I am a common man and I am sick and tired dammit; sick and tired of being taken for granted and played for a fool continuously by at least three of the four estates of our so-called democracy in which the rights and the freedoms of men are hardly equal outside the written Constitution. The government’s policies do not treat us all as equal. The judiciary does not. The bureaucracy does not. The fourth estate, a shade better than the other three.
The judiciary is the final trigger that has snapped my nerves, frayed already to their ends by the terrible manner in which the demonetization has been conducted. If I am critical of the implementation process, I am supposed to be in favour of black money and therefore not a patriot. For reasons best known to it, now the Supreme Court, otherwise a sane voice in the cacophony of the politicians, tells me that I am not a patriot unless I am willing to stand for the national anthem at the beginning of every movie. I am supposed to feel gratified as a common man that theaters, plays, circuses, musical concerts, magic shows and melas have been spared. Or are they?
I would have thought if the judiciary was remotely patriotic, it would have done something about the colonial practice of two-month-long summer vacation, not to mention sundry other vacations in a country where 20 million cases are pending in district courts alone, over 4 million in High Courts and over 50,000 in the Supreme Court, with average justice delivery time exceeding two decades. I would think a patriotic judiciary ensure a blanket ban on innumerable adjournments in favour of those who can play the system and not the victims, forever contributing to that delay. I would think a patriotic judiciary would worry about the extent of corruption in the judiciary. I would expect a patriotic judiciary not to permanently hang a Damocles’ sword of contempt of court over the heads of the citizens for even hinting at corrupt judges.
I would think a patriotic Legislature and a patriotic Executive should have ensured over the seven decades since independence that every penny of the tax payer’s money was employed for the welfare of its citizens, towards delivering them good health, delivering them quality education, delivering the many poverty alleviating schemes, instead of the thin trickle that actually reaches them. We the common folks, well into the twenty-first century, do not have proper sidewalks to walk on; do not have clean water to drink, do not have clean streets or clean air or clean villages, towns or cities, or clean and functioning transport– or any of the things citizens of most functioning countries take for granted even in much of Asia.
It is well known that 99% of the Indian black money is generated by some 0.5% of its population. And yet, when the war against black and fake money is launched, who are the worst sufferers? The entire population! After all, the common man’s exclusion from the banking system was not for the same reason as why the black-marketer chose to keep himself outside the banking system. Even as much of banking penetration in India is still only just under way, the truth is in most villages, the nearest bank branch is on average 5 Kms away. While the Legislature and the Executive have made 1.3 billion people pay for the sins of some 65 lakh people, it is thanks to the patriotism of the masses that they continue to peacefully stand in queues in a system which is not even letting them draw their monthly salary for day to day expenses. They hardly needed any lessons on patriotism from the judiciary.
While the Fourth Estate may have any number of instances to answer about its own patriotism, it often seems to fare much better than the other three.
We are often listed among the most corrupt countries in the world. That must also make us among the least unpatriotic people in the world. After all, the two are closely correlated. If I loved my country, I would want to pay legitimate taxes and not cheat. But usually, there is a rider, which is: I will pay my legitimate taxes provided the government spent my money for the general welfare of the citizenry; not just to fatten their own nest-linings. But then again, barely 1.5% of the Indian population is supposed to be paying taxes. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that for every taxpayer today, there are four who ought to be paying taxes, but do not. That would still make the taxpayers’ population a meager 6%. Could it be worse than that? Let us say, for every tax payer there are ten who ought to, but do not. That would still leave 85% Indian as non-tax payers. After all, our per capita income is about Rs. 100,000, with an enormous variance.
So even if corruption could be equated with lack of patriotism, that can hardly be applied to the non-tax paying common man. He indulges in no corruption, doesn’t have the means to indulge in incorruption, and he is a party to corruption only as a victim, and not as a perpetrator or willing participant. Many of those in the demonetization queues are these common men. And these are the people to whom the judiciary wants to teach a lesson in patriotism: by singing Jana Gana Mana in movie halls. Some others tried teaching us patriotism by shouting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. Yet others by telling us what to eat.
Whether there is a flood or drought or earthquake, or heavy rains or hot summers, or cold winters or high inflation or a riot or a war or demonetization, who are the worst sufferers? The common man, mostly non-tax paying, because they have been kept in poverty and without good health and education for seven decades; but also salaried tax payers, who do pay taxes but get virtually nothing back from the government, even in terms of elementary town planning with breathing spaces and new parks.
If the judiciary was looking to inculcate patriotism, they need to focus elsewhere, Your Honour.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.
The article first appeard in Times Of India