Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

That the king appeared to the priest in a dream and told him of the treasure makes a colourful story. This is the stuff of fairy tales and third rate Bollywood films. But what is astonishing is that the tale has been taken seriously by the Governments of India and the State who promptly ordered a preliminary examination by the district collector

Bowing to Superstition

Superstition remains the divining rod for the man in the street and, shockingly, Government, as a seer's dream prompts an official dig for a raja's gold.

By B G Verghese

20 October, 2013

It is quite extraordinary that so much that happens in India is still guided by superstition. The country has time and again bowed and scraped before all manner of charlatans masquerading as so-called god-men. Asaram Bapu, charged with rape and paedophilia, is under investigation and trial while his son, similarly accused, is absconding as they all do. Such defiance is normal practice and is treated lightly. The lecherous Narayan Dutt Tewari has been artfully dodging the law for months and years using his status as one time Governor, chief minister and foreign minister to avoid the consequences of his shameless escapades and disgraceful conduct in fathering an illegitimate son and then blithely abandoning both him and his mother. Such pervertsdeserve no place in society.

And now the head priest of a temple in Unnao district in Uttar Pradesh, has literally sold a dream that 1000 tonnes of a former Raja’s gold is lying under the ruins of a fort beside the Ganga. That the king appeared to the priest in a dream and told him of the treasure makes a colourful story. This is the stuff of fairy tales and third rate Bollywood films. But what is astonishing is that the tale has been taken seriously by the Governments of India and the State who promptly ordered a preliminary examination by the district collector, the Geological Survey and the Archaeological Survey following which digging commenced at the site on October 19, barely six weeks after the original request.

This action,taken with the speed of greased lightning, contrasts with the manifest lethargy and delay of years with which the same authorities act on vital national economic, social and security issues. Who is responsible for this tamasha that has attracted thousands of curious spectators and pretenders to the late Raja’s estate? No scientific or historical evidence has been vouchsafed for the “dream” nor any estimate of what the digging will cost. The ASI has protested innocence but the mystery is yet to unravel.

If the Unnao priest had a dream so has Narendra Modi after prioritising toilets over temples Speaking on foreign policy in Chennai, perhaps for the first time, the BJP’s prime-minister-in-waiting appropriately touched on China, terrorism and cyber war without stating what he thought might be done in each case. If he elaborated on this, the media did not report him. What they did report, however, was his richly innovative proposition that foreign policy might be farmed out to the country’s 30 states, one country or a clutch of countries to one state for a start.

One suspects that Jayalalithaa and Mamata Bannerjee must be excited over acquiring de jure rights in Modi Raj over the de facto foreign portfolio grabbing they have been indulging in under UPA-II.How is this issueto be handled? A BJP chintanbaithak might have to be summoned. What an opening for potential foreign ministers and foreign secretaries! The possibilities are immense! No contradiction has yet been reported. Modi also proposed a consortium of solar-energy nationsto be led by India. He was dead right in lambasting the Unnao gold digging project and said that far more than 1000-tonnes of gold in value could be unearthed from the black money hordes stacked away by corrupt Indians in Swiss and other foreign banks.

How does Modi propose to deal with China’s gambit of issuing stapled-visas-for-Arunachalis and in forging closer nuclear ties with Pakistan? We will have to wait to know. But even as Modi was expanding on foreign and security policy, the BJP-VHP and other saffron groups re-dedicated themselves to building a Ram mandir at Ayodhya, abrogating Article 370 and enacting a uniform civil code. This last is something the BJP is absolutely and utterly determined to implement as a “non-negotiable” policy pillar and as ferociously determined to not let that happen because nothing prevents Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh or Chattisgarh from enacting a uniform civil code legally and constitutionally as marriage, divorce, adoption and succession all fall under the Concurrent List. Endless chatter on a uniform code is part of the monumental humbug practiced by the BJP without the Congress, the Left, the media or anyone else having the wit or the wisdom to damn them by daring them to walk their talk. This is because the so-called “secular” parties are as illiterate and irresolute as the BJP and have their own vote banks to cultivate.

Meanwhile, the media and political parties continue to vilify all and sundry as guilty as soon as the CBI or police file a case or a regulator announces a preliminary finding. Due process is seldom respected. The latest instance refers to CBI investigations in a case of coal allocations to Hindalco in which the company’s chairman, Kumaramangalam Birla, the then Coal Secretary and Dr Manmohan Singh as the acting Coal Minister at the time have been blackguarded even before the facts are finally determined. Such kangaroo-court responses by the media looking for sensation and political spokesmen seeking to damn their opponents have become routine. These are dangerous trends that must be curbed. Let investigations and trials be concluded before guilt is pronounced.

The arrest of the crew of a US vessel with an assortment of illegal arms on board that unauthorizedly entered Indian territorial waters off Tuticorin underlines the need for coastal as much as maritime vigilance. The answer that the ship was on a private anti-piracy mission does not extenuate a double breach of international law. Following a similar incident involving firing by an Italian vessel off Cochin, India must make it known that no leniency will be shown to those who wilfully violate our waters.

Equally, Pakistan will have to learn that it cannot talk peace and wage war at the same time, hiding behind absurd theorems about non-state actors. Continued firing across the LOC and the international boundary in the Samba sector shows that the Pakistan state has not been able to subdue its mullah-military detractors. On the Indian side, the growing incidence of officer-Other Rank clashes are a matter of concern regarding morale and discipline. It also hints at problems arising out of the narrowing social gap between officers and NCOs and other rankswhich calls for more egalitarian relationships that prevailed earlier. This is a matter that GHQ needs to look into and institute corrective measures.

The daily reportage of discrimination and atrocities against Dalits continues unabated. This too is extremely worrisome as the country’s social fabric is being torn apart.The political and administrative failure is plain. Here again punishment seldom fits the crime. How long are we going tolerate such gross human rights violations.

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