What an irony of an Independence Day speech!
Chairs empty! L.K.Advani, the Prime Ministerial candidate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha was seen yawning!
The Red Fort speech of the incumbent Prime Minister is always an occasion for celebration and also a momentous time to reflect and seriously ponder over the state of our nation. It is stock taking time, in a more dignified sense.
The speech of that day is always made by the individual who makes it.
Of course, every one of us can’t aspire to be Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru! Nor aspire to infuse that supreme quiet confidence exuded by a Lal Bahadur Shastri.
One doesn’t know whether Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh was ever either inspired by Nehru or by Shastri. He never told us.
Nor do we know the workings of the mind of Dr.Singh. He also doesn’t let anyone of us, the ordinary citizen mortals ever know!
What we know for sure seems to be the typical Dr.Singh. Low key, low demeanour, of course very utterly emotionless routine man, the archetypal bureaucratic- minded person who he is.
This is not a disadvantage. But surely for a country of the size and stature of India, a country that is poised to move forward and to be compared and contrasted with China, this is a positive disadvantage!
That disadvantage showed clearly when we saw him walks and ascend the steps and reach out to the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15th.
What was galling was to see the vast empty chairs staring at the PM as he was reading out, like a dutiful government servant, the many promises, he claimed to have fulfilled!
He was certainly out of touch, if not out of tune with the mood of the crowd that had assembled there that morning or the crowd or mass of people who had gathered everywhere in the vast stretches of the country at large.
First, there was just this Olympic Gold medal won by the 24 year old Indian youth, Abhinav Bindra. That was a momentous occasion. Everyone expected, we are sure and at any rate we expected for one, the Prime Minister would start his address with the mention of an Indian youth of 24 winning Gold and that too for the first time in 108 years of modern Olympic history. Alas! The PM didn’t even seemed to have cared for it or seemed to have remembered it to make a mention and get a thunderous applause from the dutiful audience that had assembled there.
Is this not a measure of the apathy the rulers have about their charge, the ruling and governing of the great nation?
It is and it rankled as the PM was seen reading out some very dull passages, the claims and statistics to impress his audience and the nation. Neither the audience nor the nation was impressed.
One noticed so conspicuously that L.K.Advani, the Prime Ministerial candidate for one was seen yawning, so bored and so unimpressive a speech the PM sought to make and impress.
More ironically, the PM was seen referring to the neta, Sonia Gandhi and he seemed to have clearly given the impression that he was where he was thanks to the nod he got from a Sonia Gandhi who was seated in the front row.
This was clearly seen as an act of sycophancy and if not anything else.
And pray what the Prime Minister was eying on such a momentous occasion?
August 15 is our Independence Day. August 11th was the day when the Indian youth of 24, won the Olympic Gold. The PM was out of touch or didn’t care for the achievement?
How he imagines he is entitled to preside over the country’s affairs as the Prime Minister? He who couldn’t connect himself with the aspirations of the entire youth of the country touched and awakened by that one rare Gold?
What political legitimacy he had got to speak to the nation narrating his achievements?
The most crushing feeling we got as we listed to the PM’s speech was the repeated reference to krishi and rural India! All the promises, including a new deal to rural India!
The mouthful terms of the schemes were too much for the listeners. Procurement of 50 per cent wheat, 30 per cent of rice, bank loan, debt waive-off etc.
The narration was getting on the nerves and the terms like inclusive and equitable growth etc was a bit jarring when the news that day was all about downslide in growth and doubling of inflation rate in his own years in office!
Obviously, the PM is sitting in a cocoon. That is obvious. He never invites or receives strangers into his room. He is comfortable with retired bureaucrats that are why the economist’s advisory council is a bit too much in the talking mode these days!
What are not talked about are the findings of the various farmers bodies, for instance. The Consortium of the Indian Farmers Association (Cifa) has made a representation to the PM and it has quoted the Arjun Sengupta Commission to show that the take home incomes of the farmers are worse than with that of the comparable civil servants. And consider the PM’s mood when he takes pride in announcing the pay rise for civil servants on Independence Day and this news of the Cifa contradicts the PM’s mindset. We don’t know what the Pm really has to say on this ground level reality?
The lowest paid government employee is Rs.10,000 a month, while the average farm household gets anything from Rs.1,578 to Rs,8,321 for the small farmers, as per the Sengupta Commission on unorganised sector workers. The Planning Commission studies also confirm the Sengupta contention.
Of course these are all known facts. The PM also knows well his many claims would only evoke skepticism or at worst simple ridicule.
Newspapers have given wide publicity to the Cifa representation and also some have editorially supported with new additional inputs.
Unfortunately, the Government, the various ministries are not driven by any vision. The PM himself is no visionary. Everyone, given the compulsion of coalition politics, is minding his or her business. That seems to be the impression.
Nor, can we rest content with M.S.Swaminathan commission recommendations or the advice by economists, bureaucrats.
When we say vision, we mean some dedicated vision. Vision comes to one who is dedicated.
For instance, the Bangladeshi visiting Nobel Laureate, the Grameen Bank founder, Prof.Mohamad Yunus, was in Bangalore the other day. He said by looking at the bankers: banking must have a vision, its business is not to lend and recover loans. It is to empower people. Give people that power to uplift themselves.
Yes, this is vision.
We have to create new institutions, co-ops, SHGs and many more at the national and state and regional level. So that farming takes place as a natural way of living for the vast majority of the people, the farmers, right?