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No mangoes for aam aadmi

Is India a corrupted country? #1 Yes or #2 No. Participate in the survey and get cash card worth of Rs 150.” This is one of the spam mails I got on Wednesday morning after I had just finished my first cup of coffee and been through the depressing ritual of reading newspapers. I get it. Things are bad, awfully bad these days. Jairaj Singh writes.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2012 20:18 IST
Jairaj Singh

Is India a corrupted country? #1 Yes or #2 No. Participate in the survey and get cash card worth of Rs 150.” This is one of the spam mails I got on Wednesday morning after I had just finished my first cup of coffee and been through the depressing ritual of reading newspapers. I get it. Things are bad, awfully bad these days. But since when have we started to revel in this image of a corrupt state to market and sell ourselves? Surely, we are not trading our honour and pride now for a quick buck? Or are we?

In the last two years, a pall of gloom has descended upon Indians. No matter where we go, we’re known as a nation based on crony capitalism, run by thieves and looters with criminal records and murder charges, responsible for various large-summed scams coming to the fore. Some say that if all these losses to the national exchequer were accounted for, it would lift us out of poverty and illiteracy for good, and turn us into a global superpower, which was being projected to us till very recently.

Instead, a dark and volatile mood has given way to the rise and fall of various anti-corruption movements and rallies, capturing the essence of public sentiment, but losing in vision, integrity and wisdom.

From Anna Hazare to Baba Ramdev to Arvind Kejriwal, one will be surprised just how many times these activists have already come and gone, without food and water for days, openly condemning politicians from everything to rise in food and fuel costs to black money stored in offshore accounts. They don’t realise just how ironical and similar their own sloganeering sounds to those they are hurling abuses against; while their idealism is lost in the din of sensationalism and histrionics.

But, their repeated agitations have suffused a contrast. For the first time, scores of young people have been mobilised to step out of their homes, to raise their voice, and unite against the larger evil — this ten-headed mythical demon — corruption. It may be asked, though, if they know what they are dealing with — and where the true problem lies? If they ever go back home and introspect on how they can improve life for one and all, and if this is the only way to rid corruption? Or are they just out there, another face in the crowd, to light candles at India Gate, and be part of something big, because it makes them look good, responsible and motivated, like in Bollywood films?

The buck doesn’t stop here, even international journals doing qawwali not too long ago on how India is rising, ready to take on China in the coming years, have also been swept aside by the seething sentiment. Now, upon seeing the present political paralysis, they are taking open potshots at the government, run by an ‘inept’, ‘under-achieving’ and ‘silent’ prime minister, who was not so long ago their favourite ‘sober’ and ‘moderate’ technocrat.

Leading industrialists, former bureaucrats and marketing gurus, too, have written joint open letters to the government urging, and appealing them to rethink their polices, set aside their personal scores, and focus on decision making and economic growth.

Sure, politics and business make handsome bedfellows for breeding almost all large-scale corruption today, but can we not trust anyone to come forward and broker change? Top surveys pinpoint the outlook of India’s economic growth at its bleakest, the average Indian has lost hope, and India’s global image is taking its worst public beating ever. We may not appear dead just yet, but this isn’t exactly living either.

The rot within the system has also begun to expose: Parliament has not functioned smoothly for the last couple of terms (the recent Monsoon session was perhaps the most shameful and disruptive ever), politicians continue to lob charges at each other with holier than thou approach, social activists have been outclassed by their own grizzly political ambitions, social media is abuzz with sneers, pessimism and cynicism, patriotism is running at an all-time low, and the poor continue to live abysmally. Instead of looking for a way out, or plainly admitting defeat, we’re only sinking deeper in the blood of apathy, despair and squalor.

Life is not just about 9 0’clock news debate, political rallies, fasts, blame games, 2G spectrum, coal allocation, lokpal bill, coalition constraints, expunged jibes, UPA and NDA tenures, CAG audits, CBI probe, sedition charge, lathicharge and what not, but unfortunately it has come to be off late. Whether you’re on the Metro, or sipping chai at a stall, or in the newsroom, everyone is talking about it with utmost gloom, disgust and sadness. Everyone is low, dispirited and depressed, and no one knows where we’re headed, who to follow, or if we’ll keep our jobs.

It is this stormy and tyrannical mood, which is also compelling young people today to remain more aloof and alienated from problems dogging our country. Our education, parents, leaders and culture, who have all preached to us from childhood to strike big, and get rich, now refuse to tell us how.

The current attitude of Indians is selfish and self-righteous, urging one to look after your own interests, pull rank, and run. Worst all it is trying to capitalise on all this at a time when we’re down and out and steeped in corruption and inflation. But, the bubble is about to burst. We have to decide now, if we really want change. We need to start by thinking small, and act big. Or else we’ll lose everything.