India had always been viewed as a land of contrasts, with diametrically opposite contentions cosily existing side by side. At no time has this phenomenon assumed so grotesque a form as in the past few decades.
On the one side, farmers are committing suicide, shamed by their inability to repay a mere Rs 10,000-20,000 of bank loans. Similarly, young students too are putting an end to their lives, unable to bear the ignominy of low marks or failure in examinations.
On the other, those in power and authority loot and plunder astronomical amounts of Rs 1 lakh crore or more. The people seem to have learnt to take in their stride politicians with disreputable character or even criminal antecedents. They gather in large numbers to lustily cheer those against whom evidence of implication in monstrous scams was serious enough for them to be remanded in judicial custody for months without bail.
They receive with a big yawn news of alleged scamsters, fraudsters and rapists becoming members of State Assemblies and both Houses of Parliament and being brazenly appointed and sworn in as Cabinet Ministers.
On the one hand, again, low- and middle-grade government employees are hauled up and do time for taking petty bribes or for misdemeanours such as forgery and falsification of accounts.
And, on the other, a Gopinath Munde can get away with showing Rs 19.30 lakh in a statutory affidavit as constituting his entire poll expenditure, while publicly cocking a snook at the Election Commission and “We, the People”, supposedly the sovereign masters, boasting that he had spent as much as Rs 8 crore on his election campaign. On the one side, the country’s legislators can enjoy the liberty of behaving like riotous mobs within legislatures, throwing chairs, mikes and other missiles at one another, and indulging in public fisticuffs in an ugly display of one-upmanship in the sacred tasks of rescue and relief of the victims of flash floods in Kedarnath and Badrinath.
DRACONIAN AND CATCHALL
No case has been registered against any member of the political class, even on receipt of convincing information of their committing heinous offences, and the cases, when started under pressure from the Supreme Court, are fouled up, letting the accused go scot-free.
On the other, the police arrest without warrant and within hours, and lodge in jail, Shaheen Dhada, a 21-year old medical student, and her friend Renu Srinivasan under the draconian and catchall Section 66A of the Information Technology Act which should not have been allowed to disfigure the legal system of any civilised country in the first place: The former for posting on her Facebook some legitimate remarks about the disruption of public life in Mumbai following Bal Thackeray’s death, and the latter for merely clicking the “like” button.
What is India, the land of great sages, seers and preceptors, coming to? The Dalai Lama, whose sense of sardonic humour is not widely known, once told C. Subramaniam, Governor of Maharashtra, whose guest he was at Mumbai Raj Bhavan, that India was self-less and public-spirited in that it did not keep any of its great teachings and precepts to itself, but “exported” them and gave them away to other countries!
What a perceptive comment! This he made in the context of Mahatma Gandhi having been the source of inspiration to leaders such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and continuing to be regarded as a moral and ethical beacon all over the world, while remaining forgotten, and even ignored in his own country.
All around us, the tenets and values proclaimed by the ancient scriptures as the underpinning of society lie in a shambles.
In short, in the perception of old-timers at least, India is heading for a total moral collapse.
Natan Sharansky, now a leading Israeli politician, who, as a Soviet dissident, spent nine years in a Soviet prison, most of it in solitary confinement, and was subjected to various forms of torture, recently explained that the reason for his excruciating ordeal was that he did not conform to the definition of a loyal citizen.
Which was: “To say what you are supposed to say, to read what you are permitted to read, to vote the way you are told to vote” and, may I add, to put up meekly with more and more instances of the most outrageous conduct in public life.
The way things are going, India is in danger of being peopled by ‘loyal citizens’ of the above description!