Fo­cus on cor­rup­tion

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is com­pleted within a short time frame. Re­cently, the land deal by Ma­ha­rash­tra Rev­enue Min­is­ter Ek­nath Khadse and his fam­ily has come to light. In fact, land has be­come a com­mod­ity in the hands of political par­ties which dis­trib­ute it among its mem­bers, judg­ing on the ba­sis of his loy­alty to the leader. One com­mon thing is that all political par­ties, what­ever their ide­ol­ogy, are guilty.

When the Congress is in power, it en­sures ben­e­fits to its own mem­bers and when the BJP is in the chair, the ben­e­fi­ciary is from its party. This is hap­pen­ing par­tic­u­larly in the states be­cause land is a state sub­ject. The Cen­tre puts its hand in the till in the name of na­tional in­ter­est. But ul­ti­mately the pur­pose re­mains the same: grab­bing the land by hook or by crook. For­eign Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj’s de­fence that there was no racism in the land of Gandhi and Bud­dha is a strange ob­ser­va­tion to make in the wake of re­cent at­tacks on African stu­dents. In fact, we should ad­mit that we are one of most racist coun­tries in the world. And we should do some­thing con­crete to fight against such dis­crim­i­na­tions.

The re­mark made by a spokesman of the African stu­dents that the In­di­ans do not like Africans has a grain of truth in the sense that we are ob­sessed with the white. This was prob­a­bly re­al­ized even dur­ing the independence strug­gle. Jawa­har­lal Nehru had the vision to open the por­tals of ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions to the African stu­dents as soon as In­dia won freedom. He hoped that some of them would oc­cupy top po­si­tions in to­mor­row’s Africa, then casting off slav­ery. His read­ing turned out to be cor­rect be­cause some of them came to head gov­ern­ments in their coun­try.

Not only that, the African icons like Nel­son Man­dela per­son­ally thanked Nehru for hav­ing boy­cotted the South African govern­ment for its apartheid pol­icy. When I in­ter­viewed him at Cape Town many years ago, he said that their icons were Ma­hatma Gandhi and Nehru, who defeated the Bri­tish rulers with­out fir­ing a shot. The rev­er­ence that peo­ple had for In­dia was vis­i­ble as well as gen­uine. I am shocked over the killing of a Con­golese stu­dent on a street of Delhi. That the In­di­ans are colour con­scious does not su­per­vise me. Even to­day, we hail a beau­ti­ful woman as mem, which lit­er­ally means white. We go out of our way to please a white man but shun the black. This is goes back to the Bri­tish days when the white ruled us.

I re­call an in­stance when I was study­ing at Fore­man Chris­tian Col­lege at Lahore. A his­tory pro­fes­sor from South In­dia com­plained that the stu­dents bowed when the wife of his col­league, a white man, passed their way but did not even no­tice when his wife was around. The colour prej­u­dice seems to be a part of Hindu so­ci­ety from an­cient times. The saints were con­scious of that and would say that Lord Kr­ishna was dark-skinned. This ar­gu­ment does not seem to have made much dent in the think­ing of Hin­dus. Even to­day, they con­tinue to be the most colour con­scious com­mu­nity.

The eco­nomic bet­ter­ment seems to have made some dif­fer­ence as well. That may be one of the rea­sons for the in­stinc­tive respect that a while man gets be­cause the West has de­vel­oped eco­nom­i­cally. But the truth is that slav­ery at the hands of white for more than 150 years has in­stilled an in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex in us. The man­ner in which his­tory has recorded the 150-year-old rule by the Bri­tish, too, has made us lose con­fi­dence in our­selves. When I was In­dia’s High Com­mis­sioner at Lon­don, many well-placed Bri­tons asked me whether it was true that the peo­ple wanted them back. I told them that the man­ner in which we had made a mess of things ex­as­per­ated the peo­ple and it made them think that things were bet­ter dur­ing the Bri­tish days. But it did not mean that the peo­ple wanted the Bri­tish back.

The Bri­tish were among many rulers that ad­min­is­tered the coun­try. Whether they did some­thing good or bad, or both, is to be judged by the peo­ple of In­dia. And they have done that in a way be­cause af­ter independence, the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem was adopted since this was what the Bri­tish rulers prac­ticed, and not the pres­i­den­tial form of govern­ment. That was 70 years ago. And we do feel to­day that prob­a­bly pres­i­den­tial form of govt would have been bet­ter be­cause per­son in power would have planned his govt’s fu­ture in more se­cure con­di­tions and with a fixed ten­ure. It would have meant trans­parency and would have less­ened scams like land deals and racial dis­crim­i­na­tion. —The writer is a vet­eran In­dian jour­nal­ist, syn­di­cated colum­nist, hu­man rights ac­tivist and au­thor.

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