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Mainstream, Vol XLIX, No 8, February 12, 2011

Question Mark


Saturday 19 February 2011, by SC


The national scene remains depressing on the whole with the Union Government—already busy trying its utmost to prevent the fallout of the corruption charges in the underpricing of 2G airwaves sold to telecom operators—making every effort to avert a fresh spectrum scam. It is thus taking urgent steps to cancel a palpably improper deal [involving the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)] wherein the beneficiary happens to be a private company that would have got 70 MHz of spectrum for a mere Rs 1000 crores.

Former Telecom Minister A. Raja and others alleged to have been associated with the 2G spectrum scam are in CBI custody and under intense interrogation, the latest one to be nabbed being D.B. Realty MD Shahid Usman Bilwa whose Swan Telecom and other firms are learnt to have caused a Rs 22,000 crore loss to the nation.

Attempts to control the runaway inflation have till now not borne fruit and the rise in food prices continues to place an unbearable burden on the aam aadmi.

The battering that the PM’s image has suffered on the handling of the A. Raja case has dealt a heavy blow to the ruling UPA and Congress while giving a spurt to the Opposition. Of late this crisis in the ruling camp is manifest in its growing alienation from the public at large and the neo-liberal paradigm of development unveiled since the early nineties has accentuated this process. The tribal revolt, organised by the Maoists in the Central Indian heartland, is the latest instance of largescale mass resistance to this development strategy. And those who work among the people questioning this paradigm are being branded as Maoists or Maoist sympathisers to conduct court proceedings against them. The judgment delivered by a Raipur court against Dr Binayak Sen is a case in point. But it needs to be underlined that there are countless inocents like Binayak lodged in prisons for years at a stretch.

Nevertheless, not everything is bleak in the current setting. There appears to be a ray of hope in brea-king the parliamentary deadlock with the government having hinted at an all-party meeting on February 8 that it was inclined to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the 2G spectrum scam as demanded by the Opposition. At the same time the path seems to be clear now, despite certain irritants, for talks between the Centre and the ULFA leaders of Assam; thus the prospects of a political solution to the vexed problem in the region is brighter today than at any time in the past.

On the regional plane the news from Thimphu is doubtless encouraging with the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries having broken the ice after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks by agreeing to “discuss every outstanding issue of importance to both sides”.

The global developments have been lately capped by the popular upsurge for genuine democracy in the Arab world. This is best witnessed in the spontaneous mass mobilisation at Cairo’s Tahrir Square highlighting the urgency to overthrow the Mubarak autocracy though the Egyptian President is striving his best to weather the storm by patronisingly claiming that he is needed to “oversee the transition”. The Tahrir Square uprising is reminiscent of what happened in the entire Eastern Europe in 1989 as symbolised by the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
Almost every eyewitness account from Tahrir Square highlights the innate diversity of the democratic movement to uproot the existing regime. As Thomas Friedman candidly observes in the New York Times,

In 40 years of writing about West Asia, I have never seen anything like what is happening in Tahrir Square. In a region where the truth and truth-tellers have so long been smothered under the crushing weight of oil, autocracy and religious obscurantism, suddenly the Arab world has a truly free space—a space that Egyptians themselves, not a foreign army, have liberated—and the truth is now gushing out of here like a torrent from a broken hydrant.

This people’s revolution should have been wholeheartedly embraced by the Government of India which, in Nehru’s time, had stood solidly behind the Egyptian people during the Suez crisis. However, the present Indian Government, having jettisoned the principles of non-alignment, could not do so for fear of antagonising the big brother and its allies, notably Israel.

Not welcoming an extraordinary people’s revolu-tion for democracy actually brings the world’s largest democracy into disrepute and indeed puts a question mark on its democratic credentials.

February 10 S.C.

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