Public perceptions and the public opinion!

The Prime Minister completes four years in office. The Prime Minister’s office (the PMO) is perhaps

narendra-modithe most powerful political office under our Constitution. Our laws are also very different from those of the US government and the US Constitutional practices. See there the role of the law officers. Can we have such powerful law officers? We can’t. Also, only now we have a very different sort of political change. After almost 70 long years we have elected an Opposition party into a ruling party. So, too the very ideology of the BJP party if very radical in the sense it has no history before some thirty or forty years ago.

Our very ideological thinking for long was derived from the British Constitutional history and the two party system of Britain. Also, we have the judicial system. Also, the very Constitutional principles and practices.

It is unfortunate that in the last twenty or more days of our last Parliament session  we have completely lost our Constitutional balance or went off track and we find, to the surprise and shock of the enlightened sections of public opinion  that our elected representatives failed the people. This is for the first time, it seems. We don’t know for sure what the future holds for us.

The public perception is that our MLAS and MPs, our elected representatives in general seem to become a section of selfish men and women, much like perhaps the rest of the society, one that is cringing for more salaries and no intent to work dedicated manner  to make people realise they are  for the  service of the people. None of the Parliamentary questions were answered, the House was disrupted continuously, and we all know who the disruptors are and who are the triggers of such disruptions to hold the House to ransom.

Of course, there are many more serious issues, many issues can’t be discussed freely for the simple reason the atmosphere in country is no conducive for freer debate.

The media is fearful of the authority. The judiciary is in some distress as people see from a distance.

Is this a very positive situation? We don’t know for sure.
What the future holds for the country, for our democracy and for much of the high institutions that are all seem to be in some confusion.

Of course, the ruling party has much role to play in the days to come.

So too the top leaders of the ruling party. No less is the responsibility of the Opposition party and parties.
The most seniors among the Opposition parties have a special role.

The state level leaders also have much responsibility.
The country looks to such veterans like Chandrababu Naidu, Deve Gowda and others to play some pro-active and pro-democracy role.
Democracy can easily derail and we might be caught in some unpredictable course.

There are many warnings from the past.
There are some distressing histories.

A.J.P.Taylor, the famous Oxford historian, an authority on the two world wars had shown how even such extremes like Hitler’s rise and also Lenin’s capture of power took place under extremely well-established democratic governments! This is not the place for further elaboration on the historic situations.

Surely, our current leaders, on both sides of the political spectrum, we say with a heavy heart and a heavy sense of personal responsibility, are playing with fire and with, if we can say so, a sense of not fully understanding the grave issues.

In politics, more so than in any other sphere, it is very risky to predict the future. So, we would urge all concerned to realise what is at stake now.

There is a sense of widespread disappointment and pessimism of sorts.

We urge everyone to show restrain in speech and acts.

So, the problems of farmers and villages  continue to suffer

We are glad to see the Prime Minister’s visit to the Left-Wing  Extremists-affected Chhattisgarh  districts is very inspiring and timely. Why not the much talked about technology-enabled schemes, the rural BPO programmes take off in such remote villages?

Very fine. We congratulate the PM and ask for such progressive programmes reach out to other states and remote villages. The Bastar Internet scheme under which a 40,000-km network of fibre optic cables would be spread across seven districts of the tribal region.

EMS Namboodiripad

EMS Namboodiripad

Likewise, we also want the agri/rural sector needs some radical changes and reforms in many areas of legislative changes.
In this issue itself we have featured the latest legislative programme, a model land leasing programme prepared by the Government’s NITI AAYOG is featured. This is for the wider public understanding of the issue that lies at the very heart of the current agriculture distress and the tragedy of large scale farmers’ suicides and the many related issues.

Land ownership issue is very old and persisting.  The various land reforms legislations in different states are also featured and we will carry the same in the coming issues.

The publishers of this magazine live at the interstate border of TN and Kerala and in these states the land legislations saw extreme swings, under the Communist regime of EMS Namboodiripad and also in TN under the Dravidian extremisms.

They net result, as on today in both these states is that agriculture sector is one of extreme poverty and zero investment.
Everyone knows, more so the current politicians too that that to own and old on to agriculture landed property is a curse!

The average Indian farmer, often the marginal and small category, is a debtor or a litigant or both!

No wise person would invest in agriculture and the present land holdings are fast turned into real estate and the result is  more smaller parcels of land you can see everywhere on the outskirts of the towns. This true in Karnataka too. This must be the same in Noida and the outskirts too!

So, when the Prime Minister says he would double the frames incomes it sound so hallow and unconvincing for all who know the subject.

Like all slogans and catch phrases, this too sounds like Indira Gandhi’s ‘quite poverty’ slogan!

This will never be possible unless we realise that the current very regressive land tenancy and ceiling legislations are e relaxed as set out in the government’s own NITI Aayog proposals.
But then the question is who, whose government would do this sort of radical and progressive legislation?

This is progressive legislation and we all must realise this.
The agriculture media that is non-existent today must be encouraged by the government and the corporate sector so that more publicity and awareness is created.

We have persisted in this mission for very long. A correspondent from Agri writes that while the agricultural publications are all suffering from financial troubles how we at the Vadamalai Media survive! A good question and we are thankful for such wider awareness as to how difficult it is for good news or good word to spread than fake news and what has you. Fake news might suit the Trump regime in the USA. Not here! This is our view.

We hope radical legislative changes are made in our existing laws, some of which are old and British colonial mindset must also change.

Let us relax our land legislations, let new generation of youngsters, young entrepreneurs come forward to invest, work and live in the rural environment so that much of the priority development goals like  sustainable growth and development, inspirational district programmes, the PM is speaking about become a reality sooner than later!

New technologies, new mindsets and new and open-minded programmes only can save rural India and our much distress farmers. Jai Hind!

The SC/ST Act and the many land legislation acts too fall in this category.

BR AmbedkarIndian is known for a country with very many outdated legislation from the British era. In the Independent India too we have enacted some legislation in the time of many in justices and inequities in fast changing socio-economic times. Times have changed. But not the mindsets of politicians and other vested interests.

It is only right when you really want to create a liberal and open society you have to relax the earlier rigour and restrictive practices. The recent Supreme Court observation on how we treat inmates of jails like animals. In the 1,300 prisons across India over-crowding of unfortunate prisoners are dumped, overcrowding is well above 150%, in one prison it is as high as 609%!

So, irrespective of vested interests within the society, why even in the excising political parties, we have to progressively allow the natural justice a due role and a rational debate in place too.

And the changed rural socio-economic realities!
The political environment seems to be becoming more and more distorted. Parliament does not function for over 20 days in a stretch.

The budget and finance bill are passed without any debate!

The most powerful department of the government, namely, the Finance Ministry, is in the news for all the wrong reasons. The big scandals in the PSU banks, the role of the Reserve Bank of India and the latest the fake news order where the PM seeme3d to have acted faster, are all making headlines but not much comment or light from  the sections of public perceptions and public opinion-making institutions. The media is under fear and insecurity and at the same time there is widespread fear and a sense of confusion in the ranks of the public.

The ruling and the Opposition parties are almost not on speaking terms. The AP Chief Minister was in the capital and at the Central Hall of Parliament, the PM and the CM walked past without greeting each other!

Where is the country heading?
These are some uncomfortable questions.

As a media mainly concerned with the rural issues and much else we are very much engaged in the very same dialogues about the current issues of SC/SC (atrocities prevention Acts) and also at the same time we are equally committed to see that the rural development issues are not very different from what the SC/AT Acts and the various states-level agricultural land reforms acts. The land tenancy protection and also land ceiling acts are also about what developments take place or more correctly what land related acts impede agricultural prosperity under the existing land legislations.

Now, the Dalits constitute very powerful vote-banks and as such no political debate is possible without taking into account the newly awakened Dalit voices.

In all the states, the regional political parties have some at least exclusively committed to the Dalit voter population.
Some parties are purely casteist outfits and some of their political activities   are outspokenly, sometime, violent and leading to many undesirable methods and ends.

We have to restrain from stating many of the obvious news, sometimes sensational and many times, they, the Dalit vote banks, make for breakthrough news on the various TV news channels. Yes, there are any number of atrocities against the oppressed sections of the bottom end of the population and yet, there are also cases where we read that some of the members of these very exploited sections are also detained under the Goondas Act where there is no bail and so too there is this counter response in the current SC/ST Act where there is no provision for anticipatory bail for the alleged exploiters.

You see these are all very sensitive issues and the current violence that saw the death of some 11 and more people speaks volumes about the sensitivities involved in this very important segment of the people.

We  are also concerned here the exploitation of the poor farmers who under the current oppressive and exploitative legislations, widespread corruption that govern farmers’ lives that the old tenancy and ceiling laws are also leading to tension and the  farmers suicides are also related to the oppressive land legislation provisions.

Farmers, as we often say in these columns, are first a debtor and second a litigant and finally an expendable commodity when it comes to the administrative solutions that are sought to be used to settle the rural distress issues.

Dalits are the large number that are still engaged as labour in the farming activities. How far the Dalits have prospered, benefitted by the various rural development welfare schemes of the governments, both the State and the Central governments?
This is an again a ticklish issue.

So, too the Dalits as a vote bank! Another equally ticklish issue!

The winning of elections is now paramount for the various parties and the caste politics is tied up with the Dalit welfare policies.

The Prime Minister in his latest response to the Dalit protests over the SC Order alluded that the government had done the maximum honour to BR Ambedkar. But it is only pertinent to point out here that the public perception and public opinion today seems to be veering around to see the ruling party as high-caste oriented and as such anti-Dalit, right?

We are not sure how far the mainstream media is treating these otherwise non-glamorous segments of society. The mainstream media, we mean the print and the TV media are only after the sensational events, like violence and deaths and for all practical purposes, the visual media is almost tabloid and there is no way to reform and re-orient the media. Now, the fake news controversy and the PM’s direct intervention to rescind the Information Minister’s order and give some sort of a seeming autonomy is to be seen how the new order plays out.
Violence, communal and caste violence are also increasing, we have to admit.

Of course it is not one man or one institution is alone responsible for the communal and caste violence.

We need wider discussion and also expert opinion how to reform the polity and society towards a more open approach, a more  objective approach towards a more peaceful  and accommodative way.

As for the rural distress, we have to also note the latest socio-economic realities in the rural areas.

Just now, we read in the Karnataka media that in the Assembly elections, the incumbent Chief Minister Mr.Siddaramiah is contesting in a Mysore rural constituency.

The media reports that the adjoining villages on the outskirts of Mysore city, the agricultural lands   are all sold out to real estate companies and the lands are parcelled out into house plots.

There is also migration of people from outside, belong to newer castes and communities and as such the traditional castes are also  disturbed and distributed and election outcomes, the media reports indicate, might not be on the traditional concentration of castes.

The dominant communities are no more intact and so too the distribution of other castes, including the Dalits.
These are the newer rural socio-economic realities.

In this changed or fast changing times, village farmers too, that too small and marginal farmers are no more do farming as the old land and tenancy legislation assumed.

The tenancy and other land reform laws are now inhibiting farming and the farmers are in big debts, litigation and to own agricultural land today is becoming a great liability! Land ownership is no more so prestigious as was assumed by land reformers.

So too our scepticism about the Modi government’s claim they would double the farmers’ incomes in the next five years!
How is that possible, given the current rural realities?
The PM might be well-intentioned. But how do we know about his grip on the rural India?

We find that in Gujarat, in the interior areas, humans are used as cattle to pull the ploughs!

Is it any indication that farming is modernised, as we find in some advanced states? Even in TN, in remote locations, there is opposition to the use of farm mechanisation to harvest such crops like paddy.

There is also a great deal of interstate migration of labour.IN TN there is much migration, from Assam and North East.
There is a need for much relaxation of land laws to make farming viable.

Also, reforms in agricultural education and training. Most agri universities are cut off from what they are doing!

Now every political party, the major and regional ones, every political leader, from the top to the lower-down segment., talks of these issues not in an objective, empirical manner but try to browbeat the opponents with their own tall claims to promote the Dalits, as people, more the Dalit icons, from Ambedkar to the other ones like Babu Jagjivanram.

We are sorry we don’t have enough facts but we can only observe that in all cases of Dalit leaders and their parties or groups, it is the very same socio-economic and cultural prototypes operate. Dynastic politics too permeate in these sections also.
Also, in the accumulation of wealth and seeking funding for their parties, the same habits, the same mindset, resort to illegalities in  seeking funding for their parties, the same ailments, the parties, with no  distinction for the social  and economic class and status.

Parties when they come to operating in a secular democracy like that of India’s  every political party, the Dalits too  are today feel emboldened and  also empowered to call the shots, so to say, like all other parties and their agendas.

The Golden Age of Greece!
Some contemporary parallels!

Near Parthenon

Near Parthenon

As I finished this column, a thought flashed through mind like a lightning! It was Tagore, Gandhi and even Pandit Nehru and such great Indian leaders, as far as we can see, didn’t travel through Greece and Rome or studied or quoted from these two great civilisations, right? India as an independent country has much to learn and draw lessons for its very many new policies, education, culture and else. Greece has no parallel in these areas to teach the world. But this generation has much to learn from the past histories and draw lessons for the current times.

Greece gave the world democracy, citizen’s freedoms and liberty, ideas of republic and rule of law, besides much else. One Pericles speech is enough for the entire world, even for today in the fields of education, philosophy, logic, sports etc. Also in art and culture we can find much enduring values and beauty. Here is a brief account, though there is much else to study and learn lessons for our times.

Greek history is very long and in each age it impacted the world in some deep ways. First, the geography! If you look at the atlas you will see Greece is located at the end of the European geography, at the bottom of the Southern Europe, just below Yugoslavia. In fact, there was time when visitors to Greece used to take journeys overland. This has now become out of tune with the modern airlines competing for new air routes.

We travelled to Greece by the Gulf airline- Qatar airways. It took four hours to land in Doha, the Qatar capital, the most prosperous oil kingdom in the Gulf today. And after a small wait we caught another airline of the same company, the Qatar Airlines and reached Athens in another four hours. It was such a joy to travel by the latest aircraft A 320 class of the same airline. Once landed in Athens we caught the taxi – Mercedes Benz, a gift from perhaps the German -a part of the foreign aid that had lifted the debt-ridden economy from collapse. Once we reached the city, the driver of the taxi pointed out at a distance and said:”See the famous Acropolis and the Parthenon blazing already in the evening daylight and that was soon to be further lighted by the artistic way in which the entire city of Athens in night keeps the world-famous heritage sites in such splendorous brightness.

Once you are in Athens the Acropolis, the one historic hill never is far from you. Where ever you turn, your eyes are likely to be caught by this historic monument. In fact, the next morning, we planned to stay in Athens for some 10 days and so we were planned to see each and every notable monument. Our hotel, Melia, was situated not far from the Acropolis site and so the next day we started to walk towards the hill. We didn’t realize that the road we walked was in fact the modern road that was laid on the ancient sites. So, at some places they have left the old sites covered with a glass roof and so we can see down our feet that old sites, the walls and other structures covered with glass roofs. Very soon we reached the hill site and the road was rising as we walked and soon we were left with no further path and so we sat on a stone bench.

I told my granddaughter to touch the soil telling her that she was now on the sacred ground of a great civilization where such venerable figures like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle walked. On the first day in fact, we didn’t realize that the spot where Socrates actually lived and walked was not very far from us! In fact, we were now sitting on the outer walls of the Roman Agora. Agora in Greek means the public place where the city people gathered to transact business and spend time and conduct their government. Next to the Roman Agora was the Ancient Agro where Socrates lived. This was the first market place and this space needs to be written in much more detail and devotion.

It was sacred soil for me and as such I was emotionally agitated greatly touched by the historic moment and the historic points. Now, Athens history! Let us leave details. Athens became a powerful country only in the BC after finally defeating the powerful Persian Empire in 480 BC. Athens was first a confederacy with its headquarters in the island of Delos, far from Athens. It was in 461 BC, the treasury was transferred to Athens and then under the rule of Pericles from 461 BC to 429 BC Athens emerged as the most powerful and also the most artistic city in the world. Though Athens had this gift, it was militarily defeated by Sparta.

Sir infront of Athens Uni statues Plato n Socrates

Sir infront of Athens Uni statues Plato n Socrates

Sparta and Athens are studies in contrast, the school of the Spartan people gave to the world the concept of public schools which Plato advocated and yet in Athens is not practiced. Most of the monuments on the Acropolis mountain date from the period of Pericles. Pericles is another notable figure from the ancient Greece, and he gave a great speech after the defeat of the Athenian people at the hands of Spartans in the famed or ill-fated Peloponnesian Wars that lasted from 431 BC to 404 BC. The history of the War was written in a style that is still read in all public schools. The book was written in Greek by Thucydides.

Athens was an independent kingdom and an empire. But in 338 BC it was conquered by Philip II of Macedon and his son, the famous Alexander the Great favoured Athens over other city states.
In 186 BC the Romans defeated the Macedonians and Athens became a province of Roman empire and the Roman rule of Greece lasted to an unbroken period of three centuries. But Romans became very much impacted by the Athenian culture and though Romans took away the sculptures to Rome the Roman aristocratic class sent their sons to Greece for learning Greek philosophy, law and sports etc. Hellas, the way the ancient Greeks were called became an intellectual, cultural and political students of Greek institutions.

Ancient Greece had many glories but not the modern day history. Roman empire lasted some 2,000 years. That was also a remarkable history. Rome learnt many things from Greece. Of course not their political ideas and ideals of democracy. But the Roman Republic is also an evolution of the Greek ideals of government. There were slaves in large number in Greece and Rome. Citizenship is another concept we learnt only from Greece and Rome. For any modern day visitor to Greece and Rome, the ancient agora and in Rome the Roman Forum are physical monuments that inspires us to stand and reflect and ponder over for a long time to how man had lived and evolved into a modern and civilized citizen of the world! It was the Roman emperor; Justinian who closed the philosophy in AD 529.Then was a period of decline. Every country of any consequence tried to occupy the Greek people and in this Britain was not alone!

Parthenon
The most famous monument is of course the incomparable Parthenon. They charge every adult an entry fee of 12 Euros. Its monuments and sanctuaries are built in a special marble stone, called Pentelic marble, quarried from a special mountain outside Athens some few miles away. The Pentelic marble stone of such huge proportions must have been quarried by some huge effort and how they transported in the BC? The Parthenon marble structure, so huge and so artistic, gleam white in the midday sun and gradually as the sun fades, the stones assume a honey hue while at night the lights are on and brilliantly illuminate the whole night!

As the travel guide writes “a glimpse of this magnificent sight can’t fail to exalt your spirit. Yes, it is so right; this goes and man-jointly created artistic achievement. It’s hard to believe that such a grand monument was created in such an ancient time and all through the 2500 years the monument glowed and also faced so many assaults by invaders and ignoramuses.

Pericles-OrationThere are other two equally beautiful structures, temples to five beautiful maidens, called Caryatids, the maidens holding their falling saris is so beautifully carved as if they were not carved in stones! They, the beautiful maidens seem to be so alive! So natural, so beautiful and so incomparable all through the years afterwards. What we see on the mountain today are not the originals. The originals are now displayed in the Acropolis museum. Also one on those was transported by Lord Irwin to the British museum. These marble maidens were created in 415 BC. Can we believe the dates? Yes, they are so ancient and yet so modern! The mountain part is planted by Olive trees and Greece is a country of vast Olive tree cultivation and olive oil extraction. Olive oil export is a great Greek export industry.

Much has been written about the unique artistic aspects of the Parthenon’s columns and the foundations. Convex and concave carving is said to make the Parthenon structure very unique in the history of art. Readers can read so many detailed writings and they must at least once in their lifetime to fulfill their own quest for knowledge and wisdom! Also, the names of the sculptors who carved these columns and the pediments, most of which have been now removed and displayed in a latest Acropolis Museum. This museum is worth roaming about and once you come out you are a different sort of a refined person, indeed!

There are modern cafeterias and also places to sit and look around the Acropolis hill and the walls that surround the old hill. It was a great day for us to have spent such a long and learning experience, a full day is worth spending in such surroundings.

Any link?
Are we lacking in culture and good behaviour in public? In our governance sphere?

Are protocols for the people or for bureaucratic bungling? See how the film awards are distributed!

Ram Nath Kovind

Ram Nath Kovind

The controversy over the President’s film awards! Why are these mismatches over the protocol in ensuring all get the awards from the hands of the President? Should media follow some etiquette and manners?

Many media outlets, print and electronic reported the controversy in not an elegant manner. We seem to be becoming a not evolving cultured society but a sort of a shameful one. See the amount of time spent on debates on such damaging stories on rape, violence and many other irrelevances. Cricket reporting is big business and so much money and energy is wasted. We leave it to experts to debate our distorted set of media priorities.

Yes, we as a nation are film crazy people. But as the Oscar Award winner Resul Pookutty said as to why the  national film  awards this year got into a controversy because the President denied the one minute glory to the rest of the technicians and others to get the award from the hands of the President citing lack of time! It was very much resented by the film industry.

The talents in culture needs to be nurtured and  fostered and the cine artistes, not just the glamorous faces of actors and actresses by the men and women behind the cameras, the technicians, one like the Oscar winning Resul Pookutty, who had come out with a scathing attack. Cultures is such a vast impactful area and let us not repeat this practice of following the wooden rules of protocol but display some creativity and originality and win over the most vital springs of culture and decency. Are we improving or the reverse is happening? It doesn’t cost much to ask some questions, right? The many freedoms we take for granted like freedom of speech, writing and expression, in fact are not the freedoms we forget to be used and practiced in our everyday life.

The global media watchdog, Reporters without frontiers(RSF) has put India at the 138th country out of 180 countries. Anybody has spoken about this shameful state of affairs, asks one Newspaper editorial(Deccan Herald).While we write  these lines there is almost non-stop electioneering in Karnataka where the Prime Minister, Rahul Gandhi and even the former Prime Minister Deve Gowda are fighting for a place in the sun, so to say. But none of the top leaders had commented, let alone press freedoms but also other events, local and international.

So, India as a country and a society and more so as the world’s biggest democratic state, has simply come down to street fight for a few states to form the state government. And what spectacle we see? The much controversial persons, the Reddy brothers for instance share the dais with the PM who promises to clean  the society and polity.

But the language we use to clean up the system is far from a language of freedom and culture and refinement. How do we hope to serve the country in this fashion?

It is very distressing that even the minor courtesies, even minor protocols and ways of doing the business of the government seem to be uplifting for the common citizens. Which ministry must be worried over the deterioration of standards? Obviously, there is the ministry for information and broadcasting. Why we seem to be still struggling to fix things up like giving India a public broadcasting system on the lines of the BBC?

Everything can’t be done with a profit in mind. Indian TV news channels industry is exploding, if that is the right word. You have to evolve a culture of governance. Do propagate the government schemes but do it in a non-partisan way. So too honouring the artists and intellectuals. The National Film Awards ceremony was held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan but done in a clumsy manner.

The President’s protocol doesn’t give  the President more than one hour so he skipped midway, it seems;  the awards were then presented by the controversial Smriti Irani. Of course, she did in some style. But let us realize even the very strict protocol has to be further practiced so that everyone concerned feels uplifted.  Indian TV news industry is neither a cultural experience or has any other educational or other values. The news that the President’s event to distribute the national awards for the 68 film industry personalities was boycotted by these artists is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in such a national perspective.

It looks from what we see on the TV screens that the industry seems to be booming. More channels are joining  the channel waves and this in an ideal scene must be much more enriching our viewer pleasure and must be creating a more elevated sense of purpose and leisure content. But alas! We see the reverse. The same old tired  face or faces from some ageing actors projected as the brand ambassadors. Are not people a bit tired of seeing the same face every day and also in every other ad? And , oh, the cricketing fraternity and the gambling  instinct turning the cricket game also into a high stake  gambling.

In Bangalore for instance,  the other day or why for a few days the very Chinnaswamy stadium was packed with long queues, most  of the fans, why the every crowd is from youngsters with very few signs of any sort of formal education or even the knowledge about who were the stars, Indian or foreign and yet the stadium was overflowing. And to cap it all, the very owners, the BCCI is having a stiff fight with the authorities about democratic or transparent administration.

And for the quality of TV news culture or other forms of entertainment, the less said the better. There is now in the media space, all sorts of uncomfortable news or scenes and sights are aired. And, what is really galling is the sort of India, the Indian society and events that are highlighted. All news are news breakthroughs.

So much noise, so much cruelty or cruelties in society, the violence, the accidents, the rape stories make us, we believe, to see ourselves as a sick society. A society which has no order and restraint and we see the new generation leaders, of course we mean the political leaders holding forth on some very funny topics, from science and technology in Ramayana and Mahabharata and also opinions on Charles Darwin and other luminaries who according to these lightweights  were right or wrong  depending upon how they are brought to link with the puranas and ithihasas!