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India needs leaders to champion the poor mans causes

By: K Parthasarathi
Feb-11-2008
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Unfortunate but true, we lack in adequate numbers the selfless and incorruptible leaders of the past who toiled with little expectation than the joy of being in the struggle. Leaders who could inspire love and respect and enlist innumerable volunteers by their personal example are rare

We often hear people lamenting that the prevailing system and environment in the country is not conducive to throwing up leaders of intellect, probity and social fervour like the innumerable great men who had emerged in the past when the country fought for its Independence. The freedom fighters then expected nothing in return for themselves save the liberation of their motherland. They were heroes and role models for the people who had a total faith in them. Such selfless motivation and passion for a cause as provided by very tall men like Mahatma and his contemporaries are missing today. It is not that we have no social causes to work for. Rather we have too many pressing for attention. Poverty eradication, compulsory education, basic health, availability of potable water and job opportunities for the rural poor rank very low in our priorities when you look at the allocation of our resources.

The benefits of the reforms undertaken are yet to manifest in these vital sectors. Not much is being done in these areas than what can actually be achieved by a judicious husbanding of the available resources. These issues are relegated to the backburner in the face of other urgent commitments with some on political considerations. No one with a passion and zeal of a Mahatma or a Lok Nayak is prepared to champion these causes and muster people to fight our own governments and the entrenched system for the well-being of the India’s poor millions.

We spend a lions share of our revenue receipts only on staff related costs of government servants and those who run the governments forming a very negligible percentage of the total population. Yet no one in the legislatures objects to this unethical and disproportionate appropriation by a small few of a sizable chunk of the resources of the country. The compulsory increases at regular intervals add to the burden in geometric progression. The bonanza based on the VI Pay Commission recommendations that the centre is expected to confer on its much pampered employees would have multiplier effect on state governments too with incalculable damage to the economy and the unorganized poor. But who cares? Still the governments both at the centre and states have their own electoral considerations. It is rank inequity that a small class of people lives off the revenues of the entire country.

Subsidies on various counts to the economically well off do form a large portion of governments expenditure. This is an oft-discussed subject and the aberrations are too well known to recount. Nevertheless the compulsions of the vote bank and the pressures from the states influence such decisions even though the rulers are aware of the genuine need for their curtailment. Unorganized sections of people very large in number with no social security whatsoever who form the majority suffer for their lack of organised power to coerce the government. The exemption of the agricultural income from income tax from the rich farmers on the tenuous plea that it is a state subject is another instance of succumbing to electoral calculations and robbing Peter to pay Paul.. . The hands of FM are tied by the powerful political lobby

Wasteful and unproductive expenditure, inefficient bureaucracy, weak economic policies due to cross pulls, communal divide, and a coalition with no majority for a single party hampering quick decisions do considerable harm to the country. Are these not issues for the prospective and willing leaders to take up and fight for? There are enough opportunities even now for men to be heroic leaders for a cause. They can wage a relentless war on poverty, illiteracy and social inequities to provide a dignified life to the poor millions. Why then people are not forthcoming as they did in the past to join the freedom struggle? Could it be that the saps of human love and concern for others have run dry rendering them selfish and indifferent? It is not that the innate goodness of man is absent but is very much there lying dormant waiting only to be tapped.

Could it be that leaders of stature are not there to muster an unselfish band of people to plunge themselves in this mission. The present day politicians, except for a few who can be counted by fingers, work with a single point programme of becoming a legislator or a minister in the government. They are not propelled by any consideration of service or sacrifice. Their solicitude for the poor is only to build a vote base and nothing more. The same is true of many of those who have already attained these goals and enjoying the fruits of the offices they hold. There is an urgent need to create a climate where capable and honest men motivated solely by service to the society are drawn to the legislatures. This can happen only if we the voters ensure undesirable elements are kept out by suitable changes in the electoral law.

The people are again to be blamed for their misfortune. The electorate should choose only men of good character and integrity amongst the available irrespective of the political party when they cast their votes. Their choice should be based on the personal traits of the candidate and not for the political party. The neutral and unaffiliated voters can swing the results in favour of good candidates. The men whom they elect determine the nature of the government. Even minor attempts to prevent the entry of undesirable people in the legislatures are met with resistance from the very parties and men whom we have elected. The present structure is entrenched and will give no quarter for a change. The power to change rests with the people. For bringing out this power, we need bold men of Titanic stature like the leaders during freedom struggle.

Unfortunately good and honest men abjure politics filled as it is with hate, money power, casteism and corruption. Large number of people who do not see politics as a career or profession and who are educated and free from vices should enter the arena in large numbers. A band of leaders known for their integrity and with a common aim to cleanse the political system should come together from all parts of the country to lead and educate the people on the value of their franchise and how a wrong choice can do incalculable harm to their lives. There can be no place for dynastic politics in such a scheme..

Like Jaya Prakash Narayan who started a movement against the emergency and brought out boldly the power of the people to throw out an autocratic rule, the present endeavour should be to cleanse the politics of hate, mismanagement and corruption and vest the government in clean hands. The people who get elected to the legislatures would be men of integrity, character and service oriented. This movement should work for the removal of ills in the present electoral and party system that calls for huge spending of money. The vast money involved in the present elections inevitably gives rise to many undesirable practices. Possibly a change in the form of government may enable the choice of a right person fired by the ambition to serve the people and the country. The people can then find a man who is not working for the position .The choice can be for a Cincinnatus at the plough and not a demagogue striving for the position. Luckily the country has still many good, honest and capable men to guide its destiny given the right ambience.

The present value system should also undergo a sea change but seems very unlikely. There is a strong consumerist culture with no concern for the hapless poor. The government is in the vicious grip of the corporate class. The divide between the rich and poor is greater today than it was earlier. A certain amount of control on the unfettered freedom for the common good, till such time we become strong economically particularly the rural India, will not go amiss. Perhaps we can learn a lesson or two from China. It is better off than India on all vital parameters like control of population growth, GDP growth rate, Foreign Direct Investment, reduction of poverty, penetration of computers and infant mortality rate. The streak of strong rule could have been a facilitating factor there.

People here too would not grudge certain amount of abridgement of their unlimited rights for the country to become highly prosperous, if only they know their future is safe in honest and capable hands. For this to happen, competent men of rectitude should enter politics and flood the legislatures. Otherwise the growth will be slow, stunted and halting.


K Parthasarathi

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