Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sabarimala Solutions

The callous attitude of authorities in power has taken its toll once again at Sabarimala. More than a hundred lives have been lost in an ‘accident’ that is not accidental at all. In a way we can easily see that it is a disaster by design. It does not need a doctorate in disaster studies to foresee the accident that is waiting to happen when a crowd of 200,000 people are crammed into an open area without lights, barricade, drinking water, police control and with very few exit paths in the midst of a dense forest. Disasters at Sabarimala have become a routine affair every year and even the news media are only waiting to hear the annual toll. And once it happens it is ‘festival’ time for all the electronic media with visuals of dead bodies piled up in lorries and pickups. God’s Own Country and Kerala Model have now become undesirable nightmares that frighten others.

Sabarimala temple at the heights of Western Ghats is a highly symbolic one. It embodies the message of Advaita, which is the very essence of Hindu Sanatana Dharma (HSD). Advaita philosophy signifies the heights of human philosophy and it takes HSD into the unique realm of Ishwar (the truly omnipresent and omnipotent) whereas all other religious paths are stagnating at the lower level of Devatas, the personal gods of tribes or communities which are vying with one another to become the one and only God or his son. Our ancient sages had their own reasons to set up such a unique temple at a unique place. But time has moved on and Hindu society must demonstrate the sagacity to reflect the same level of resilience that their Hindu Sanatana Dharma has always displayed in history. Solutions to problems at Sabarimala must come from within Hindu society. We respect Nature (of which forests are an integral part) and we live in a noble nation which has adopted a secular constitution, though its implementation has been pseudo-secular in every sphere.

So many people have suggested so many solutions, most of them well intentioned, for solving the problems involving deficit of infrastructure and resources at Sabarimala. But given all the constraints and opportunities (which are well known to be listed again) that exist in HSD and Indian nation, I see only TWO plausible solutions to the Sabarimala issue:-

1. Spread the Season:

All the present problems at Sabarimala are essentially because of visit by about 50 million people in a narrow window of 60 days time. It is almost impossible to acquire more and more forest land to set up facilities for such a big population for a mere 60 days usage every year. The more we encroach into forest land the more damage we are inflicting on the forest and its animals, which is very much against the ethos of HSD. There must be a complete freeze on the forest land already acquired and the human corridor must be completely segregated by providing frequent underpass for the passage of animals. And the temple authorities must decide to spread the Sabarimala season to atleast 6 months (October to March) instead of the present two months. If this is done, the present infrastructure is more than sufficient for the expected pilgrim population. All that is required is constant upkeep of the available facilities and infrastructure.

2. Setup more Sabarimalas:

Setting up a few more Sabarimalas is the next solution. Tantris (parent priests) of Sabarimala Ayyappan are clearly designated and they should take the initiative in setting up more temples for Sabarimala Ayyappan at different places in similar terrains. To make a beginning, Sabarimala Ayyappan temples can be set up on hill tops in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It is definitely not a pre-requisite to do it in the midst of thick forests or game sanctuaries for wildlife. The surrounding areas can be nurtured into thick forests at the temple expense in due course. This would be immense help for our environment also. Pilgrims can avoid the ordeal of train / bus travel and loot by unfriendly vendors like in Kerala. The name and fame of Sabarimala Ayyappan will also spread to more areas.

The number of Sabarimala pilgrims every year is bound to increase whatever be the scale of disaster this year or any other year. This is inevitable because the concept of Advaita, which the Sabarimala temple essentially represents, is the most cogent concept of God that can satisfy the innate rationality of any free thinking human being. Those of us who are bonded by the various types of organized religious thoughts, some of which are more political than philosophical, are bound to break free some day. More and more Advaitic spaces like Sabarimala and Oachira are the need of the hour and we can only hope that the authorities in power now will open their eyes to our spiritual demands.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Tainted India .vs. Maha Bharat

Indian nation is passing through one of the most difficult times. Who is not corrupt? This is the question that is ringing in the mind all ordinary Indians. Those among us who used to feel proud about the credibility of our incorruptible judiciary are also feeling shaky nowadays. Politics and politicians in India have always been dirty and the only the scale of scams have increased. Politicians have always got their livelihood and expenditure for the next elections as the common excuse for corruption. In the long saga of evolution from Mahatma Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi, Gandhism itself has undergone complete transformation and to be known as a Gandhian in India today is not a compliment anymore. Depending upon value of the scam, we can even start designating politicians as nano-Gandhian, micro-Gandhian, mega-Gandhian and even super-Gandhian. I would even recommend different colours for the Gandhi caps worn by such politicians during their annual get-togethers. The tainted adjective is now sticking to all positions like CJI, CVC, CEC and even the King, Queen, Prince and Prime Minister.

Adarsh, CWG and 2G scams have taken our nation to record heights in terms of the ‘scaming’ abilities of our politicians. Aiming for a few thousand rupees in bribe is no more attractive to even ordinary Panchayat members in India. Lakhs and crores of rupees are also not very tempting for many. Lakhs of crores and very soon crores of crores will be the target of national level politicians. Our seemingly unimpressive politicians, especially the capped variety, have outgrown our expectations in terms of identifying all the commodities that can be sold. Who would have thought that they would graduate so soon from their favourite crimes like human trafficking, sweat equity and kickbacks to the unseen world. Not even our top scientists and engineers could have dreamt of making money out of the unseen electro-magnetic waves. Stems cells, human body parts, emotions, values, virtues, relations, nationalism, patriotism etc., are some more items that be ‘sold’ and I am very sure that our politicians will start dealing with them very soon. Indian politicians have truly surpassed their cousins in other democracies.

Sinking Credibility

It is very easy to identify corruption and scams in India now. The RTI (Right-To-Information) act has literarily opened a can of worms and empowered the new brand of RTI activists. Real reasons behind the strong objections by some higher ups in Indian judiciary to the RTI act covering them also has become very clear now. All Caesers’ wives must be above suspicion but many of his wives are shying away from public scrutiny for reasons best known to everyone now. All those who aspire for a public life must bear in mind that they simply lose their right to privacy by this option. In a democracy, public life is the only way to power, but one must be also prepared to stand scrutiny for all their actions. Government officials who migrate into public life display such displeasure very often. As part of the Executive they are protected by suitable laws, but once they are in public life in search a greener pastures, they are answerable. The problem with many byzantine logothets who have come into public life only for the sake of fame lies in here. Manmohan Singh (MMS) is one such.

MMS had a successful stint in official life with Indian government, and he continued to get a lot of patronage and protection as Finance Minister under the shrewdest Indian PM Mr. Narasimha Rao. But ever since he has become a nominated (unelected) Prime Minister under Sonia Gandhi, his real test as a democratic leader has started. He has completely failed in this and has repeatedly shown his lack of skills in handling smarter politicians who work with him. A real leader in a democracy is always near and dear to a majority of public, even if he does not meet them or mingle with them. His words and deeds must match and generate confidence in the common man. But MMS is far away from all this. By not contesting general elections, he has abdicated his moral responsibility to be an elected leader and declared that he is far away from all of us. Impeccable character and unquestionable integrity become mere sycophant adjectives in such a case. Only a democratically elected leader can command respect and feel outraged if a unite opposition goes on the offensive. ‘Scamsters’ are continuing with their loot without any inhibition and fear only because they have sensed a complete lack of moral authority and legitimate leadership.

Golden Opportunity

A completely corrupted ruling establishment in India today is presenting one of the best opportunities for the Right who can easily get into the ruling throne if they are smart enough. Ever since the partition of India on religious lines in 1947, the legitimate owners to Indian territory is an open secret. All that they have to do is to win the elections and present one full term of dharmic rule. It may be easily said than done. Mass leaders with impeccable credentials must be brought into the forefront and given the mandate to rule the country without fear or favour. Temporariness must be the only difference between a democratically elected ruler and a monarchy. Constitution of India, which is considered one of the best in the world, must be implemented in letter and spirit. Equality of everyone before the rule of law is the best tool to bring in prosperity in an inherently rich country like India. Same laws applicable to one and all, irrespective of religion and region, can take India to its glorious heights once again. A tainted India can become Maha Bharat once again.

It is often heard that Mahatma Gandhi was very much in favour of disbanding Indian National Congress that spearheaded our struggle for liberation from the British rule. His logic was perfect and it would have given all the political parties a level platform. People from all sections of the society in all regions of India took part in the struggle and Indian National Congress was the only platform available then. But one single party’s claim now for full credit is nothing but absurd. And the partition of India makes their case completely meaningless in every sense. What they claim to have liberated is only a part of the whole and there is hardly anything creditable about it. In fact this should have been made clear in our constitution itself, that we the people of India have liberated this nation. It is a shame that the opposition parties are allowing the present Congress to make such claims, when it can be legitimately challenged in a court of law and declared illegal. And once their illegitimate claims are annulled, what is it that is left in the present day Congress? It is a mere crowd of family sycophants with no ideology, purpose and sense of direction.

The entire political spectrum is responsible for the mess that India is in today. Those on the ruling side by their uninhibited indulgence and those in the opposition by their inexplicable inaction. Indian opposition parties have been in the opposition for so long that they could have put out draft versions of legislation that reflect their intentions on everything that concerns an Indian. The only such idea that is floating around is the preference for a uniform civil law. In that too, what is preventing the Right from putting out the entire set of acts, laws and rules that needs to be passed by the parliament for this purpose? That would have made their intentions and purpose crystal clear to everyone including their political opponents. If the Right can bring out their real intentions and lay it in front of the Indian public in all such vital aspects of nation building, it is almost sure that they can make their entry into the corridors of power in Delhi with no need for exit in any foreseeable future. A tainted India is waiting for Mr. Right to set it right.