Press freedom a concern for the elite only?
A new head for the Broadcasting machinery appointed!
A new maturity and a new liberal approach to press freedom make India a stronger democracy!

red-inkWe saw the news item on the RedInk awards for India’s best journalists!
Media freedom is more talked about than upheld. In most countries.

In India the press fears the authority. Even the so-called mainstream press behaves in a cowardly manner. Long subjugation under foreign rule had made Indian people unwary of any assertion of freedom!

We are a god-fearing country and in effect a government fearing people, right?
Of course we have some positive news. Just now, the RedInk Awards were presented to 15 categories of journalists. Fine. There is some flicker of press freedom and assertion. But there are causes for dismay. One notable media organisation was raided, of all agencies, by the CBI! This is bad.

Recently a well-respected media organisation was raided by the CBI. Why the CBI of all agencies? Press freedom is always mentioned as the fourth pillar of democracy. Now, in most democracies, specially the British and the US ones we see media in all its diversity and also in its real assertive forms.

How many countries have jailed journalists? This is one indication. In some major countries like Russia and China journalists are routinely jailed and why in Russia major killings had taken place.

We can equate press freedom with the state of the Opposition parties. In Russia, we see the Opposition leaders is subjected to many undesirable treatments like arrest and parading in the streets etc. This is obviously too much.

Why, even in India, in a state like TN we have had so many record defamation cases! So, we see a general dullness, meekness and evasive reporting, why plain distortion of news, even fake news! Journalists are poorly paid, poor social status and perennial insecurity. So too the media owners’ own vision, if at all. It is just a business, more tabloids, less any other goal!

In India we have a long way to go! Now, the CBI raid has in fact left a bad taste.

Now, there is much to ponder over when it comes to press freedom. News is now taken very differently. News is often more fake news, they say. We don’t know.

BRICS nations have now set up a Brics media fund of I million dollars. We are not sure what this fund would achieve.

Now, press freedom is not to be fair and accurate only. Press freedom means free from fear of the authority, the ruling party and the government, right?

But then major newspapers are now big business, right? They have to sell, earn profits and so dependent upon the ruling establishment for various facilities. Now, under the present dispensation we see much fear, observers say. People in Delhi seem to say this. Recently, the senior most journalists like Kuldeep Nayar and others assembled in Delhi Press Club and criticised the government for the CBI raid on NDTV.
May be such inconveniences are to be managed.

That is the price one has to pay for one’s sense of freedom and moral responsibility. Indian press history we have to study.

Also, in the present world order we see the AlZazeera, the Qatar-based TV channel had led to problems among the Gulf countries for being a bit freer in its expression of opinion on matters of high state policy!

You see even in the best of times, in the best of democracies people are uncomfortable  with an authoritarian government.

We can have so many solutions. One, hold many press conferences. Prime Ministers are all not the same. Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi, as  Prime Ministers didn’t hold Press Conferences. Why?

You have to think!

Pandit Nehru was very different. He loved questions and arguments in the open space. May be such background must help Indians of this generation.

Please allow arguments. India is not known for its open arguments in the modern sense. Prof.Amartya Sen says a different sort of argumentative Indian! Today’s Indians are very fearful of the governments!

Anyway, we have to live with all the imperfections of our democracy!
So, the public perception whether we are a tolerant country is a view that people at large has to take.

Individual freedoms is the high mark of a democracy. Also, individuals must learn to love and rate high their sense of freedom.

Whether Indians love to be free citizens or obliging citizens is a matter for debate!

Why education is boring and dull! It needn’t be!

We, Indians are accustomed to reading English books written by the Brits, right?  That is our legacy!

C.E.M. Joad

C.E.M. Joad

This is not a book review. This page is an outcome of reading an old book that remains a classic and that too in the field of education. C.E.M. Joad is famous, perhaps only next to Bertrand Russell, in the rank of popularize of very heavy topics and of course he is a master of the exquisite English prose style. Education is an old topic and as Joad himself says; writing on education is often “boring” and “dull”! But then education is so much talked about though, as Joad again says that people, the common ones, also don’t care much for education!

Here, Joad writing at the time of the World War II in 1941 or so, quotes Aristotle who says: The object of education is to cause us to like and to dislike what we ought to! It is for readers to make out what it means! Now, education “is the distasteful subject”. In UK, there are too many pamphlets, books and surveys and opinions on what constitutes education. As I suspected Joad is also an old-fashioned Conservative, he takes the British history and class system and its attendant inequities and inequalities as almost God-given! By this we mean that England has historic names, the famed public Schools, Oxford and Cambridge and as such not much change in education ideals are needed.

Today in India, why, even in the whole world, including Britain, the education outlook and its myriad functions have changed beyond imagination. The Internet had changed it all. Now, for the higher ends of high quality education, the international student community looks for other destinations. May be, UK may be the last, if at all.
Now, there are certain other aspects of life and also education in England that might attract Indian imagination.

In chapter 2 on the purposes of education, he says that education doesn’t really promote a democratic society, as we all imagine. He also goes into some critical observations, (that is new to me at any rate) that the BBC (in my time in England in the late 1950s) used to have a celebrated programme called the Brains Trust with high-powered intellectuals debating on all and sundry issues. Here Joad tells that already in his time the so-called freedom of thought, free expressions were curtailed by several subtle ways, when it comes to religion and politics! This is surprising for me at any rate. And also, surprisingly again, that education and free press didn’t promote a more civilized and well-behaved citizenry!

This too seems to be very familiar to us today, though not many seem to debate this point. Already the mass media both print and TV channels do produce third rate stuff, right! And would education growth, education spread as we also see in India lead to a responsible citizenry? It looks doubtful again. See in some states, more so in the well-advanced state like TN, the political corruption and political criminality touched rock-bottom levels! Other bad social consequences, liquor shops run by government and also liquor manufacture run by those who run the parties and government too!

There are also other social evils like Goondaism and much violence and the rise of crime. Now, more such news even in states run by the new generation politician donning saffron robes! So, education needs to be debated in some critical depth. One more aspect Joad discusses is the role of Public Schools in British education. The Public schools are supposed to produce leaders of society and polity! This claim too needs some finer criticism. Recently, the President of India, the humble Pranab Mukherjee visited through famed Lawrence Public School, in the Nilgiris. He also extolled the role of such a historic school, he came for the 159th anniversary.

Of course the Rashtrapati made a good speech lasting barely seven minutes, barely there was not much time to dwell on such a topic like education and what Indian needs today as its national education goals. But one thing is sure. India needs a literary society, education has to reach all. But then there would be hierarchies and classes and so too certain safeguards and certain quality, to India to compete in the modern world.

So too education has to be a pursuit for some elite class too. We need to ask the very same questions Joad asks like the education for a Capitalist society and the world, education for a Socialist society and equal world opportunities. We too need education as inspired by Greek and Roman classical ideals, as well as education for the girl child, women and gender parity in education and jobs.

We live in a knowledge economy. IT revolution has changed our education, learning and work styles. We can now work from home; work from any part of the world and so life has become to a large extent easy and pleasant.

That is the gain of modern education, modern civilization and modern lifestyles. There is a need and there is so much to think creatively and live purposeful lives more abundantly than what we possible in the last generaiton, right?

Lalu Prasad Yadav Rally in Patna
On August 27 in Patna!

LaluLalu Yadav,  the  Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, Lalu Prasad Yadav, the major Opposition leader has called for a rally of major Opposition parties has called for a united  rally, called  BJP Bhagao Desh Bachaoa on August 27 in Patna to oppose some of the raids ordered by the Central government against   the Opposition parties and leaders.

In recent past some of the high profile raids by the Income Tax Department against Lalu family members, also against the Congress leader, P.Chidambaram’s son, Karti Chidambaram and also against some of the Trinamool Congress party.

Nothing wrong for a government department, more so the Income Tax Dept to do its routine duty of raids to unearth hidden wealth or non-payment of tax and other allege3d offence of money laundering etc.

Now, given the current texture of the government functioning, given the Modi government’s successive State Assembly elections, there is a sort of roughness, so to say, in the way the government is going about in dealing with some issues. The Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, so too the former Haryana CM in his concessions given to the land deals of Mr. Robert Vadera, son in law of Sonia Gandhi and also in some other issues like Kejriwal’s current troubles, there is a distinct feeling that Modi is rattled by the new unity talks in putting up a combined candidate in the forthcoming Presidential elections.
There is also a distinct feeling that the Prime Minister is also uncomfortable even if the Opposition parties manage to show some unity and puts up a respectable fight.

There are all indications that given the current political formations, that the Opposition parties might get some modest strength in opposing the BJP allies’ candidate.
The most crucial issue now in the Indian polity, in our opinion, is the shape of the polity.
India is a democracy and in a democracy, it is as important as the ruling party, the role of the Opposition party and Opposition unity.

In India, as politics evolved in Independent India, the domination of the Congress party, first under Pandit Nehru, then under Indira Gandhi, there has come a feeling that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is born to rule the country for years to come.

This endangered feeling was cut short in the 2014 general elections which put an end to any such perception and now there is a new party, the BJP, with an absolute majority.
Now, the very important point here is not about the right and wrong of the raids on Opposition parties.

Their alleged misdeeds. Now, it is very important to look into some of the weighty points. Certain ideological and doctrinaire issues too. India is a democracy and a very large democracy and a rather new political and social order.

After Pandit Nehru, there has not been much of a deeper debate. Nehru too was more affected by the then Soviet Russia and its Socialism. Nehru never used the word Communism. But he adhered to Democracy and a Republican Constitution.

Harold J.Laski
Now, there is before me a book by Harold J.Laski, it is called, “The State in Theory and Practice”. (Allen and Unwin, 1935, Seventh impression, 1960)Laski was perhaps the brainiest political theorist of Nehru’s generation. I was particularly drawn by his theories from an early age, when I was a junior student at a College in Chennai. My i9nvolvement grew over the years and by the time I went to Oxford Laski was dead and yet I continued to study Laski and I have in my library almost all the books written by Laski. I also read the biographies written by a few, one was by Kingsley Marti, the then editor of the New Statesman weekly.

Now, in this book before me, Laski asks some hard question as to the power and justification of the State. We in India know very little, our politicians are plai9n illiterates when it comes to a State’s philosophy.

Now, as Laski says we instinctively obey the State. This is human character. Then, thinkers from Plato onwards asked questions as to the morality of the State. Plato denied the rule of the stronger as justice. What does that mean? The State must have some higher justification, to protect and safeguard the rights of the citizens.
In a constitutional government which is what we have in India, there must be rule of law and there must also be the role of Opposition parties!

This is, currently, under debate. How far the ruling party can intrude into the workings of the Opposition parties and its leaders. Right now, on the everyday or thereafter, the Secretary of the Coal Department was jailed for corruption. On the relevant dates the Minister for Coal was none other than the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh!
Now, how far the political head of the dept responsible and how far the officials responsible in committing the alleged corruption?

So, the ruling party has a duty to prove that the Opposition party leaders are committing corruption while the officials are unquestioned.

The point here is that in the present case, the Opposition has some right to question the political vendetta!

Now the media is pro-active and so the damage done to the reputation and credibility of the Opposition is quite considerable.

The Opposition parties in India are now a divided house. So, they have certain disadvantages to unite and stand up.

It is time the Congress, very weak and leaderless has to go slow. It has to concede ground to the ones that has some dynamism and energy to fight. That is now only with Lalu Prasad Yadav.

He can be projected to articulate the Opposition case. Nitish Kumar with a clean face can be projected as the alternative Prime Minister.

You see, politics is the art of the possible sometimes. That time is now here. So, Opposition leaders must shed their egos and come together with a certain clear articulation of principles, philosophy and an ideology.

But the ministers, policy makers turn it into a consumer product

The rest of the crowd, the private sector educators and the money-minting machines turn it into a fast moving consumer goods sector!

chairmanIs this all about education we have got to say? You see we are at this sector, at this journal for the past half a century. But we are not called a brand, or an icon or a legend! We would have called ourselves so if only we too played the marketing game, right?

But education is after all something above all these petty and narrow considerations. Education, we believe and it is actually so through all the historic periods, is all about man’s imaginations, aspirations and search for some certainties only through education and speculation and daring to predict the future forever! Education, to quote another famous line, is a search for beauty in all its simplicity!

Man has evolved through the history by this constant search and unceasing quest and we see where we have come all through these processes. That is education, please all stakeholders, understand and concede to some of these eternal verities!

Now, we read that the HRD minister, the hon’ble Jawdekar has a quota to allot seats in the Kendriya Vidyalayas under the HRD control. Is this news, we ask. Yet this is reality on the ground. The HRD minister this year has allotted 6,500 admission requests, commands that we all know would be obeyed instantly! His quota is only 450 but he has exceeded owing to pressures. His predecessor did the same. So, this continues, this process of recommending admissions to some of the low-fee high quality secondary education! But as a HRD minister he has an obligation to the larger society.

Education in India, right now, is not in the best of health. We don’t know, there is no way to know it, whether the Prime Minister knows what is the state of education. Education in a society like ours is a highly exploited subject. Society being what it is, an unequal and inequitable society has to have some long-term perspective.

Given the stage at which we find ourselves as a free country, we have to go a long way ahead. We have to fight for justice, social justice and an enlightened society; we have to debate, articulate what sort of an enlightened society and a civilization we aspire to. The class structure in the country is such that we have to reach out to a better integration of the various classes. Then, there is the caste society, that too the Hindutva conception of the Hindu society as it is, we have to weaken the hold of the entrenched caste system. There were just some nine or so castes, we are told in the beginning. But today the castes are getting  split into new castes and sub castes and we do practice still a caste based politics, right? Or wrong?
So, politicians, given their mental horizon would only play for consolidation of the castes only.

So, we as thinkers and leaders should have a moral duty, commitment to see that at least in our education system, as we are able to have now, no undue advantage is taken by the middle classes that are now becoming more and more prone to corruption, corrupt practices to get admissions to other consumer goods and services. So, the middle class driven quotas and reservations and the quotas in the KVs must be resisted. The education minister must set a good precedent to resist this temptation to corrupt our education system.

Once you resolve to resist this temptation then other good things would come about.  The secondary schools in the states, mostly run by the state governments are in dire need of up gradation. So, the government schools where the poor go, would get justice in terms of any new facilities. Use the IT tools to impart quality education in the government schools.

Just now we read that the SSLC results in government schools show very varying standards.
Where the poorest results come through the governments must introduce only the latest technologies in imparting quality instructions. Some balancing of government policies in terms of allocation of funds to introduction of IT tools must be the high priority. The HRD must bring some of the tools, like corporate social responsibility into the government schools sector in the most neglected regions, say in the tribal belts or backward regions.

The HRD ministry news must be about the big picture, not about the nitty-gritty of pandering to the petty demands like admissions to schools. We know from our personal sources that even the other Cabinet Ministers, why even the PMO sometimes come into the prestigious secondary school domains.

Public schools are another area where we have to concentrate. These schools are supposed to to produce leaders, of society and polity! Now, they too produce only clerks and other jobs seekers category only. A great pity, indeed!

Indian democracy? Towards transparency, accountability and ensuring citizen’s  freedoms?
What is Modi’s new talk of New India?
Can Indian democracy succeed without fighting corruption and black money menace?

Mr.Modi after the series of victories in the Assembly elections seemed to have changed his goals too. He was till now, that is, in his first two years was promising many things. Many pet schemes. Swatch Bharat etc. Now, suddenly he started talking of New India.

Also, after the third meeting of the Niti Ayog meeting with all the chief ministers in attendance, the Prime Minister started talking about his three year action plan, seven year development plan and fifteen year vision plan!

Even the traditional jargon had been dropped and new words and phrases had come in. Is this enlightening? What the assembled Chief Ministers had told in the meet? No information, no news. What sort of transparent governance is this? This is very unsatisfactory.

Also, suddenly, the Supreme Court had ordered to create the Lokpal, the top anti-corruption institution that is hanging fire for a very long time. (Add from the previous writing). It is unlikely that this would be complied with.

It is time India brings about  proper political reforms to ensure that the Parliamentary system adheres to the British model of the two party systems. Two major parties, the ruling and the Opposition party and the rights and privileges of the Opposition party’s functioning. Now, there is a certain distortion.

The ruling party with an overwhelming majority with a strong-minded Prime Minister tries to dominate and over-ride the checks and balances and tries to drown the voice of the opposition in many ways.

And if this comes at a time when the leader of the opposition, not the formal front faced but the real power concentrated, as it is, at the hands of a dynastic member like Rahul Gandhi and when Rahul Gandhi is perceived to be weak and temperamental and highly arbitrary, then, the parliamentary system falters. Why, now even in the media, on TV screens there are open debates about sidelining Rahul Gandhi and bringing to the centre stage either Mamata Bannerjee or Nitish Kumar as the new face of Opposition unity. Whether this would work or Mr.Modi might find new ways to scuttle the opposition unity?

This is the big question. As it is proved right now in India there are still discordant voices in the ruling combine as well as in the opposition ranks.

India has a legitimate role as a leading democracy of the parliamentary type in the world outside UK. Even in the USA there is no such clear demarcation of the roles of the ruling and Opposition party.

Or, the various coalitions, we find in the UK. There is the Liberal Democratic Party in the UK with a long history and pedigree of liberalist political tradition. In India, we had had some Left socialist parties in the beginning of our Republic. But now, they have gone and in their places are the very many regional parties, many smaller, splinter parties like JD(U) and JD(S) besides the left-over other small outfits, including the two Communist parties.

The Indian polity is also highly polarised after the emergence of the BJP. But our religious communalism is very different to the Islamic communalism, the extremist, violent and terrorist parties and groups. The point here is that while democracy is spreading everywhere, the spelling out of the basic core values of democratic practices are not yet fully made clear.

In fact, in our time, there are not enough clarity, no theoreticians have emerged or high profile critics have come forward to clearly define what are the next critical steps to deal with this worldwide crisis in the democratic systems and practices.

Russian democracy in crisis.
In Russia Mr. Vladimir Putin, the incumbent president is perceived to be authoritarian, war monger and also using intelligence to interfere with other democracies, in the USA, now in Turkey and even in France.

In India itself we see these various distortions making democracy and an open society highly corrupt, so many criminal cases pending before a delayed judicial system and also the media curbed and subtly terrorised and of course much false propaganda and brainwashing also noticed.

In  Russia, for instance, we see the suppression of democracy in a more brazen manner.
The Russian Opposition leader ,Alexei Navalny,(put Navalny picture here)who conducted some popular protests in Moscow and elsewhere, where his protests drew big crowds, he was arrested and handcuffed and his hand tied to the policeman guarding him in the court was highly publicised abroad and had earned Vladimir  really bad name!

So, this type of democratic government  can be also a big power in international arena.
There is no Opposition party in Russia, recognised in the constitution, we believe.

17 years as president?
blogVladimir Putin is in power for 17 years. Putin also changed his roles, first as president, then as prime Minister and then again reverted to President Office! But then Russian democracy is  hugely corrupt.

Only now, it seems the Russians are taking to the streets, to protest against corruption, the Opposition leader had faced three criminal trials in the past  six years. Charges for what? For organising protests! The Putin is criticised for spreading intrigue  abroad and not facing challenges at home.

There was an online video by Mr.Navalny accusing the number Two, Dimitry Medvedev, prime minister and one of Mr.Putin’s most loyal lieutenants, of a huge scheme of corruption that allegedly brought him to own large luxury estates and vineyeards.

There is a tradition of suppression of political rights of citizens. Even before the 1917 Communist Revolution. Even in the pre-revolutionary Tsarist Russia. There even now, the Russian citizens are also a bit politically apathetic. May be the authoritarianism practised under Putin.

72 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 voted for the Russian military occupation of Crimea in 2914.Russia is not bothered about the world opinion on this blatant military  adventure. Are the Indian citizens politically more awakened than the Russian citizens? Better, we study this question in India.

Leading political parties in India must set up research wings  and study a comparative party systems and politics in some of the big nations, say, Russia, USA and China?
There will be many useful lessons for us.

So this is not a democracy as we know it. In India also we see many distortions. The Congress party, the historic party that won political freedom in the last 70 odd years, had progressively deteriorated  into a third rate family dynasty.

Sonia Gandhi’s incompetency is coming out, as she tries to hold her supporters together. Almost every day, some senior leader is deserting her or being “sacked”! What a leadership  she is displaying?

The ruling BJP  is becoming more and more aggressive and trying to consolidate its power of the party and government in many novel ways. The Opposition, especially, the Congress is being marginalised by several forces, a series of electoral defeats, the new corruption scandals linking Vadra and Gandhi family. Also, other senior leaders of the Congress are also drawn into the corruption scenario, thus making the attempt to forge Opposition unity impossible. As commentators have noted that Mr.Modi might find Rahul Gandhi, to retain him as long as possible, is the best bet for him to remain  as the only alternative before India.

Times are ominous. Indian democracy’s biggest challenges are here, right now!

Note: Excerpts from a forthcoming autobiography of Mr.V.Isvarmurti, M.A.Visva Bharati) M.A.(Oxon) former Member, Madras Legislative Council, formerly of the AICC, 1962-1967. Worked with Kamaraj, Atulya Ghosh, Sadiq Ali and others.