Assembly elections are upon us. Universal suffrage is one of the great gifts of our constitution and the elections are our opportunity for making a choice; if we do not make a correct choice then we would have to suffer the consequences of the ineptness of our choice. So we must choose wisely! We have been fed on this diet for so long that I have come to believe that this bit of wisdom has welled up from within me; it is imminent, self evident and without the need of proof. However, I am wondering whether voting is a privilege or a punishment.
"You heard of honest Socrates
The man who never lied:
They weren't so grateful as you'd think
Instead the rulers fixed to have him tried
And handed him the poisoned drink.
How honest was the people's noble son.
The world however did not wait
But soon observed what followed on.
It's honesty that brought him to that state.
How fortunate the man with none." - Bertolt Brecht
My reputation as a problem solver seems to have never died down even though it has been years since I last showed my abilities. (For the information of the ignorant few I have described my heroic feats in quite unheroic terms on my blog.*) In fact, it is only I who seem to have put aside that glorious chapter of my life behind me, the rest of the world remembers.
Uncharacteristically, the mainstream media in Bihar has been reporting news on Bihar’s corruption and urban chaos in Patna for the last few months. While the muck raised by the opposition on the score of dozens of scams could be dismissed as malicious propaganda, the admission of Sri Jitan Ram Manjhi, the CM of Bihar, that corruption had gone up in and in fact as a minister in the previous government he himself had to pay a bribe of Rs. 5000 to get his electricity bill rectified cannot be dismissed lightly.1
My mind was made up. I would not waste a day more in approaching the neighbourhood bank for a loan of Rs 5 crores. But I was not too sure if the bank would as readily make up its mind about my creditworthiness with such a large sum. How would I know that, I thought, unless I took the first step. All my life I had been following the principle "neither a borrower nor a lender be", so I was ignorant of the ways to charm your lender about your creditworthiness.
Tarun Tejpal, the inquisitor par excellence is now himself being pilloried in the media for his "bad lapse of judgment". This "bad lapse of judgment", however, comes with its own palliative – his literary worth, his courageous journalism, his mastery of the art form of essay, his Midas touch are narrated in the same breath. That makes me feel so inadequate because I must confess; I have not read anything by Tejpal - essays, fiction, whatever.
If we judge by the result, the terrorist strike in Patna failed to achieve its objective. The terrorists seek to disrupt normal life by injecting a deep sense of insecurity and fear, to break the even tenor of life, to disrupt the routine. It kills five and terrorizes a city of five million.
After DG Vanzara’s letter claiming mere agency for himself and scores of his colleagues cooling their heels in the jails for all the gory deeds that are being attributed to the police in Gujarat comes the allegations by the police that they were forced by the UP administration to wink at communal bloodbath.
The political parties who have now been made accountable under the RTI will not easily give up and the legal battle may be contested till the bitter end in the higher courts.
The death of the lowly police constable Tomar underlines the existentialist irony of the lives of policemen in general. Caught up in these irrational, lawless times where the temperature and virulence of public unrest has the potential to make or unmake political fortunes of parties, police lends its face to the invisible enemy in the war between those in power and those others in exile.
The acts of lawlessness by the miscreants in the funeral procession of late Brahmeshwar Mukhiyajee in Patna, last June, raised some issues which any detailed theory of police inaction needed to address: how does the concept of police function in our polity? What is the relation between the government and its police force? In a situation of conflict of interest between the people and the government where should the police position itself?
For the last several decades ambitious political leaders have sought to create fiercely loyal battalions of bureaucratic palace guards who, if they pass the loyalty test, are exempted from every other. The idea of the neutrality of civil service has long since been jettisoned in practice and the civil servant and political masters often show the internal cohesion of predatory gangs.
We simply cannot wish away mafia. There are so many of them, active in areas which affect each one of us deeply. The resource mafia, illegally exploiting coal, timber and other forest produce wild life or, sand, depredate our environment. Or the development mafia bagging contracts for roads, bridges, railway lines and other projects takes away from us the fruits of planned growth. Or the land mafia, or the education mafia or the health mafia, the electricity mafia, or the co operative mafia. One could go on and on. And we live with them all the year round, relegating their activities to the basement of our brains.