The Ongoing ‘Mass Grooming’ in Indian Politics is Comparable to Child Grooming

‘Child grooming’ means befriending a child, developing an emotional bond and exploiting this connect to take advantage of the unsuspecting victim. It is easy to understand why these kids fall prey to their abusers- they lack the intellect to make a distinction between good and evil. Cash, gifts or a sham emotional connect are some of the lures abusers use to trick the child. Most cases of child grooming go undetected and unpunished with the child suffering the repercussions of exploitation virtually throughout her/ his adult life.

But why refer to the above when talking about what we have termed ‘mass grooming’ in Indian politics?

That’s because both are comparable. Take a quick look at the political environment in the country. What is that one thing that is common in every poll campaign of the ruling party? It is fear-mongering. Leaders and cadre of the ruling party at the centre are using exaggerated rumors of some ‘threat’ approaching the majority faith. Religion is being invoked in virtually every poll rally of the ruling party, and persons occupying constitutional offices have become a mere politician rather than being Prime Minster or Chief Minister. The head of the government has been visiting places of worship of the majority faith, and this has become a part of the design of ‘mass grooming’ that is going unchecked in India.

There are two things to note here. One, the meaning of ‘secular state’ isn’t recognition of all faiths but absence of faith and other related elements from governance. Basically, this means the state does not have any religion when there is an express or implied mention of the word secular in the constitution. Two, the term ‘minority appeasement’ is nothing but a sham. In electoral politics, where the first-past-the-post system (candidate with most votes wins regardless of vote share) prevails, a clever politician will always steer clear of being projected as appeaser of the minority class.

Now compare the common man with that child who is being groomed by the abuser. Similar to the child, the common man lacks adequate understanding of critical issues at hand. Terms like rule of law, equality before law, opportunity of hearing, affirmative action are complex for this common man. Reasons are many- lack of education, prevalence of patriarchy and conservatism, and short-sightedness. But all this doesn’t mean that the common man is to blame here, just like the child isn’t to blame in cases of child grooming. It’s always the abuser who’s to blame, for he/ she employs tricks and tactics to lure the victim, and in politics this trick involves fear-mongering, empty rhetoric and majoritarianism.

The ruling party’s misadventures, which include denotification of currency notes, rushed through laws, and reliance on lies and deceit during the pandemic, did not dent its prospects in polls, and this could be achieved by ‘mass grooming’. Regardless of all pains including price rise and joblessness, the common man has yet to realise that the abuser has built this ‘emotional bond’ only to further own vested interests. The unsuspecting victim has yet to realise that the long-term negative impact of this ‘mass grooming’ which he his unintentionally falling prey to will be so severe that not one but many generations would feel the pain. Drugs, money or gifts used by child abusers is comparable to exploitation of faith and abetment to mobocracy by politicians. Indeed, ‘mass grooming’ will someday be brought to justice, abusers will be booked, but its stains and marks will be so tough and deep that the healing process will take a lot of time.

Mahatma’s ‘Little Republics’- Comparing Indian and EU Polity

The country that gave the Mahatma to the world has failed his vision of ‘little republics’. India’s polity- as we all know- has a strong, very strong centre, something the Mahatma was never in favour of. This strength of centre has only grown in past 75 years with the passage of legislations that give the central agencies sweeping powers to enforce the ‘will’ and ‘ideology’ of the party enjoying power in New Delhi. The centre can make laws on virtually all subjects, including amending the constitution, when the party having majority in the Parliament also enjoys electoral support in majority of Indian states. It means that a cabinet comprising of a few ministers can wield power across a country that is so diverse in all aspects.

Now consider this argument. Can we allow a big corporate house to have complete control over all small and medium enterprises? Can that one corporate be allowed to decide how all inferior enterprises conduct their affairs and generate revenue? Indeed, no. The beauty of democracy lies in individuality of units that collectively form the union.

Now also consider these stats. The European Union (EU), comprising of 27 member states, has world’s third largest population (450 million) and total land area of 4 million sq. km. Compare this with India, a country and not a ‘grouping’, that comprises of 28 states and 8 UTs, and has world’s second largest population (1.3 billion) with total land area of 3.28 million sq. km. The EU is a diverse region too with so many languages and cultures, and hence can be compared with the diversity here in India. Yet, member states that make the EU are capable of managing their own affairs with the EU overseeing security and foreign relations. They have single market, common policies on trade and allow free movement of people and goods and services.

The EU is typically the fruition of vision of the Mahatma because of decentralization underpinning the arrangement. One can argue that India too has 3-tier form of governance and the constitutional safeguards that include separate union and state lists on law-making powers. But, at the same time, isn’t it true that a few politicians in New Delhi have, more often than not, the clout to influence, and even undermine, the state regimes? Law enforcement agencies under prevention of money laundering and corruption laws are used to weaken the stability of state governments. While the Mahatma envisaged more and more powers in the hands of gram sabhas, his idea has been brutally crushed, if not in letter then indeed in spirit.

The other fallout of this unjustifiable tilt in favour of centre is lack of sense of duty in staffers at virtually all government and quasi-government places of work. A common man walks into a public sector bank only to be insulted, ignored and reprimanded, and s/he doesn’t even know where to file a grievance. Is it the centre or the state or the local body that oversees any public office is a puzzle for a common man. All this unprofessional conduct and failures have roots in the flaw in the Indian polity- the departure from the Mahatma’s idea of true Swaraj, of having ‘little republics’, answerable and accountable to common man.

The cure isn’t ‘anarchy’. No, realizing the Mahatma’s vision doesn’t need a measure like balkanization. It only needs a strong political will to relinquish the greed of a very strong centre. It also needs a relook at laws that allow the central law enforcement agencies to ‘dance to the tunes’ of a few powerful people in New Delhi. The basic argument here is that the true potential of Indian society can be realised when the member states of Indian Republic are more independent (without subverting the constitutional ideas that begin with ‘We, the People of India’) and compete in an ethical manner with one another to ultimately benefit the socio-economic progress of the basic building block- the common man.

My Company (read Country)

I am employed with a large corporation. Emotionally, this instills in me a sense of pride. Back then, my community was an unorganised set of people who were engaged in unorganised work, sans any defined code of conduct. A few men decided to change this order, decided to organise the unorganised. This was duly achieved by founding a company that would be run by defined codes. What followed was a clear organizational structure with a board (read legislative body) at the top comprising the top brass (read lawmakers) who would deliberate on how to run the company more efficiently. The mandate of this board was to further the interests of all stakeholders including the worker (read citizen) at the end of the queue.

In the initial phase, things were good. The organised way of working brought with it many benefits. Our company now competed with many other established companies, even surpassing a few, and returns for all stakeholders were good. A wave of democracy swept the scene, and we celebrated the fact that from now on the board will be filled with elected members that would allow every stakeholder to have a say in how the company is run. Now since the company had workers from different divisions (read faith/ caste/ race), these heterogeneous groups formed their own unions (read political parties) that were represented by members from within that group. Everything looked great.

But with all these advances came corruption. Although the board hailed the mandate of serving the interests of all, it placed the interests of top brass above that of others. In order to achieve this objective, the board aligned with union representatives, in turn corrupting the latter too. A new arrangement was promoted where all workers were called upon to join forces to make the company the best amongst all corporations. In the morning assembly, workers were motivated to sing praises of the company and swear allegiance. Workers, many of who were politically ignorant, started developing a feeling that the interests of the company are paramount even if they collided with their own honest interests.

To attain the formidable objective of making the company the best, workers were asked to sacrifice all comfort. The board made policies with the rhetoric of ‘company first’ but what lay underneath was the unquenchable thirst of board members to hold on to their top positions. ‘You can do it’ for your ‘company men’ was the slogan that was raised. While to the workers, the company meant everyone including them and their children; to the board, it meant just the top and the upper middle brass. To further own comforts, workers were brainwashed by the board on how other companies are plotting to bring down theirs and why it is so important to make sacrifices. Workers rallied in the support of these glossy policies.

You may ask, was no worker competent enough to understand and raise alarm against the tricks played by the board? Indeed, there were a few, but the board managed to oust them by labelling them ‘anti-company’ elements.

Today, workers are reeling under many difficulties, but the board and union representatives are thriving. The workers are staring at ‘good days ahead’ as guaranteed by the board. They have fallen prey to the rhetoric that unless they bear unprecedented costs, the aim of becoming the number one company cannot be achieved. The state of affairs is more or less the same in all companies, and the boards of many have colluded to project themselves as each other’s rivals so as to preserve the grip over workers’ allegiance and loyalty.

I am employed with a large corporation. Emotionally, this instills in me a sense of pride.

Using Democracy to Deploy Demagoguery, and ultimately Theocracy

That the democracy of India is under pressure and is ceding ground to dictatorial forces is the popular narrative of opposition parties. Is it so? One, electoral politics is still intact and people are electing their representatives at various levels of governance by way of universal adult franchise. Two, institutions are functional- legislature, executive and judiciary- albeit with lapses that have long-prevailed and are deeply entrenched. Three, there has been no explicit attempt by the ruling party to subvert the basic structure of the Indian constitution. What is it then? All democratic elements appear to be in place but why aren’t they delivering expected outcomes including inclusive development and rule of law?

Let’s recall what Socrates once argued. The philosopher was a critic of universal suffrage- the right to vote to all adults irrespective of gender, faith, class, caste and race. He gave a convincing argument when he compared the society to a ship. Who should be in charge of the ship when we plan for a journey by sea? Socrates preferred a person having proper knowledge of seafaring over any other who could win the popular vote on the back of rhetoric and good oratory skills. In this sense, Socrates pointed out that voting in polls is a skill, not mere intuition.

The philosopher highlighted the difference between intellectual democracy and democracy by birthright. While the first can be criticized on various grounds, the latter is even more dangerous when it paves the way for demagoguery (appealing to common people’s desires and prejudices to garner political support).

That’s what is exactly happening in today’s India. Democracy by birthright is intact. In reality, the ruling party is persuading people to step out of their homes on polling day to ensure a clear mandate. How can then anyone justify that India’s democratic fabric is under threat? In fact, such diagnosis is not only unproductive, it is also counter-productive. The problem lies elsewhere. What we need to consider is how the two key pillars of any progressive society- democracy and secularism- are being pitched against one another, and how this is leading to the rise of dictatorial forces even as democracy underpins the entire arrangement.

Gandhi’s ideology and that of most nationalists of pre-independence India is facing a threat that Gandhi did perceive during his time- the threat of majoritarianism. The situation today is this- many members of the upper class are backing the ruling party as they have nothing to lose since their plates are full, and in fact, they hold a belief that maybe someday they can have the same old privileges of class and caste order. And for the poor and middle class, the ruling party and upper dominating class have partnered to give the former a false sense of devotion and security in the name of faith and chauvinism. ‘Don’t think about you or your family; think about Him and borders’. That’s the message which has excellently been passed on (read sold) to the mass.

That’s it, simply, that is it. Democracy by birthright is hurting us; the cure, however, is not abolition of democracy but furthering intellectual democracy without compromising the idea of universal suffrage. For this to happen, the opposition has to educate the mass on a large scale by borrowing from the tactics employed by the then nationalists against British Raj. Send out messengers, hold sessions at ground level, publish material in local languages and engage the youth.

If not done in due time, the ruling party will use democracy to bring in theocracy, for they have already achieved the demagoguery feat.

With no one Noticing, BJP is Bringing One-Party Rule

Neue Wache- a building in Berlin, Germany- was erected in early 19th century. In the initial years, it was a memorial to Liberations Wars but later served as the site of annual celebrations by the then powerful Nazi Party. The building houses a sculptor, ‘Mother with her Dead Son’. This very statue is a reminder of the costs of war, war that was seen and projected by Hitler as a means to achieve dominance. Hitler may have died after having drastically failed to realise his ambitions, Germany endured endless sufferings. No family existed that did not lose its member in war. The costs of Hitler’s ambitions were paid by common people, and the statue where a grieving mother is holding her dead son symbolizes this.

It is very simple to understand that the overly ambitious, divisive and great-at-oratory leader plunged not only Germany but all other countries into darkness. Nations have learned their lessons, and a large-scale war has been averted ever since. Indeed, countries have fought proxy wars and the places which were at the heart of these conflicts could never recover from the damages. Iraq, Yemen, Syria and many more countries have only produced war refugees and asylum-seekers, not farm or industrial goods.

What about the present political environment in India? Although analysts have taken note of economic gloom and negative GDP growth, are we realising what’s in the making? Is there a more dangerous thing that seeks our attention?

The signs are all here, and sadly no one is noticing what’s coming. The ruling BJP has, time and again, echoed its stance of making a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, and to a large extent, they have achieved it. Now one must try to make sense of why the BJP is so adamant at wiping off Congress from the Indian political landscape. It’s because Congress is the only political party that can replace the BJP; the others can only co-exist with the BJP and can never throw it completely out of power. The BJP’s design and party’s long-term goal has virtually nothing to do with India’s socio-economic well-being, the only goal is to remain in power.

And the party has been making all attempts to attain the goal. It is for a reason why the PM and his team invoke militaristic pride every now and then. If there is one thing that is sustaining BJP’s win in national and state elections, it is their clever way of invoking ultra-nationalism. While many are talking about this chauvinism, no one is actually realising where it can take India in the long-run. What do you think will be the electoral outcomes in next 15 years? Indeed, no one can correctly predict, and hence assuming that the BJP will maintain the current trend is not advisable. But what will happen if say people start voting for some other party, which comes out with a slim majority to form government at the centre?

Do you think the BJP will concede? The answer is available; we only need to read the signs. The PM was wearing a military uniform in his recent address on Diwali; why would he do this? A chief of defence staff (CDS) has been appointed to ‘address fragmented approach of armed forces and bring synergy’. In another scene, a section of the film industry is finding political patronage by making films on wars where historical facts can be distorted to instill a sense of militaristic pride in the Indian audience. And lastly, other leaders of the BJP- from national to local levels- have been endorsing a majoritarian stance so that in any event of electoral failure, mass can be mobilized in the name of militaristic and majoritarian pride.

The coming years in Indian politics are quite worrisome. If voters continue to back the BJP by sacrificing their personal growth, BJP can go for misadventures like the Nazi Germany that will ultimately cost India irrespective of whether we win or lose such unwarranted wars. And if voters ultimately decide to shun the BJP, the party will then use the section of populace that blindly backs their ideology to create unrest and maintain the one-party rule. From many in India Inc. to overly sentimental backers, BJP will use them all to ensure they cling on to power. The costs will be borne by the country and its wider population.

Not Any Other, This is Class Gap Alone

Politicians can convince us otherwise, but what India faces is a class gap. Consider this- when you, as an ordinary man, visit any government office or a public sector bank and struggle to get your work done, it is never the faith, caste or gender of the staffer to blame. The reason why many Indians fail to avail important services is because the ones responsible to diligently discharge their duty consider themselves a class apart. This class gap is almost the same for all Indians, however, people with some means use their resources to tide over difficulties, and it is for the ones with limited or no means to suffer endlessly.

India is under self-rule for many decades. There have been a few successes, for example, our literacy rates have improved and the middle class is growing. But where do we go from here? Even this middle class lacks a truly dignified life. And failures greatly outnumber achievements. From access to drinking water to quality and affordable healthcare for all Indians, we have failed miserably. Visit any public sector bank and you will experience the helplessness. While many Indians have accepted this as a norm to survive in India, they have inadvertently forgotten that it was for their own well-being and progress that we celebrated the self-rule.

On the other hand, the politician has astutely exploited things like faith, caste and gender to fool the people into believing that any supremacy in these respects can eventually lead to ordinary man’s emancipation. Socialism and communism have lost their true values in India and what has won is class supremacy of a few. There is no denying that socialists and communists have both failed to learn with times and deliver what they openly promise- equal society. They failed to adapt to modern times and revise their methods in accordance with prevailing conditions and aspirations of people. In fact, it was a blend of the pluses of socialism and capitalism that India needed post-independence.

Another key thing to note here is that this class gap has been eternal, and only the constituents change. For example, a man may have retired as a secretary with central government with no hiccups in socio-economic progress in his personal life; however, his future generations may still have to struggle should they find themselves on the other side of the elite wing. Even after so many 5-year plans that have had some elements like irrigation, healthcare and education as perpetual areas of focus, there has not been an iota of success. Farmers are not thriving, healthcare serves only the rich and any reforms in education have yet to produce the number of doctors, scientists and economists we need.

The worst thing amid all this is that politicians have failed to recognize, let alone fix this class gap, and the wilful default of government staffers and such other persons in powerful positions has gone unpunished. On the contrary, these modern day politicians have stoked faith, caste and gender enmities to keep the class gap intact. The presently ruling government at the centre is using all they can to keep the majority faith busy in faith supremacy alone and has convinced them that they should forget any personal growth since the greater objective is far more sacred. The ordinary man, blinded by this shrewd tactic, has forgotten that the self-rule, which Indians had celebrated in 1947, was to curb the class gap and lift them out of desperation and indignity.

It’s time new-age politicians re-invent their ways. It’s time they address the class gap and start a new class struggle- nonviolent, pragmatic, well-planned- to enable the ordinary man rise above such day-to-day struggles. The message that it’s not faith, caste or gender supremacy but equal society that must be achieved has to be disseminated. It is to be told that persons from all faiths, castes and genders have equally misused their elite status and have equally suffered. It is class struggle alone that India needs today, any other promise is a fraud inflicted upon the non-elite by the elite wing.

Political Alternative or a Military Coup- India Must Brace Itself

First things first. Although Germany had surrendered in May 1945, the WW2 in the Pacific came to an end only in August after the US had dropped nuclear bombs on Japan. It is a well-documented fact that Japan did not anticipate such devastating defeat and the subsequent occupation of the country by the US. The point is that things may occur unexpected. But the job of thinkers and analysts is to warn the stakeholders of any such probable events, and this is why discussing any possibility of a military coup in India makes sense, though this may be very distant and extremely unlikely.

But before we talk of this ‘strong’ term- coup d’état- let’s first consider what is relatively in the offing. That the Modi-led cabinet cannot rule prudently is a shared viewpoint of almost all non-partisan intellectuals and analysts. A seemingly-better-alternative-to-BJP wins in state polls even when BJP plays the faith card. Delhi and states in the South and even INC’s victory with slim margins in few states corroborate this argument. PM Modi, however, remains the preferred choice of most Indians and this is because of the lack of alternative in national politics.

On the other hand, the economy is in a freefall, joblessness is high, prices are rising and there is no visible improvement in law and order or in border situation as was anticipated by Indians when they boarded the Modi bandwagon. Any fair analysis will predict that the sole pillar of BJP support is the Hindu majoritarian political stance of the party. But do you think that the public at large will continue backing this stance in the long-run? That the ordinary man craves personal growth more than faith supremacy alone was validated in Delhi state elections. What will happen when the presently-concealed-by-oratory situation comes out in the open and the public realises that the Modi oratory isn’t enough for personal growth?

Here, we must consider the first part of this article’s heading- political alternative. Just one late development is enough to understand how badly the country needs an alternative. LJP, a party that was part of NDA in Bihar and allied with JD (U) and BJP to run the administration is likely to side with the winning coalition in 2020. In fact, politics has stooped so low that Nitish, who fought the elections alongside RJD and cursed BJP in the run up to 2015 state polls, shunned his allies to join hands with BJP. This is just one of many such immoral, unethical power games in the current political setup that have made/ will make the ordinary man disenchanted, but the lack of alternative is helping BJP and others maintain a winning streak.

Isn’t it understandable that this is the most suitable time for aspirants to give the country what it urgently seeks- a political alternative? The Emergency and 1977 general elections were a watershed moment; it was the dawn of regional parties and non-Congress PMs. What 2020 and next few years will bring is the similar opportunity for wise and ethical men to challenge the might of Modi and fill the void that has emerged due to INC’s inability to seize the moment. In coming days, we are set to see further GDP contraction and an invisible class struggle that can pave way for a new breed of politicians to reduce the gap between classes and bring inclusive development.

Now, it’s time to discuss the second part. In the absence of any such political alternative in near future, the countrymen may be left with no other choice than to feel disillusioned with civilian politics. The Modi cult or that of other BJP politicians isn’t eternal, and some late developments in the country- indeed, under the patronage of BJP- can decisively shift the mood of the public towards high-handed, centralized administration and this is when they might look at military as a good alternative. Take a look at Pakistan’s history- the first coup in 1958 was a product of events that included making Pakistan an Islamic Republic, failure of judiciary, cult figures in politics and military, and a general sentiment that politicians were weak and corrupt.

India is facing too many threats simultaneously, and it is in light of these threats that a military coup may in some distant future become a reality. From Chinese border incursions to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and record-breaking unemployment rate and rising inflation, there are so many failures that presently stand concealed behind majoritarian politics, however, will in near future dominate the political discourse. Believe us, all the news- from unscientific ways to deal with the pandemic to silent subversion of the constitution to more-than-judicious veneration of military to growing class gap, where the state employee is an elite and private sector worker a nothing- we read and often pay no attention to will shape the landscape of the country.

And so as it seems, the country must decide on what it seeks and deserves- an alternative led by civilians with ethical intentions or a coup of some sort. We may choose to ignore it now, just like Japan ignored many of its misadventures in WW2, or the US in Vietnam War, but the national political scene is somewhat fragile and a course correction will take place- sooner or later.

BJP is a Regressive Idea- Take a Cue from Socrates

Terming anything regressive for the sake of it or to mislead the ordinary man is a different thing but doing it to defend the present and future interests of all citizens is different. Against this backdrop, let’s note why the presently dominating Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is counter-productive to the socio-economic landscape of India. And this emanates from the way the party recruits its leaders, alongside the modus operandi that shrewdly markets and sells a glossy-looking but degenerative ideology.

First, the party has practically no leader who has the acumen to run the administration. Here, we need to know that oratory is a poles apart skill and cannot be likened to good administration. Had oratory been the indispensable attribute of a capable and productive leader, the founders of pyramid selling schemes would have delivered a perfect world where jobs were abundant and standard of living impeccable. In Gorgias- Socratic dialogue by Plato- Socrates argues that in comparison to an expert, a rhetorician is always ‘more convincing’ when persuading an ‘ignorant audience’. Socrates even equates rhetoricians with tyrants.

And it is here- in a nation that has yet to bring millions out of poverty and make health and education accessible for all- that BJP found the perfect breeding ground for rhetoric politics. With this approach, the party in its present form has recruited rhetoricians in its ranks, leaders who can be flawless at delivering speeches but clueless when it comes to run the administration. From CMs to cabinet ministers, the party has filled positions with leaders that bring to the table nothing but oratory and feel-good superficial ideas.

Second, the party is set to be even more regressive in years to come and there is a very strong argument in this favour. Presently, the high ranking officials in the party deploy hate as a means to garner support only when the need arises, typically around the time of elections. But the new recruits in the party, especially the youth seeking career in politics, know that the easiest way to make a quick impact is polarization and politicization of issues that place one community against the other. One does not need a vision to lift poor out of poverty but only an ability to incite hatred and bigotry.

Third, the party can never shed its roots that date back to pre-independence India. The predecessor to the party was Bhartiya Jana Sangh, the political arm of RSS. Founders included Syama Prasad Mukherjee, the man who was inducted by INC as minister even with his conflicting ideology. Mukherjee’s politics- where he opposed the Quit India Movement, demanded Bengal’s partition, and even allied with Muslim League to form provincial government- was not politics of good governance but that of rhetoric. The same legacy was carried forward by the man who was central to BJP’s ascendance on the national scene, Lal Krishna Advani. At a time when INC was losing ground, Advani exploited faith to garner support.

The problem here is that BJP leaders are now so inclined towards rhetoric that they have turned a blind eye to fallouts of such politics. Today, from health to education, orthodox and unfounded concepts have taken precedence over science and reasonableness. Here, vested interests are making profits even as the ordinary man is being deprived of any socio-economic progression. From unproven remedies for diseases to elite reinvigorating the dismantled caste order to dictatorial stance towards dissent, the ordinary man is losing, and the worst part is that the rhetorician has easily convinced him that all troubles will eventually do him some good.

BJP’s advance is counter-productive to the ordinary man. And Socrates’ critique of rhetorician is enough to understand this.

The Distorted Concept of State

Humans have an inherent propensity for forming associations. These groupings are formed to further the interest of members of the group, and this alone is the intent. It is then understandable that whosoever says that the group, and not its members, should hold precedence, should thrive no matter how bad the condition of members is has some vested interests. The point is when the fundamental unit of the group is its member, how can the group justify its existence without having done something good for all members?

Now consider modern states across the world. Indeed, there are no natural borders that separate them and residents of two or more states often share similar features including faith, colour and race. When people decided to form these modern groups called ‘state’, the intent was good. It was perceived that by having a separate national identity, demarcated borders and by having in place a defined system of governance, all constituents would thrive. Modern states, as recognized today, owe their existence to the same concept of forming a group for the furtherance of interests of members.

But the question is whether these modern states deliver on their promise? A few of them seem to have accomplished the objective. For example, Nordic countries have proved that states do act as facilitators of personal growth of constituents given that governance is good and inclusive growth is sought. But the same idea of having a state to better manage the affairs of the constituents has proved counter-productive in many other cases. The key reason behind this failure is glorification of the concept of nationalism, so much so that the citizens of modern states have been taught, often by propaganda, to believe that their interests hold no value when a choice has to be made between their well-being and that of the nation.

While it may seem a little difficult to understand how this distorted concept of state and nationalism has deprived the ordinary man of development, let’s understand this with an easy example. When some men join forces to work for an enterprise, the hierarchy is comparable with that in the state. The manager acts as a bridge between labourers and owners, and the objective of the enterprise is to generate revenue for the betterment of all these stakeholders. Workers must abide by the norms as citizens abide by the laws of the country. The owner is entitled to some revenue and must distribute some among these workers. But what if the owner seeks absolute precedence of the interests of the enterprise over that of workers?

Indeed, the enterprise can produce and sell more should the workers opt for extended shifts. Indeed, the profits can be higher should the workers stick to same wages despite an available possibility of pay hikes. The owner, when workers commit themselves blindly and not rationally to the enterprise, becomes the sole beneficiary. And the same happens when citizens of the state are compelled to place the state above everything else. What happens is elected representatives or the monarch colludes with capitalists and other powerful men to deprive the ordinary man of what he otherwise legitimately deserves.

The revenue that is collected in the form of taxes levied on even most basic needs is spent less on the betterment of citizens and more on fortifying the state. The money that can be used for health, education, sanitation and such critical aspects is diverted to buying more weapon systems. The state that was formed by its members with a view to prosper and live a dignified life becomes more a liability and less an asset.

Consider the state of India that was formed in its present form when Indians acquired the right to self-rule from the British. The Indian Constitution begins with ‘WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA’ and then declares the intent to constitute the state with a view to further the interests of the people. Indeed, it is here that we must know that people hold precedence over the state. And when the makers decided to have fundamental rights as justiciable rights and fundamental duties as symbolic, they once again made people primary and the state secondary. It was the very intent of the makers to remind the people of India that the state was constituted for them, that they were the building blocks and not the other way around.

Slowly, over the course of years and with different political parties at the helm, the country acquired the status of being a regional powerhouse and then a strong player in the international scene. The country now has a nuclear arsenal and modern military equipment to boast of but what about the promise that was made to the ordinary man when the state was formed? Was this ordinary man told in advance that he would have to sacrifice his child’s education, health and access to clean drinking water, good roads and such other basic necessities in order to let the state achieve hegemony? Was he told that the elite and the powerful will live lavishly even as tens of millions will stare at poverty even in the 21st century?

India fared still better. Countries, for example North Korea, that chose to give the people the least and the state the maximum failed miserably. But that is no excuse for China, India, the US or others to exploit the innocence (read ignorance) of ordinary members of the respective state and further the interests of the state alone. Ultra-nationalism cannot be the tool to divert most of the resources that belong to the people for the exploitation by the elite in the name of ‘national security’ and ‘state dominance’. Citizens, often ignorant that they made the state by agreeing to be a part, deserve to be educated about the same.

PS: National security does matter and it can never be argued that this field can be left neglected. But when the choice is between acquiring latest weapon system (during peace times) and laying of roads (to connect the hamlet to schools), the latter must be preferred.

New Farm Bills are reminder of British Raj and Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha

India is a free country led by representatives elected by voters. In theory, this means that the last man is not only represented in the legislature, his interests are also taken care of. The new farm bills that have now become a binding law break this trust on many counts. And while the common man is only aware of the debate around ‘freedom to sell the produce anywhere in the country’, there is so much more that lies beneath.

The ruling party is busy convincing farmers that they are now ‘free’ to sell their produce anywhere and this would eventually mean getting better remuneration. Let’s consider this aspect later and first talk about what they are calling as contract farming – a way for farmers to enter into highly remunerative deals with corporates. Really? Will the farmer win? Go a little back in the past to see how OYO Rooms- an Indian hospitality chain- lured hoteliers, mostly with modest resources, into signing so-called ‘lucrative’ and ‘revenue multiplying’ deals.

Hoteliers were relatively better aware of commercial and contractual aspects as a major chunk came from cities. In the end, however, the hoteliers feel cheated. Many have alleged that OYO abused its dominant position and manipulated contractual obligations in their own interests, thereby leaving hotel owners with losses. Think of the farmer. Barring a select few, most of these do not have even basic understanding of contracts and laws governing them. Do you expect the corporate to enter into a morally and ethically equitable contract with the farmer? Indeed, this is nothing but wishful thinking.

Now also consider how the British forced Indian peasants into growing indigo. The Mahatma’s first major agitation in India had this issue at its core. The peasants of Champaran pleaded with Gandhi to become their voice against oppressive methods employed by British landlords. What do you expect the corporates will do? Will they even care about soil losing its nutrients due to unsustainable farming practices? Will they ask the farmer to grow crops that are best-suited to the region or those that can fetch lucrative returns? Will they adjust to uncertainties in farming including monsoon or will they abuse the contract to protect their own financial interest?

Anyone convincing the farmer that contract farming will open floodgates of innovation, better infrastructure and remuneration is doing the same thing as was done by the PM when he declared a so-called 21-day war against coronavirus. Did coronavirus go away? Did demonetization put an end to black money? Did GST prove a boon to small businesses? Forget promises and assurances and think rationally this time.

Lastly, any discussion on the so-called new freedom to farmers to sell produce outside of APMC premises is flawed. This was already happening and a few corporates were buying directly from farmers. Yes, there were charges imposed by state governments but that is the discretion of state governments in India. When a packet of Parle-G can have a portion of tax in its retail price, are APMC levies so unfair? The central government, by bringing the new law, has first, impinged on state list subjects; and then, has given a new glossy-looking sanction to trade outside of APMC only to make corporates appear more acceptable.

The farmer community is at loss, realise it before it is too late.