THE UNSEEMLY AND HIGHLY politicised war of words which has broken between the opposition Congress and the ruling BJP on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary (November 14) of Jawaharlal Nehru, does little justice to independent India’s first prime minister. Whatever his other acts of commission and omission, it’s incontrovertible that Nehru dug deep foundations for democratic governance in independent India following its chaotic birth and infancy after the end of imperial rule.
All iconic leaders of the newly independent countries of the third world — Nasser, Soekarno, Nkrumah, Tito, and Ayub Khan in neighbouring Pakistan — took to the path of dictatorship or limited democracy after wresting their nations’ independence from foreign rule. Except Nehru, which speaks volumes for his exceptional intellect and liberalism.
However, it’s necessary and proper that history is relentless and unsparing in its judgement of men and matters. And it’s important for the Congress party and Nehru’s admirers to acknowledge that even this great titan of India’s independence movement, made some wrong-turns which have cost the country dearly. For one, despite being a student and chronicler of history, Nehru completely misread the character of the Indian people.
Therefore despite the sub-continent’s thousands of years of experience of free enterprise and trade, free India’s charismatic first prime minister led the gullible Indian people into the wilderness of neta-babu socialism in the naïve belief that government clerks and bureaucrats could build and manage great industrial and business enterprises. This was an egregious error which transformed high-potential post-independence India into arguably the most poor, corrupt and wretched nation of the contemporary world.
Nehru’s contempt for entrepreneurial capability was compounded by his sense of entitlement. Born into one of the country’s wealthiest westernised households, he sanctified the practice of brazen nepotism by appointing friends and relatives to high public office — his sister as ambassador to the UN, a nephew as ambassador to the US and his daughter Indira as Congress president. The stamp of legitimacy given to dynastic politics by Nehru has done incalculable harm to the nation, and political dynasties have mushroomed in almost all states of the Indian Union, giving rise to family mafiosi rule resulting in rampant corruption and nepotism.
Thus while it’s undeniable that independent India’s visionary first prime minister dug deep foundations for state secularism and protection of minority rights, and also endowed a superstitious and insular nation with a modern scientific temper — of which the IITs and IIMs are standing testimony — it would be foolish to deny that the debit side of this great man’s ledger is without entries. Therefore if the nation is to profitably learn the lessons of history, it’s important that the evil that men do should live after them, without the good being interred with their bones.
Checking child sexual abuse pandemic
A child sexual abuse pandemic, symptomatic of a serious malaise within Indian society, is sweeping the nation. The response is fleeting indignation and often mob fury directed at school managements and the establishment followed by acceptance of this abhorrent phenomenon as inevitable accident, and perhaps a rite of passage. According to a study conducted by the Union ministry of women and child development in 2007, 53 percent of children in India have suffered sexual abuse with the majority of them never reporting it.
The standard reaction of parents, families and school authorities is to hush up such heinous crimes to supress scandal. At the other extreme when incidents of child abuse are exposed, there’s the danger of lynch mob fury often misdirected at innocents.
Surprisingly, a growing number of state and local government authorities are inclined to take cognizance of this pandemic as a law and order issue. The Karnataka government for example has proposed the posting of two police constables in every school, an absurd solution. Moreover there’s a noticeable inclination within governments and the media to sensationalise child abuse incidents in upscale private schools, when in reality the incidence of child abuse in under-supervised government schools — especially in rural India — is more prevalent and unchecked.
Against this backdrop, the intelligent response is to investigate the deeper causes of this disturbing phenomenon which threatens to psychologically damage hundreds of millions of India’s children. Although fashionable liberals are likely to be dismissive, there’s an urgent national need to devise ways and means to block the flow of pornography, including child porn, which is being streamed into the country 24×7. Even if it’s politically incorrect to state as much, the multi-billion dollar pornography industry with its epicentre in the Great Satan (USA), is destabilising the minds of ill-educated, impressionable and indisciplined youth and adults worldwide, the US included, on a mass scale. In this context a tiny sliver of news that the Centre has constituted a task force of IT experts to block pornography into the country is welcome news.
Secondly, it’s important for Indian society to acknowledge that schools and parents have to work together to check this scourge. To this end, it’s crucial for all schools to establish strong parent-teacher associations. PTA meetings are the most appropriate forum to jointly devise systems and processes to prevent child abuse in schools and at home. The issues of installing CCTV cameras, training some teachers to double as vigilance officers, introducing sex education and the impact thereof on tuition fees need to be transparently discussed in PTA meetings for institutionally customised solutions to emerge. The nation’s vulnerable children are in grave danger. These initiatives brook no delay.