Monday, 30 March 2015

Open Letter to Sonia Gandhi

Dear Mrs. Gandhi,

I am writing this letter in the context of your communication to Mr. Nitin Gadkari regarding the proposed amendments to the land bill. Let me clarify at the outset that I'm not a stooge of the BJP or anyone else for that matter, nor is this meant to be a response to to your letter- that's for Mr. Gadkari to take care of. This is just meant to hold up a mirror to you.

To quote your own words: "it is now being widely recognized that your government is blatantly anti-farmer and anti-poor..."

Widely recognised by whom Mrs. Gandhi? Your party? If so, will you please explain the 60,000 plus farmer suicides in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh between 2004 and 2013? Your party, whose record in terms of taking care of farmers is supposed to be (in your own words) second to none, was in power in both states as well as the centre during that period. Seriously, with that background, don't you see the blatant hypocrisy when you accuse others of being anti-farmer? 

Since you've also used the term anti-poor, will you be good enough to let us, the people of India, know why there are hundreds of millions of Indians still wallowing in poverty after 68 years of independence? Your party was in power for 54 out of those 68 years. Why is there such widespread poverty after four decades of 'garabi hatao'? Will you care to answer those questions before pointing fingers at others?

Source: National Crime Records Bureau

Moving on, you also wrote: "There can be no two opinions that the country absolutely needs to enhance its irrigation potential, build more indigenous defence factories and further improve rural infrastructure. But this cannot be at the cost of pushing farmers into a pitiable condition or destroying their livelihoods."

For once I wholeheartedly agree with you Mrs. Gandhi. Unfortunately however, our farmers are already in a pitiable condition. Why else do you think so many farmers have fled to the cities over the last decade or so? For the record, the 2011 census estimated that on an average, 2400 farmers migrate to the cities every single day- this was after 7 years of governance by your party! 

Somewhere towards the end of that letter you wrote: "Your proposition for a debate after the government has unilaterally imposed an anti-farmer law is a mockery of the tradition of building bipartisan consensus before introducing laws of national importance."

Admittedly promulgating ordinances is never healthy in a democracy. For once Mrs. Gandhi, I'm on the same page as you. However, the tone of your letter is at odds with the fact that UPA government promulgated 61 ordinances in its 10 years in power. Where was your concern for bipartisan consensus back then? Yes it true that you did not hold any constitutional post then, but the whole country knows that the real power resided with you throughout those ten years and that the only thing you sacrificed in 2004 was accountability.

In fact your family members, including your own self, have never been shy of using the ordinance route themselves, as you can see in the graph below, which shows the number of ordinances promulgated under governments headed by you or your family members (in chronological order: Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi). We're not even talking about the kind of 'bipartisan consensus' that your mother in law forged with opposition parties when the preamble to the constitution of India was changed during the emergency.

Incidentally, there's another point I must bring to your attention Mrs. Gandhi. It appears to most Indians that your letter to Mr. Gadkari is a purely one sided conversation expressing only your views and that you have conveniently avoided a debate on the subject. If you are really concerned about the subject matter, why don't you accept his invitation to a debate?

To be sure, I'm not arguing the merits of your arguments- that's for legal experts. As I mentioned, this letter is only meant to hold up a mirror to you. I'm sure any reasonable person would agree that in the light of these facts your moral position in relation to the accusations you have made is pretty weak. Tell me Mrs. Gandhi, with that background is it even possible for us to take you seriously?

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Anna: Anarchist or Dictator?

For people like this writer, who have a genius for getting predictions spectacularly wrong, its always an unmitigated joy when on the odd occasion, subsequent events prove them right. As it happens Anna Hazare has just given me that pleasure.

To quote my own words: "I am deeply concerned at the direction in which Anna's movement is heading... I was never in favour of holding a legitimate, democratically elected Government to ransom". 

These words were written on 9th November 2011. Over three years later, Anna has just proven my point by calling for a jail bharo andolan in protest against the proposed bill to amend the land acquisition law, notwithstanding the invitation to an open debate from Nitin Gadkari.

Anna Hazare

If that wasn't bad enough, Anna Hazare went on to issue a counter-invitation, this time to the prime minister, calling for an open debate. Unless I'm mistaken, the message is that: Anna will choose his opponents entirely at his convenience and even choose the timing and medium and the other person had bloody well bow before his will or risk a hartal. I'm afraid, these methods are anarchic and dictatorial. There is no place for such methods in a democracy.

There are those who would argue that Anna's methods are similar to those of Mahatma Gandhi. I for one do not buy that argument. The situation in India today cannot be compared to that in Gandhi's time. Whereas the great man's fasts were in protest against an alien government imposed upon the country, Anna's protests are targeted at a popular government legitimately voted to power by us, the people of India. If the will of the people overrides all other considerations, then pray how else did the present government come to power? How did it get the outright majority it enjoys in the Lok Sabha?

And so while I have nothing but the the highest respect for Anna Hazare's integrity and his intentions, I'm vehemently opposed to his methods. Whatever he intends to do, its incumbent on him to respect the institutions of the democracy we are proud of.