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Amazing political longevity

To succeed in the murky world of Indian politics, cynical amorality combined with chameleon qualities is very useful. Consider the amazing political longevity of Lalu Prasad Yadav, former Bihar chief minister and Union railways minister. Beginning his career as a youth leader in the late Jayaprakash Narayan’s anti-corruption crusade against then prime minister Indira Gandhi in the 1970s, Lalu rose high in politics by promising equality to the cruelly neglected Dalits and backward castes of Bihar. But soon after he was swept to power in 1990, he became deeply mired in a fodder-for-cattle procurement scandal, and following a prolonged battle in the courts, was disqualified from holding public office by the Supreme Court, whereupon he promptly appointed his illiterate wife, Rabri Devi as chief minister in his stead and misruled by proxy. 

Since then, this typically amoral BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and UP) politician has remained a permanent fixture of Bihar politics, and following the Bihar assembly election of 2015 when his RJD party unexpectedly won the largest number of seats in the legislature, he arm-twisted chief Nitish Kumar to appoint his two sons as deputy chief and forestry ministers in the state’s coalition government. 

Not content with running the state government through proxies, now this backward castes champion has transformed into a businessman, inevitably crooked. Right now, Bihar’s largest shopping mall is under construction on a two-acre plot in Patna owned by a company named Lara Projects LLP in which the Lalu family is the major shareholder. According to the Kolkata-based The Telegraph, this plot was transferred to Lara Projects without any discernible compensation by RJD member and MLA Prem Gupta, who had been granted the lease of two railway hotels when Lalu was Union railways minister of the Congress-led UPA-I government in 2004-2009. 

Yet despite his disqualification from holding public office, Bihar’s electorate voted the Lalu-led RJD to power. It’s no coincidence that it is India’s most educationally backward state ranked last in the Educational Development Index of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration. Quite obviously, it’s in the interest of the state’s light-fingered, amoral politicians to maintain the status quo. 
Unheeded history

At first the insidious agenda was covert. BJP leaders — including prime minister Narendra Modi and party spokespersons — would reply to English language television and print journalists in Hindi, allegedly the national language of the country. 

But of late, the campaign to establish the supremacy of Hindi and impose it upon the general public, including citizens resident south of the Vindhyas has become overt. After publicly celebrating Hindi Day (September 14) last year with great zest, the BJP/NDA government at the Centre has issued a spate of official circulars to establish Hindi — which coincidentally would confer a great advantage to citizens of BIMARU states in bagging government jobs, topping public exams, accessing information — and relegate non Hindi-speaking citizens to second-class status. Recently the Union cabinet has advised Central government ministers to deliver all public speeches in Hindi; the Central Board of Secondary Education is set to make Hindi compulsory in all affiliated schools, and the University Grants Commission is mulling a proposal to introduce a compulsory Hindi learning programme in all higher education institutions. Never mind that the faux intellectuals of the RSS and sangh parivar haven’t bothered to write half-decent textbooks in this under-developed language. 

Evidently, BJP and sangh parivar leaders have short memories and/or poor knowledge of history. In 1965, riots broke out in the southern state of Tamil Nadu when a similar proposal to declare Hindi the sole national language of India was mooted. After two months of riots, arson and lawlessness in which 70 citizens were killed, the Congress government at the Centre assured the nation that English would remain the associate national and link language of the country. Despite this assurance, the Congress has never won an assembly election in Tamil Nadu since 1967. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history invariably pay a stiff price for their foolishness. 

Services opportunity

Although in terms of standards of most goods and services India is among the world’s bottom-ranked countries, the quality of in-flight service provided on domestic airlines is far superior than in the US and western countries. The violent, forced eviction of Dr. David Dao, an ethnic Vietnamese from a domestic United Airlines (tagline: “fly friendly skies”) flight is impossible to imagine in India. 

The deplorable service dispensed by in-flight personnel in the US is likely to shock Indian travellers, as it did your editor over a decade ago, when a surprise invitation from the US National Governors Association — a club of the governors of America’s 52 states — obliged me to travel to De Moines, Iowa. At the time, there was widespread — totally unwarranted — apprehension that the education gap between the US and India (and China) was closing rapidly and the hon’ble governors wished to learn the secret of India’s success. 

Although your editor had a first class through ticket (courtesy NGA), it had no validity on the classless, cramped domestic flight from Chicago to Des Moines carting an estimated 100 passengers. The aircraft was ruled by only one middle-aged airhostess of fierce ruddy countenance. A packet of peanuts was all that was offered by the airline though canned soft drinks and beer were on sale at the beginning of the 90-minute flight. All passengers — including your editor — were clearly intimidated by the tough all-American air hostess who kept up a sarcastic running commentary pulling up passengers — addressed by their seat numbers — for imaginary infringements and unreasonable requests. 

In service industries — government companies excluded—India has an edge over the West. There’s an opportunity to build on it.

311 Views  | Posted on:10 May,2017 Add Comment  Show Comments (0)