Sixty-five years may not be a long time in the life of a nation, but it certainly is enough to deal with persistent drags on the people's quality of life. That this has not been done effectively explains why respondents in the age group 18-35 in a Hindustan Times-C fore survey have rated corruption as their primary worry followed by economic growth, or the lack of it. If second generations reforms have not kicked in yet, we can only blame a divisive and weak political leadership, not of any one party but successive ones since the liberalisation process began in the early nineties.
While these are crippling issues, the manner in which all sorts of so-called civil society activists are taking up the issue of corruption and black money must also be questioned. Mahatma Gandhi used fasting as a powerful tool against an imperial occupier. Today, the very concept of fasting has been reduced to a farce by Anna Hazare and his crew and now by Baba Ramdev. While Anna focused on bringing in an effective Lokpal Bill, Ramdev has sought the return of all black money stashed abroad for development in India. The government has played its cards well this time in maintaining a deafening silence, which has prompted Ramdev to drop the pretence of his campaign being non-political and attack the Congress. The prospect of the government suddenly bringing back all the money stashed abroad is not feasible given the secrecy of banking laws in many countries. Should such a thing be done? Most certainly, it should, but not through the sort of coercive tactics employed by the likes of Ramdev. While he may have his followers, his protests recently threw life out of kilter in the Capital with even ambulances being denied the right of passage. To add to the melodrama we had recently retired army chief general VK Singh visiting a fasting Anna and then Ramdev, a clear signal that he sees a future political role for himself.
His attacks on the government sounded more like sour grapes given the cloud under which he exited service. It is also unfortunate that the BJP, the principal opposition party, feels the need to hang onto the coattails of a godman whose own financial dealings are opaque at best. It can easily take on the government on several issues instead of wasting time lending support to Ramdev on the issue of Indian money in foreign countries. It may well be asked what the BJP-led government did on this issue when it was in power at the Centre. But the fact that those opposing it do not have the best of credentials should be no excuse for complacency on the part of the government. At least in enlightened self-interest, it ought to address without delay the issues that seem to be exercising young people, who make up the bulk of our population today.