India’s teeming millions, in the eyes of some keen observers abroad, rightly seem to be a complex mix of people marked by profiles in a range that cannot be described exhaustively. They are in classifications of (a) persons, (b) important persons, (c) very important persons, (VIPs) and (d) Very very important persons (VVIPs), constituting the currently estimated population of 135 crores. Their numbers which used to be in descending order until not too long ago have tended to be in ascending order lately. To get elevated from the classification (a) to (d) above, people had to achieve recognition in society through years of leading life pursuing work of high rating in various areas of human endeavour as diverse as teaching, engineering, legal practice, administration, research, social work, literary pursuits, sports, philosophical discourse, entrepreneurship and so on, in each of which field the nation has an impressive galaxy of achievers, all deserving to be identified as VVIPs.
Historically, monarchs, their coterie of executives and also the select band of persons enjoying royal patronage, mainly by virtue of excelling in one or the other pursuit with appeal to the respective monarch, passed off as important persons and VIPs. Their places have been taken by the elected representatives and the point of interest is how this transformation has happened and its fallout in this land, which are there for all to see.
Thanks to the well-oiled media in the country, comprising hundreds of television channels, thousands of dailies in a multitude of languages and also the radio broadcasting stations with access to the entire population, the elected representatives are in full glare of the masses during all the stages of pre-poll, poll-time and post-poll. Their number has crossed the past records and counting. The most notable parameter for each of them to acquire importance is to have a following in substantial numbers, more the merrier. To be aware of the cash factor needed to create that mass following and the means of laying one’s hand on cash running to you-know-how-much doesn’t need knowledge of rocket science.
The VIPs and VVIPs, self-identified, barring exceptions, are running riot in the country. The space in dailies devoured by their images, movement of citizens halted on busy roads of urban spaces, public money spent on their lavish life and security are the fall out of self-rule. The latest privilege namely, separate toll gates on Highways for important people compels a change in the definition of democracy —of VIPs, by VIPs and for VIPs.