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Many would count caste, creed and religion as the bane of India. But a bigger misguided youth, unions and vote-banking are perhaps more dangerous at this point.

Lt Gen (Retd) PC Katoch | 

Updated:December 29, 2019, 11:06 AM IST

The Sophomore Bane of India
In no other democracy do political parties fight it out in students’ union elections.

Ask what is the bane of India and majority response would be CCR – caste, creed and religion, which India will suffer in perpetuity because of our politicians.

Multiple political parties claim lien over Ambedkar but ignore his dictum that reservations should have ended within a decade of promulgating the Constitution. We have reservations, reservations within reservations, creamy layer and what not, while placements generally get manipulated going by periodic media reports. There are no compunctions about lowering entry qualifications for reserved category as long as there is political gain, no matter the debilitating effect on output across the board. Reservations in promotions, too, are perhaps just around the corner.

Yet, there is another level ‘bane of India’ that perhaps is even more dangerous than CCR, but is not even talked about. This could well be described as MUUV - misguided youth, unions and vote-banking.

These strictly cannot be compartmentalised because of large overlap. Thomas Friedman had stated a couple of years ago that “India is the sole country of 21st century with abundant youth power”. No doubt, but how have we been handling this youth power? And this is not about the mounting unemployment. Have we seriously examined what is happening in our universities and colleges?

Following sloganeering against India at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in February 2016 followed by a similar act at Jadavpur University in Kolkata shortly thereafter, intelligence reports indicated that Pakistan’s ISI had implemented a plan since November 2014 to target public morale in India, employing asymmetric means by inciting youth, infusion of narcotics, financing through hawala and the like.

According to veteran JNU professors, Left parties and the Congress had taken control of JNU years ago. But why JNU alone? Take the elections in Delhi University. Why are these elections a tussle between the BJP and the Congress with canvassing, voting, victory shows? Which other democracy does this? Do the Republicans and Democrats do so in American universities or for that matter do political parties in Britain indulge in politics in their educational institutions?

American universities do have student unions but there is no concept of politics at all. For example, Penn State in the US has over 1,000 student organisations. Arrangements exist to join or start your own student union, how to run one, training of leaders and the like. But these unions are for pursuing constructive activities, opportunities to learn, engage in multiple communities and to have fun as a student body, not for breaking America.

THON is a student-run philanthropy committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer, aim being to provide emotional and financial support, spread awareness and ensure funding for critical research – all in pursuit of a cure.

Why can’t we think on above lines? We don’t even have sports competitions amongst universities in Delhi. Instead, we excel in politicising the youth, who see politics as the shortest route to enormous riches. What do they learn when some 39% sitting MPs face criminal charges? In rapes alone, 18 sitting MPs and 58 sitting MLAs face rape charges as per the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), bulk of whom belong to the BJP and the Congress.

So JNU has middle-aged students having a room for Rs 10 per month, resort to hooliganism if rental is raised, while professors go abroad without permission, as the V-C just disclosed. Government subsidies being taxpayers money, how would taxpayers feel who only constitute 4% of the population?

JNU luminaries in the government, External Affairs Minister and Finance Minister included, have nothing to comment on the above. Yet, there are plenty of specialists commenting on issues unrelated to their charge. The railways minister talks of economy, defence minister warns Naxals and now the RBI governor says food price rise is temporary. The FM says she doesn’t know onion prices because she doesn’t eat them. It appears that she stopped eating potatoes too, but what about galloping prices of other commodities, including medicines that have witnessed exponential rise in just last three months?

The government’s defence-industrial complex, saddled with reservations, bureaucratic control sans technical expertise and politicised worker union only shows patchy success with balance sub-standard output. Current media reports indicate most ‘Akash’ missile systems of the IAF are unserviceable under an unaccountable MoD. Ordnance factories and HAL periodically strike work, but the government has no stomach to corporatize them because of vote-bank politics.

The Confederation of Defence Registered Associations, comprising unions like BJP-affiliated Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), Left Front-affiliated All India Defence Employees' Federation (AIDEF) and Congress-affiliated Indian National Defence Workers' Federation (INDWF), holds the government to ransom. Around 82,000 employees of 41 ordnance factories are again going on strike from January 8, 2020.

MoD (Defence Production) and DRDO should be staffed and headed by technocrats like E Sreedharan of Delhi Metro or ISRO which is managed by scientists. Recent media reports indicate a Department of Military Affairs (DMA) is being created with a mix of civilians and military. The CDS heading DMA will be Principal Military Advisor to the defence minister, as also Permanent Chairman COSC in which he will be assisted by HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS).

The three Chiefs will continue to advise the defence ministers on matters concerning their services. Apparently the ‘deep state’ has once again succeeded in preventing HQ IDS from being merged with the MoD, the very purpose it was raised in 2004. The CDS sans operational powers will exercise little authority.

Finally, a TV debate in February 2014 witnessed a Congress spokesperson say that “nationalism is not relevant to India”. The BJP government skipped the first anniversary of what is termed ‘surgical strikes’, went overboard to celebrate the second anniversary because of elections, but failed to pay homage at the national war memorial/Amar Jawan Jyoti this Vijay Diwas – December 16. Has our sense of nationalism warped with everything linked to vote-banks? Doesn’t the common man deserve a better deal?

(The author is an Indian Army veteran. View expressed are personal)

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