WHITHER INDIA?

When I started my career in Indian Express Vijayawada an Andhra guy called Gautam Babu, who too was starting his career, was part of the editorial team. He was in favour of caste quotas. His argument was that the Americans too had reservations for Red Indians and what is wrong if India had one? I used to be shaken. Was he intentionally and perversely confusing Brown Indians with Red Indians? Whatever it was he was not willing to listen.

Kashmir is reserved for Kashmiris. No outsider is allowed to settle there to become a domiciled Kashmiri even if he FOOLISHLY thinks he is an Indian. But the US strategy was not self debilitating like India’s. All that the Americans did was to preserve the habitat of the Red Indians whose territory was steadily being encroached by White Men at the turn of 19th century.

A Red Indian reservation simply means Red Indian land will be managed under the US Bureau of Indian Affairs rather by any US state government in whose jurisdiction the land falls. There is no 69% quotas being dumped in Ninth Schedule to incapacitate the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court. There was no gimmickry like saying the Red Indians were “suppressed for centuries” and then giving quotas from cradle to grave and from school admission to Central govt jobs and then allowing it to continue to grandsons and great grandsons even if he or she becomes the Speaker of Lok Sabha.

But Gautam Babu was rabidly convinced that quotas were elixir for those who could pounce and grab it with all the might of money and muscle power.

Gautam Babu was a small fry. Even the Marxist Editor led N Ram’s newspaper “The Hindu” had once carried a story based on a study saying Quotas did not hurt efficiency at all. Instead it said, “BUT HAD, IN FACT, RAISED EFFICIENCY in some areas.” LOL

While I was in the college I had a BACKWARD classmate Vinod who wouldn’t or couldn’t write a single line in English. He kept his notebook empty at the end of the period while my notebook used to overflow. Even in accountancy class he wouldn’t write one single line of the sums as shown on the blackboard. When I questioned him once he said: “I will go home and write.” That was that.

I still wonder how he managed to reach the third year of graduation. Of course Fate finally caught up with his zero academia and he failed miserably in the final year and he did not pursue further to get a degree.

This guy’s father was a government contractor and had a car and a jeep. Vinod used to claim proudly in the class that his house had 27 rooms. I could never believe any house can have 27 rooms except of course the Rashtrapati Bhavan. I had visited his house but never had a chance to peep inside to see if he had four rooms let alone 27 even if the façade looked impressive.

Strangely despite being academically poor he somehow was a close friend of mine though we were poles apart.

During the final year exam it so happened that I was not in a position to pay the fees and the deadline was long over. My father was in Pune posted there and sick. The money he sent was barely enough to meet the daily requirements. Mercifully my mother from somewhere brought the money and I did write the exam passing with flying colours.

One day before exams while I was coming out of the college gates with Vinod and another friend Kiran I happened to lament how I was on the verge of missing my exams for want of money. My mother’s last ditch effort saved me. To my shock Kiran replied looking at Vinod: “This fellow is lucky. He has nothing to bother about fees.” There was open contempt in his voice.

I was shell shocked. I asked Kiran what nonsense was he talking? Vinod is a rich guy with 27 rooms in his house. How come he is not paying the fees? Was the college involved in some scandal? Kiran was surprised at my naivety. “Bala, don’t you know this guy is backward? He is exempted from paying fees.”

Had Vinod been forced to pay fees he would have gladly paid it. And this would have, I am sure, made him gain his self-respect and self-confidence and be part of the mainstream. It would have led to a growing and strong India. However treating him like a son-in-law, YET LIKE A BEGGARED ONE, the Indian Constitution was ironically playing foul and making him directionless and dispirited. The politicians still refuse to see what harm this mindless politics of backwardisation of the backwards is doing to those very people who need sympathy and love. Is this the way to create a new India different from the British?

Giving crutches is good so long as one needs it. Once able to stand and walk the crutches have to be slowly removed and thrown away. But here in India demented politicians talk of bringing in new set of and stronger crutches.

The ROT is not with Vinod per se. It is with our self-destructive political culture that mocks at poverty and allows the poor to die uncared for. Politicians will definitely pay a heavy price for double-dealing and swindling the poor to benefit the rich who are shameless enough to call themselves backward.

India today is at the crossroads. It can change itself from behaving destructively as it did consistently in the past by removing the viruses of quotas and secularism and learning to treat poor of all caste and community with respect and love. Never in the history of human endeavor does a country like India needs unification of its people as India needs today. If the dogged political conspiracy of silence continues to dog us it will be too late to set things right.

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