Category Archives: Leadfoot

The Fetish for Giant Statues in Modern Indian Politics

A thousand years ago (in 980 CE), an acclaimed sculptor oversaw the making of a big monolithic statue of Mahaaveera, a Jaina Teerthankara. The 57 foot tall statue has continued to serve its purpose for all these centuries and today it is still sanding strong in Shravanabelagola, Karnataka. Around 500 years ago (in 1528 CE), Emperor Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Kingdom commissioned the sculpting of a big monolithic statue of Ugra Narasimha, a Hindu deity in Hampi, Karnataka. The statue of Ugra Narasimha (~21 feet in height) was vandalized many times by tyrants but it is still there standing bright amidst Hampi ruins. A giant Buddha statue in Leshan, China (carved in 8th century CE) is still there. The giant statues of Buddha in Bamiyan (7th century CE) that were carved into the natural hill cliffs in Afghanistan were lost under tragic circumstances.

Today in India, central and many state governments are spending millions on tall statues of historical figures. For instance, the central government wants to build a 182 m tall iron statue of Vallabha Bhai Patel, at an estimated total cost of nearly $550 million (Rs 3000 crores). The Maharashtra state government intends to build a 210 m tall gigantic statue of Shivaji spending $280 million (Rs 1200 crores). Now, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana state governments are competing to build two statues of B R Ambedkar (both >100 feet tall). All of these governments are also in a race to outdo one another in misusing people’s money. There are some NGOs and some private consortia that are funding the building of giant statues of religious or spiritual symbolism. Their intentions are also suspect. India is not the only country that is obsessed with Gigantism in statue building.  An internet search will give you a list of at least 50 other statues of such gigantic proportions from all over the world.  It is easy not to overlook that most of these statues have been commissioned and built over the last 15 years. Many countries are in the process of erecting some new statues of incredible size and proportions.

tall statues of the world

Our current political leaders have no idea of what statues can and can’t do. Indian politicians (by and large) do not understand the value of public money anyway. They certainly do not understand the value of visionaries like B R Ambedkar. Sculpting of a Gommateshwara in 10th century CE in hard granite is not the same as casting gigantic pieces of modern metallic or concrete “junk” in 21st century. We cannot compare the artistic grandeur of Ugra Narasimha to modern construction of concrete statues in many places all over the world. There is nothing great about building any big statue that has no aesthetic or technical appeal (be it of Gods or of mere mortals). Building statues is not a challenge with today’s technology and mechanical support but building statues incurs costs without benefits. By entering the rat race of building the tallest statues in the world, India does not suddenly start respecting and practicing the values espoused by its heroes.

Indian politicians are not paying any attention to ancient monuments that are decaying due to decades of neglect.  All they want is to misuse public money to erect some XYZ statue, so that, they get to unveil a piece of tiny slab inscribed with their names on the day of statue inauguration. They don’t realise that building such statues may take many years and the people who started the project will not be in office and may have died, and costs sky rocket by the time the ill-conceived monster comes to life. The fetish for these useless modern colossi is hard to explain. Justifications including the sultry notion of national integration, or the sundry notion of local pride are a façade. These living politicians have no achievements of their own to commission their own statues and sadly, the dead are revived and hung to dry in the open again. Perhaps it is not feasible in a democracy like India to erect your own statue. Some kings, queens and some dictators used to do that in the past. I hope these politicians realise that their names on the parapet are even less durable than these statues themselves.  Indians do not value such statues anyway. The poor state of hundreds of human sized Ambedkar statues (with not-so-shining suits and boots) and thousands of Mahatma Gandhi statues (with broken glasses and shabby walking stick) in the streets and corners all over India serve a grim reminder. It is a different matter as to what concern we have for the modern day Ambedkars. Mahatma Gandhis are extinct anyway.

The Roman colossus of Nero began as Nero, became some other Sun God at some point, and then the statue’s head was replaced to convert him into some other emperor. The same is also true for many temples and monuments, which evolve and become something else through generations. But, some monuments survive and gigantic statues rarely survive. Those that survive and remain endearing to the public are often aesthetically, spiritually, and sometimes technically awe-inspiring. Those that survive are not the “me too” types. We should not forget that the Colossus of Nero probably did not help Nero glorify his legacy, and his statue did not even survive the fall of the Roman empire.

PS: Some of you might be thinking of Ozymandias by P B Shelley (1792-1822).

 

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Three years since the Indian election mandate in 2014: A subjective analysis

This is the third article in an annual series that has examined the Indian central government’s hits and flops since the general election in 2014. (Part 1, Part 2)Once in a generation mandate

From July 2016 to July 2017, the Indian union government took some bold decisions.  The rolling out of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the midnight of June 30th, was probably the most significant, and may I say, a wise decision. I do not fully understand the GST yet. I can’t think of anyone who understands the Indian GST, except perhaps members of the GST council set up by the central government. At this stage, GST is one of those pills that many believe is good for the nation’s economic body, which may boost its circulatory system without any side effects.

I feel sorry that coveted constitutional posts remain highly politicised in India ever since Independence. However, within such constraints, India has seen some outstanding persons in those posts.  Last month, Mr Ramanatha Kovind was elected the 14th President of India. From everything we have heard of him, he has all the credentials to be a good president and deserves the highest constitutional position in India. His past and current sympathies with some political pressure group (namely the RSS) should not be an issue since others in past who had strong connections with other political dynasties and loyalties had become Presidents of India. Him being a Dalit (a class of people oppressed in India, for centuries) became a talking point only because the opposition (UPA) reacted and fielded their own Dalit contestant in the race. There is no doubt that Mr Kovind’s election marks an important milestone in the current union government’s tenure. I must also say a few words about the outgoing president Mr Pranav Mukherjee, who is a Congress veteran (so why not Mr Kovind?). Mr Mukherjee took much needed decisions on many mercy petitions (by criminals on death row) languishing for decades with the President’s office. He occasionally warned the government by returning legislative amendments sent to him without parliamentary scrutiny. He also made his customary speeches on tolerance, calling for social harmony. The Indian President is the Commander in chief of Indian armed forces and s/he is the symbolic head of our union. Mr Mukherjee fulfilled these obligations adequately. Apart from that, he was busy visiting temples and he was in news only when he visited temples. In comparison, the Vice President (the Chairperson of the upper house) holds more operative power in our democracy. At least in theory, the upper house must raise above party politics, and be the non-partisan jury of the Indian legislature. The newly elected Vice President (who shall remain unnamed) does not inspire any confidence.

Some of the positive initiatives by the Union government in 2016-17 (in my view) are the following:

  1. National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme: Planned expenditure of 10,000 crore over the next 3 years to create 50 lakh jobs by 2020.
  2. Introduction of full paid maternity leave for women working in the organized sector, in any company or organization employing 10 or more persons. This was a significant amendment to an old maternity benefit act (1961).
  3. Merger of rail budget with union budget: An important step towards improved efficiency and focus.  Takes away useless sop-announcements from the Railway ministry.
  4. The Government will be investing thousands of crores in several new IITs, a few new AIIMS all across India. New institutes of potential are welcome. Please do not neglect what is already there. Governance structure in many of the existing central and state universities is opaque to say the least. The newly introduced national university ranking system may serve the purpose of internal disaster assessment and they must not be indicators of performance. There is nothing to write home about. Every state government I see, has its head buried in sand.
  5. National highways and the rural road construction projects were among the biggest achievements of NDA-1 (under Mr Atal B Vajapayee). NDA-2 continues to impress when it comes to investing in road infrastructure. 
  6. Bilateral agreements on security, aviation, agriculture and in other sectors between India and other countries.

Point 6 has been the boon and the bane of the current government. The Prime Minister was on a foreign visit spree even in his third year in office. His visits to Israel, Germany, USA, Russia (I don’t know in which order) and how many more…were important events for sure.  He is not tiring from his foreign trips but, I am tired of his foreign trips. A warm reception to our PM in any country is always welcome. However, Mr Modi’s arrival in all these countries has also enthused a handful of billionaires and people of Indian origin who are now permanently citizens of other countries for whatever reasons. I am not comfortable when the PM addresses select groups of PIOs or cheered by masses of NRIs who see him as a facilitator of FNRI (not generic FDI) in India. This extravagant flag waiving on foreign soils is not needed if they want to help their former mother land.  Those with a heart (either genuinely good or even guilty) have always done their bit for India no matter who, where, or what.

While Narendra Modi loves his professional tours, the would-be opposition leader (Rahul Gandhi) loves his personal vacations abroad 6 months a year. I have nothing important to say about him (that should say a lot). In effect, both are on self-imposed exile at any given time, except when canvassing for elections. The government has not turned off election heat from the day it took charge in 2014. Goodness knows what it will be like when the next general election comes around in around 16 months. The PM’s radio soliloquies have garnered a few crores of much needed revenue to the ailing All India Radio. My reactions to the PM’s publicity seeking manners is summed up by my diary notes that I quote below.  If the PM loves promoting his mediocre acronyms, I think copy pasting my own (slightly better than mediocre) flourish is acceptable once in a while 😉. Here is what I wrote in my diary on June 17th, 2017

The Prime Minister of India inaugurated a metro train service in Kerala, a South Indian state (June 16th, 2017; yesterday). He travelled approximately 13 km in an empty metro train. He also inaugurated one of the longest river bridges in Arunachala Pradesha, a North East Indian state (May 26th, 2017; a few weeks ago). He was standing alone on a bridge too far. The PM also inaugurated a tunnel road in Jammu & Kashmira, a North Indian state (April 2nd, 2017; a few months ago). The photograph of the PM waiving his hand alone in front of a dark empty tunnel is still fresh in my mind. The PM posed for the cameras in a train in South Africa (July 10th, 2016; was it last year?). He was alone and the train was empty. He was safe and insecure. Can’t he see the emptiness of this all? Train travel is good but it is neither a necessary nor sufficient precondition to understand Mahatma Gandhi”.

I mentioned implementation of the GST as the most significant of all the decisions made by the central government in 2016-17. GST was rolled out after many years of deliberation. The PM also took another bold decision when he unleashed a demon in demonetisation on the fateful night of Nov 8th 2016. Demonetisation was meant to be a shark attack on black money hoarders, but it turned out to be a piranha attack on the skinny feet of innocent, vulnerable, ordinary people. I have written on demonetisation in detail in a post three months ago. In short, unleashing the demon was bold, and the government was clever enough to make a political capital out of that decision. History will judge the decision as one that was probably unwise and certainly irresponsible.

If we take ‘the demon’ away from the legislative year 2016-17, there is nothing left to talk about. A series of state assembly elections happened and NDA won most of them. The farmers’ agitation in Delhi caught some eyes. There was widespread concern against antisocial elements (still) beating and lynching in the name of saving cows. The unrest in Jammu and Kashmira is nothing new. The unrest at the borders with China and Pakistan are not new.  We, the people of South India, are far removed from everything happening there. However, the unrest against Hindi imposition in Karnataka is worth a mention. The agitation against Hindi imposition in Namma Metro in Bengaluru city caused a huge uproar locally in Karnataka.  The national (Delhi centric) media did not do justice to the broadcasting of the sentiments expressed by Kannada peoples.

The Indian identity is a complex mixture of many identities. Political parties with a near-pan Indian presence (BJP and INC) have always tried to undermine local aspirations for cultural and fiscal autonomy. They have tried to homogenize our public spaces. I hated the past when there was a single dominant political party in India.  I hate to see a future where there is only one dominant political party in India. Some pro-government media houses are running a gunny bag race with the central government to an unknown finish line. There are many political leaders who are corrupt to their bones, and no torch is required to find them in day light. If only the central law-enforcing agencies (under UPA and NDA) acted where needed, with or without HMV records playing in the background.  The rate at which regional (state-level) political parties are capitulating without a trace, and succumbing to central tactics of (a) lure (money), (b) seduction (power), and (c) threat (from ED and CBI) has continued to damage Indian democracy.

India faces an almost insurmountable challenge of severe drought and water crisis in the 21st century. State governments are sparring over river water that isn’t going to be there. Land grab scams are killing lakes in cities and forests in rural India. Nobody cares when in political office, and those not in political office (ordinary people) do not want to care because they are busy getting their next meal. I fear that a large majority of our politicians will sacrifice sustainable habitability of our lands for their own exploits and their party’s short-term selfish agendas. Such politicians are inspired by us, the ignorant citizens. Of course, business cronies, negligent bureaucrats, and a subservient police force do not help. I wish to believe that I am neither pessimistic nor anti-politics. In fact, I know that I am not (Can’t hee rava?).

Tricolor-india-in vegetables
The Indian Tricolor (photo courtesy: pinterest)

ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆದ “ಒಕ್ಕೂಟ ವ್ಯವಸ್ಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರಾದೇಶಿಕ ಪಕ್ಷಗಳ ಪ್ರಸ್ತುತತೆ” ಚಿಂತನ ಗೋಷ್ಠಿ: ಒಂದು ವರದಿ

ಒಕ್ಕೂಟ ವ್ಯವಸ್ಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರಾದೇಶಿಕ ಪಕ್ಷಗಳ ಪ್ರಸ್ತುತತೆ ಎಂಬ ಚಿಂತನ ಗೋಷ್ಠಿ ಹೋದ ವಾರ ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನ ಭಾರತೀಯ ವಿದ್ಯಾ ಭವನದಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆಯಿತು. ಈ ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ರಮವನ್ನು ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನ ಮುನ್ನೋಟ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಮಳಿಗೆ ಮತ್ತು ಐಟಿ ಕನ್ನಡ ಕೂಟವು ಜಂಟಿಯಾಗಿ ಹಮ್ಮಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದವು.  ಅದರ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಪತ್ರಿಕೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ನಾಲ್ಕು ಸಾಲು ಸಹ ಸರಿಯಾಗಿ ಯಾರೂ ಬರೆಯಲಿಲ್ಲ.  ಮಧ್ಯದ ಪುಟದಲ್ಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲೋ ಮೂಲೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸಾರವಿಲ್ಲದ ಸಾರಾಂಶವನ್ನು ಗೀಚುವ ಪತ್ರಿಕೆಗಳನ್ನು ನೋಡುವ ಅಗತ್ಯವಿಲ್ಲ. ಇಂಥ ಮುಖ್ಯವಾದ ವಿಚಾರವನ್ನು ಪತ್ರಿಕೆಗಳು ವರದಿ ಮಾಡುವ ವಿಧಾನವನ್ನು ಮೂದಲಿಸುವ ಗೋಜಿಗೆ ಹೋಗದೆ ನಾನು ಆವತ್ತು ಕೇಳಿಸಿಕೊಂಡ ವಿಚಾರಗಳನ್ನು ಇಲ್ಲಿ ನಿಮ್ಮ ಮುಂದಿಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದೇನೆ.  ಮುಖ್ಯ ಅಂಶಗಳಲ್ಲಿ  ನೆನಪಿನಲ್ಲಿರುವುದನ್ನು ಮಾತ್ರ ಬರೆಯುತ್ತಿದ್ದೇನೆ. ಯಾವ ನೋಟ್ಸ್ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲಿಲ್ಲ, ಯಾವುದನ್ನೂ ರಿಕಾರ್ಡ್ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲಿಲ್ಲ.  ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ರಮ ನಡೆದು ಒಂದು ವಾರ ಕಳೆದಮೇಲೂ ನನ್ನ ನೆನಪಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಕೆಲವು ಅಂಶಗಳು ಉಳಿದಿವೆ ಎಂದರೆ ಅವು ಪರಿಣಾಮ ಬೀರಿದೆ ಎಂದು ಹೇಳಬಹುದು.

okkoota-pradeshika-BVB-May18-2017
Relevance of Regional Political Parties in the Indian Union- A discussion in Bengaluru, held on May 18, 2017,

ಸಭೆಗೆ ಮುಖ್ಯ ಅತಿಥಿಯಾಗಿ ಬಂದಿದ್ದವರು ಎಚ್ ಡಿ ದೇವೇಗೌಡರು. ಸುಮಾರು ಒಂದೂವರೆ ತಾಸು ತಡವಾಗಿ ಬಂದು ಕ್ಷಮೆ ಕೇಳಿದರು. ಅವರಿಂದ ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ರಮ ಸಂಜೆ ೪ ಗಂಟೆಗೆ ಶುರುವಾಗಬೇಕಾಗಿದ್ದುದು ೫:೪೫ ಕ್ಕೆ ಶುರುವಾಯ್ತು. ಮುನ್ನೋಟದ ವಸಂತ ಶೆಟ್ಟಿ ಪ್ರಾಸ್ತಾವಿಕವಾಗಿ ಸುಮಾರು ಹದಿನೈದು ನಿಮಿಷ ಮಾತಾಡಿ, “ಕರ್ನಾಟಕಕ್ಕೆ ಈವತ್ತು ನಾಡು-ನುಡಿಯ ನಾಡಿ ಮಿಡಿತ ಬಲ್ಲ ಪ್ರಾದೇಶಿಕ ಪಕ್ಷವೊಂದರ ಅಗತ್ಯ ಯಾಕೆ ಇದೆ” ಎಂಬ ವಿಷಯಕ್ಕೆ ಪಾಯ ಹಾಕಿ ಕೊಟ್ಟರು.  ಹಿಂದಿ ಹೇರಿಕೆ, ಕೇಂದ್ರ ಸರ್ಕಾರಿ ಕೆಲಸಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗರ ಅವಗಣನೆ, ನೀರಾವರಿ ಮತ್ತು ಶಿಕ್ಷಣ ಕ್ಷೇತ್ರಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದ ಸ್ವಾಯತ್ತತೆಯು ಸಾಯುತ್ತಿರುವ ಬಗೆಯನ್ನು ಶೆಟ್ಟಿ ಗಟ್ಟಿಯಾಗಿ ಹೇಳಿದರು. ಅವರ ನಂತರ ವಕೀಲ-ರಾಜಕಾರಣಿ ಬಿ.ಎಲ್. ಶಂಕರ್ ಸುಮಾರು ೪೦ ನಿಮಿಷ ನಿರರ್ಗಳವಾಗಿ ವಿಷಯದ ಹಲವು ಆಯಾಮಗಳ ಕುರಿತು ಮಾತಾಡಿದರು. ಅವರು ಹೇಳಿದ ಅಂಶಗಳು…

  • ಭಾರತದ ಸಂವಿಧಾನದ ತಕ್ಕಡಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಕೇಂದ್ರ ಸರ್ಕಾರದ ಬೊಟ್ಟು ರಾಜ್ಯ ಸರ್ಕಾರಗಳ ಬೊಟ್ಟಿಗಿಂತ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ತೂಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಸಂವಿಧಾನದ ತಿದ್ದುಪಡಿ ಮಾಡಲು ಲೋಕಸಭೆಗೆ ಅಧಿಕಾರವಿದೆ. ಲೋಕಸಭೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ೨/೩ ರ ಬಹುಮತದೊಂದಿಗೆ ಭಾರತ ಒಕ್ಕೂಟದ ಶೇಕಡಾ ೫೦ ರಾಜ್ಯಗಳು ಒಪ್ಪಿದರೆ ಸಾಕು, ಯಾವ ಬದಲಾವಣೆಯನ್ನು ಬೇಕಾದರೂ ತರಬಹುದು (ಉದಾ: GST ಮಸೂದೆ / ಕಾಯ್ದೆ). ರಾಜ್ಯ ಸರ್ಕಾರಗಳು ತಿದ್ದುಪಡಿಗಳನ್ನು ಸೂಚಿಸಲು ಕೂಡ ಅಶಕ್ತವಾಗಿವೆ.
  • ಒಕ್ಕೂಟ ವ್ಯವಸ್ಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ರಾಜ್ಯಗಳು ಕೇಂದ್ರದಷ್ಟೇ ಬಲಿಷ್ಠವಾಗುವ ತನಕ “ಫೆಡರಲಿಸಂ” ಪದದ ನಿಜವಾದ ಅರ್ಥ “ಟ್ರೀಟಿ ಅಥವಾ ಒಪ್ಪಂದ” ಕ್ಕೆ ನ್ಯಾಯ ಸಿಗದು.
  • ಕನ್ನಡೇತರ ಐಎಎಸ್ ಅಧಿಕಾರಿಗಳಿಂದ, ಸ್ವಂತ ಬುದ್ಧಿ ಇಲ್ಲದ ರಾಜಕಾರಣಿಗಳಿಂದ ಕರ್ನಾಟಕಕ್ಕೆ ಕಂಟಕ ಬಂದಿದೆ

ಇದರ ನಂತರ ಪತ್ರಕರ್ತ ಎನ್. ಎ. ಇಸ್ಮಾಯಿಲ್ ಅವರು ಹಿಂದಿ ಹೇರಿಕೆಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಚುಟುಕಾಗಿ ಆದರೆ ಮೊನಚಾಗಿ ಮಾತಾಡಿದರು.  “ಹಿಂದಿ ಭಾಷೆಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆಯಾಗಲೀ ಅಥವಾ ಬಾಲಿವುಡ್ ಸಿನೆಮಾ ಬಗ್ಗೆಯಾಗಲೀ ದಕ್ಷಿಣ ರಾಜ್ಯಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಎಂದೂ ಹೆದರಿಕೆ ಇರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಕೇಂದ್ರ ಸರ್ಕಾರದ ಹಿಂದಿ ಹೇರುವ ನೀತಿಗೆ ಕೇಂದ್ರ ಸರ್ಕಾರದ ರಾಜಕೀಯ ಅಸುರಕ್ಷಿತ ಭಾವನೆ ಅಥವಾ ಪೊಲಿಟಿಕಲ್ ಇನ್ಸೆಕ್ಯೂರಿಟಿಯೇ ಮುಖ್ಯವಾದ ಕಾರಣ” ಎಂದು ಇಸ್ಮಾಯಿಲ್ ಹೇಳಿದರು. ” ಹಿಂದಿ ಹೇರಿಕೆ ಒಂದು ರಾಜಕೀಯ ತಂತ್ರ. ಅದನ್ನು ಎದುರಿಸಲು ನಾಡು-ನುಡಿಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಕಾಳಜಿ  ಇರುವ ರಾಜಕೀಯ ಹೋರಾಟ ಬೇಕಾಗಿದೆ” ಎಂದು ಅವರು ಹೇಳಿದಾಗ ಪ್ರೇಕ್ಷಕರು ಕರತಾಡನ ಮಾಡಿ ಒಪ್ಪಿಗೆ ಸೂಚಿಸಿದರು.

“ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರೀಯ ಪಕ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ರಾಜ್ಯಗಳಿಗೆ ಆಗಿರುವ ನ್ಯಾಯಾನ್ಯಾಯಗಳು” ಎಂಬ ವಿಚಾರವಾಗಿ ಮಾತನಾಡಿದವರು ಶಿಕ್ಷಕ-ರಾಜಕಾರಣಿ ವೈ.ಎಸ್.ವಿ. ದತ್ತ. ಇವರ ಮಾತಿಗೆ ಸಮಯದ ಅಭಾವ ಉಂಟಾಗಿತ್ತು.  ಹಾಗಾಗಿ, ಇವರು ವಿವರಗಳಿಗೆ ಹೋಗದೆ ಸೂಚ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಕೆಲವು ಉದಾಹರಣೆಗಳನ್ನು ಸ್ವಾರಸ್ಯಪೂರ್ಣವಾಗಿ ಪಟ್ಟಿ ಮಾಡಿದರು.  ಕೊಟ್ಟ ಉದಾಹರಣೆಗಳೆಲ್ಲವೂ ಸೂಕ್ತವಾಗಿದ್ದುವು ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ನಾಟಕಕ್ಕೆ ಸೀಮಿತವಾಗಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ.  ಬಲಿಷ್ಠ ಪ್ರಾದೇಶಿಕ ನೇತೃತ್ವ ಇದ್ದಾಗ ಕೇಂದ್ರವು ರಾಜ್ಯದ ಪಾದಸೇವೆಗೆ ದೌಡಾಯಿಸುತ್ತಾ ಬಂದಿದೆ ಎಂದು ಅವರು ಕಾವೇರಿ ನ್ಯಾಯಮಂಡಳಿ ರಚನೆ ಮಾಡುವಾಗ (ತಮಿಳಿನಾಡಿನಲ್ಲಿ) ನಡೆದ ಬೆಳವಣಿಗಳನ್ನು ಉದಾಹರಿಸಿದರು.  ಎಚ್. ಡಿ. ದೇವೇಗೌಡರು, ದೇಶದ ಪ್ರಧಾನಿ ಆಗಿದ್ದಾಗ (ಯುನೈಟೆಡ್ ಫ್ರಂಟ್ ಸರ್ಕಾರ) ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದ ಕೃಷ್ಣಾ ಮೇಲ್ದಂಡೆ ಯೋಜನೆಗೆ ಅನುಕೂಲ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಡುವ ಸಲುವಾಗಿ, ಹಣಕಾಸಿನ ಕೊರತೆಯಿಂದ ನೆನೆಗುದಿಗೆ ಬಿದ್ದಿದ್ದ ದೇಶದ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ನೀರಾವರಿ ಯೋಜನೆಗಳಿಗೂ ಹಣ ಒದಗಿಸುವ ನಿಷ್ಪಕ್ಷಪಾತ ನಿರ್ಧಾರ ತೆಗೆದುಕೊಂಡರು ಎಂದು ಸ್ಮರಿಸಿದರು. ಆದರೆ, ದತ್ತ ಅವರು ತೆಗೆದುಕೊಂಡ ಬಹುತೇಕ ಉದಾಹರಣೆಗಳು ನೀರಾವರಿಗೆ ಸಂಬಂಧಿಸಿದ್ದೇ ಆಗಿದ್ದರಿಂದ ಕೊಟ್ಟ ವಿಷಯಕ್ಕೆ ನ್ಯಾಯ ಸಿಗಲಿಲ್ಲವೇನೋ ಎನಿಸಿತು.

ಇವಿಷ್ಟೂ ಚರ್ಚೆಗೆ ಪ್ರತಿಕ್ರಿಯೆ ಕೊಡುವ ಜವಾಬ್ದಾರಿ ದೇವೇಗೌಡರ ಮೇಲಿತ್ತು.  ಅವರು ತಮ್ಮ ರಾಜಕೀಯ ಸ್ಥಾನಕ್ಕೆ ತಕ್ಕುದಾದ ರೀತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಯಾರನ್ನೂ ವೈಯಕ್ತಿಕವಾಗಿ ದೂಷಿಸುವುದಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಗಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಕಾವೇರಿ ವಿಚಾರದಲ್ಲಿ ರಾಜ್ಯ ರಾಜಕಾರಣವು ಒಗ್ಗಟ್ಟಾಗಿ ನಿಲ್ಲುವ ಸಂದರ್ಭದಲ್ಲಿ ದೇವೇಗೌಡರು ನಡೆದುಕೊಂಡ ಸಮಯೋಚಿತ ರೀತಿಯನ್ನು ಸಭೆಯಲ್ಲಿದ್ದವರೆಲ್ಲರೂ ಭಾರೀ ಕರತಾಡನದೊಂದಿಗೆ ಶ್ಲಾಘಿಸಿದರು. ಕೇಂದ್ರದಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಈಗಿನ ಸರ್ಕಾರದ ಕಾರ್ಯವೈಖರಿಯನ್ನು ಟೀಕಿಸುವುದಕ್ಕೆ ದೇವೇಗೌಡರು ಹಿಂಜರಿಯಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಆದರೆ, ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ರಮದಲ್ಲಿ ಇತರರು ಮಂಡಿಸಿದ್ದ ವಿಚಾರಕ್ಕೆ ನೇರವಾಗಿ ಪ್ರತಿಕ್ರಿಯೆ ಕೊಡಲು ಅವರಿಗೆ ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗಲಿಲ್ಲ. ತಮ್ಮ ರಾಜಕೀಯ ಜೀವನದಲ್ಲಿ ಅನುಭವಿಸಿದ “ನೋವು” ಎಂದು ಪದೇ ಪದೇ ಪ್ರಸ್ತಾಪಿಸಿದರು.  ಆ “ನೋವು ಏನು ಎಂದು ವಿವರಿಸುವುದಿಲ್ಲ” ಎಂದು ಹೇಳಿದರು.  ವಿವರಿಸಲು ಇಷ್ಟವಿರದ ವಿಚಾರವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಸ್ತಾಪಿಸುವುದಾದರೂ ಯಾಕೆ ಎಂಬ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆ ಅನೇಕರಲ್ಲಿ ಎದ್ದಿರುವಂತೆ ಕಂಡಿತು.  ತಮ್ಮ ಪ್ರತಿಕ್ರಿಯೆಯ ಉದ್ದಕ್ಕೂ “ನಾನು ಪ್ರಧಾನಿ ಆಗಿದ್ದಾಗ ತೆಗೆದುಕೊಂಡ ನಿರ್ಧಾರಗಳನ್ನು ಯಾರೂ ಸ್ಮರಿಸುವುದಿಲ್ಲ,  ನಾನು ಕರ್ನಾಟಕಕ್ಕೆ ಅನುಕೂಲವಾಗುವ ಅನೇಕ ನಿರ್ಧಾರಗಳನ್ನು ತೆಗೆದುಕೊಂಡೆ.  ಅದರ ಹೆಸರು ಬೇರೆಯವರಿಗೆ ಸಿಕ್ಕಿತು” ಎಂದು ಹಲುಬಿದರು. ದೇವೇಗೌಡರ ಇಳಿವಯಸ್ಸಿನ ಪ್ರತಿಕ್ರೆಯೆಯಿಂದ ಇನ್ನೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನದನ್ನು ನಿರೀಕ್ಷಿಸಿದ ನಮ್ಮದೂ ತಪ್ಪಿರಬಹುದು.  ಅವರ ೮೫ ನೇ ಹುಟ್ಟಿದ ಹಬ್ಬದ ಪ್ರಯುಕ್ತ ಅನೇಕರು ಅವರನ್ನು ಸನ್ಮಾಸಿದರು. ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ರಮದುದ್ದಕ್ಕೂ ಅವರನ್ನು ಎಲ್ಲರೂ ಹೊಗಳುವವರೇ ಆಗಿದ್ದರು. ಯಾರೂ ಸಹ ಪ್ರಾದೇಶಿಕ ಪಕ್ಷಗಳು ತಮ್ಮ ಜವಾಬ್ದಾರಿಯನ್ನು ನಿರ್ವಹಿಸದೇ ಹೋದ ಯಾವ ಸಂದರ್ಭವನ್ನೂ ನೆನಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲಿಲ್ಲ.  ಪ್ರಾದೇಶಿಕ ಪಕ್ಷಗಳು ಪ್ರಸ್ತುತವಾಗಬೇಕಾದರೆ ಏನು ಮಾಡಬೇಕು ಎಂದು ಪರಿಹಾರಗಳನ್ನು ಹೇಳಲಿಲ್ಲ.  ಈ ಕೊರತೆಗಳ ಮಧ್ಯೆ ಯುವಕರ ಸಮೂಹವೊಂದು ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದ ಪರ ಯೋಚನೆಗಳನ್ನು ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾ,  ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದ ಹಿತವನ್ನು ಕಾಯಲು ಸಂಘಟಿತ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನದ ಮುನ್ನುಡಿ ಬರೆಯುತ್ತಿದ್ದಾರೆ ಎಂಬ ಆಶಾ ಭಾವನೆ ಎಲ್ಲರಲ್ಲೂ ಇತ್ತು.  

                

Karnataka ≈ the United Kingdom: Things to learn from each other

There are startling similarities between the United Kingdom and the State of Karnataka.  The numbers in the table below speak for themselves and the figures reinforce the fact that Karnataka is a country within the Indian subcontinent. Of course, the table does not compare the two entities comprehensively.  Any comparison between the UK and Karnataka in the spheres of economics, human development indices, and global diplomatic presence will find Karnataka seriously wanting. However, there are other things concerning governance and citizenship, which are far more fundamental to any thriving democracy. It is in this regard that the two political and geographic entities can learn a lot of good things from each other.   

Karnataka and the UK_a comparison
Karnataka and the United Kingdom have a lot in common

The UK democracy has matured to a level where they are now talking mostly about National Health Service, Foreign Policy, Border Control, and Devolution of Power among member states. In the upcoming assembly election in 2018, if Karnataka can discuss its forests, rivers, schools, hospitals, languages, and rights of its own citizens in the Indian Union, we will have started in the right direction.  But, we are too far away from such a discourse. In Karnataka, the elections are determined by Caste Equations, Party Doctrines, Powers of Alien Masters (Central leaders), and Wild Corruption Allegations from people who are corrupt themselves. Karnataka can learn a thing or two from the UK in setting the right agenda for elections.        

Last year, the UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. The problem faced by the UK because of EU membership is very similar to the problems Karnataka is facing from being a member-state of India. Many of the laws governing Karnataka citizens are made by a few aliens sitting in New Delhi. Natural resources and infrastructure in Karnataka is crumbling mostly due to the greed of the locals, but the vast number of people migrating to our home state from other parts of India are not helping (the reason for their migration is not Karnataka, rather their home states). These circumstances in Karnataka should typically lead to an IN/OUT referendum, but the referendum will not, and dare I say, should never happen. The question of separation of Karnataka from India does not arise. Kannada in Karnataka is what English is in the United Kingdom. But, Kannada has not ill-treated other native languages in Karnataka, whereas English has stifled other languages in the United Kingdom. While there is a sense of alienation and neglect in some provinces within Karnataka, these resentments will never become separatism within Karnataka. We have so far been sensible enough to disregard make-believe propaganda from fringe elements.

It is true that the Indian Central Government is not devolving enough powers to Karnataka legislature.  The Indian Central Government’s behaviour towards state assemblies such as that in Karnataka, is very similar to how the UK government is treating Scottish and Welsh parliaments. Having said that, I think the UK has done a lot better than India.  UK has devolved a significant share of legislative and budget making powers to local parliaments. We in Karnataka, will not take the route of referendum for independence or whatever.  The UK will benefit from a lesson or two in pragmatism from Karnataka and see the value of staying united despite grave grievances. We are happy at the moment to be citizens of Karnataka and India. We will protest and resist the attempts of Union of India which is killing native culture, language, and the landscape of Karnataka.  There is an economic angle to every argument.  There is an emotional angle to every argument.  But, Karnataka’s and India’s cultural and territorial integrity go beyond emotional and economic arguments (respectively). We are bound by a collective consciousness, which is always aware of the collective sacrifices of our forefathers and mothers who knowingly or unknowingly made Karnataka and India. They never knew that Karnataka will be Karnataka of today and they never saw India as India of today. But, we know where we are and how we came here.  We have to accept our current flaws, acknowledge the past, and strive towards a better tomorrow.

ELECTIONS IN THE UK

In 2014, Scotland (a member state of the UK) voted in a referendum to decide whether to stay in or out of the UK (Scotland narrowly voted to stay in). In 2015, the UK voted in a general election and elected 650 MPs to the parliament at Westminster. In 2016, the UK as a whole voted in a referendum (the Brexit vote) on UK’s membership of the European Union.  UK as a whole chose to exit the EU, although some member states voted to stay in. In 2017 (next month), the UK is now going through another ‘premature’ general election (June 2017) to decide who will lead them through thick and thin of Brexit.

ELECTIONS IN KARNATAKA

In 2012, Karnataka voted for its State assembly. Karnataka voted for the Congress party. In 2014, Karnataka voted along with other member states of the Indian nation to elect a Union government in New Delhi. The Indian Union voted for the BJP. In 2018, Karnataka will be voting again for its State assembly. 

Towards knowing Gandhiji – Part 4: Views on Linguistic Pluralism in India

The Q in GandhijiThere were several reasons why MK Gandhi was successful in becoming a pivot around which the common Indian opinion spun itself to become desi khadi.  Many believe that Gandhi’s success was in parts due to his stubbornness (be it the ethically contentious idea of ahimsa, or the crazy idea of celibacy or the brilliant idea of non-cooperation), and also his instinct for radical journalism played a role. One of the questions that has troubled me immensely over the last decade concerns the future of linguistic pluralism in India. Karnataka is inhabited by Kannada peoples (Kannadigas, Tuluvas, Kodavas, Konkanis and others who have learnt to speak/read/write one of these languages while they inhabit Karnataka). The tyranny of Hindi imposition (inhibition of other languagues) by the Indian central government on Karnataka makes my blood boil. My restraint is a form of cowardice and I have no hesitation in admitting that.

In 1922 Gandhi says

Non-violence, which only an individual can use is not of much use in terms of the society…our non-violence need not be of the strong, but it has to be of the truthful…Some of us seem unfortunately, to have merely postponed the date of revenge”. 

I wish my restraint had more inner strength as well as truthfulness, but I am not that lucky. I don’t know when I will end up doing something “foolish”.  I started wondering about the Mahatma’s position on languages in India. Here, I discuss my readings of Gandhi’s view on language pluralism in the pre-independent Indian subcontinent. I try to see if his views have any resonance with the present-day language federalism debate in India.

Gandhi used to run a multilingual journal while he was in South Africa and continued to do that after he came back to India. He apparently constituted state-congress committees on linguistic lines. These just show that Gandhi probably understood the importance of effective communication in the vernaculars of India. However, my initial readings of his selected works did not convince me that Gandhi had a pluralistic language philosophy.

gandhi-image

In 1909, Gandhi says

If man will only realise that it is unmanly to obey laws that are unjust, no man’s tyranny will enslave him.  This is the key to Self Rule. It is a superstition and ungodly thing to believe that an act of a majority binds a minority”.

And he goes on to say

it is we the English knowing Indians [less than 0.1% of ~2 million Indians in 1920s, now nearly 1 million out of 1.2 billion] that have enslaved India…we may learn and use English as the case may be.  Those who have studied English will have to teach morality to their children in their mother tongue, and to teach them another Indian language, but when they have grown up, they may [opt] to learn English. We have to improve all our languages…English books which are valuable should be translated into various Indian languages”

All of these sound just great, don’t they?  If we take Gandhi’s arguments in the context of Hindi majoritarian politics played by the Central government today, Kannadigas must feel no obligation to follow unjust constitutional provisions exploited by the Central government.  Hindi must not be allowed to be the official language of the Indian union.  They must repeal all privileges extended to Hindi (at the cost of other Indian languages) or they must extend all privileges to all Indian languages. The former is more practical than the latter. If and only if we (Kannadigas) disobey the central government (on these matters) that we will fulfil our ambitions of living in economically, linguistically, and psychologically autonomous Karnataka. We don’t and must not oppose the Indian constitutional values. We must however not accept constitutional provisions that undermine our regional and ethnic identity (I cannot say the same with conviction when it comes to religious and caste identities). Before we feel enthused by Gandhi’s universal philosophy of disobedience (when faced with unjust laws), I was disappointed to read this from Gandhi who argues the following (again in 1909)

Every cultured Indian will know in addition to his own provincial language [two more languages] …A Hindu [will know] Sanskrit, a Muslim [will know] Persian, and all [will know] Hindi.  Northerners should learn Tamil. A universal language for India should be Hindi, with an option to write it in both Persian and Nagari characters…in order that Hindus and Muslims may have closer relations”.

In 1925 Gandhi says the following

if English were our common language…then the democracy will be [that] of a mere handful. Common language of the vast mass can never be English. It is a matter of course a resultant of Hindi and Urdu or Hindustani as I would call it….our English speech [has made us] foreigners in our own land. I have profound admiration for the English language…but I have no matter of doubt in my mind that the English language and people occupy a place in our life which retards our progress”

Let me suggest to all of you to replace the word ‘English’ with the word ‘Hindi’ in Gandhi’s quote given above and replace ‘Hindi’ with ‘Regional languages’. That will be a neat summary of my attitude towards Hindi today.  Gandhi mentions Tamilu as an example perhaps because he was familiar with Tamil through his South African experience.  But, I hate it when North Indians (including MK Gandhi) see all South Indians as Tamilians. Are all North, West and East Indians Hindi speakers?  I am sure non-South Indians will be offended by such a remark.  People living in Karnataka are Kannada peoples (please see the introductory paragraph for a definition of Kannada peoples). North Indians must know that Kannada is among the most ancient living languages in the world (not just South India) and Kannada’s prolific literary tradition is second to none in the world (let alone South India).

Back to Gandhi’s ideas on Hindi, and frankly some of them are outrageous in the modern Indian context.  Gandhi was thinking about religious harmony but he could not foresee the venomous propaganda of a Hindi-centric central administrator. Let us grant and understand that Gandhi was trying to unify divergent religious forces to fight the British. However, his notion that Hindi must be known by all Indians is at the heart of Hindi hegemony in India. Hindi is retarding our progress. By raising our voice for linguistic autonomy in everything in our lives, we Kannada people are not advocating a Kannada majoritarian oppression of others in Karnataka. We are asking (requesting) people residing in Karnataka state to learn Kannada or any other language of Karnataka. By doing so, non-Kannada people will not only win their bread while in Karnataka, they will also win our hearts and minds.