Song­bird In Po­lit­i­cal Nest

The Day After - - CONTENT - By vEd Mar­wah

The au­thor Balmiki Prasad Singh (also known as BP Singh) is him­self aware of the mag­ni­tude of the task he has un­der­taken in cov­er­ing three im­por­tant sub­jects; geopol­i­tics, democ­racy and peace in one slim vol­ume. Not an easy task by any means! But the reader will not be dis­ap­pointed. Singh has done full jus­tice to each one of them.

In his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer in the pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion, BP Singh has held many im­por­tant posts in­clud­ing that of the Union Home Sec­re­tary. But he is more than an ad­min­is­tra­tor: a gen­uine scholar who has been in con­stant touch with in­tel­lec­tual en­deav­ors that has en­riched both his schol­ar­ship and ad­min­is­tra­tive acu­men. His eru­di­tion comes through on ev­ery page of this book. He has car­ried for­ward the best tra­di­tion of the In­dian Civil Ser­vice as vi­su­al­ized by Philip Ma­son (pop­u­larly known as Philip Woodruff) in his book – The Men Who Ruled In­dia. BP Singh can be a role model for the young civil ser­vants. In­stead of be­ing pre­oc­cu­pied with perks and priv­i­leges and di­vorced from in­tel­lec­tual ac­tiv­i­ties, they should con­cen­trate more on their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and cater to pub­lic wel­fare. In a coun­try like ours where the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple still live in poverty and sub-hu­man en­vi­ron­ment and where the gap be­tween the haves and have-nots is in­creas­ing in­stead of re­duc­ing. The 21st Cen­tury should be made com­pul­sory read­ing for ev­ery civil ser­vant.

In this book, BP Singh has an­a­lyzed im­por­tant is­sues like ter­ror­ism, cli­mate change, and mi­gra­tion that are desta­bi­liz­ing the in­ter­na­tional or­der in great de­tail, but with­out tax­ing the pa­tience of an av­er­age reader. He has not minced words in giv­ing a graphic pic­ture of the not very pleas­ant world today that af­flicts the mankind. But he is not a pes­simist. A note of op­ti­mism runs through the en­tire nar­ra­tive. As stated by him, he draws strength from his firm be­lief that hu­man na­ture is ba­si­cally good. This ac­cord­ing to him is re­flected in the in­sti­tu­tions of gov­er­nance and grow­ing num­ber of men and women who want peace and har­mony and ad­mire eth­i­cal be­hav­ior than smart­ness to achieve the ends with­out car­ing for the means. His an­ti­dote to dis­con­tent and rest­less­ness en­hanced by tech­nol­ogy is not shun­ning tech­nol­ogy, but its adap­ta­tion to ‘his­tor­i­cal vi­sions’. This re­quires skill man­age­ment of un­prece­dented changes that are tak­ing place in the world today. And that can­not be man­aged with­out find­ing so­lu­tions that cater to lo­cal and re­gional prob­lems.

In­for­ma­tion Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy (ICT) has her­alded a new phase in hu­man evo­lu­tion. It has brought closer the an­cient, medieval and mod­ern world in con­trast to com­mon pub­lic per­cep­tion. It has also made the world smaller and within reach of ev­ery cit­i­zen. Mil­i­tary con­quests are ab­hor­rent not only to hu­mans but are very ex­pen­sive in terms of eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial cost. Trade and com­merce are the new av­enues of pros­per­ity in place of mil­i­tary might. Even the grow­ing powers like China have re­al­ized this new re­al­ity of the con­tem­po­rary world.

Har­mony is pre­req­ui­site for peace in world that is in­ter­con­nected. But ex­trem­ist and fun­da­men­tal­ist groups are grow­ing and get­ting more or­ga­nized to spread an en­vi­ron­ment of dishar­mony and con­flict. Pro­lif­er­a­tion of fun­da­men­tal­ists in re­li­gions all over the world is a mat­ter of se­ri­ous con­cern that needs to be tack­led. The grow­ing rad­i­cal­iza­tion of Is­lam is a se­ri­ous threat to world peace. Within Is­lam Shia-Sunni con­flict is as­sum­ing a vi­o­lent turn.

Ed­u­ca­tion has, no doubt, a cen­tral role in bring­ing peace and har­mony, but that ed­u­ca­tion has to start from home. In­dia has al­ways been in the fore­front of the bat­tle against or­tho­doxy and ig­no­rance. Bud­dhism and Jain­ism have also their birth place in In­dia and it is from here that they spread all over the world. The tragic par­ti­tion of the coun­try on re­li­gious lines has, how­ever, left its ugly marks even in con­tem­po­rary In­dia that can­not be wished away. But it is also a fact, as the au­thor points out, that 4,635 com­mu­ni­ties live in In­dia in a pre­dom­i­nantly Hindu so­ci­ety with a siz­able Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion.

BP Singh’s ‘Bahudha’ ap­proach that takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the dis­sent­ing view has a lot of rel­e­vance in today’s world, es­pe­cially in our own coun­try. His per­spec­tive has taken into con­sid­er­a­tion the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween cur­rent af­fairs with his­tory and his cri­tique tran­scends lo­cal cul­tural-bound ten­den­cies. The book will be of im­mense value to the young as well as to the old and to all re­searchers, so­cial sci­en­tists, jour­nal­ists, pub­lic bod­ies and all who are in gen­eral in­ter­ested in un­der­stand­ing con­tem­po­rary af­fairs. He has suc­cess­fully struck a bal­ance be­tween

‘ide­al­ism and re­al­ism’. Cit­ing the ex­am­ple of 9/11 tragic event, he has un­der­lined the threat to world peace from re­li­gious fa­nati­cism that ig­nores ba­sic re­li­gious val­ues. Demo­cratic val­ues are not much dif­fer­ent from re­li­gious val­ues and they have de­vel­oped their own ‘soft power’. This soft power is re­flected in con­tem­po­rary arts, dance, drama, paint­ing, sculp­ture and ‘philo­soph­i­cal quest that will go a long way in build­ing com­mon sec­u­lar be­liefs among peo­ple’. He does not un­der­es­ti­mate the in­flu­ence of NGOs in the polity and econ­omy.

BP Singh has tremen­dous faith in demo­cratic val­ues. He ad­vo­cates that democ­racy must move be­yond pe­ri­odic elec­tions to good gov­er­nance that de­mands en­light­ened po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and pol­icy mak­ing as well as a ded­i­cated pro­fes­sional civil ser­vice. Sar­dar Pa­tel aware of this need laid the foun­da­tions of a pro­fes­sional and per­ma­nent civil ser­vice in free In­dia. In­dian democ­racy has flour­ished much to the sur­prise of western dooms­day fore­cast in a di­verse land suf­fer­ing from wide­spread poverty and il­lit­er­acy, though fac­tors like caste, eth­nic­ity and re­li­gion are still very much there. Money and muscle power also con­tinue to play a role in our elec­toral sys­tem.

‘Non- in­clu­sive growth is also re­lated to pa­tron­age pol­i­tics.’ Mar­ket econ­omy has only in­creased the gap. Greed and graft have ex­ac­er­bated the prob­lem. Emer­gences of many more po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties have fur­ther sul­lied the pic­ture. There are more than 150 dy­nas­ties that have en­croached on demo­cratic space. Poor gov­er­nance is the big­gest stum­bling block in progress of democ­racy. It should mean em­pow­er­ment of peo­ple, ac­count­abil­ity and solv­ing en­demic prob­lems af­flict­ing the so­ci­ety.

A pro­fes­sional and non-par­ti­san civil ser­vice is an es­sen­tial for good gov­er­nance. Ac­cord­ing to BP Singh there are five as­pects of demo­cratic gov­er­nance that need de­lib­er­a­tion: the func­tion­ing of Par­lia­ment, free­bies, sub­si­dies and wel­fare state, in­ter­face be­tween bu­reau­cracy, po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and busi­ness­men; pol­icy mak­ing and tech­nol­ogy; and pub­lic vig­i­lance.

Reck­less de­for­esta­tion has brought about ma­jor changes par­tic­u­larly in the Hi­malayan eco-sys­tem that can have ‘far reach­ing ef­fects on the phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, plant, an­i­mal, fungi and mi­cro-or­ganic com­mu­ni­ties, in­ter­act­ing as a func­tional unit.’ Their con­ser­va­tion re­quires ef­forts both of the state and civil so­ci­ety. GDP alone does not de­fine de­vel­op­ment. It should in­clude both ‘hu­man de­vel­op­ment and ecol­ogy’. Land re­forms and some check on de­for­esta­tion can be ma­jor con­trib­u­tory fac­tors. Glob­al­iza­tion should not be al­lowed to be­come an in­stru­ment of pri­va­tiz­ing the global re­sources as a source of profit for cor­po­rate houses.

The au­thor has rightly pointed out that In­dia which has rich tra­di­tion of higher ed­u­ca­tion should not ne­glect it. He ad­vo­cates a ra­tio­nal ap­proach to spir­i­tu­al­ity and sci­ence that con­structs a rea­soned ar­gu­ment of both na­ture and ideal ways of life.

In short, the 21st Cen­tury ig­nites the mind of its read­ers. It deals with ma­jor is­sues like ecol­ogy and cli­mate change; roles of ideas and in­no­va­tions; sci­ence, spir­i­tu­al­ity and ed­u­ca­tion; the fu­ture of peace and har­mony and the need for Bahudha ap­proach; about democ­racy and good gov­er­nance; in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic ar­chi­tec­ture; and rel­e­vance of In­di­vid­u­als and in­sti­tu­tions for bet­ter­ment of so­ci­ety and more. This su­perbly writ­ten book with com­mit­ment for peace and wel­fare of hu­man­ity is also a good read and BP Singh, the au­thor emerges as a global thought leader of the 21st cen­tury.

Ti­tle: The 21st Cen­tury: Geo-pol­i­tics, Democ­racy and Peace

Au­thor: Balmiki Prasad Singh Pub­lisher: Rout­ledge — New York, Lon­don No. of Pages: 364

Price: $150

Balmiki Prasad Singh Ved Mar­wah

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