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    Posted March 30, 2014 by
    Kolkata, India

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    As residents of this planet opposites are such an integral part of our lives that we take it for granted – day and night, summer/ winter, rich poor the list can just go on endlessly as it is around us all the time.. And we often wonder why these opposites that determine our daily actions at the individual/community level can play such an determining influence in our daily lives often shaping our collective destinies mostly not very harmonious. Ever since India was declared a Republic in 1950 and has managed to continue as an uninterrupted democracy till date and the fallout in the form of regular elections considered a festival of celebration of freedom of choice has a deeply darker side to it that after 63 years there appears a danger that the penumbra may just consume the whole and snuff out the brightest spot at the centre. Events in other countries across the world does not instil confidence when elected governments often face the wrath of the people for perceived misgovernance mostly through street protests leading to overthrow of governments and a period of uncertainty.
    India’s independent history has decadal tags attached to it as a reflection of the times, the 50s were of heady idealism and hope, 60s of failure and confusion, 70s of victory and arrogance, 80s change and disappointment, 90s of political turbulence and financial reforms and the last decade the resurgence of India and the advent of mega scams. Each decade has its challenges and were met not only by the leaders of the times but by the indomitable spirit of the people of this country and their belief in the rule of law, which is often massively abused by those in power, and despite the staggering poverty levels ripe conditions for anti establishment revolutions. India remained largely secular despite its leaders because the majority of its people from time immemorial believed in a pluralistic and tolerant culture, in fact they did not know of any other, and accepted life as fait accompli where a larger force determined the results of their actions based on their karmas. It would be correct to redefine secularism in India as essentially pluralism because as Gandhi famously said, “ The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within”. And the India we see today reached its present position of an emerging economic power because the large majority believed through the latter part of the 20th century, post independence, in the concept of sacrifice, acquiring knowledge and hard work as the mantras for success in a scarce, competitive and ever evolving world.
    Strangely despite the large majority believing in a lot of good things to drive the nation the dark underbelly of Indian democracy now occupies centre stage in its public life. Crony capitalism often driven by the politician bureaucrat businessman nexus throws up very few corruption related surprises because that is a given. Money and muscle power is now an accepted form in Indian politics. Caste and region based propagation is the norm for cornering votes and power neutralizing reasonable social policies to be implemented. A tardy and extremely slow judiciary which excludes the less privileged denying them justice for their problems is pretty well known. An executive that controls the law and order machinery compromising delivery severely, skewed and highly partial policy making dealing a body blow to good governance to the ordinary citizen and of course, all this resulting in high degree of inefficiencies in the system making the country a mystery to the many visitors and tourists who come to India. While democracy has served India reasonably well over the decades it has also thrown up huge contradictions that parts of Central India are virtually out of the control of the Central and respective State governments, these districts run by groups who in their own way exploit the poor for setting up a power centre of their own without any accountability. For the people in this region it is like being caught in a pincer between the devil and the monster leaving them wondering many a times who the devil or the monster is.
    Fortunately because of India’s vast size, massive population and mind boggling diversity the country is like a huge sponge which acts like a giant shock absorber against events and social disturbances which otherwise should have overthrown systems and governments. However the bad news is that this dark underbelly does not appear to be going away very soon and seems to be spreading its tentacles like a giant octopus swallowing whatever comes in its way and bringing disrepute. Despite India’s festival of democracy throwing up hope for many of its citizens serious challenges present itself for India as it bumbles and stumbles along in its path to be an economic super market.
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