Making An Effort On Independence Day 2011
As speeches, promises and protests come to the forefront on Independence Day, it’s a great time to take heed of what’s going on in India, and try to understand a leaf of it. Not having lived in India for 13 years, it’s an effort to keep up, let alone to understand and to care. Not knowing where to start, I picked Manmohan Singh’s Independence Day Speech. It was a bit blah. Delivered in Hindi at the Red Fort in Delhi, from a closed, super-secure glass box didn’t help.
I remember when he came to position seven years ago, I was although not well-informed, happy. I perceived him as a quiet, honest intellectual who knows his numbers and has the potential to have impact. Now I feel he is perhaps too quiet; spineless.
In his speech, he talked about what we must and will do — feel-good stuff like: “I know that if we work together, we can face any challenge”; “We are building the edifice of modern India on the foundation of the hard work and sacrifices of our soldiers, our farmers and our workers,” etc.
He talked about what he takes credit for: “In the last seven years, our government has strived for political stability and social and economic progress; we have established an environment of communal harmony in the country; the pace of our economic development has been rapid; we have strived for reducing inequalities,”etc
And finally he touched upon what needs to be done: We need to fight corruption and let justice take the lead.
Opposition has criticised his speech saying it lacks clarity on an action plan and reflects helplessness of the government. The community says the speech is full of hypocrisy and lacks courage and motivation.
Perhaps the only point of substance (though superficial) is where he talks about having a strong Lokpal to prevent and discourage corruption. And then he goes against the people who are pushing for the Lokpal to be passed by condemning their extreme ways and discouraging people to support them.
I read a bit about what the Lokpal Bill is and it’s quite ingenious. The main objective of the Bill is to provide a faster and more effective form of justice to people; routed through officials that are completely independent of the governments and appointed by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities through a transparent and participatory process.
I was quite impressed with the thought process behind it and was saddened to see that not one version of it has been passed since 1969, when the first such Bill was submitted. The latest Bill draft has also been shelved by the government and burned by anti-corruption advocates like Anna Hazare because it defies public interest.
Anna Hazare is a strong believer of the Bill and is putting his life on the line to try to push it through. Tomorrow he starts another hunger strike that the government is prohibiting [isn’t India a democracy?], obviously because they fear of large scale community upheavals.
Corruption is definitely the root of most problems in our country. Is fighting for measures like the Lokpal Bill a solution? If not, what is? Is there a way out for our nation? I don’t see myself living in India for a long time to come, so do I care? Yes, I do.
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