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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Imagining an ageless Hindoostan... ten years from now

Even 10 years from now, India’s myriad problems will not end. But the country’s republicanism will ensure that we continue to keep the faith.

columns Updated: Dec 25, 2015 22:26 IST
India 2025 will be the theatre of pandemics, a trapezium of zoonotic ogres caused by the leviathan of callous living.
India 2025 will be the theatre of pandemics, a trapezium of zoonotic ogres caused by the leviathan of callous living.(Reuters)

One decade is not a giant span of time. It is possible to visualise developments in that duration, the progress of people’s ages being of course only a matter of calculation.

In 2025, 10 years from now, Atalji will be a 101. His associate of many a long year, Advaniji, will be 98. Dr Manmohan Singh will be 92 and by then a ‘former President’, Pranab Mukherjee, will be 89.

I do not want to ‘do’ the ages, 10 years from now, of our active politicians because that would appear to place some in a relative advantage over others although mortality, we know, is independent of chronology. What I want to do is imagine the status of some institutions 10 years from now.

First, our Parliament. Between now and 2025, two general elections — in 2019 and 2024 — would have taken place. Will we have that year a Lok Sabha of which at least one-third are women? I believe we will. Will we have a Lok Sabha that has a Jarawa, an Agariya, a transgender? Will we have Dalit MPs elected from non-reserved seats? Very probably, yes. A Lok Sabha in which MPs have spent only that much campaign money as is allowed by the Election Commission? Unlikely. A Lok Sabha that has no member with a criminal record? Alas, no. A Lok Sabha that is not adjourned many times a day because of MPs’ unruly behaviour? Definitely not.

And this is about a Lok Sabha that will be, in 2025, 73 years old.

Next, our higher judiciary. Between now and 2025, will we have a credible procedure in place for the appointment of judges? I believe we will. And if, to borrow the words of senior counsel Sriram Panchu, the appointment of judges follows “the triple tenets of governance — transparency, participation and accountability — virtues which the court frequently propounds”, that procedure will give to the people an important reassurance. Will by 2025 our judges have been insulated from the lure of post-retirement appointments by the government of the day? I am afraid not. And our Supreme Court will be, in 2025, 75 years old.

Then, our executive. Between now and 2025, will the president and vice-president be persons of independent stature, women or men of some learning and much empathy, a little grace and much scholarship? I fear not. Will governors be appointed for their judicious bent and personal eminence? No. Will, by 2025, a Lokpal have been added to the edifice of our nation State? Very likely, yes. But will she or he enjoy the nation’s confidence for impartiality, probity and guts? Unlikely. Will senior appointments in the bureaucracy be guided by ability rather than loyalty? No, the bureaucracy will itself not let that happen.

And our executive will be as old as Chanakya.

Finally, the public domain. Will we, by 2025, have a uniform civil code? We could. If yes, it will be for the wrong reason that majoritarianism will have prevailed. If not, it will again be for the wrong reason that purblind status quoism would have been conflated with minority rights.

Will communalism be reined in? It will not be. Would the death penalty have been abolished? No way! Medievalism will not let go of that toehold.

Will there be a modicum of reform in vehicular traffic’s insane behaviour on our roads? Certainly not. First-time vehicle owners and licence holders will continue to treat driving as a form of self-assertion, and older men at the wheel will continue to give them fight. Our roads will be a greater nightmare than they are now.

Will pollution levels come down, atmospheric, decibel, visible? One would have to be a humourist to say yes to that. Will Swachh Bharat make a dent? It might, in some parts of major cities but not all-India. The reason? The plastic, tetrapak and gutka lobbies can never be defeated in India. They are their own Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Shiva? Yes, because they will always allow a calibrated part of their product to be ‘banned’, resting assured that the fountainhead is not touched.

Will the Indian woman feel and be safer? Yes, in our cities and bigger towns, post-Nirbhaya. But in our villages, the macho Indian male will continue to exploit, mistreat and be violent with the Indian woman.

India will, according to projections, overtake China’s population in 2025. It will be a land of chaos, myriad tensions, of which the yawning divide between the rich and the poor will see unthought-of consequences. Migrations of the rural dispossessed looking for work in the cities will have created a world record of sorts. India 2025 will be the theatre of pandemics, a trapezium of zoonotic ogres caused by the leviathan of callous living. And almost certainly, the refusal of the State and society to heed seismic warnings and not adjust habitations to those, will see the most horrendous earthquake disasters of the Kathmandu type. And thanks to IS, the nightmare of our times, terror will scar us deep and red.

And yet. Yes, and yet 2025 will also see that most wonderful accomplishment of India, her Republican spirit soar and make every passing political heavyweight swing like a leaf against the counterweight of public awareness.

It will also see to it that the global war on terror does not hurl India into a local war within itself, communities pitted against one another, in a bizarre home version of that world war.

It is that republicanism, not the number of spaceships flying India’s colours in the sky, not its missiles or its nuclear submarines, not its giant malls, smart cities that will despite all its woes make us say in 2025 as before, sarey jahan se achchha Hindoostan hamara.

And that Hindoostan will be ageless.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is distinguished professor in history and politics, Ashoka University.

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Dec 25, 2015 22:25 IST