Saturday, September 22, 2018
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The Great Undoing of Us
By Anit Singh
Redundant framework formed by the antecedents of Indian states have survived like traits that creatures can't seem to lose even after evolution has taken them on a completely different track, like the intestines in humans for digesting grass that our ancestors ate or the colonial administration that continued unchanged into the 21st century.

States have been compared to organisms in respect of their organisation, comparing individuals to cells who may perish but the organism continues to function. The analogy for contemporary India would lead only to the bull, some may stake the claim for elephant, but I beg to differ.

Analogies aside, the case for organism fails primarily because there is no central control system to effect the thought process. There might not even be any coherent organisation of the various organs, which have been stitched together merely with the help of a steel cage, determined to function in this way, well because this is how things have always happened.

Do we need to be this Frankensteins monster, or can India change to something else? Suggestions abound and there's been a plethora of articles suggesting changes to the way we've always went about organising ourselves. The lateral entry into the IAS is one suggestion that comes up every now and then.

New Masters 2.0

Though the suggestion was first made in the ARC report, the current supporters include not unsurprisingly the various consulting groups that have a huge stake in how the policies of the next biggest economies of the world are shaped. It would be a shame if these economies break away from the capitalistic trend of wealth accumulating at the top of the ladder of increasingly computerised economies and a new trend emerges, that of 'wasteful' wealth redistribution or welfare based economics that tries to level the field in a country where the top 8 richest individuals have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent; such a thing would be bad economics wouldn't it?

In a nutshell, the IAS is in needs of a reform. Taken together with the various competing forces and counter directional pulls, we have what is called the state of chaos rather than a nation state. Pulling each of the differing traditions of culture, of history and of identities into a single block mandated by the ruling party would be a folly, a folly not worth experimenting upon for we have seen already how such things played out in Nazi Germany, in South Africa and nearby in the case of Pakistan where the forced implementation of Punjabi ethos on Bangla part of their country did not play out the way that the founding members of Pakistan would have imagined.

This heterogeneity is a rich dividend of thousands of years of evolution of our varied cultures. This heterogeneity is also abhorred by the economic behemoths who want their customers to fit into tightly defined packages to whom they can sell their products, at a profit of course.

Without a paradigm change in the functioning of the country, the lateral entry of experts could mean only the change in power wielders. Noam Chomsky in 'Understanding Power' makes an interesting point. The progression of intellectuals, opinion makers and others who have to filter through the institutionalised system mediated by the free market are biased by the fundamental concern of retaining the status quo. According to Chomsky, "there's a whole elaborate process of filtering and selection in the institutions to eliminate people who don't understand them and the help advance people who do." (pg 106)

If the experts are simply proponents of one type of interests, the market interests, would it be wise to put the fate of our not entirely educated populace into the hands of 'experts'? The theory goes that once the extractive process of Capitalism churns profits, some of them would filter down to the masses, so that they 'rise with the tide' and the overall level of living for everyone increases. No one can deny that post 1991, India has advanced on every metric of HRD, so does that mean that we should swing decisively to the right and allow the market to determine our policies to enable optimum growth?

Kindly Sacrifice

We have to agree that the promise of independent India was not in fact substantially redeemed for the silent majority of those relegated to darkness of bottom classes. The private market reforms did bring greater prosperity, but it also silenced the masses who didn't have the 4G internet connectivity to send their complaints with a hashtag on social media about their dying children. Now that we don't have famines and droughts, we have a systematic transfer of resources so that a subsistence level of living is assured to millions who are disenfranchised by their poverty and comforts of markets are given only to the select few.

The price that millions of displaced pay for the sake of prosperity of those who enjoy clean waters and clean electricity from a dam is akin to cutting off the foot to feed the rest of the body. In similar vein, the markets would ask for more sacrifices, inevitably from the poorest to allow the 'India of our Dreams' to materialise. The question therefore is that is it right to make this sacrifice? The question is pertinent, because it will be asked only to those who wouldn't have to make sacrifices.

Government has receded from its role in several areas already. The encroachment of private sector on several domains that used to be government owned has led to an increase in quality of services and the middle class wants more of the same. Isn't Indigo better than Air India, Jio better than BSNL? Why shouldn't this happen more often?

But the changing dynamics of the world economies has to be taken into account. The rise of AI would render several manufacturing and low level white collar jobs obsolete. The privatisation of basic services would therefore exclude a significant chunk of population from the purview of society, because whether we realise it or not, full participation of any human being in a social order requires certain pre requisites, a basic standard of living that has to be granted as the right of every human being.

Tough Roots, Bitter Harvest

Good welfare policies often make for poor economic policies. Empowered citizenry would challenge the monopolies of power. Nepotistic politicians, actors, businessmen, intermediaries and virtually everyone who is accustomed to the litany of servants as the god given right in a country of poor would be deprived of their fodder if the majority of population advances.

The politicians would lose the chunk of their party activists if the standards are improved in colleges of second and third tier cities, the businessman would lose his workers if MGNREGA like schemes give assured work to all, the middle class would lose its ayahs, Rajus and Chottus if government starts opening good schools and everyone gets jobs.

Decentralised power structures and institutionalised mechanisms to protect the collective rights of the people are a threat to the present power structures. If one Ram Rahim was castrated not for the crimes that he did, but moreover because of the empowerment that he inadvertently gave to the suppressed sections of the scheduled castes that formed the bulk of his supporters, then a thousand NGOs which refused to follow the framework of hierarchy by the powers that be were deprived of funds for the same reason, power refuses to be shared.

Apollo and Dionysus were two contrasting Gods of Greeks. While one represented the ordered, calm and organised side of humanity cultivated by our progress, the other represents the irrepressible madness that underlies our very beings and makes us fallible and consequently human. In the battles of good versus evil, the forces of good are often clad in white, are organised and are generally the ones in power while the bad guys are the rag tag army that seeks to usurp the power, bring chaos and churn the debris in order to redistribute power.

No matter how long the facade of authority, laws, principles and rights as given by gods goes on, once the situation becomes exceedingly bad, the chaos that resides in hearts of each one of us erupts. It's an irrational impulse that Dionysus commands, an impulse like wildfire that burns whatever it comes in touch with, including itself, but in the end, new sprouts emerge.

Maoists, separatists, reservation-mongers, linguistic chauvinists, religious fanatics and fatalists of all sorts are like a ragtag army against the might of the shining empire. It shouldn't have been this way, people shouldn't have been made a means for economic gains, glory or whatever ideology the rulers might preach.

A movement is already afoot, people are being scared into believing that they're under threat. What does it matter who the enemy is as long as the people would be made pliable and made to give their consent for giving up their rights, their identities, their souls to be packaged into tiny blockhouse and sold for two paise a piece? Tomorrow, there'd be a new enemy, a new story to fight for, perhaps always on the side of righteousness, justice and morality.

The automaton of interests of the powerful runs on the fear, laziness and apathy of people. The deliberate undermining of the morality of the society is one way to ensure that whatever part of the soul the market desires, it gets it cheaply. Humans are social animals and the only ones who stand alone are beasts or gods. When the society falls apart, sadly there'd be no gods amongst us, only complying soldiers or robots.

One by one, everyone would fall, till the last one would be left to say this; "Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me."

News Updated at : Monday, October 9, 2017
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