Numerous confounding issues and problems confront India as a nation state and as a society. Let’s take up some issues and try to reach some solution. We may run into some stonewall –or Thorn In Our Side. You can try to think ahead from there, and offer comments. There’s no point simply blaming the “system” or “government” or any class/category of our society without proposing solutions. Let's think the change we want to see!
Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, known in English
as George Santayana - philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist
originally from Spain is credited with aphorisms such as "Those
who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".
Normally, people who learn, amend, modify, adapt, change, react, rebel and do
something are people with "spirit". Normally,
those who are hit repeatedly, ignore, crib, protest, get on as before and do
not rise unitedly to bring change have much to introspect.
Normally, a person who falls or is pushed would reflect on his/her hurt, get up
and carry on. If it happens again, the person would become very cautious,
careful and circumspect. If it happens again, the person would become angry and
think of doing something to avoid that in future. If it happens yet
again, normally, the person would react, retaliate and rise against
If the mishap happens again, and again and again and all that the person
does is blame, crib, cry, joke and pat himself/herself on his/her own back for
resilience or ability to "carry on", normally that
person would be considered to have some inherent problem of perception or
ability to do something constructive.
If the person wails and moans about the same misfortune or hurt, using
the same words, expressing the same anger, identical anguish and blaming the
same things, normally, there would be something to worry about that
person. And there would be dire need to pray for his/her enlightenment and for
desire to do something constructive.
Normally, a robust, thinking, active and awakened people would bring change -
regardless of outside hurdles and handicaps. That would be a true display
It is easy to keep blaming others for misfortune. It takes a lot to do
whatever it requires to bring the change one wants. Change is always from
within. But sometimes, one sees no change, not in words, not in thoughts, not
in action, not in efforts and not in results. That truly calls for deep
Citizen initiatives, corporate social responsibility, cooperative effort
.... there can be many constructive things done while pressure is mounted on
elected bodies. The ball is in the court of community leaders and
If 150,000 can rally for special status for their community, if
thousands can flock for a cricket match, if millions can march several
kilometers for religious ritual, what's the excuse for not doing something
about what hurts every year?
Even God helps those who help themselves.
“Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind” (Bob Dylan)
How long can one just keep patting one's own backs and praising
one's spirit? In recent past, Bangalore, Chennai, Kashmir,
Uttarakhan, Bihar...everywhere people have survived and continued with life
after floods. Everywhere people have the spirit to survive and
carry on. But annual tragedies must result in a huge push: People's Push.
in India, the concern about black money/economy
is very high. Therefore, I
felt it is important for me to try and understand what it means and then try to
think of a way of getting rid of it.
understanding of economics is less than satisfactory so I hope to find some
answers through reflections.
Business Dictionary defines “black economy” as:
“Usually untraceable, and hence untaxable, business dealings that are
not reflected in a country's gross domestic product (GDP) computations.”
features of black money would be:
1.Untraceable (I presume by government)
2.Untaxable (by government)
3.Not reflected in GDP (official figures)
conclude from above that black money is basically that money which a government
chooses to consider as black.
necessarily not even criminal activity or corruption per se.
example, building a house is not a crime per se. Selling or buying it is also not a crime. However, if tax is not paid on any part of
the transaction value, that part becomes black money. Thus, any capital gains, registration fee, service tax or
sales tax on raw material etc.
paid, such amount would be considered black money. All other economic factors of production viz. land, labour, capital and enterprise involved
are real but they are rendered black because taxes are not paid on their
possession or use.
why don’t people want
to pay taxes? For this, I must learn the definition of taxes. InvestorWords defines tax
levy taxes through a process of legal/administrative
force to fund their expenditure.
who slip away are declared makers of black money. The above definition makes me think – if government expenditure were to become zero then tax
required would be zero and no one would need to evade any taxes. This would make generation of black money
meaningless and impossible by definition.
So, here’s my 1st realization:There
is a direct and positive correlation between black money and government
government spend and that will reduce need for taxation and hence generation of
learned in 9th standard that prices for goods/services are determined by forces of demand and supply. If I am a sweeper and want to charge Rs 1000
per day to clean a 1000 sq ft house, I will find no clients. So I will lower my price. Maybe, I will start finding sufficient number of clients
at Rs 100 per day per household.
Won’t this principle apply to public goods?
people don’t want to pay
the current level of taxes for the bouquet of public goods/services on offer by the government, the obvious way is
to reduce the size/composition
of that bouquet. This can be
achieved through privatization, disinvestment and lesser governance. If good/service
is privatized then prices would be determined by market forces. People will buy what they really want and pay
what they can afford. There would
be no need for government to take on that function and therefore there would be
no need to fund it through taxes.
black wealth generated or transferred would convert to white price paid for
goods and services.
money would convert to white “producers’ surplus”.
is there a case for removal of all taxes?
My 2nd realization:There is an
inverse correlation between privatization and black money. The higher the level of privatization, the
lesser the black money.
there is a direct correlation between governance and black money. The lesser the governance, the lower is black
far so good. Both my above
realisations indicate that government and governance is the root cause of black
money. This can be
iNation has black money
iiThe State is the root cause of black money
iiiTo reduce black money, governance should be minimized
till the State withers away
Now, I think I am putting myself into a bind. If I conclude that Government/State should wither away, I suspect I will sound too much like a Marxist/Leninist and that certainly isn’t a fashion trend today. But, Friedrich Engles in in Part 3, Chapter 2, of Anti-Dühring wrote:
The interference of the state power in social relations becomes superfluous in one sphere after another, and then ceases of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things and the direction of the processes of production. The state is not "abolished", it withers away.
Suspending the thought, I try to think of a way to reduce government spending. Why is it necessary for government to run schools, hospitals, even build roads or other infrastructure? It is considered axiomatic that private sector efficiency in these sectors is many times that of public sector efficiency. That government school teachers are poor quality and overpaid. That government hospitals are death trap and doctors ill-trained, ill-equipped and overpaid. That whole of bureaucracy is over paid and inefficient.
In that case, I find no justification for retaining the machinery of the State. Why can’t education, health and infrastructure all be left to private sector where market forces would determine the price of services and compensation to teachers, doctors etc.?
Some people would argue, “But what of the poor?”
And I am dumbstruck. If for decent quality of education for say 1000 children we require school infrastructure of Rs 1,00,00,000 and at 1:25 teacher : student ratio we require 40 teachers of quality and the market price for such teachers is Rs 6,00,000 per annum, why should we settle for a school built with just Rs 10,00,000 and 10 teachers paid Rs 3,00,000 per annum? Why can’t students be charged that fee?
People would say, “Because, you moron – 70% of children wouldn’t be able to afford those private fees.”
So why should they get education?
“Because it will improve their earning capacity and lead to more development. Also, an educated nation is a stronger and better nation.”
But what’s the point of poor quality government education?
“Something is better than nothing.” People would say.
Ok. So why can’t we pay higher taxes and demand better school infrastructure?
“Higher taxes will kill private enterprise, silly fellow!” People would scream.
But we don’t want to replace government so let it kill private enterprise.
“Then how will government survive? Who will pay taxes?”
At this point I would give up. This chicken-and-egg argument applies to practically every sector where government is forced to get involved, for which it is constrained to collect tax, which is resented and people are forced to evade taxes, which in turn leads to generation of black money.
It would seem black money exists because of the State and to destroy black money, the State will have to be destroyed.
This reminds me of a great song whose words go like:
There's a hole in the
bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, with what?
With a straw, dear
Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
The straw is too long, dear Liza, too long,
Then cut it, dear
Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With a knife, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
The knife is too dull, dear Liza, dear Liza,
Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry
On what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
On a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
The stone is too dry,
dear Liza, dear Liza,
The stone is too dry, dear Liza, too dry.
Well wet it, dear
Henry, dear Henry, wet it.
With what shall I wet
it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
Try water, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
In what shall I fetch it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
In a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
There's a hole in my
bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.
Shaktimaan died yesterday. (Iti ashwah - It was a horse). A police
horse – from Uttarakhand Police who had served the nation for over a decade. It
was a public asset. He was brutalised by protestors during a political protest
Commuters – all common men –
went berserk in Diva, near Mumbai and started pelting local trains with rocks
and stones, causing damage costing the public exchequer millions of rupees.
Parents of students of a
school in Kolkata went on rampage after a girl died from bullying by seniors.
Men and women of educated, cultured background ransacked the school, tore up
documents, smashed computers and furniture and destroyed records.
Mumbai residents lose sanity
and burn police vehicles.
protesting against EPF amendments run amok and torch public transport buses
Lawyers burn public vehicles.
“Something is rotten in the
state of Denmark.” Marcellus told Horatio in ‘Hamlet’. I understand that
something is rotten in the state of India. There is poverty, famine,
malnutrition, disasters, inequality, discrimination......to name just a few
maladies of this democratic republic. It causes hurt and pain to people. We get
upset, angry, distressed and negative. God knows, there are reasons enough.
God also knows that in every
home, there are reasons enough for family members to get upset, angry,
distressed and furious some time or the other. Do we go about smashing our own
cars, maiming our pet dog, burning our books, tearing up the sofa or hammering
to bits our TV sets? Does it make any sense?
But if we, as a people get
angry, our first target is “public property” – essentially assets created or
bought out of our own money. Is it because somehow we are still stuck in
colonial mindset where we consider “government property” as something belonging
to an alien, imperial despot? Do we not realise that every rupee in the purse
of the ‘National Exchequer’ as the media loves to call the Treasury, comes out
of our hard labour and enterprise? If we cripple a railway coach, who
eventually suffers if not the public? If we burn down a school, whose children
would be left without a place to study? Why beat the shit out of a poor police
horse or a sniffer dog?
We like to call our country
The Land of Universal Amity; The Birthplace of Non-violence, the Land of Buddha
and Gandhi. Really?
Where does that mindless
fury come from? Surely not from China or Pakistan. Surely not a result of "Western Influence". Certainly not from our ancient culture, traditions or heritage. Yet, that myopic callousness to public property pervades our psyche.
She was travelling in a car with
friends. A mob stopped the car. She and her friends were dragged out and
beaten. Her top was torn off and she was paraded topless. She sobbed and
pleaded. Bystanders stood watching, doing nothing to stop the men. She tried to
board a local bus. Passengers of the bus pushed her off. Finally, someone with
a bit of humanity still left inside him took off his shirt and covered the girl
No – this did not happen in
badlands of UP. No – the men who ripped off the girl’s top were not part of
gangs of Wasseypur. And no – it wasn’t my daughter ... or yours. Thank God.
It happened in a city that boasts
of its “cosmopolitan” culture and “obvious influence” of ex-pat community of
highly educated IT professionals. This happened in a city which is far luckier
than scores of other cities of India – a city on international travel lists. A
progressive, modern city of India. A city where a woman should feel safe in
I hope it makes us all reflect
and shudder at what awaits a woman in those countless cities and towns and
villages tucked away in the heart of darkness.
(Not a photo of the episode referred in this blog but equally disturbing image)
A mob is a violent, mindless
creature. I understand that. It is born of conjugation of individual angry
minds and that collective progeny is a monster that would be unrecognisable by
the very individuals whose minds created it. I understand that. The girl’s
shirt was ripped off in anger. I understand that.
Or do I?
When I feel angry at an incident,
I may want to throw a stone at a passing bus which knocked down a local boy.
But I won’t do that because I am alone. However, if there are 50 other men
standing with me, feeling the same anger, I might be the first to pick up and
throw the stone.
But if I knew that my father or
mother or anyone dear to me was travelling in that bus, I would never throw
that stone – no matter how angry I felt about the bus knocking down a
pedestrian. I would also try to stop others from doing so.
So what happened in the incident
we all read about?
Some man would have reached out for
the girl. I am trying to think what I would have felt in her place as another man
grabbed my waist, or hand or other body parts. Yet another inserted his fingers
inside my top. His hands would have touched my skin, clawed my flesh. And then
he would have pulled hard enough for the fabric to tear. I would be whimpering,
trying to fight back but would have been overpowered. I would have called out
for help – and seen inscrutable faces looking back at my humiliation.
And when my top tore open did it
make the men smile? Did I see the gleam of voyeuristic possibilities in their
eyes? And then when the torn fabric was thrown away, and my breasts exposed to
public view, I would have felt shame, rage, helplessness. I would have rued
being a woman. I would have uncontrollable tears streaming down my cheeks.
Maybe I would have heard a grunt...a snigger from the men. Maybe a paw would
have scraped against my exposed skin. I would have tried to cover my breasts
with my hands. Maybe someone kept pulling them away. I would have heard the
deathly silence of the bystanders. I would have run to a passing bus hoping to
find refuge there. I would’ve seen some women in the bus too.
But when I was pushed away and
thrown out of the bus – what hopelessness would I have felt? In that moment,
would I have felt pride in being a woman?
Which man does not understand
that ripping away a woman’s top is not the same thing as ripping away a man’s
shirt? That pushing around a topless woman in public view is not the same as
doing that to a man? Which man would stand and watch his mother, sister,
daughter, wife or female friend being subjected to that? And yet, the men in
that mob did it to a woman.
As a man I feel ashamed. Has
thousands of years of civilisation, “sanskriti” and “sanskara” left me with
What tortured minds of fathers
and mothers would have raised those men who could strip a woman in public
because they were angry at someone else? What relatives, neighbours and friends
would have socialised with those men who could slap around and parade a half
naked woman in public view? What teachers and mentors would have taught those
men and women in the bus who looked at a hapless, denuded woman crying for help
and brutally threw her off the bus – refusing to grant her shelter? What God of
those men stood by and let them do what they did?
What did our National Poet mean
when he wrote:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake
When will my daughter...my niece...your daughter, sister
or niece feel safe in our country?
Even the much maligned Manusmriti says at one place:
My pulse races when I see
our soldiers march to the tune of “Saare jahan se achcha” on crisp winter
mornings of Delhi down the Raj Path with thousands of Tirangas fluttering all
around. My breath comes faster when I follow news of some clinical counter
strike by our armed forces along some international border or when insurgents
or ultras are struck down in some village or town in Kashmir, Northeast or
Punjab. My heart swells in pride when I see footage of our soldiers rushing to
take aid to a neighbouring country reeling under a natural disaster or to our
countrymen in various parts of India battling floods, earthquakes or other
Since independence, the
pride over self governance has rapidly faded in our hearts. For us, every
machinery of the nation state has failed. I consider political leadership
corrupt and I have a four letter word – “Netas” – that expresses my disdain for
our political representatives. The same is true for our public servants. We
have another four letter word for them – “Babus” – a word that was used in
utter disdain by our colonial rulers for their lowly Indian clerks. For us, our
judiciary is slow, insensitive and the legal system tilted hugely in favour of
the “haves”. So we revel in the famous line from the movie ‘Damini’ – “Tareekh
pe tareekh…” For us Indians, the three pillars of state: legislature, executive
and judiciary have failed us and bring us no satisfaction. We have also
rejected the performance of the informal “Fourth State” – the media. We think
that is now just a big tamasha.
If you ask an average
citizen, they would deride “netas”, “babus”, courts and media but the ONE
institution of the nation state everyone considers beyond reproach is – The Armed
Forces. If we see true patriotism, it is in our armed forces; if we acknowledge
efficiency, it is of our armed forces; if we consider any organ of the Indian
government that actually works and deserves the financial contribution of the
“honest taxpayers” it is our armed forces; if we think of an organisation that
embodies the highest values of any organisation, we do not think of a MNC
corporation – we think of our Army, Navy and Air Force. The ONLY organ of the
Nation State that gets our undiluted gratitude and affection is our armed
forces. Or so we like to say.
In the past few years, we
have seen the common citizen backed by civil society come forth into public
space and make itself heard to the much hated “netas” and “babus”. The Anna
Hazare movement, Nirbhaya march to the Parliament, we have ranted and raved on
TV, in newspapers, blogs about the “culture of bans” – against beef ban there,
porn ban here, about net neutrality, IPL scam and so many others. We are an
active and agitational nation. A land of thousand mutinies! We love to put
miniature Tricolours on our car dashboards, do wheelies on mobikes with the
Tiranga, put tricolour face-paint. We love to wear our Indianness on our
So, on the one hand we
profess love, respect and unqualified appreciation towards our armed forces, yet
when it comes to giving emotional and representational support to our soldiers,
we practice silence of the lambs. When our ex servicemen sit on relay hunger
strike asking for better pension, not one of us starts a candle march or night
vigils at India Gate or rallies waving flags in support of whatever it is our
soldiers are demanding.
Coming to the specific
demand for One Rank One Pension (OROP) most of us who shout “Jai Hind – Jai
Hind ki Sena” even make the effort to understand the actual issue – leave alone
try to understand the mammoth legal, administrative and financial complexities
of implementing OROP. I do not see any real engagement in the cause of our
soldiers – about whom we all mouth empty praises. Either we go by half baked
information dished out on media or are simply not bothered. I was appalled to
find several well placed and educated citizens who were not even aware of the
OROP agitation or what the term means.
1.Administrative difficulty: to roll out the
benefits for millions of pensioners and calculate exact amounts of arrears for
those who have retired more than 30 years ago is a gargantuan exercise for
which we do not have the manpower or administrative capacity.
2.Legal implication: the equality tenet
enshrined in the Constitution would immediately result in similar demand from
paramilitary forces who fight the same battles and die in larger numbers but
are less revered since they are categorised as “civil organisations”.
3.Financial constraints: OROP will cost at
least about Rs. 8000 crores extra per annum. Some estimate the amount at Rs.
20000 crores for the first year. (1 crore = 10 million)
I don’t see why any of these
should be a problem. Capacity to handle pension calculation and disbursement
can be built by strengthening Indian Defence Accounts Service / DP&PW.
Our courts are full of
really knowledgeable and good judges who can resolve any legal issues that
emerge from OROP.
If we can allot Rs 2100
crores for Clean Ganga and Rs 4200 crores for Swachcha Bharat, surely we can allocate
Rs 8000 crores for OROP. Of course, we will have to reduce expenditure on
several other schemes like Digital India, schemes for girls, toilets etc. We
will HAVE to put the requirement of our soldiers above all. It might mean some
“sacrifices” in terms of a small 2-3% surcharge on various taxes. But then,
don’t we all profess complete respect and admiration for the “supreme
sacrifice” that a soldier is prepared to do for us?
But no – we won’t hear our
columnist writing emotional articles in support of OROP, we won’t see our civil
society activists joining the ex servicemen in their agitation at Jantar
Mantar, no candle marches, we won’t see rallies waving the Tiranga. We won’t
even be willing to come forward and offer 2% extra surcharge on taxes.
In any home, parents would
be most concerned about the demands of their most beloved and best child. If
that child is crying in pain or suffering, parents would do everything in their
power to assuage the suffering. At the cost of greater hardship for themselves
or other not-so-ideal or good children. They certainly won’t start slapping the
crying ideal child.
Isn’t that what happened in
Jantar Mantar last Friday?
Even for adoption of “Jan
Lokpal Bill” there were stories of Indians, NRIS and IIT/IIM graduates,
entrepreneurs dashing to Jantar Mantar offering support. Why no such effort is
evident in support of our fasting ex servicemen?
There are only 2 possible
1.We don’t really believe that our armed forces
are the single most important, most efficient and most deserving organisation
that deserves whatever they demand in terms of pecuniary benefits on retirement
or as pay and allowances. In that case, we are guilty of lying – in public and
2.We do believe our soldiers deserve what they
are demanding but we don’t think that is the most important issue to tackle as
a civil society. In that case, we are again guilty of lying.
We are certainly guilty of
intellectual neglect. I have seen far more active debates in private parties
and on social media about things like beef ban, porn website bans, Radhe Ma and
countless other matters.
As an Indian citizen, I
accuse myself of lying and criminal neglect of needs of my soldiers. And I
plead guilty. I have nothing to rely upon in my defence.
Individually, all I can do
is accuse myself and admit my guilt. I am also going to tie a black ribbon to
the mast of the Tricolour I have on my desk in office. I will untie it the day
OROP is implemented. I was never into candle marches or vigils but those
millions who are, why don’t you start assembling at Jantar Mantar and across
the nation in support of OROP.
Or stop mouthing meaningless
platitudes for armed forces. Have the guts to tell them what you perhaps actually believe: that the armed forces are just another
arm of the nation state who consume the biggest “unproductive” chunk of the
exchequers’ kitty. That "we honest taxpayers" pay for their salary and free ration, booze, personal attendants, housing and many other "perks". That it is not just them who matters for the nation – there is
the industry, commerce, agriculturists and countless other classes or
professions that make India what it is. Say that in public space.
Or do something....anything to support their cause. They matter to us because we matter to our soldiers.