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From 1947 - chhake par chhaka - India has 'grown' but not all 'Indians'!
By Shailendra Kumar, Founder Editor (October 03, 2013)
Aug 09, 2021

TODAY, we live in a sensational world of State-sponsored political controversies. Unlike 1947 when all controversies were born out of conflict of principles and ideologies practiced by our political leaders of different hues, after 66 years, we - the common man - are fighting hard to cope up with controversies emanating from lack of principles and morality in politics. Yesterday was Bapu 's 144 th Birth Anniversary. If we recall Bapu had once commented - politics without principle is one of the seven deadly sins . Yesterday was also the day when the Union Cabinet decided to undo the history-making wrong it was going to commit by promulgating an Ordinance to rescue convicted MPs and MLAs from losing their legislative privileges even after being found guilty by a court of law. Disappointing it may sound but the change of heart for Dr Manmohan Singh-headed Council of Ministers was not triggered by the principles Bapu used to practice, before taking a decision to withdraw the controversial ordinance but it was the criticism coming from Rahul who also carries the weight of Bapu 's surname.

Although the Opposition and many other political commentators may find fault with the Gandhi scion for not toeing the party line when the elders in the Congress were grappling with this issue of rescuing many of their senior 'criminal' colleagues and more importantly their political allies like Laloo Prasad Yadav, the credit goes to Rahul Gandhi for speaking out his mind against an utterly absurd decision from all perspectives. India has changed unrecognizably in the past decades, and Young India is capable of judging an issue on merit and principles. Leave aside the initiative to resort to an Ordinance, even mere talk of nullifying the ratio of the Supreme Court recent decision goes against the basic tenets of our Constitution. How can a political system whether it is democracy or communism, so blatantly, resort to emergency tool like Ordinance to save who? - criminals masquerading as elected representatives who take oath in Parliament to uphold the rule of law and be in the service of the people of India! Where have all the principles of healthy Parliamentary traditions the Congress Party has inherited from its founders and their successors, gone? Has this Party become completely rootless and does not want to cherish the thread with its inheritance of rich principles and sacrifice? Had such a demand come from modern political parties (regional in general) it would have been understandable in the light of their history of 'no past' ! But, for a political party, which carries the credit of driving away the British on the strength of non-violence and ethics in politics, such an unprincipled decision coming from the 'collective wisdom' of the Government and the Party is certainly loathsome and repulsive.

Criminalisation of politics - the world of Indian polity may have achieved or gained over the decades in terms of securing large number of constituencies to form a Government at the Centre or the States - has proved to be the bane of our democratic system. After Independence, too many ills have crept into our democratic institutions. Although every successive government promised to set them right but ended up contributing to them . And that is how there are too many politicians with spine-chilling criminal track records, occupying the hallowed seats in our August House - Bharat ka Sansad ! If we do not talk about the 'criminally sorry' state of affairs of our State Legislatures, it would save us from many embarrassments. Although our Election Commission starting with Mr T N Seshan, tried hard to decriminalise our electoral events but it never got the requisite support from our Political Parties.

Now, thanks to the PIL culture, the judiciary, a major pillar of democratic check and balance system emerging out of the Doctrine of Separation of Power, has come to the rescue of what is right and fair? In the recent past the Supreme Court of India has given two landmark decisions - one , convicted MPs will lose their membership to the Parliament as soon as a decision is pronounced - no need for a formal suspension or expulsion! They will be deemed to be suspended as soon as they are convicted. Two, the right to negative voting has finally been recognised as a major statutory right ( 2013-TIOL-48-SC-PIL-LB ). For long years the political parties were not paying heed to such a demand even after the civil society found that most of the candidates were bahubalis with criminal records and the voters wanted not to waste their votes on them. But, since the ballot papers or the Electronic Voting Machines were not offering such a choice not to vote for 'none of the above' (NOTA), the poor voters were feeling forced to vote for 'sundry' candidates or not to cast their votes at all. Such a practice led to a situation where lesser of the evils were either elected or muscle-flexing candidates who managed to capture booths or scare away certain communities of voters, secured the seats of powers on the strength of their money and muscle. Such a practice got further consolidated and became a trend for others to follow. And that is how out of about 4000 sitting MLAs, as many as 700 had 'impressive' criminal records as per an analysis done by the Election Commission in 1996. What about the present scenario? Going by the principle of no-recession in this sector, the tally should be more 'impressive'! In this background, the NOTA option is a major empowerment of the voters who can reject all the candidates on the ballot papers and if they number more than the votes cast in favour of the highest vote-securing candidate, the Election Commission should be calling for a fresh poll. It will certainly add to the cost but such costs are the price a Civil Society needs to pay to retain its civility.

Going by the large basket of ills in our political system, does it mean that India has not grown? It has, but it has not grown up to its potential. Its growth has been restricted. The Indian economy has done very well in the past two decades. It has reached a level where it has started eyeing the position of third largest economy in the world, which is presently occupied by Japan. In terms of friendly revolutions, India has successfully implemented Green Revolution; White Revolution; Telecom Revolution, Software Revolution and Space Technology Revolution. There may be many more, and all these revolutions have added weight to India's global ranking . The life span of Indians have jumped from 32 years in 1947 to 65 years now. Our defence forces are ranked highly for its military firepower. There are numerous other achievements. But what is depressing is the fact that India has grown but not all the Indians !

Let's go to the latest statistics provided by the UN. As per a FAO Report, one out of eight persons goes without food in this world. There are about 842 mn people who suffer from chronic hunger. And, worse, about 25% of this number are Indians. What exacerbates hunger are factors like drought, floods, food inflation and poverty. It is said that a hungry world is a dangerous world. When people have no food, they have only three options - to riot; to emigrate and to die . And, all three are bad propositions for peaceful and prospering society. This gigantic number of hungry people may explain the problem of Naxalism and other local political issues in India. If we recall Bapu again - he had said that "There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” So right he was even for the modern technology-driven era of today. India has many achievements to its credit but it is also HOME to one-fourth of the world's hungry population.

In this background, one may find a lot of merit in the recent legislation - the Food Security Act, which aims at not letting go any soul to bed without food! A very tall order, indeed! But what may be a simple food for a hungry, could be a 'good food' for partisan politics between the Centre and the States. And this is what was sensed when many of the State Food Ministers interacting with the Agri Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, two days back in the National Capital, asked for more funds to implement this newly-passed Act in letter and spirit. Although they might be partly right as most of our States are fiscally ill-managed and they depend excessively on the Centre but they do need to rise above their partisan politics and care for those who are deprived of even one time food, leave aside many of our hallowed constitutional rights available to the HAVES.

This brings us to the culture of criminal waste of food in our country. As per a statement given by Mr Pawar in the Parliament during the Monsoon Session, due to lack of storage facilities, vegetables, fruits and grains worth Rs 44000 Cr go waste every year. Even in the domain of wasting food, India ranks ahead of China. It is well understood fact that apart from the loss of food due to wastage, it also takes a heavy toll on country's natural resources. As per a UN Study, India's wasted food also wastes about 230 cubic km of fresh water, which can provide drinking water to 10 Crore population. China ranks second with wastage of 140 cubic km and Pakistan with 55 cubic KM of fresh water. Globally, one-third of the food produced is wasted, costing the global economy as much as USD 750 billion annually.

In this background, the Indian Parliament deserves all the praise for passing the legislation but the real challenge lies ahead in terms of implementing this Act and ensuring that no Indian goes to bed without food. This Act would hopefully enable India to help UN realise its millennium goals by 2015, and for every ordinary Indian it may be gratifying that none lives hungry even for a day. But, the real challenge for our public machinery will be to cut the volume of wastage as India hugely contributes to it both pre and post harvest waste. It is high time our political parties feel humbled by the gigantic tasks they have in their hand rather than 'conspiring' to save the criminals of the system, who can also 'contribute' but only in eating away its vitals. Let's also hope that the Indian voters who have been vested with the NOTA , exercise it carefully to put positive pressure on political parties to choose abled candidates who could deliver!