Date: 9/10/2004


Who is running this country’s affairs?

By M.V.Kamath http://www.samachar.com/features/090904-features.html

Is anybody running this country? If so, who is it? Dr Manmohan Singh? He is hardly seen, let alone heard. Is it Sonia Gandhi? She is seen even less and seldom heard. And yet the word going round the country is that it is Sonia Gandhi calling the shots and let every one else beware. Is this how a country should be ruled? Shouldn’t those who give directions be accountable to Parliament? Individual ministers behave as if it is their word that is the law.

Early in August Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh - a man who has hardly any following even in his own native state indicated that RSS sympathisers in the bureaucracy would become one of the main targets of the UPA government. Addressing a national convention on secularism, Arjun Singh said: “Our first duty is that the fascist forces of RSS should be detected. Today the government is in the grip of the RSS, we have to cleanse it”.

Is that a cabinet decision? If it is not, why hasn’t it been officially contradicted? And how does Arjun Singh propose to detect the “Fascist forces” in government? Will every staff member right down from the Secretary to the lowly peon be given a lie detection test? Are we having a new form of McCarthyism in India?

Today it is the Congress in power. Tomorrow it may be out of power and some other party unfriendly towards the Congress may come to rule. Would it be fair not to expect it to turn out any member of government staff suspected to have leanings towards Congress? When will this kind of tamasha stop?

Is the UPA government out to polarise this country on a `we’ and `they’ basis? Has it ever stopped to realise the consequence of Arjun Singh’s madness? We learn that the Prime Minister is against Arjun Singh’s RSS witch-hunt? If that is so, shouldn’t he ask Arjun Singh to shut up? We want a government in the country, not a civil war based on ideological grounds.

What is more painful to watch is the silence on the part of Sonia Gandhi, why doesn’t she speak out, one way or the other? Then there is the instance of Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar ordering a plaque honouring Veer Savakar being removed from the Cellular Jail in Port Blair. If Pranab Mukherjee is to be believed, the order was given by Aiyer not in his role as a Minister but as chairman of the Indian Oil Corporation, as lame a shameless excuse as can ever be given.

Whatever might he said of Savarkar, he has suffered more physically for his rebellion againsy British Rule than any single Congress leader. Gandhiji was imprisoned in the Agha Khan Palace: Nehru in Ahmednagar prison. Savarkar was tied up in the Cellular Jail under inhuman conditions, and treated like an animal. He deserves not just India’s respect but her tribute. But Sonia Gandhi is silent. It is not just Arjun Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyer who are behaving like mad bulls let loose on the streets.

Take the case of Laloo Prasad Yadav. He is behaving as if the Indian Railways are his private property. He has ordered that his dream train Village on Wheels should stop at Phulwaria, his native Village and Salar Kalan, his wife Rabri Devi’s hometown. Indeed, according to The Stateman (Aug. 8) “the Railway Minister has ordered the laying of a new track on the Miranj-Devaria route that covers the two villages” on a “here and now basis”.

The paper adds: “While most other rural areas in Bihar may be languishing without electricity, Phulwaria and Salar Kaln have been developed as model villages. Prasad’s home turf boasts of a well-protected helipad, a computerised branch of the State Bank of India, a power station to ensure uninterrupted supply, a police station and metalled roads” in addition to other services. All at government expense. No one raises a finger.

And what about Dr Manmohan Singh’s cabinet? Sibu Soren has caused Dr Singh enough embarrasment. Another Minister, Taslimuddin had a non-bailable arrest warrant against him, but Laloo Prasad Yadav has seen to it that criminal charges against his Bihar colleague have been withdrawn. Again, no explanation from Sonia Gandhi.

Things are getting out of hand. Household budgets continue to burn up with inflation rising to 7.96 per cent and threatening to rise further up to 10 per cent. Talks with Pakistani officials have all but ceased. According to official statistics, 1,298 people were killed in violence in Jammu & Kashmir from January 1, 2004 to August 10, 2004. As many as 433 civilians were killed. According to Deccan Chronicle (19 August) more than 3,000 militants are active in the state, about 1,500 in the Valley and 1,527 in the Jammu region.

There is utter chaos in Manipur, where the people are up in rebellion against the armed forces. Is this called administration? We are losing friends everywhere. The United States has made it clear that it will not support India’s claims to a seat as a Permanent Member of the Security Council in statements made by Colin Powell, US Secretary of State and Richard Armitage, US Deputy Secretary of State.

According to The Telegraph (15 August): “The Armitage and Powell statements are a clear signal that India, with its independent foreign policy cannot hope for US support in its bid for a greater UN role”. Meanwhile, Indo-Bangladesh relations are heading for rough times. Charges are levelled by Dhaka that India is destabilising its neighbour when the truth is that Bangladesh is allowing 195 camps of Indian insurgents (including ULFA leaders) to operate from its territory.

India is behaving like a weak and helpless country. The morale of the country is at this point so low that at the Olympics India has not been able to win a single gold, even after the government had spent crores of rupees. Everywhere it seems, India is on the retreat.

Andwhere is that `dream-budget’ genius, P. Chidambaram gone? Nobody seems to have heard of him of late, even as prices of vegetables are soaring and housewives with limited domestic budgets are complaining. In his August 15 speech Prime Minister Manmohan Singh noted that “the waters of our sacred rivers have for centuries nurtured our civilization and we cannot allow these waters to divide us”.

If that is so, why is he hesitating to dismiss the Amarender Singh Government which has unilaterally abrogated a treaty solemnly signed by three states which is an assault on the unity and integrity of the country? Again why is the Modi Government in Gujarat harassed? The Supreme Court has directed the Gujarat Government to set up a panel to assess reopening all post-Godhra riot cases that were closed after the accused were declared untraced.

Much is being made of the fact that of the 4,252 riot cases registered by the police, over 2000 were closed. May one ask how many cases had been registered in Delhi after the infamous 1984 riots? May one know how many of the rioters have been tried and sentenced? May it be pointed out that as many as 2,733 Sikh men, women and children were murdered in cold blood that amounted to a pogrom a number greater than Muslims killed in Gujarat following the torching of 58 women and children in two coaches of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra?

Why don’t we open up the Delhi riot inquiries while simultaneously opening the Gujarat riot cases? What is so sacrosanct about the Delhi rioting that the large-scale and ruthless killing of innocent Sikhs is sought to be forgotten?

What conspiracy is the Sonia Gandhi government hatching just to damn the BJP? Why doesn’t it look at its own record all these years and open riot cases all over India in the last thirty years? The targeting of Gujarat Government looks suspiciously like a conspiracy and it does not bring credit to the government.

If cases against the Gujarat Government are to be opened up, cases of all riots in various states, especially run by Congress governments must also be opened up.

Let justice be done and also be seen to be done. The bare truth is that inefficient as the UPA government is, it is running a government of revenge and it must be warned that it will have severe repercussions in the country for years to come. Police officers can be bought these days, just as many others could.

The very police who had kept quiet all these months in Gujarat are now coming forward to accuse the Modi Government of all sorts of crimes. How is one to believe them? For all one knows, should the UPA government fall, then the very same officials who are now accusing Modi of vile deeds may turn round and give him a certificate of good character.

Turncoats don’t deserve our respect, much less our attention. They are timeservers and are best ignored. The country is desperately looking for good government but all that it is witnessing are acts of revenge. Farmers continue to commit suicide, despite some good rains.

Congress-run governments as in Maharashtra are wiping out farmers’ debts. Free electricity is sought to be given but where will one draw the line? Who is a “farmer”? One who owns land, one who tills it, one who is a landless labourer or can anyone who grows chilies in his backyard claim access to free electricity?

Faith in the government is deteriorating, as the fall in foreign exchange reserves would show. We have had enough of the Amarendra Singhs, the Arjun Singhs, the Mani Shankar Aiyers and all the rest, like the Sitaram Yechury whose colleagues in the CPM have brought West Bengal to rack and ruin. Let it be said loudly: the UPA government is proving to be a disaster. And if Dr Manmohan Singh does not know it, God save us.

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