Editor : Satish Ohri    Edition : Jan - Feb 2019

Wish List for 2019

Many individuals greet the New Year with promises and vows which they quickly forget. Perhaps, you cannot expect a nation or its government to commit to a ‘New Year Resolution’, but you can certainly present a ‘wish list’ and hope that sincere efforts are made to fulfill them when the list is about removing the canker that afflicts the society and impacts the lives of all the citizens. Since the New Year begins in the month of January, the coldest season in much of India, the first wish that comes to mind is the pollution that the cold weather brings in its wake. Descriptions of ‘balmy winters’ in India look out of place today. But can the country correct the ecological and climate imbalance in a year? It is, of course, highly desirable, but is it realistic? Can it really form the part of a wish list that one would like to be see fulfilled over the next 12 months? Obviously, the wish list is meant for the people in power, for they are in a better position to meet the demands in the list than their political rivals. But politicians in the Opposition too must contribute to its success. It does not matter who is in power because in a democratic country like India there will always be a ruling party with its supporters and an Opposition which may consist of multiple parties and the two sides may frequently swap the position of power. Without any doubt, the event most looked forward to in 2019 is the Lok Sabha poll. Unlike the previous one in 2014, this one is pregnant with all kinds of possibilities. Narendra Modi may lead BJP to another five-year stint but most pollsters say that he will not have a 2014 type walkover. A rejuvenated Opposition, if united, may spring a surprise and jolt the BJP. A third alternative will be a ‘hung’ parliament in which the smaller parties, usually underrated, may have a decisive role to play. Regardless of who forms the next government at the Centre, here is a wish list that should be fulfilled during a year by the next set of rulers. It has been prepared with an audacious belief that it reflects the thinking of the ‘silent’ majority of Indians. It might be natural to expect issues like removal of poverty and social inequality to top the list. Important as these issues are, the fact remains that the country has been grappling with them since Independence with only moderate success. The struggle will have to continue for many more years; no ‘statistical jugglery’ will help. The foremost wish of many, if not most, Indians in the backdrop of the current atmosphere would be to see a return to decency in political discourse and public life which has led to many unsavoury but needless binaries. A society where a sense of fear and insecurity is spreading among large sections or a political system which is filled with bitterness and implacable animosity will not lead to speedier solution of issues relating to bread and butter, abolition of poverty and social injustice etc. It does not speak highly of the country when fear is instilled by questioning personal choices of individuals—what they eat or wear. It looks incongruous that a country aspiring to be counted among the global economic power spends so much time discussing personal issues or going on a spree to change the names of cities, towns, streets and railway stations. Is it too much to expect a halt to this trivial obsession—and much before the year ends? The fall in the standard of narratives woven by politicians, including top leaders, has been shocking and shameful. We have witnessed top leaders using the gutter language. Ancestors are being drawn into the game of mud-slinging. People are being likened to animals. Elected members are being told that they will have to ‘flee’ their homes and cities. Many others, including political opponents are being asked to pack off to a neighbouring country. Politicians have to demonstrate their religiosity. The sub-cast—Gotra—is a matter of heated debates. Sycophancy has become so ingrained in our political life that criticism invites all manner of threats and labeling; sometimes, even with fatal attacks. People who might be considered enlightened, intelligent and educated, take pride in calling themselves ‘chamcha’ (sycophant). The media, one of the most important pillars of democracy, has by and large volunteered to be watchdog of the Opposition while indulging in vigorous and often misplaced support of the ruling dispensation. To bring the media back on track, so to say, will probably remain an unfulfilled wish in 2019.

Blame anyone you like, but it cannot be denied that fissures within the society have become more visible today than in the years gone by. The frequency with which people—or mobs—take the law in their hands is becoming frightening. The victims, it is alleged, are usually carefully chosen while the police looks the other way. The growth of this phenomenon has begun to take a toll of the protectors of the law themselves, as would be evident from some cases in which police officers have been killed by mobs. The government had begun by focusing on women’s safety and accord them their due status in society. But after four years, the results look disappointing. A further shock comes from those in power who actually mock the victims. In the meanwhile, ‘MeToo’ revelations have touched many high and mighty. The naked display of violence and the suspected protection enjoyed by the perpetrators of certain crimes must stop. It should not take a full one year to meet this wish. All it needs is a political will and the resolve to curb lawlessness with an iron hand. An uncomfortable fact that has come to the fore in recent times is the viciousness spread by the phenomenon of fake news. It shows the social media in poor light though the enormous potential of the social media to do good to the country cannot be disputed. But the task becomes difficult if some of the top leaders in the country follow the fake news peddlers. It will not take a year but only a few seconds to end the patronage extended to fake news peddlers by people in responsible position. Happy New Year!

-Our Special Correspondent

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