The year 2015 was to be the year of Modi’s much touted economic development. Instead it was the year of broken promises, wasted lives and eloquently empty speeches.
It brought us beef brutality in Dadri and searches of innocent rail passengers. It was the year that vigilantism became respectable. It killed rationalists. It brought respectability to Nathu Ram Godse- the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi. It silenced dissenting voices. This was the year dissent became anti-national. The forces of Hindutva – not Indianness – unleashed an ugliness rarely seen before.
Not wanting to stand out in the war against corruption, Modi aped UPA in 2015 in not resolving Vyapam and other scams. Violence in Malda showed the enduring communal divide.
The Congress Company didn’t like what Gandhis – its owners – faced in the courts so it shut down Parliament. The largely irrelevant dynasty refused to go quietly into the sunset. The sycophants couldn’t make them or let them.
The AAP government thought its main role was to battle and oppose the government of India and not to govern Delhi. The Delhi chief minister kept apologising for AAP’s infantile antics saying “Hammari neeyat to achchi hai” forgetting that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I am not impressed but since AAP can only be compared with the existing alternatives I’ll cut it some slack.
Pakistan-based terror continued to travel across the international border and wreak havoc on Indian lives. Indian soldiers continued to bring glory. But sadly there were hints of treason in the way terrorists managed to attack Pathankot. I hope to have entirely misread those signs.
And as India celebrates its 67th Republic Day, most political parties and leaders continue to pursue power for power’s sake. Even for those in politics for public service, once having attained power, it often becomes an end in itself. The promises made in the election campaigns are shamelessly forgotten, sacrificed or smothered in the realpolitik of clinging to power – often at all costs.
In this vicious cycle of the last three score and eight years India and most Indians have been the ultimate losers.
Omnipotent corruption, omnipresent caste and ubiquitous communalism: this is the uncontested and incontestable reality of India – underpinning the grinding economic deprivation we so numbly call poverty. We are no longer moved by it. We are not horrified by it. It has been with us for so long that we think it is but a natural accompaniment to most Indian lives.
Elections happen. The money often speaks far more than the voices of the janitors, peasants, farmers, factory workers, the elementary school teachers or the clerks in the office. Governments come and go. They pass laws; good laws and often dumb laws; and not much changes at all in things that truly matter.
Caste persists. Poverty endures. Corruption booms. Communalism corrodes the country. Inequality thrives. The economic inequality is obvious to anyone paying a momentary attention to the canvas of India. We don’t need a Thomas Piketty to tell us so. Nor do we need anyone to point out that the Indian state is becoming less transparent as to the reality measured in statistics. We know the gap between the rich and poor is widening. The poor are becoming relatively poorer and the rich becoming richer. Ashamed of the reality the governments of all stripes have made it more difficult to know the extent of the poverty.
The caste system in so far as it remains undefeated – and the tragic death of Rohith Vemula tells me it’s dehumanising and impoverishing features remain rabidly intact – will continue to thwart egalitarian economic development. The ceaseless assault of corruption on the pockets of ordinary people and the ensuing injustice and unfairness will considerably blunt any significant movement toward equal opportunity – a prerequisite to faster and more egalitarian economic development. Communalism, whether it be caste based or faith based, is another terrible inhibitor of equality.
On this important Day in the life and history of modern India I do not intend to literally rain on the Parade. But if it remains unvanquished, this unholy brew of corruption, caste and communalism will be the death of the idea of India; and the world will be poorer for it.