Thursday, January 18, 2007

Depressing Politics

Many times in the last few weeks, something in the news has made me want to turn to my keyboard to vent out my angst. Yet I kept pushing it back, afraid that thinking about things would make me feel worse, all the while aware that I was being cowardly. Let me start the change today.

I am almost ashamed to admit that I had had high hopes from this government. I was disappointed when the BJP was turned out of power, saddened that we as a country chose to be governed not by the party who was trying to lead us to development but the one that had chosen to leave us wallowing in squalor for a half-century. Yet, I dared to hope, hope that an educated Prime Minister who was, as the media proclaimed, more economist than politician, and a savvy, pro-reforms Finance Minister would lead us further towards a liberated economy.

I was not merely disappointed but have been repeatedly shocked by the appalling decisions this government has made. Decisions which seem aimed at keeping India mired in poverty and helplessness. Just as a young generation is stepping out of schools with the confidence in themselves that an availability of jobs and liberal incomes brings, the government has come out with decision after decision that seeks to cut at the roots of that confidence.

The decision to impose quotas in private colleges and institutes was of course the most controversial of them all. Even the feverish protests by students all over the country could not affect the government’s decision. The only concession made was that institutions expand their capacity so that students who do not have seats reserved for them on the basis of caste or tribe still have an equal number of seats to aspire to. And who is to pay for the huge increase in capacity? The taxpayer, of course.

Then the Andhra Pradesh government decides to offer funding to madrassas – being quick to assert that there would be no interference in internal matters. Translation: you do as you please, give your children as little practical education as you like, we’ll give you money just because you are not a mainstream school but a Islamic school. That’s how secular we are. And where do those funds come from? From taxpayers, from funds meant from development of the state.

Now the government has directed banks to ensure 15% of priority sector lending to Muslims – the minority community. Wait a minute, priority sector lending was meant for agriculture, small industries etc. (which are generally not considered profitable but the government wants to subsidize). Now in addition to supporting farmers with your money (and mind you, you and I, as taxpayers, ultimately pay for all this – for any subsidies the government decides to dole out), you are also forced (having no say in the matter until the next elections) to subsidize the “minority community” so they can get the loans they want.

Mind you, I am the last person to speak against Muslims – or any religion or race or community. But I mind that, first, the government is fuelling discrimination through its decisions, and, second, it is taking my money to buy votes for itself. Worse, it is encouraging feelings of entitlement and dependence when it should encourage hard work and initiative – with the economy doing so well, it should not be a difficult lesson to learn if only the government was not so bent on teaching something to the contrary.

But, as the BJP proved to their cost, strong and good decisions do not win votes. Populism and mudslinging do. Which seems to predict that the Congress will remain in power forever. The worst part is, even if we manage to throw it out, the next government will find it impossible to reverse these appalling decisions. The very “backward” sections of society who are unable to get into schools or get jobs without government help are manifestly capable of turning into the streets and going on a rampage in whose path no government dare stand.


Anonymous said...


This is the the Unmana I admire. Its is not about venting anger, this is in fact honest expression of opinion which usually goes unheeded. I agree with you.

Btw, I think Babel is one of the best I have seen- walked out of the theater with my mind voided. Will talk about it over phone ;)

luv- Maitreyee

Unmana said...

Thank you.

Unmana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimberly El-Sadek said...

Jeepers! I've been kind of checked out of international politics lately due to now studying planning rather than political science. I swear I got the heebie jeebies reading your post. I had high hopes that an economist (of all people) as PM would be able to make some measurable progress in India, but it seems not which is very disappointing to hear. No public money should be paid towards any kind of religious school period, even more so considering there is to be no oversight! I question guaranteeing loans to a specific religious class should be based either on sector need or lending need due to the inability to borrow if you are poor. I will be in South India next spring working on a development project in Kerala so I guess I will see first hand what happens.

Unmana said...

Thank you for reading and commenting and for being concerned about this.