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|August 17, 2002||
Taming the predatory State of today
The predatory Christian State lives on India in the bureaucracy: the 'steel frame' of the erstwhile imperial state. Do you notice how the district administrator is still called a 'Collector'? And what is he collecting? In the old days, he was the tax-collector, the monstrous one whose job was to squeeze water out of a stone. It is clear that the steel frame has rusted badly, as the bureaucrats now seem to outdo the politicians in venality. As an example, take Harsh Mander, and his simultaneously holding on to his IAS seniority while drawing a princely sum from the NGO ActionAid. Not to mention the fact that allegations of conversion activities apparently disappeared as soon as Mander became head of ActionAid. Curious coincidence, isn't it?
As for the Nehruvian-Marxist State, the examples of its viciousness are legion. You just have to walk into any government office. I mentioned in my previous column Two strikes about how Kerala government employees returned to work after losing a month's salary. The trade unions, for once, got their comeuppance. Reader Chandra wrote, perceptively, that they lost even more in untaxed, unreported bribes that they have become addicted to: classic 'rent-seeking' behaviour.
With the failure of the 2002 Southwest monsoon, attributed by some to yet another El Nino in the Southern Pacific, we will see hardship and starvation; but there will not be a famine. This would be a good time, however, for India's bureaucrats to thoroughly read the superb Mike Davis book, which compares the results of El Nino droughts over several seasons and over several continents. To give credit where it is due, the Nehruvian Stalinist State has managed without a single major famine since Independence (something the Chinese Stalinist State did not manage, by the way).
The State and its institutions have nevertheless been hijacked by self-seeking individuals and philosophies. Look at the State-run educational system: the Nehruvian Stalinists and the Marxists have successfully subverted the curriculum to alienate Indians from their patrimony and heritage. They have simultaneously failed to provide universal mass literacy. The only successful schools are the for-profit private schools: nobody queues up or pulls strings or gives donations to admit their child to a government school. And the Macaulayite curriculum still teaches children to despise everything Indian: perfect for imperialists, but today? What a contrast with China's curriculum that teaches raging jingoism and contempt for outsiders! No wonder Indians grow up into anti-national 'secular' 'progressives' and Chinese into hyper-nationalists.
I had to laugh when I heard Comrade Sitaram Yechuri declaim at a conference that more and more schools need to be brought under the public sector, as if they hadn't screwed up enough already. He is right from his selfish perspective though: that is the only way more children can be brainwashed into Marxist drones. See my previous column on historicide and an item in The Telegraph of August 2: a 1992 examination paper in West Bengal in which students were required to write an essay on one the following topics (thanks to reader Ravi):
Personally, I would choose 'Five-year plans are a sham.' In 'Statistics on national development are a fraud,' they must be talking about their fatherland's accomplishments in this area: see my previous column, India vs China: Startling Economic Facts.
In another question, students could write an essay on: 'Red Flag in Red Fort, that is the demand of Hindustan.' I must be confused -- I thought the Marxists supported the Islamist desire for the Green Flag over the Red Fort.
Alternatively, the students could write a précis of the following paragraph:
As usual, the Marxists show that their only allegiance is to their own worldwide brotherhood. An illusory brotherhood, it has disappeared; alas, it is only in West Bengal and Kerala, and nowhere else in the world, that such dinosaurs still strut about taking themselves seriously! But they have managed to do plenty of damage already.
Look at the electricity boards, at the (erstwhile) telecom monopoly, the public airlines. Not one of them offers you the services that you as John or Jane Doe deserve. They insult you, humiliate you, act as though it were a great favour that they serve you, whereas they are paid to serve you. I find especially instructive the 'volume penalty' imposed by the phone company: that is, if you make more calls, you must pay more per call. In most systems, there are 'volume discounts,' that is, good customers get to pay less per call, but not here! This is another example of an interfering, failing State.
What is the solution? I honestly don't know. I present this analysis so that at least we are aware of the problem.
For one, I think the Indian Administrative Service needs to be revamped. I say this even though I know dedicated, intelligent and wonderful human beings of great integrity who are in the service. But the system has been thoroughly corrupted, because of political interference and the lure of money. I look at the Singaporean model: there the civil service is incorruptible because they are paid extremely well and because they are not under the thumb of the political class. Is this possible is India? Clearly there has to be administrative reform.
Another possibility is performance related appraisals in the vast bureaucracy, in addition to the proposals of the Fifth Pay Commission. The commission asked the government to reduce its strength by 30 per cent, if I am not mistaken, and to increase salaries by 20 per cent. The first recommendation has been ignored, and the second implemented, naturally. The fact of the matter is that the bloated imperial bureaucracy is not needed. When government employees went on strike in Kerala, life continued as usual, nobody missed them at all. As I keep suggesting in the case of India's hapless cricketers, let us give the bureaucrats a mechanism of 'Management by Objectives:' their goals are well laid out, and if they meet them, they get incentives; else they get fired. It is important that public sector jobs are no longer sinecures for bribe-seeking.
Since much of the problem in the State arises due to politicians, there needs to be thoroughgoing reform there too: for instance, insisting on standards of moral probity and on full disclosure of assets. In other words, no criminals, and only those who have some transparency in their financials will be allowed to stand for elections. And defections will be banned altogether: if you wish to change parties you have to resign and run for elections again. And, oh by the way, the cost of the by-election will be charged to you, personally. This will work wonders for stability, and see the end of the ameba-like asexual reproduction of political parties based on somebody's idiosyncrasies, the effects of which Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress demonstrates daily.
The other, perhaps more important thing to implement, is true democracy, where all citizens are treated the same under the gaze of the law. A uniform civil code is an absolute necessity. The definition of 'minority' is meaningless in India, since everyone is a linguistic or communal minority because of the proliferation of caste based identity in India. I would be very surprised if anyone thinks of himself as a 'majority person:' for everyone owes their allegiance to their linguistic and caste peers; and in pretty much all cases, these groupings are minority groupings. I think the State has to treat everyone equally, with a few selective affirmative action benefits given to the truly deserving, instead of blanket, loophole-ridden preferences given today to 'minorities:' I do believe in reservations as they have demonstrably helped the truly downtrodden.
Finally, the government itself needs to change its attitudes: instead of being the omniscient and omnipotent Big Brother, it needs to redefine its role as an infrastructure provider, whose main role is law and order, defense and external affairs and the protection of national interests in multilateral and bilateral world for a: a shameless mercantilist State, just like all the other major powers.
Rajiv Malhotra mentioned an astonishing forthcoming book, Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime by Veena Talwar Oldenburg. The author argues that 'these killings are neither about dowry nor reflective of an Indian culture or caste system that encourages violence against women. Rather, such killings can be traced directly to the influences of the British colonial era. In the precolonial period, dowry was an institution managed by women, for women, to enable them to establish their status and have recourse in an emergency. As a consequence of the massive economic and societal upheaval brought on by British rule, womens' entitlements to the precious resources obtained from land were erased and their control of the system diminished, ultimately resulting in a devaluing of their very lives.' More good things thanks to the Christian State.
Speaking of Malhotra, I would recommend his extraordinary article at sulekha.com, The Axis of Neocolonialism for the insights into how the representation of India through a new Orientalism continues to follow the trends set by the predatory imperial State.
Fortunately, the Traditional Knowledge Systems of India have not died a complete death despite the best efforts of the Christian State, which banned, among other things: Ayurveda (burned all manuscripts it could find), Kalari Payat (destroyed all kalaris it could find), smallpox vaccination (declared the application of cowpox pus 'barbaric'). See the note on Dharampal at the Infinity Foundation's mandala. Happily, there are plenty of tinkerers still around: here is a heartwarming story about India's 'barefoot inventors' and the Honey Bee database at the Good News India site.
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