75 years on, still a Dysfunctional Democracy
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75 years on, still a Dysfunctional Democracy

August 13, 2022

It’s been 75 years since we began to rule ourselves. We must be proud because we continue to exist as a union and a democratic union at that.

It is no easy task for a nation as diverse as ours to stay together for as long as we have. But our inclination to side with money and power above all else has rendered our democracy to remain, forever dysfunctional.

 There is a perception that only bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen are corrupt. But the fact is, even ordinary Indians are corrupt; this is what makes our democracy dysfunctional.

 In 2012, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha declared that 30 percent of Indians were totally corrupt, 50 percent borderline dishonest, and just about 20 percent were close to being honest.

From the very beginning, our moral fabric has been malleable. This trait has made us a people who are very ‘rule-able’. Just look at our recent history.

The British rule in India began with a victory, won by paying a bribe — The Battle of Plassey. Robert Clive, an employee of East India Company, bribed Mir Jafar, the commander-in-chief of the Bengal Nawab’s army, with money and the promise of being made the next Nawab of Bengal.

 Before the British in 1701, Aurangzeb bribed the Maratha commander Trimbak to take over the forts, and he did without even fighting! Shivaji bribed a Mughal commander and took over Kondhana. Tipu Sultan lost his battle against the British because Mir Sadiq, his right-hand man, was bribed by the British.

 The British East India Company used the strategy of  ‘bribe and conquer’, later the British Raj took over from them, and they used the strategy of ‘divide and conquer.’

 The tragedy is that 75 years after independence, these two strategies are still being used, albeit by Indians on Indians. Bribing and dividing people is the way to victory, even in the electoral battles of 21st-century India!

 This nature of Indians being bribed even at the cost of our dignity and self-respect reminded me of Thomas Macaulay’s ‘bribe’ story when he visited Ooty.

 This story has been documented in a book titled ‘Reminiscences of an Indian Judge’ by Francis Lascelles, who worked as a Judge in various cities in India during British rule and also disclosed by the Nilgiri Documentation Centre in June this year.

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 In April 1834, ‘Lord’ Macaulay was visiting Ooty by palanquin from Madras to attend the swearing-in of Lord William Bentinck, then Governor of Calcutta, as India’s first Governor General. The ceremony was at the newly constructed Ootacamund Club, now Ooty Club. After the ceremony, Macaulay decided to extend his stay in Ooty by three months.

 During this time, one of his palanquin-bearers initiated a romance and began a relationship with a local woman with the promise of marriage. After three months, it was time for Macaulay to leave Ooty.

 As his travel party began heading back to Madras, they were stopped near the famous St. Stephen’s Church in Ooty by a large angry mob.

The mob caught hold of the palanquin-bearer who had promised to marry the local girl. They demanded that the palanquin-bearer marry her and take her with him, or they would not let the British travel party go. 

Macaulay feared that the angry mob would do anything, including resort to violence to save the honour of their local girl and their town’s pride. So, he ordered his travel party to head straight to the offices of the District Commanding Officer for protection and also to sort out the matter.

Once at the District Commanding Officer’s office, the two warring parties went into the chambers for discussion. But, as Lascelles writes, “a short while later, Macaulay and his party emerged and continued, unimpeded on their way to Madras. The excited mob, for its part, quietly disbanded, returning to the nearby hills from where they had descended to try and enforce an honourable settlement for one of their womenfolk”!

So, what happened!?

Lascelles further writes, “I accosted one (of the crowd) who appeared to be the leader and asked him what had taken place. He replied, ‘Tom Macaulay Sahib was a very good gentleman… he gave us Rs. 100’”!

After 75 years of Independence, what has changed? Nothing.

As long as there is a characterless electorate and a self-centred population, Indian democracy will forever remain dysfunctional.

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In his book ‘Being Indian’, Pavan Varma rightly observed, “The concept of morality and of high-minded principle is dear to Indians as a theoretical construct, but largely ignored in real life as impractical. And those who renounce the lure of power are worshipped not because their example is worth emulating but because they are in awe of the person’s ability to transcend the irresistible.”

That is why we revere Gandhiji but refuse to emulate him. We see Gandhiji’s character traits as good only in theory, never to be practised.

Worse even today, 75 years after Independence the name of the man who mobilised us to fight for freedom is used in a mocking manner. How? We brand an idealistic person as foolish by mockingly calling him ‘Gandhi nan Maga.’ Ah! how far we have fallen and still falling.

Our patriotism is only limited to singing our anthem, humming our national song and changing our Display Picture (DP) on Independence Day. We forget that being an honest citizen is a much greater act of patriotism.

Now, as we indulge in the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign and change our display pics to Indian Tricolour, how many of us know what the colours of our flag symbolise?

Our Second President, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, explained: “Saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work.

The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct.

The green shows our relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends.

The Ashoka Chakra in the centre is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth and dharma ought to be the controlling principles of those who work under this flag.”

As long as we Indians continue to suffer moral degradation, then, as Nani Palkhivala said, “Our Tricolour fluttering on Independence Day will not be Orange, White and Green but Black, Red and Scarlet — Black money, Red tape and Scarlet corruption.”

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13 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “75 years on, still a Dysfunctional Democracy”

  1. swamy says:

    Celebrating independence day is a joke, while poor suffers and rich/policitians/officials enrich. Hope people of India learn and be smart and make way for true democracy and freedom.

  2. Howdy, Modi! says:

    Hey Vikram
    No point in dwelling on history, narrating anecdotes and laughing at the British, when today, your country is mired in a sewer of corruption, nepotism and everyb community wants to be classified as backward, your CM is lected because he is a Lingayat as wanted by the rich and equally corrupt Lingayat seers etc.. In British Raj, at least one could expect merit-based recruitment to jobs, admissions to universities etc.. What do you have now? Casteism and casteism for every walk of life.
    Did it take so long for you to realise that your country has corrupt politicians, corrupt institutions and above all, corrupt society. Corruption is weaved into every fabric of Indian society today.
    Just look at the low moral quality of your people. The other day a young woman, a lecturer in a college committed suicide indicating harassment , very clearly from the college management. What has been the response? Nothing. A poster calling herself @Anuradha, a female name, supported the college management. No shame at all for the treatment of this young woman. Every Indian one sees in India and outside India is morally bankrupt.
    Go on, celebrate , your 75 years after independence. Go on, listen to your PM Modi, dressed like a loan shark Mawari with the turban, unashamed by his desertion of his wife, dishing out glorios future and pontification that goes with it.

  3. Dr.Sheetal says:

    Very well-written article.
    I liked it very much.
    The article resonates with my thoughts too and the things I see around me.
    As i age, i realize that, living a truthful uncorrupted life, without expecting any kind of acknowledgement from anyone is the most important thing.
    Thanks once again👍

  4. Shantala says:

    In independent India, in its capital New Delhi, an young woman waiting for a bus was raped multiple times by men , and was left to die. Her internal organs were so much damaged that even the AIIMS could not treat her, and she was sent almost in a dying stage to a Singapore hospital, where unfortunately she died.
    Her name , not disclosed, but aptly called NIRBHAYA.
    Women are not safe in India’s streets. Dowry killing has multiplied, and if the bridegroom is an Indian IT techie who is working in an IT sweatshop doing coding work, his mother demands a shiny new car as the dowry!
    Mr Vikram, the editor of this SOM, goes on narrating the history under British Raj-where meritocracy prevailed. If Sir MV were to apply to day to enter a good engineering college, he would be asked, not his marls, but much money he has for a bribe, and that is not enough, he must belong to a backward caste! If Dr BC Roy were to apply to medical college today, he would be rejected outright, as all the places are reserved for worthless applicants from backward castes.
    OK, Go on, celebrate your independence. Wave your flag. Hide all the morally degrading diseases the country is nourishing with.
    A poster mentioned this young woman who recently committed suicide not tolerating the harassment from her college management. Her sin? To work to earn money in a moral way, to support her family.
    Mallya who escaped India, after his misdeeds became known, was given assistance to do so by the senior officials and probably ministers of the central government , and is still not extradited. It will not happen, as those officials and ministers will be exposed.
    Go on celebrate your 75 years of independence, looking around how the country has sunk into a sewer of corruption.

  5. Krishnan Kutty Nair says:

    Wife deserter Narendra Modi up on that Red Fort, dressed like the toddy merchant with his turban is bullshitting about Indian demmocracy and the crap, while his citizens are hurrying out of India through any means.
    This week I got nearly 150 requests for sponsoring for work visas even from those Indians in their forties and educated , and say they fed up with the corruption in India. These hapless Indians do not care, even if they are posted in most rural parts of Australia or New Zealand as long as they are out of India. I said tp them the problem is with their Indian citizenship and their passport which no country respects. They have to wait in a long queue along with people from Africa.
    This is 75 years after independence. This Modi, who left his wife in misery is pontificating and to listen to him there are thousands of Indians congregated as sheep.

  6. Krishnan Kutty Nair says:

    Correction: democracy.

  7. boregowda says:

    In the country of 1.4 billion plus population only one man – Modi is responsible for all the ills, no wonder this country has literally gone to dogs

  8. boregowda says:

    This reminds of a famous episode happened about 2000 years ago….

  9. Gusto says:

    @boregowda
    Still writing single sentences? Your Gowda brain does not grasp that your PM is the absolute leader as he has a very large majority in parliament, and can do anything he wants. He has suppressed the news that China invading India, and grabbed more territories.. He boasted that Xi Jinping was his friend when he met him att Mahabalipuram in a Madrasi dress. If he is not responsible, perhaps your leader DeveGowda is, as he packed every central government office, when he was a PM for a few weeks with Gowdas, who messed these departments up.
    Keep way from meat, and stop talking nonsense. Oh, BTW, your canine rant is silly as you have nothing smart to say.
    Yes I am @Maan Ki Baath, Koopal Boregowda, Questo or even DeveGowda!

  10. boregowda says:

    @Gusto, the neutered rabid stray koppal dog is still whining

  11. koppal boregowda says:

    Oh @boregowda, who is neutered by his family. Rabid violet junkie who was castrated!

  12. boregowda says:

    @koppal boregowda, the same old neutered rabid stray koppal dog whining again

  13. Prakash.R says:

    https://youtu.be/8E-8_b3ET-s
    For all those who want us to feel inferior!

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