A garland in the wrong hands

By Cynthia Stephen. Dated: 12/15/2019 11:57:32 AM

The state of the nation is disturbed. The economic data is at a historic low - GDP, Employment, NPAs in banks, cost overruns, even falling demand not only in the automotive but also in rural markets for FMCGs, even undergarments! For the first time in my memory we are seeing falling demand for POWER!! Thermal power plants are shutting down or running well below capacity as factory after factory closes down.
We've had the government coming in with healthy majority, they could have taken the best steps to encourage economic growth, invest in infrastructure,health and education, spur consumer demand, promote growth. But what do we have as its priorities?
Lockdown in Kashmir, now into its fourth month. The citizens carry out a boycott while the government tries totally disingenuously to convince the international community that things are "normal". It's a complete public relations disaster for the present dispensation.
NRC in Assam, with 19 lakh now disputed as citizens.
Operation Lotus in Karnataka, where the sanctity of the people's mandate is purchased in 17 constituencies and all those who sold their seats are now clamouring for cabinet berths in the state.
And they pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill, and the President quickly signs it into lawbefore we say Constitution. The Northeast flares up and is in flames even as we write. Internet shutdown in a large part of Assam. Inner Line Permits come into force in areas where they were never required earlier. The ethnic cauldron, ever simmering in the sensitive region which has an international border, has now erupted in at least two of the seven northeastern states.
Encounter raj in UP, combined with totally entitled politicians and godmen getting the full protection of the state while the women they have raped are jailed, raped again, killed and their family members do e to death. Four men who allegedly gang-raped a young girl killed in cold blood during an alleged reconstruction at the crime scene at 6.00 AM. Summary execution, says civil society, even as the state assembly in a neighbouring state passes a law that provides for investigation and sentencing to death in 21 days in case of atrocities against women. The Nirbhaya case still hangs fire with some baying for early hanging of the convicts while the court sets yet another date for hearing the next appeal by some of the convicts. Rapes of Dalits girls, caste atrocities, deaths of manual scavengers in sewers continue unabated and even register a rise all over the country.
Students in universities all over the country are in ferment over unprecedented rise in fees, taking higher education out of the reach of the economically and socially marginalised.
Religious minorities, especially the Muslims and to a smaller degree the Christians, brace for the often crass challenge of saffron forces to their peaceful prayer or even personal gatherings. A wave of orchestrated mob lynchings of mostly Muslim, but also Dalit cattle and animal hide traders.
The economy literally reaches the Hindu rate of growth (4%), something I had heard about 40 years ago from friends who were studying economics in higher secondary. Perhaps there really is something to this figure, if it recurs while a Hindu majoritarian government has been running the country for the past six years. I'm sure Golwalkar would have been very proud.
The picture is complete. Economic incompetence, governance deficit, image building over integrity, crony capitalists benefitting over the national economy, utter cluelessness on sensitive religious, ethnic and legal sensitivity, brazen misleading of the country by those who should be responsible leaders, a teflon-coated PM with a completely Machiavellian stormtrooper of a HM, and a Finance minister whose qualification for the post is her membership of the RSS, rather than her training and experience, while a shadowy kitchen cabinet of Gujarat cadre IAS makes policy and runs the government, such as it is, from the PMO, clearly there's a huge gap in the competence, sensitivity and experience required to run this unwieldy, untidy and noisy democracy of sub-continental proportions and equal complexity.
The divisive nature of the CAB has been seen in six or seven states including Punjab, Kerala, and West Bengal refusing to implement the statute. This has opened up another fault line along the powers of the states vs the federal government.
Seriously, how did we get here? In Kannada, we have a saying "Sivapujeyallikaradi" meaning literally, a (wild) bear in a place of worship. In Tamil, there's one even more apt. "korangukaiyilepoomalai" - a garland in a monkey's hands. Any which way, there's bound to be some serious damage.
Cynthia Stephen is a social activist

 

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