Wednesday 6 April 2011

Comrades look to the 19th century, not the 21st (Organiser)

M.D. Nalapat

WITHIN the constellation of cultures that comprise the glory that is India, the people of Bengal have a special place. For centuries, they have been the trendsetters in societal reforms and in educational progress. From Vivekananda to Ramakrishna, RC Dutt to Rabindranath Tagore, from Aurobindo to Raja Ram Mohan Roy, this noble culture has been responsible for much of India's finest minds.

Even in the present century-which began less than a dozen years ago-it is historians from Bengal who have recently exposed the ugly underbelly of British rule, such as the famine in Bengal and Bihar caused by the genocidal reluctance of Winston Churchill to ensure that grain reached these provinces during World War II. Others from Bengal have written about the chicanery of the Mountbatten staff that resulted in the loss of more than a third of Kashmir to Pakistan. Together with recent gems, such as the diary of a survivor of the 1857 War of Liberation that has been translated into English from Marathi by an eminent journalist, the truth about the colonial era is getting known. Of course, because of the near-total control of Nehruvian ideology on school and college curricula, little of this knowledge is as yet taught to our young.

Given the extraordinary vibrancy of its people, (West) Bengal ought to have been a flourishing corner of India, igniting development throughout the eastern part of the country. Instead, the State has become an international laughing stock. A visitor to Kolkata in the 1990s could have been forgiven for not realising that he was not in the 1960s, so little had the city changed in this period. The grip of Commissar Jyoti Basu on the State ensured the destruction of the initiative that is at the heart of the Indian soul. The only policy that got efficiently implemented was that of ensuring that millions from Bangladesh were permitted to enter and settle down in West Bengal.

Unhappily, because of the effects of Wahhabi rule at the hands of the Pakistan army during 1947-71,and soon afterwards by the neo-Wahhabis led by General Zia, Khaleda Zia and others, the essence of Bengali culture has become diluted in that part of the world, such that the charm and gentleness that characterises the Bengali bhadralok is reversed. The flow of this toxic admixture of the lumpen forms of Bengali culture and Wahhabism into West Bengal (and from there,to the rest of India) has resulted in a severe dilution of Bengali culture in Bengal. These days, any visitor to Kolkata can experience such a change every day that she or he is present in this once-great metropolis. Rather than Bengali culture transfusing and thereby diluting Wahhabi implants from Pakistan, the reverse has occured, and people of all faiths are now increasingly demonstrating the petty-mindedness and intolerance that is the symptom of the 300-year old Wahhabi faith, a system of belief completely at variance with the humanistic traditions of Islam, traditions that preserved culture in Europe and protected Jews and Christians in Muslim lands Commissar Jyoti Basu was,like Jawaharlal Nehru, an intellectual clone of thinkers in the UK and the rest of Europe who were-with justice-repudiated by their own people. Like Nehru, Basu too felt at home only in London, a city that he used to visit with religious zeal each year, without anyone pointing out the incongruity of his admiration for this trendy city and his stated beliefs. While Nehru succeeded in emasculating the whole of India by adding to the restrictive colonial system of laws and ensuring that almost every initiative by a private citizen needed permission from some flunkey or the other of the State, Jyoti Basu improved on Nehru's performance and sought to make Bengal a desicated husk.

Although his successor has tried with zeal and sincerity to reverse the process of degeneration that Basu initiated in Bengal, thus far, he has failed. In the coming elections, it looks as though Street Power in the form of the Trinamool Congress will overwhelm the CPM and end its elongated continous stint in power. Hopefully, Mamata Banerjee will reflect on the glory that was Bengal, and ensure that the people of the State be given the atmosphere needed to once again emerge as the hub of innovation in India, rather than make up the tail, as they have been doing since the 1970s.

While Kerala too has been ruled by the CPM for the past five years, fortunately for the people of that State, Chief Minister Achuthanandan do not possess the subservience to discredite the European philosophers that was the hallmark of Jyoti Basu. Unlike Basu or Nehru, Achuthanandan is 100 per cent a child of his culture, and hence the damage done to Kerala by the CPM has not been cultural but economic. With all their faults, it is a fact that non-CPM regimes in Kerala are responsible for periods of faster growth than during the periods when the CPM is in command. This is probably why the younger elements in the growing middle class of the State are turning away from the CPM, despite the fact that standards of probity in that party are far higher than for other national parties.

In 1947, the people of China were twice as poor as India.Today, they are on average twice as rich. The change began in the 1980s, led by Deng Xiaoping, who understood that the only way a Communist Party would keep the loyalty of its people was by delivering a better life to them. In contrast to the CPM and its smaller cousin the CPI, the Chinese Communist Party is unafraid of globalisation. Had the CPM and the CPI not sought to throw the baby out with the bathwater, by opposing every effort at economic liberalisation, they would have been a powerful force in both urban as well as rural India.

Instead of opposing all private industry (the way the British and other intellectual mentors of Jyoti Basu and Nehru taught them to do) the CPI and the CPM ought to have emerged as the champions of Indian industry, helping them to fight off the numerous efforts by the US and the EU to give an unfair advantage to companies located in these countries. For example, they ought to have been far more vocal about the efforts of the EU to destroy the low-cost pharmaceutical industry of India by changes in the patents law. Sadly, there are many Nehruvians within the bureacracy, who are active accomplices in such a murder of the public interest.

Those battling such subversion have thus far received little help from the CPI or the CPM, nor indeed from other opposition parties, even though cheap medicine affects hundreds of millions of lives. While the BJP walks out of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha so regularly that some claim the party's MPs do it as part of their daily exercise, they have thus far been less than vocal on the fact that so many medicines in India have seen huge jumps in retail price during the past six years,when the interests of a handful of foreign pharma companies have trumped those of the population of India.

The CPM should learn from China, a country that has leapfrogged from poverty to superpower status in a single generation. They need to help create a framework of regulation that blocks wrongdoing while permitting enterprise, rather than-as now-constantly pressing for the retention of the Nehru-Basu system of blocking initiative by creating multiple levers of approval,each of which needs a bribe to get crossed.

Since the UPA took office in 2004, there has been a huge increase in the number and scale of regulations, so that today what is getting re-created is the Stalinist system of the Nehru era. Sadly, the CPI and the CPM see no evil in this, and on the contrary, want even more regulation, although both must know that this is a certain recipe for corruption.

Another facet of India that has been stifled is the internet. Broadband access in India is negligible and slow, unlike in modern countries,thereby denying tens of millions of Indians the tools needed to be productive. Rather than join hands with Palaniappan Chidambaram in choking off access to the internet, the CPI and the CPM ought to demand better access, as well as a dilution in the present laws,that can be used to send a person to jail even if undesired spam gets opened by him by error. The youth and the middle class are in ferment against this return to the Basu-Nehru State, and they will turn away from the CPI and the CPM, unless both parties seek more freedom for the people

Just as took place in China since the Deng Era, the CPI and the CPM need to re-invent themselves in India. They need to stand for individual liberty and better access to such requisites as sufficient housing, education, power and broadband. They need to stand with Indian business in its efforts at not just meeting unfair foreign competition but in ensuring the expansion of India to other markets. They need to look towards the 21st century rather than remain mired in concepts from the 19th.

No comments:

Post a Comment