Monday 29 December 2014

Wake up Bourbons

 "Rau mein hai rakhsh-e-umr kahaan dekhiye thame
Nai haath baag par hai, na paa hai raqaab mein "

Mirza Ghalib’s sher (couplet) quintessentially reflects the situation in India today.
“Rau” means speed, “rakhsh” means horse, “umr” means time (it also means life, but here it means time or era), “baag” means “reins” (of a horse), and “raqaab” means stirrup.
Hence the sher means:
 “The horse of the times is on the gallop, Let us see where it stops.
The rider has neither the reins in his hands, nor his feet in the stirrup.”
Ghalib was probably writing of the happenings at the time of the Great Mutiny of 1857, when events took place at a galloping pace. But the beauty of Ghalib’s poetry (as also of much of Urdu poetry) is that it is often universal in time and place.
Today in India, the pace of history has speeded up. Events are taking place even more rapidly than earlier, and one wonders where all this will end. The government is totally directionless.
  The media has been full of stunts like 'love jihaad', ' gharwapasi ', 'swatchata abhiyan', 'good governance day', etc, etc, All dreams of millions of jobs promised to Indian youth in the name of ' vikaas' have evaporated ( see my article ' Vikaas ' on my blog ), and instead the GDP growth has shrunk from 5.7% to 5.3% in the last quarter, and manufacturing growth is at a total standstill, if not decline. One crore new youth are pouring into the job market annually but only 5 lac jobs in the organized sector of the economy are available for them ( see my article ' Unemployment in India ' on my blog ). The rest may become hawkers, street vendors, stringers, bouncers, beggars or criminals, whatever opportunity being available.
 On the other hand, the Congress has given a walk over to the BJP by persisting to have Rahul Gandhi as its leader, even though he possesses no leadership quality. and has no positive programme, not even a dream to sell like ' vikaas '.
 The latest ' Sapnon ka Saudagar ' talks of honesty, promises to  reduce electricity bills considerably and give water free to the poorer sections, which he claims to have done in his short stint in power, and some people in Delhi seem to have swallowed the bait, and are following him like children following the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
 A  bureaucrat, was found recently with Rs. 100 crore in cash in his car,  jewelry worth Rs. 100 crore, and total assets alleged to be of about Rs. 1000 crore..How many more Ministers and bureaucrats of this sort are just waiting for this temporary storm of integrity to subside, is difficult, if not impossible, to fathom. One would remember that when Emergency was imposed in 1975, for a few months trains were running on time, corruption by officials had stopped, and prices had fallen, but thereafter it was business as usual. As the Urdu poet Josh Malihabadi said in his poem ' Rishwat ' : " Hum agar rishwat naheen lengen to phir khaayenge kya ? "
Talleyrand said of the Bourbons that they “saw nothing, remembered nothing, and forgot nothing.” Most Indian politicians and bureaucrats today remind one of the Bourbons. They do not see the public anger rising against them and reaching boiling point, like that shown in the scene in Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities ' where a wine cask breaks up on  a street in Paris, and the people lap up the wine, while one of them writes the word ' Blood ' on a wall ( which is symbolic of the times to come ). They do not remember the fate of the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs, and the Romanovs (if they have even heard of them). And they do not forget their power and pelf, thinking these will continue forever, as did the ill-fated dynasties mentioned above.
The decisive factor is the economy.
In recent months there has been a total stagnation in manufacturing growth in India, and export-oriented industries have been particularly hard hit because of the recession in Western countries. GDP growth of 5.7% in the quarter April-June 2014 dropped to 5.3% in the quarter July-September.
India’s relative stability was based on the 15-20 per cent middle class, which, considering our huge population of 1,250 million, would be about 200-250 million. This provided a market for many of our goods and services. This middle class is fast losing its purchasing power due to skyrocketing prices, and this in turn is fast eroding India’s stability, as can be seen from the recent incidents.

Massive poverty, huge unemployment, skyrocketing prices, absence of health care for the poor people ( See my article ' Healthcare in India ' on my blog ), farmers’ suicides, child malnutrition (see my article ' Malnutrition in India ' on my blog ), etc, are all an explosive mixture. If the Bourbons do not wake up now (of which I see little likelihood at present), a prolonged period of chaos and anarchy seems inevitable in India in the near, not distant, future.

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