A French Revolution in India
By Justice Markandey Katju
The writer is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.
I do not want to sound alarmist, but it looks to me that some kind of French Revolution is inevitably coming about in India. Consider the facts.
All our state institutions have become hollow and empty shells, and the constitution seems to have exhausted itself.
The last two weeks have shown that we have a parliament that hardly functions, with its members shouting and screaming, often all at the same time, and hardly any meaningful debate is held or business transacted there. When the UPA was in power, BJP members were disrupting the functioning of the House, and when the NDA is in power, the Congress and others are doing the same. It seems the same thing will be repeated in the winter session of parliament, then in the budget session, and so on ad infinitum.
Moreover, a large number of our MPs have criminal antecedents. We have politicians who are mostly incorrigible rogues and rascals with no genuine love for India, but who have looted the country, taking much of the country’s wealth to secret foreign banks and havens, and who know how to manipulate caste and communal vote banks, often by inciting caste or religious riots. Our bureaucracy has largely become corrupt, and so has a section of the judiciary, which takes an inordinate time to decide cases.
Our democracy has been hijacked by the feudals, and now elections in most places are held on the basis of caste and religious vote banks, and no one bothers about the merit of the candidate.
There is massive poverty in India, massive unemployment (see my blog ‘Unemployment in India’ on justicekatju.blogspot.in ), massive malnourishment (see my blog ‘Malnourishment in India’), etc. It is estimated that ten million youth are entering the job market every year, but only half a million jobs are created in the organised sector of the economy. So what do the remaining youth do? They become hawkers, street vendors, stringers, bouncers, criminals, prostitutes or beggars.
Healthcare is almost nonexistent for our masses (see my blog ‘Healthcare in India’). There are no doubt some very good hospitals and clinics in India, but they are exorbitantly expensive. So what does a poor man do when he or his family member has some ailment? He goes to a quack. Quackery has increased by leaps and bounds in many parts of India.
Half of our children are malnourished. A Unicef report says that one out of three malnourished children in the world are Indian. There are numerous farmer suicides in many parts of India – eg Vidarbha, Gujarat, etc. There is covert and overt discrimination against minorities, dalits and women. ‘Honour killings’, ‘dowry deaths’, female foeticide, etc are common in many areas.
Astrology and other superstitious practices are rampant, even among many so-called ‘educated people’. Fake ‘godmen’ and babas are befooling a gullible people.
In most western countries there is very little air or water pollution. This is because there are very stringent rules against it, and violation of these rules entails heavy penalties. There you can safely drink the water from the taps in the house. It is as clean as mineral water.
In India, on the other hand, almost everything is polluted. There are no doubt anti-pollution laws – for instance, the Environment Protection Act, Air Pollution Act, Water Pollution Act, Food Safety and Standards Act, etc. But no one complies with these laws (for example, the lead found in Maggi, and this is really only the tip of the iceberg).
If you have an industry discharging toxic effluents into rivers, instead of setting up an effluent treatment plant, which is very capital expensive, you just give a few thousand rupees every month to the pollution inspector and he will turn a blind eye. For you this is very cost effective. Damn the public.
When I went to Varanasi a couple of years back, I was told by the late Veer Bhadra Mishra, the bade mahant of Sankat Mochan temple (who was a professor of Engineering at BHU and whose son, also a professor of Engineering, is now the mahant) that there are 30 canals discharging sewage into the Ganga, in the city.
I was told by a friend in Allahabad (my home town) that the Sangam area, where pilgrims coming from all over India bathe, is highly polluted.
Most cities in India are becoming hellish and practically unliveable. There is congestion and traffic jams regularly. Building laws are openly flouted. Even in ‘posh’ areas in Delhi like Defence Colony, South Extension, Greater Kailash, etc, cars are parked all day on the roads – thus turning these places into garages. The situation is the same for cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Lucknow, where living and travelling on the roads is like going through Dante’s purgatory. Soon it will become like the Inferno.
And our politicians, our ‘rahbars’, are behaving like Neros who are playing the fiddle while Rome burns, or like the Bourbons before the French Revolution (see my blog ‘Wake up Bourbons’ on justicekatju.blogspot.in). I am reminded of what happened on April 20, 1653 when Oliver Cromwell entered the British Parliament with his soldiers and said to the members assembled there:
“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.
“Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack
of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of
pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?
Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
The soldiers then made the MPs get out of the Assembly hall, and locked it up. I wonder whether India’s parliament is heading for the same fate.
A drastic and total change in the system is now required. Tinkering here and there will not do. The constitution has exhausted itself. The whole system in India, including our state institutions, is like a building that is totally dilapidated. Renovation and repairs will achieve nothing. It calls for demolition and fresh construction. We have to create a new, just social order in which everyone, not just a handful, get a decent life (see my blog ‘High Unpredictable Winds and Misfortunes are in the Sky’ onjusticekatju.blogspot.in).
But it is not possible to achieve this within the system. The solutions to our country’s problems lie outside the system. Which means – some kind of French Revolution.
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