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Sunday, December 4, 2011

India's road to redemption

India's road to redemption
By Gautam Mukherjee

The Pioneer

Saturday, August 20, 2011
The dissonance being experienced today springs from a society and
nation in the throes of growing up. Our elected representatives have

to be more responsive.
In corporate life, it is a taboo to make public forward-looking
statements with regard to the affairs of the company. The fear is

that it will cause sharp-hearing punters and investors to trade on

the listed stock of the company based on such pronouncements, provide

a straws-in-the-wind reckoning on which way it is likely to lean in

the future and what profits could be made by speculating on such

inclination. If the company is not listed yet, such statements might

be seen as manipulation of investor interest for the future.
In the West, ravaged as their financial markets are by pirate-like
excesses, and in India, buffeted by destabilising foreign winds, the

procedure, admired once for the Gordon Gekko-style derring-do it

showed, is now anathema. 'Insider trading' attracts criminal

prosecution. If convicted, it tends to get the guilty fairly long

jail sentences too.
Plus, there are hierarchical niceties which specify who is or isn't
an 'authorised spokesperson', and just what he or she is authorised

to speak or issue written statements on. Even the top brass is not

immune to such restrictions on the principle a person always has to

serve somebody. Of course, a person can feign ignorance of lowly

operational matters when it suits him or her, but that is quite

another matter.
Then again, all the information and persuasive pitching amount to an
attempt at opinion-formation, which is also the objective of the

media and their not so distant cousins, the politicians. The well-

reasoned messaging seeks to influence, via the medium of the written

or spoken word, timed well and accompanied wherever possible by the

good picture.
Otherwise, it is just so much reportage, and though it is eminently
possible to slant reports to suit a person's worldview, editorials in

newspapers and talking heads on television channels provide a rather

freer format. For long has it been known that fancy oratory can

certainly give birth to the occasional good idea.
Politics, with its proximity to power via the electronic voting
machine, has the inside track on this declamatory process in theory,

necessary for that all-important gathering of votes, along with a

liberal use of monetary and other inducements. But it is seen that a

lot of the political messaging in India of late has been about feint

and parry, essentially defensive manoeuvre, minimalist in scope and

very little by way of the expected thrust of true leadership and the

grand sweep of vision.
Our Prime Minister, for example, seems reluctant to voice his
opinions altogether, as if expecting to be ridiculed in the midst of

his chaotic governance. When he comes out to speak to the public or

the media, he gives the clear impression that he is doing so under

pressure from the Congress. In this prevailing climate of drift, most

committed commentators sound like apologists of either the UPA or the

Opposition as the case may be, or indeed the Left, which uniquely

manages to appear opposed to whatever is going on, irrespective of

whether it is formally supporting the Government or not.
All this caginess as the prevailing order makes for a dreary
narrative that rarely takes the India story or plot-line forward for

the hopeful. That we are going through tough economic times both at

home and globally does not help either. Civil society comes across,

alas, as mostly naïve, with a great deal of fury and thunder that

still isn't tantamount to effective intervention, though Anna Hazare,

with his simple and short sound bytes, may prove this perception

wrong yet. At least he, along with his supporters, growing more

numerous by the day, is trying to do something to clean up the mess.

For that intention and effort Anna Hazare and his supporters deserve

appreciation from those who do far less.
To carry the corporate analogy further, politics does not actually
destabilise the polity with its manifestoes, however radical, even

though most are rarely implemented. Election promises too are largely

forgotten once a party is in power. But the fact remains that a great

deal of governance is about policy-making and its implementation and

has to be both continuous and viewed from a long-term perspective.
In a democracy, to find a Government that seems to say nothing at all
about its future direction is both disappointing and distressing.

Nothing that is, apart from occasional probing comments pronounced by

the more quixotic among its spokespersons, aimed at shoring up its

perceived vote-banks and trashing the Opposition. There is also the

tactical ploy of taking recourse to routine and boring denials in

stoic counterpoint to the criticism of the populace, the media, the

judiciary and, of course, the Opposition.
Combined with a dysfunctional parliamentary session or two, even as
it will be interesting to see how the political classes handle the

current monsoon session in the end, the picture of rudderless drift

and insouciant unresponsiveness is more or less complete. Not to

mention the huge legislative backlog suffering from unforgivable

neglect. Juxtaposed with a politician's natural urge to be economical

with the truth, it makes the case for disinformation in place of

transparency that much stronger.
Which brings us to the central point of the diminished quality of our
democratic discourse. We have parliamentarians and State legislators

who, like so many loutish schoolboys, do not uphold the grand

traditions of parliamentary democracy, but instead trash them in full

public gaze and media spotlight. We have institutions, set up by our

founding fathers to be vigilant against subversion of the workings of

Government, ruthlessly compromised by political interference -- to

the extent that they are more or less beholden to the Government of

the day. A bureaucracy that is disconnected and suffering from the

same malaise as the institutions. A judiciary, corrupt in parts and

overburdened to the extent that it can barely dispense justice.
So where do we go from here? Is it the abyss of failure to implement
the grand vision of the founding fathers of our republic, or are we

on the verge of a renewal and modernisation in our functioning that

will give us new hope and determination to succeed in the future?
It could go either way of course, but the balance of power seems in
favour of an electorate growing more sophisticated in its needs and

wants. Much of the dissonance being experienced today springs from a

society and nation in the throes of growing up. Therefore, the

elected representatives in our young republic will have to respond to

this new and more demanding reality or be replaced by others who are

more attuned to the times we live in and willing to do so.

1 comment:

anupshah said...

The topic is explained very well and makes us aware about the investment psychology of greed, fear and hope.