November 28, 2000


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Arvind Lavakare

Is Armageddon the only solution?

If it's going to take nothing but Armageddon itself to thoroughly cleanse the prevalent putrid polity of India, our motherland, so be it. Let there be that war then, a major war, a five-year war if need be.

A perusal of just two English language newspapers of November 22, 2000 reveals the depth to which our political ambience has sunk and made our democracy a self-centered cesspool. We are at the sordid stage where nobody but nobody seems to know or understand the rules of the game or wants to play by them. It all seems to be only a giant ball game of pelf and power for oneself, and the nation can go to hell -- call it narak if you will.

Start with the Lok Sabha where sit the 541 representatives elected by universal adult franchise across our vast land. They with two nominees of the President are meant to be our law-makers, guardians of our nation's destiny and models of grace and grey eminence.

But the press reports on November 22 focussed on the childish, churlish behaviour of the Samajwadi Party in obstructing the acknowledged Leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi of the Congress, from being the first to speak on the proceedings of the second day of our Parliament's winter session.

Supporters of both parties repeatedly stormed the well (pit) of the House -- a practice that's now become quite common. The House was adjourned without transacting any business whatsoever.

Note the utter contempt these Parliamentarians showed that day for decency and fair play, for the irrecoverable immense loss of time and money they were causing to the country. Are they human beings or are they animals gone amuck? Are they Indian citizens or are they Trojan horses?

Even as the above travesty of democracy was being enacted, what did our Lok Sabha Speaker do? He, G M C Balayogi, sole juror and judge in the august House, admitted that members were refusing to listen to his call for order, pleaded helplessness and pronounced that he had no option but to adjourn the House for the day.

That decision showed up Balayogi for what we've already known him to be: thoroughly unfit for the prestigious chair he had got last year through sheer accident of providence. He is apparently ignorant that Rule 373 of the official Rules of Procedure & Conduct of Business -- Lok Sabha empowers the Speaker to direct immediate withdrawal for a day of any member whose conduct in the House is 'grossly disorderly.'

While defining that behaviour is entirely the Speaker's prerogative, you don't have to be much older than a child to decide that grown-ups leaving their assigned seats again and again to storm the well of the Lok Sabha is absolutely repugnant behaviour. Balayogi is apparently ignorant that, at least till November 1986, such immediate withdrawal for disorderly conduct in the House had been effected by various previous Speakers in 37 instances, including four inflicted on Madhu Limaye and one on Dr Ram Manohar Lohia.

On that day, he allowed Sonia Gandhi to read out from a written speech (lasting 10 minutes) although our established parliamentary code of behaviour, decorum and etiquette prohibits reading out a written speech unless it's a member's maiden one in the House.

But does Balayogi, care for anything else but his post and attendant perks? Sadly, no media scribe cares enough and knows enough to raise that billion-rupee question. Ironically, the man has, as Speaker, already travelled about half the world giving lectures on parliamentary functioning. And Sonia Gandhi -- what is the measure of her self-respect if she cannot yet, as Leader of the Opposition, deliver an extempore speech in Parliament? Oh, what humbug does India permit to be exhibited abroad!

Worse about the travesty inside the Lok Sabha was that unrest was rife outside in many parts of the country's capital city. A railway locomotive and nearly a hundred public vehicles, including transport buses and a fire tender, were reportedly burnt in an unprecedented agitation that choked the national highway but not the Samajwadi Party's vicious politics with Ms Gandhi on the Lok Sabha floor.

That agitation -- reported for the successive day in the press on November 22 -- was another symptom of the shameful stupor our country is suffering from. Prompted by the allegedly forced closure of polluting industrial units under a Supreme Court verdict of 1996, the agitators thought that the only form of protest was hooliganism -- that's something now patented in our land by all and sundry from municipal mazdoors to members of Parliament.

As though implementing a Supreme Court order four years late was not self-deprecating enough, the panicky Delhi government of the Congress rushed to the apex court requesting permission to go slow on the execution of that order of 1996.

Another Congress chief minister exposed his own distorted priorities of governance in the newspaper of November 22. We read that day that Maharashtra's CM had, bowing to Soniaji's wish, delivered a deadline to a Special Task Force to speed up the implementation of the Srikrishna Report's recommendations on the Mumbai riots of 1992-93.

The state government has had no money for several purposes, including the renewal of service contracts for the electronic security gadgets at its Mumbai headquarters; its political stability is under threat from within, and it has a dozen problems outside. Despite that mammoth headache, the state CM thinks nothing of expediting a page of history that can stoke communal frenzy once again. Does good governance then mean only a national seminar in our wretched country?

November 22 also saw a front-page report of the river Sabarmati, that flows through Ahmedabad city, having become a repository of plastic bags, pollutants and human refuse, its water having become darkish blue or red or black or green at various places. Why did Medha Patkar & Co waste years trying to save the Narmada when she could have helped save the purity of sacred Sabarmati twice over in that period? Why doesn't the RSS chief galvanise his much-vaunted strength of volunteers to do that holy job now instead of only berating the Vatican all the time?

Our highly paid bureaucrats are hardly of a different genre. On that same sad day, we read of a contempt of court notice issued to the director of Centre for Policy Research. He is alleged to be continuing in office despite attaining the age of superannuation and is also accused of refusing to accept a Delhi court order staying the termination he effected of a professor's permanent service. What kind of a being is this director?

With all the puny and petty perverts around and ensconced, what will it take to disinfect them all and cleanse the country in one go? Will an Armageddon in Srinagar or Siachen scare the very shit out of their thick skins of grotesque selfishness? If that be so, then so be it.

Arvind Lavakare

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