Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Need for a democracy with action

It has been exactly one week since the first shorts were fired in Mumbai. An attack which was to become the most devastating terrorist strike to have ever been unleashed on India. After the attack I too like most Indians was enraged and angry at what had happened. I too demanded action. Today i see in show of solidarity, thousands of Indians gathered at various landmarks in their respective cities asking for the same thing. Throughout the week i was thinking what action can we take. Today hearing the people I heard they demanded two actions.

1. Attack Pakistan.

2. Get in the army to rule the country and clean the system.

I hold reservations to both the above views. I would be lying if i wrote however that the two views did not cross my mind.Attacking Pakistan would be disastrous for both the countries and about which much has been written. The cry for the second demand  somewhat scares me. But I am a firm believer in Democracy. Here are the reasons which i feel democracy is important to us.

1. The world has seen many military governments. There hasn't been a single military government which has suceded in fully heeding to needs of the people. In many countries which had military governments, the people initially welcomed the military. But later the militarise grew autocratic. Most of the time they left the country in much more dilapidated condition than before.

2. The reason perceived by Indians as the major source of trouble Pakistan, has always had filmsy democracy including today. We have always prided ourselves that in spite of being so much different in terms of race, religion , language and creed from fellow Indians we have governed ourselves and have placed trust in our democracy. Our political class ( no matter how low they have fallen) don't have the fear being assassinated by our military because their ideologies don't fir in the larger plan. We don't have a intelligence unit in our military for monitoring the " political class" and rigging elections in the way in which military masters desire.

3. I have the highest regard for the Indian Army who have always kept the honour of the country above everything else and have respected each word in the phrase Secular Democratic Republic of India. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw once famously remarked to the then Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi " Don't you think I would be a worthy replacement for you, Madam Prime Minister? You have a long nose. So have I. But I don't poke my nose into other people's affairs." when asked by the latter if he was planning a coup on her.

4. The last thing which we want is power in the hands of a few individuals who are not answerable to the people. We have a great respect for our Armed forces but we don't want to corrupt them with power.

5. We have been describes as the fastest growing free market democracy. US president elect Barack Obama said " India's democracy will truimph over terrorism. " Democracy is the biggest weapon which we can yirld in the global diplomacy. It gives us a moral high ground. Of course we don't want to lose the biggest moral weapon we have. 

The problem is not Democracy, it is the people who get elected through it. But finally what is democracy, it is - " A government of the people, by the people and for the people. " and the people here are the people of India. We all say that politicians have let us down. But who selects these same politicians to the highest office? How many people reading this blog have voted in the last election or have registered themselves to vote?

When I asked the above question, a lot of friends replied " what is the use". " Remove one politicians and some other equally bad takes over". Well how do you expect a person to take " action" when you haven't yourself taken the action which you should have. And by the second action i mean register yourself for voting. Take the first step and believe me the system will improve. Recently I was reading " The elephant, the tiger and the cellphone" by Sashi Tharoor. In this book he makes an observation that while in other democracies it is the uneducated and the poor which do not take part in election process, in India it is the opposite. Here we celebrate the election day as a holiday. How can you then expect the people who didnot even consider you as a vote bank to do work for you? Exercise your right and then go after the people who you put to the office.

Well this was all about democracy. But I did think of a few actions which we could take.

1. Increase the number of people in intelligence agencies. We have just 3500 people gathering intelligence for protection of 1.1 Billion people as compared to the FBI which has 12000 for 300 million people. link

2. Make the gathering and most importantly the sharing of information between various Intelligence and armed organisations of the country seamless. There were reports that intelligence inputs were recieved. All the leads should be verified and acted upon.

3. Make the Army and intelligence agencies a more attractive career option. The National Defence Academy is not able to fill up is required quota of seats. There is still a controversy about the pay given to the armed forces in 6th pay commission. We have to give our soldiers their due. Praising them without giving them anything else is all but Hippocratic on our part.

4. Try to get minorities in the main stream and assure them that the pogo grams of 1993, 2002 and the killings in various states in 2008 will not be allowed to repeat. We have to get them into confidence and prevent the foreign rogue elements from claiming to represent them and exploiting their youth.

5. Modernise our police force and usher in police reforms. Our police is still following police act of 1861. We have to reform it in order to get our police force be able to tackle the global threats which 21st century poses.

6. Upgrade the technology used by our armed forces. We lost 3 of our brave officers because the jackets they wore were faulty. Our police fought terrorists for 9 hours with vintage 303 rifles. We have to better equip police forces so that they may be able to tackle the challenges of today.

7. Reduce the number of elite gaurd gaurding the politicians just seeking status. Realistically review the threat and then assign the gaurds. Ask is their a need for assigning the elitist force in the country to that individual?

8. Make special department like SWAT and in our police forces and equip them properly. I personally am not of the view of having NSG in various cities as it may dilute the training needed.

9. Provide NSG with a airstip at Manesar itself with a plane devoted only to them. We have to train our commandoes in Urban Combat which has emerged as the new front on war on terror.

10. Coming back to intelligence we have to increase the allowances such as khabri allowance given to our police officials. The sum given is a paltry figure ( i am at a loss here to find a citation) but it is said to be so low that even the info for one  khabri cannot be paid through it. Increase the partnership of local citizens in gathering information and take them into confidence.

Now the points will be a bit radical.

11. Form a joint intelligence platform with countries affected by terror originating from Pakistan like US, Isreal and UK. With the help of these agencies strike just the targets in the Neighbouring country. Pakistan anyways denies the presence of those people on their soil, they would have to deny even after their death. Covertly strike training camps across the border.

12. Get more proactively involved in lobying our case with the world. Get more pro active with the western media. It is said that even after being one of the most educated communities, Indians have not been known for lobying about their own cause. We have to get the sympathy of the world in help us in pointing out how their funds are being used against us.

These are just the steps which i have mentioned. I am sure many reports lying in the south block also must have suggested them in some way or the other. The point is we have to implement the steps fast. We have to see changes being taking place ( resignation is a start but hardly a change which should be needed.)

These our tough times and call for tough measures. The last time such a situation happened we had a Gandhi to lead us and not waver, a Nehru to keep his ideals intact and a Patel with his iron will to unify us and answer the world confidently. Where are our Gandhi, Nehru and Patel of today?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I will remember

A poem by Sanjay Trehan, This time we will remember.

This time I will remember
A mother caressing her dead son's forehead
Preparing him pre-maturely for his final destination

This time I will remember
Innocent diners lined up and shot at point blank
Caught in somebody else's war

This time I will remember
Blood splattered walls with grotesque imagery
Freshly burnt flesh shattered mirrors and broken lives

This time I will remember
A mother and her two young kids charred beyond recognition
While the Dad put public good ahead of the personal

This time I will remember
Gun totting terrorists creating mayhem on the streets
Target practicing at a railway station

This time I will remember
Backpackers at a cafe or receptionists at a hotel
Reduced to pieces for no reason

This time I will remember
How like vultures our politicians encircle dead bodies
And feed on the rotting flesh

This time I will remember
How netas usurp Z class security at our expense
And let us be killed like flies

This time I will remember
How our oily babus clamour for promotions
While a plane for commandos is buried in files

This time I will not forget
I will let my wounds fester
I will continue to rage against these parasites
I will demand accountability
I will not allow countless lives to be broken
I will not allow politicians to divide us

This time I will remember
And I will prevail.

- Sanjay Trehan