Just now we read that one Indian, that too a civil servant, Arvind Kejriwal, had been awarded the prestigious Magsaysay award for community leadership, for fighting for the Right to Information Act. To fight corruption in India is not a joke anymore, as everyday we witness the growth of corruption. Not a day passes in India without reading about corruption where the big fish brazenly makes merry.
One more latest news that made headlines for some days on the TV channels is the taking of hefty bribes for admissions into the Delhi’s prestigious public schools, the schools were even named ,the Delhi Public School, Mathura Road came in for some exposure and the Principal caught on the hidden camera conversing with touts for arranging the bribe. So too one more Delhi school where the same sort of middle men playing the role.
Of course a politician caught in corruption is old news! Great “tainted” ministers are adorning the Cabinet of our honest “Prime Minister”! So too the other equally powerful Chief Ministers and Central Ministers, even the food for oil scam is a high profile case. As for the corruption indulged in by the bureaucrats, the story is too long and boring!
The point is that we need many mechanisms to clean our political life, our public life and to make life a bit easy for the average citizens. A recent World Bank report on public services says that only just 2 per cent of the public are interested in civil society participation. That means that only a miniscule minority has education, money and the motivation to interest them in altruistic civil society work.
That doesn’t mean the public are not sensitive enough. They are. What we need to do is to encourage those who are forthcoming to take up selfless work. That is why the awards like Magsaysay awards become very important triggers for raising the public consciousness. We wrote not long ago about the need for the incumbent Government in Delhi, for the President of India to take the initiative to award some more Bharat Ratnas on our great men and women. We also mentioned in this connection that such great public recognition must come to persons who had done outstanding public service.
We can’t have such leaders like Jyoti Basu, Dr. Verghese Kurien and Ela Bhatt and many such eminent persons, writers, poets and artists and scientists who had made India now what it is. India is admired for many of its achievements but unfortunately only some categories of people, businessmen, film people and notorious politicians besides such destructive elements like terrorists get noticed on the TV screens and the newspapers.
Among the high profile award, even including Bharat Ratnas and Padma awards we find more artists, musicians and other such routine cases like senior bureaucrats get awards; in fact, the government men get themselves awarded these recognitions.
We hardly see radicals, the lone wolfs, so to say, the rebels and the fighters for causes, men like George Fernandez or other trade unionists and even promoters of some semi-political movements, even persons like Jean Dreaze or Aruna Roy, the originator of the Right to Information Act, can hope to get the Bharat Ratnas.
We are very clear what the President of India should be doing ideally this time. It is the privilege, even duty of the President to recommend the awards. It is for the Prime Minister to carry out the task. This is the convention. But as it is a convention, it is all the more important the President should make the move faster.
Yes, we know that there can be many constraints for the President to act. Yes, there are also constraints, more so for a person like Dr.Singh to carry out the task. He is too much bound by extraneous forces; he is no master of his own destiny, Sonia Gandhi, the party seniors and even the present not so excellent sense of normal relationships at the top that would all bind to carry out a great national duty and a call to honor our great men and women.
Here we make such a fervent plea in the open domain to remind the countrymen that we in India are known for much humbug and much dishonesty when even it comes to identify talents. Just see who were all conferred the Bharat Ratna when Rajiv Gandhi was the PM. Just don’t please do such things in highly partisan manner.
One great limitation of the Vajpayee regime was when the late great President, K.R.Narayan, recommended Dr. Kurien for the Bharat Ratna, the PM, Vajpayee didn’t act. For the simple silly reason Kurien is first from Gujarat and he was a Christian. How bad!
So, this time around, please do confer some Bharat Ratnas on our great men and women. Let us encourage civil society activism when our polity is coming under great strain and owing to coalition politics, the regional politicians are playing with people’s future. So much corruption is noticed and so much is getting allowed. By our inaction.
Our democracy can’t be taken for granted. It needs an activist government. An activist citizenry. Citizens must be honored for their self-less public work. Unless men like President Kalam or Prime Minister Dr.Singh don’t act to do this much minimum public duties, what is the hope for the much needed political reforms?