was wasted in this tardy affair?

Who has the patience to follow the very boring narration of old corruption stories? The old stories from 1963 onwards are brought into the naraation

The publisher, Kapish Mera, we met once in Delhi and when we discussed about the possibility of a new book we were narrated into a near impossible task. How then this government-sponsored book, it is what it is, is promoted? By simply forcing the copies on the government depts.

There is no merit in the book which doesn’t even take the names of some of the great fighters, the NGOs and other valiant individuals against the corruption menace? No, Aruna Roy, no Medha Patkar or other fighters like the lawyers and other activities like Prashanta Bhushan and his formidable father, Shanti Bhushan or Teeseta Setalvad and many others.
Where is the brigade, the Anna Hazare band?

Even such radical legislations like Lok Pal and Lok Ayukhta are mentioned only in passing, there is really no heart in the making of the book.

Please let us not cheat ourselves. We are a nation of cowardly people; we try to fall in line with whoever comes to power. So, long the going of good for those who get into this business, so much is only possible.

There are gaping holes in the choice of the individual corruption cases. Nor the politically sensitive cases. Under the present regime the conducting of the corruption cases, the almost non-stopping of the on-going raids, on more high profile Opposition figures, from Coal scam to 2-G scam to fodder scam, why even the way the courts announce the sentencing timings, on such cases smack of  vengeance and a sort of public spectacle!

Tit for tat will be the revenge, sooner or later. And what about the still much more insidious cases of corruption, the unaccounted political party funds?

The large number of MLAs, MPS involved in criminal cases and the special courts promised by the government.

These are too hot cases and the lowly level officials working in the NIIT and outside in some of the specialised agencies are honestly unequal to the task at hand!

Let us bring in truthful tackling of the black menace that is corruption!

Economic growth slows down?
No, not at all!
See, the World Bank’s projection for the next year!

The very next day after the Prime Minister met the economists, came the World Bank projection of 7.3% for 2018 and 7.5 % in the next two years.

modiYou see the economists these days have become more timid, academic and pro-government. The talents at the NITI Ayog seem limited.

It is the practical men, the politicians and the leaders who can take a broader view of things. It is the classes, in the Indian case, the caste groups, the privileged and the disadvantaged sections who can give policy makers a sense of robust reality and therefore some practical policy inputs.

One newspaper full page advertisement by a trade body put out even a crass claim of “How the Indian economy can grow at 10% per year for a decade”.

Is this not a certain madness, if not plain stupidity to trates the serious issue of economy growing or otherwise?

You see, we seem to be living through a particular way of politics and doing business and many other areas of national life.

First, economy is a tough field and its growth or slow-down depending upon various factors, politics included. Even the Prime Minister has not responded to the news about the economy slowing down. There are also various viewpoints as to why the economy slowed down. May be there are certain objective factors like the policies like Demonetisation or GST etc.

We need a more detailed analysis of policies we have adopted so far. The last three and half years are certainly a crucial period. Nor can we simply jump to the conclusion that the Indian economy under the UPA regime was all that good. The peoples’ perception certainly matters. There was large-scale corruption and the people were faced with many other issues like unemployment etc. The poverty ration, when compared to China, was still higher here.

And also, there is this reality that in the last three and half years there has been no doubt  the Indian economy has undergone a great deal of  structural  shifts, there is transformation of the economy, there is solid growth in several key sectors.

There are external factors too like the crude oil prices that impact the Indian economy significantly. The chief statistician says that advance estimates indicate there is higher growth ahead. From one quarter to another there can be significant variations. Anyway, these are too serious issues for the government to take stock of the economic performance of the various sectors. Each issue needs separate and in-depth discussion.

It is another matter how the politician opinion is being shaped by the ruling and the Opposition parties. You see ours is a democracy and unlike, say, China, we have so many parties and also the highly extreme political polarisation in the polity. The PM also has characterised that there has been a paradigm shift. This is a fairly correct statement, it seems.

The important point here is however that the economy is big, next only to USA and China and as such we have to be very moderate in expressing opinion unless we are committed to the Indian story.
Our political institutions are fairly stable and we have a particular way of conducting ourselves, the media has a role, a responsible role and how the public opinion and public perception is shaped by these institutions.

As for particular sectors, we as a media devoted to the agri sector, has to note that a 2.1 per cent growth is certainly disappointing but not totally unexpected. We are sure the PM-NITI Ayog meet would deliberate on the agri sector issues in a more realistic way.

You see, agriculture would from now onwards become more complex, given the many related sector developments, from faster urbanisation than before, the coming of more National Highways and other infrastructure, telecommunications and of course the spread of education and the entry of more educated and skilled workforce, the traditional land-owning families getting consolidated or in the reverse, the disintegration of such families and also the land ownership further getting reduced.
You see, we are not just routine media in agriculture; we are committed to the agri sector’s future consolidation and strengthening of the rural livelihood future.

As such, we like to see that the industrial development that is taking place side by side of the rural development forces. This means certain new insights into the India’s villages’ future. You have to have a policy that enables the forces that make rural living a viable economic possibility in ten years to come.
Our view is that you have to make agriculture as a viable profession. Either as a small-farmer holding or a commercially viable business activity.

A feature of agri policy making in independent India was the abolition of zamindari system and the enactment of the many land reforms legislation. We saw the extreme features in Kerala which in 1959 under the Communist regime of EMS Namboodiripad, made the traditional tenants (under the traditional zenmi system) overnight land owners!

In other states, like Tamil Nadu too we saw the various land reforms, ceiling limits, tenancy protection etc. that in effect saw the gradual decline of agriculture.

Now, in our opinion, we pay the price for such “restrictive” land laws that there is an all-round decline in the profitability and viability of farming.

So, in our view, the only way to rejuvenate the agri sector is to make agricultural holdings viable. Viable in the sense we encourage more investments in agriculture, make agriculture high-tech, make possible for introduction of many new innovations in agri production or agri services, agri trading etc.

Vadamalai Media is carrying out so many stories that make anyone, including the policy makers, wonder even otherwise, under the older system of restrictive agriculture, such and so many innovative farming is possible.

So, instead of labouring the obvious truth, let us make agriculture sector more liberalised. A sort of 1991 economic liberalisation!

Yes, there is a strong political aspect to this sort of agri liberalisation. Politics? Yes, economics is not just devoid of politics. There is  a whole new paradigm for agriculture reforms.
Agriculture trade,imports and exports and also there are many other aspects to agriculture production and of course distribution, the PDS, the consumer price and inflation that gets more media attention than the farmers’  woes.

So, you, the government ,has to deliberate, consult farmers leaders and other lobbies. We like to see that farming becomes a viable activity, more so to the new generation of youngsters from traditional farming families and also new generation of educated and also technically qualified persons who are entering into farming sector. Again, we like to refer the more serious readers to the pages of our journals and also our websites(www.agriculturalinformation.com).

The last issue carried a few pages on the US agriculture. There too there is the usual drought in US agriculture and also water shortage etc!

So, after a certain period we in India too must realise that we have to treat farmers vs. consumers as vote banks!

The time will come and force us to look at agri sector as an attractive investment destination! These are some of the  thoughts to help agri policy makers.