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February 2, 1998


'In a country of 900 million people, can't we have an Indian as our prime minister?'

Dr Kamala, vice-principal, Alpha Arts and Science College, Madras

As an young girl, I dreamt of an India which would lead all the other nations. In those days, youngsters like me had every reason to dream as, in front of us, were great leaders who fought selflessly for the freedom of our country. Unfortunately, my dream was shattered. The deterioration probably started in the seventies, a few years after Nehru's death.

There might have been corruption during Nehru's time itself, but we didn't know about it. Even if it was made public, people would have viewed the person with contempt. But corruption is a badge of honour these days.

This attitude began in Indira Gandhi's time. She did not feel corruption was wrong. She shielded corrupt people and she herself was corrupt. When Indira first came to power, she was our ideal heroine. We thought she was going to do wonders for the country. The group which opposed her comprised of old folks and, naturally, we young people identified with her.

Though I was not in India when she declared the Emergency, I felt betrayed. Remember, she was my heroine once! Not even in my wildest dreams did I expect her to do that. It hurt so badly when the Western press wrote about the Emergency. Most of us Indians there became anti-Indira. We used even talk about doing something to oust that woman from power. But what could we do? Nothing, except hope for a change.

She was brought back to power because of the incompetence of a few old fools. They were so power hungry that they could not even remain united. You see, had they taken strong action against Indira Gandhi, this dynasty would not have continued. Why should we be ruled by one family? There is nothing great about them. Nehru was an exception, because he had a vision for the country.

Today, irrespective of the party they belong to, I view all politicians with contempt. Whether it is the Congress, the BJP or the Janata Dal, they are all the same. They are only concerned with coming to power. And they are willing to sacrifice everything, including their ideals, for it.

Some of them may not be corrupt, but they do not mind shielding the corrupt. To me, that is as bad as being corrupt. What did Gujral do when it came to Laloo Prasad? Why did Vajpayee align with somebody like Jayalalitha, even though he knows everything about her?

It is disgusting to see Congressmen pleading in front of Sonia Gandhi. It makes me feel that my self respect is being questioned. In a country of 900 million people, can't we have an Indian as our prime minister, or as a person to lead a party? Do we need an Italian to come and lead us? In fact, I am very perturbed and upset and scared. I feel if this lady came to power, something ominous would happen to all of us.

As a professor, I feel education has not been given any priority at all in our planning. This is one of the greatest mistakes a country can make. Unless it gives importance to basic school education, this country cannot come up.

Though primary education is free, look at the condition of schools. Look at the kind of teachers they get. Look at the salaries they give the teachers. No self-respecting person wants to work as a teacher now. A school teacher is the lowest paid person in this country. Even a chowkidar (watchman) or peon in a government office earns more than a primary school teacher. And these are the people who are supposed to mould our children.

The standard of education in general, especially school education, has suffered tremendously. But you cannot blame the student; it is the learning-by-rote method that is the real reason behind the deterioration in the standard of students today. The knowledge that the brightest children of the present generation possess is more that that of their contemporaries two generations ago. But the knowledge of the large mass of students, the so-called average students, is pitifully low.

As a person who did my Ph D at the IIT, I think I will have to comment on the so-called 'brain drain'. It is sad that the cream of our country go abroad and settle there. We must ask ourselves, why do they go? Nobody would like to leave a familiar place, their parents, their neighbours and settle down in a foreign country. Money is not the only American lure, there is something beyond that which calls them. They get job satisfaction there. They have freedom to work, their work gets appreciated and they get recognition, too, which is not the case in India.

This country only has place for politicians and businessmen. So why should we criticise the others when they leave for greener pastures? Everything in life is a struggle here, right from getting admission for your child in a school. In any other free country in the world, you can just walk to the nearby school and put your child there and be happy. Can you do that here?

This time I will definitely vote, and vote against the Congress. I may vote for the BJP provided they have a good candidate. I may vote for the DMK if they have a good candidate. But not for the Congress. If fewer people vote, the chances are that you will have a coalition again. If many people like me feel their one vote will make a difference, it will make a difference.

I am sorry to say I am very pessimistic about India's future. I know I shouldn't be. But I am.

As told to Shobha Warrier.

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