As some of you have already pointed out, I have been focusing on public corruption in India a bit too much. A recent comment motivates me to explain my seeming obsession with the appointed prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his crimes.
Here’s what Rajarshi Roy very thoughtfully wrote:
I have been reading your blog since past few years but commenting for the first time. Although I personally don’t endorse many of your viewpoints but I generally like your perspectives, insights and analysis, which are often fresh and radical, on many subjects. Now, why I don’t endorse certain views of yours is a debate for another day and the reasons may not be new to you.
However, I feel that the tone of your blogposts is increasingly getting personal with people when criticizing them. This is especially true for Dr. Manmohan Singh. He may be the most spineless PM we had till date who actively or passively let corruption brew but calling him “turbaned clerk” (from one of your old posts) or allowing comments like “MMS is a fucking dickhead” on your posts, is in my opinion taking things too far. Let us attack the policies, the behaviour but not the person. What we need is intelligent debates to shape ideas and not personal attacks.
To be honest, I expect better standards from people who claim (or attempt to claim) to have the blueprint of and roadmap to India of our dreams.
With Best Regards,
Thank you, Rajarshi, for taking the trouble to provide feedback.
I appreciate all feedback, even though I neglect to acknowledge them all. Allow me to say thank you to all who write comments here and apologize for not writing back.
I single out this comment for a public response because I must explain my deep antipathy towards Dr Singh. But first I must set the record straight. I have never called him a “turbaned clerk.” I have called him many names that I think he richly deserves but not that.
He’s not a clerk. Clerks are mostly harmless. He’s a scheming, sly, mendacious, power-hungry politician. Scheming and sly in the way he deflects all blame from himself by claiming that he is compelled by circumstances for enabling the unimaginably jaw-dropping massive corruption going on under his watch. He’s power-hungry since he continues to cling to his position regardless of how much his actions damage the country’s interests.
Of late, there’s been quite a lot of public criticism of his character and his actions in the press. But clearly that is insufficient for him to take notice and mend his ways. What would it take? That citizens drag him out of his home and lynch him?
Perhaps we should but we don’t. And in our not doing what should properly be done to him, we are complicit in the crimes that he is clearly guilty of. Yes, he is guilty beyond doubt. As the prime minister, constitutionally he wields sufficient power to stop corruption any day he wishes. He should stand and deliver — and if unable to deliver, he should resign and let someone else who is willing to take responsibility take over.
You may object saying that he is not the real prime minister; that he’s the appointed prime minister and the real power rests with the woman whose tunes he dances to. I would agree. But does that not go to attest to the previous point that he is power-hungry and has traded in his integrity (assuming he had any) for the chance to be the puppet prime minister? In a party that values sycophancy over merit, a party in which how high one rises depends on how good one is at brown-nosing the members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, he has attained the highest rank. He is the top champion sycophant in a room full of consummate hardcore sycophants.
Why do I feel outraged? Let me answer by asking why you don’t feel outraged. People in positions of high power and influence as he occupies are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their actions. He has blocked the economic liberalization of the economy. Lest we forget, in 1991, it was PV Narasimha Rao who forced Manmohan Singh to do liberalize the economy. Manmohan Singh is a statist and liberalization of the economy goes against his very core. Yet, the man’s mendacity is revealed in how eagerly he grabs all the praise about being the architect of India’s economic liberalization.
If you don’t believe that it was PVNR and not MMS who is responsible for whatever little economic liberalization India had, just ask yourself why hasn’t India seen any more liberalization. Surely, seven years in the prime minister’s chair would have been enough time to show where he stands on liberalization. On the contrary, MMS has made every attempt to increase the state’s control of the economy, to shackle it back into the moribund state that it so desperately needs to escape.
I feel outrage, why don’t you? I feel outraged that India is a desperately poor country. Outraged that our children are malnourished, and our people abjectly poor. Outraged that people are committing suicide by the hundreds of thousands. (Farmers are people too. If there had been alternatives to doing subsistence farming, they would not have had to kill themselves.)
Every aspect of the dire straits that India is absolutely due to government policy. Every one of them — farmers killing themselves, children starving, school and colleges failing, massive public corruption, loss-making public enterprises, communal conflict, terrorist attacks, weak borders, military insecurity, you name it. Just ask and I will show step by step why government policy is at the root of India’s troubles.
The Congress government at the center has been at it for most of the time since 1947. What have they achieved other than the deepening of poverty? India is poorer than many sub-Saharan African countries. While other countries have raced ahead, India has fallen behind.
China, ravaged by decades of communism, an equally desperately poor country as India as late as 1978, has moved on. Today China has an economy four times larger than India. Its economic dominance over India gives it the military might to practically take whatever it wants from India. The Congress government has made India so weak that China can easily grab parts of India whenever it wishes to. One hates to admit it but that’s the bitter unarguable truth.
The Congress government — actually the Nehru-Gandhi family — has not only irreparably damaged India economically, it has also damaged it psychically. Indians are the laughing stock of the world. Scams amounting to billions of dollars are reported with sickening regularity. They say, “India aspires to super power status but look at what it really is — the world’s largest banana republic, the world’s largest kakistocracy.” (Kakistocracy means rule by the least competent and the most corrupt.)
Indians are psychically damaged because they are forced to hang their head in shame that India is so poor that it accepts handouts from its colonial masters even today after nearly 70 years of independence.
Rajarshi points out that I have allowed a comment which calls Manmohan Singh a “fucking dickhead.” Yes, I have allowed that comment as it is my policy that I don’t edit out comments unless they are gratuitously insulting or pointless. But I have to admit that that comment is inaccurate.
You call the creep who cuts you off on the freeway a fucking dickhead. The thoughtless roommate who leaves dirty dishes in the kitchen sink deserves to be called a fucking dickhead. Their actions are at worst minor irritants and the inconvenience they caused disappears in the background noise of mundane living. Nothing earth-shattering occurs.
Manmohan Singh is not a fucking dickhead.
Manmohan Singh is a major criminal in the sense that he is responsible for the miserable lives and deaths of millions of people because of his mis-governance. The starving children, the illiterate adults, the suicidal farmers — ultimately all of it is due to what he has done and is doing today.
The other day in New Delhi, I was talking with Arvind Kejriwal. Arvind is founder of “Indians Against Corruption.” A highly motivated hard working public-spirited person, Arvind was responsible for the “Right to Information Act” (RTI) and is now working on the “Jan Lokpal Bill” which seeks to pass laws that will severely punish corrupt public officials. While I admire him and his work, I disagreed with him on what has to be done. What, he asked, do I recommend?
[Edit on April 20, 2013: I have revised my opinion of Kejriwal. He has demonstrated that he's merely after power. Worse, he is a socialist who does not understand how the economy functions. Although his influence is waning, he has done a great deal of harm to India and he will continue to harm India a lot more before he is fully done.]
I told him that we have to make it personal. We are not fighting against some anonymous shadowy enemy. We have to give our enemy a name and a face. It is not some vast bureaucracy that we have to confront, not some nameless bunch of corrupt politicians; we have to hold that one person responsible who is in charge. His name is Manmohan Singh and he has to pay for the all the crimes that he is an accomplice to.
Indians are not given to violent revolutions. I would like to see every corrupt politician dragged out and lynched but that’s not how it should be done. It is better to force them to quit through non-violent means, however satisfying to may be for the soul to see them suffer for their crimes.
I suggested to Arvind Kejriwal that we should get around 10,000 or so people to sit-in outside Manmohan Singh’s home and force him to quit. But what would that accomplish, he asked. What it would do is it will send a message to all that we are not going to tolerate him, and others like him, to continue to destroy the nation.
I am astonished that I am taken to task for not being nice to Manmohan Singh on my blog. Why should I be nice to him? I am outraged that the movers and shakers of the mainstream media don’t hold Manmohan Singh’s feet to the fire. It is pathetic the way they regularly let him get away with bullshit, as they did at that press conference last month. The least they could have done is to tell him to his face that he either take responsibility for the corruption and mis-governance or quit. But the press honchos did not do that. They are as spineless as the guy they were supposed to ask tough questions to. If they are unable to tell truth to power, shouldn’t we start telling it like it is?
You may ask, why do I take it personally. I take it personally because it breaks my heart to see the ubiquitous and awful poverty in India. The other day in India, I was waiting at the Nashik railway station to catch a train to Mumbai. A very feeble old man in thread-bare clothes was shuffling among the passengers waiting for the train, his thin bony hand extended, his face a portrait of tired distress, begging wordlessly for a few coins. He was getting shooed away by the people he approached.
I went up to him and gave him a five-rupee coin. He looked at the coin and then at me, his face revealing relief and immense gratitude. I nodded my head and hurried away, unable to bear the heartbreaking implications of that scene.
What have we come to? We have been diminished as a people. Our society is so impoverished that the old and infirm have to beg for a living. As a society, we are not just poor; we are impoverished — meaning reduced to poverty, deprived of richness, vitality and strength.
How did we get here? We are not evil people; we are not stupid people; periodic natural calamities have not reduced our work to rubble; foreign forces have not robbed us of our wealth; divine curse has not condemned us to hell. So why then all the misery?
I have sought an answer for many years. And here’s my answer. India’s government is the greatest evil force that is destroying India. Manmohan Singh epitomizes that evil since he heads that government. So I believe that unless we wake up and destroy those who seek our destruction, we would be responsible for our demise.
It’s all karma, neh?