The celebration is over, the euphoria over ‘Lotus greets Potus’ has died, the guest has left with his beast, children are back in school, the armed forces back on guard , performers back in their states and the ceremonial dresses have been stowed away . The administration is heaving a sigh of relief. Another Republic day parade is over without incident. After all its an important national event . It marks the day the constitution of India replaced the Raj’s Government of India Act of 1935 . The one day in the year when we celebrate our constitution and honour the rules which govern us. After which we’ll retreat to our former stance. For the rest of the year we’ll abuse and flout them or try to find ways around them
Lets admit it, we are a nation of law breakers. We break them constantly and with impunity. We skip traffic lights and ignore speed limits, we hate seat belts and detest helmets, we overload goods and overcrowd passengers , we drive as we please, stop when we want and turn when we have to….and we pay heavily for this…… sometimes with our lives.
We ignore guidelines and evade taxes, we cheat on duties and surcharges, we undervalue and oversell, we sweet talk our way through toll booths and check posts and trick our way through speed traps and pollution control, we hate to be frisked and searched, questioned and refused……and we pay heavily for this……sometimes with our lives
We pass exams without appearing , procure false degrees and documents, we get life insurance without checkups and driving licenses without driving ……..and we pay heavily for this……sometimes with our lives
We jump queues and skip procedure, we litter , spit, and urinate, deface and defecate….and we pay heavily for this….not with our lives….but we do pay .
It is not that we are bad people, we are just misguided. We see the privileges enjoyed by our elected leaders and want to join the club. For isn’t that what democracy is about, a government of the people ,by the people, for the people !! We love to be above law, to appear well connected , to do what others can’t. Such is our misplaced definition of ‘ respect’ that if a person breaks a rule for us we feel honored.
A couple of years ago when the American President visited England , he was asked to pay congestion charges whenever the beast entered central London. The paltry sum of 10 pounds was not to enrich the British economy , but it sent out a clear message. No one is above the law. Not the Queen of the Kingdom, not the Master of the Universe !
Cut to India, we live to please the high and mighty and feel it is our right to expect a similar treatment from those further down the socio- political ladder. And like spoilt children we persuade, demand, threaten and even arm twist to get these privileges. All this looks bleak but things can change
Consider this. Imagine the Prime Minister of India raising his arms, dutifully submitting himself for a frisk , imagine the pilot car stopping at a toll booth to pay toll for the Chief Minister’s motorcade , imagine a party heavy weight patiently waiting for his turn……..and imagine the effect it will have on the public psyche. It will no longer be cool to throw weight around, to bend rules, to break laws. If the Top Brass of the country could be made to obey the laws they purport, the common man will follow because the average Indian is easily shamed. Of course there will be logistical and practical difficulties but they are not unsurmountable.
I am an extraordinarily ordinary citizen but you Mr Prime Minister Sir, are in an enviable position. Not only do you rule the land, you rule the hearts of people. People look up to you with adulation and respect. They need you to guide and direct.
Lead us by example and we will gladly follow. Change has to start from the top !
(published in the Daily Post on 4/3/15 as ‘ Change trickles from the top’ )