Making a choice

I was digging some old messages on a defunct e-mail id (thanks to spam!). I found a chain-mail amongst the pile up. It was quite dated in circulation. The issue was blogged in rediff already more than a year ago and the matter was even older.  It was a typical one, much like those propoganda exercises started by the right-wingers and probably the BJP-Sangh Parivar kinds, passionately exhorting the masses with typical extreme calls to wake up and act. Except, this one wasn’t on issues dear to the aforementioned group. Rather it was on the treatment meted out to Raju Narayan Swamy, IAS.

This name is familair to me. Years ago my maths teacher had referred to him while indulging in his usual sarcasm. He compared us with Raju, the topper of IAS entrance and yet again dismissed our prospects of succeeding in life.  I had already read about him in Competition Success Review as the IIT entrance and course  topper who also topped IAS Entrance and training evaluations. He was posted as a district collector in Kerala.

I am sure Raju Narayan Swamy harboured no lofty expectations from job. He would have known the perils of being an honest and upright bureaucrat.  Predictably he got the goat of the political class and was asked to go on leave and then later posted to an inferior post (circa 2002). He took the slight as an opportunity to serve the United Nations in Paris. That was when the chain mails and public pleas started. Subsequently, the Achutanandan government reinstated him as district collector and also posted him to the district of Idukki to control revenue encroachments. It was the same Left government under a different leadership that had supsended him earlier.

The public propoganda is always there to support such exemplary persons. Raju might face yet another hurdle, yet another suspension.  History is replete with personalities like him who have constantly swum against the tide all their professional lives. But things hardly change at the political level. The chain mails urged people to wake up to the realities and make good use of their vote. Now who would the people vote to? People like Raju Narayan Swamy are bureaucrats and not politicians. If they stand for office, would they have enough clout and currency to change the administration? Would they be allowed to stand for the highest office?

Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, a former IAS officer of 1980 batch (and a physician by training)  quit the Serivce to start Lok Satta, a movement for democratic reforms in India.  The movement has caught on well in Andhra Pradesh.  It might be viewed as a platform to nurture the desire amongst Indians for meritocracy.  One of the things that Dr. Narayan used effectively was the media to build public opinion.

Probably Dr Jayapraksh Narayan and Raju Narayan (hmmm…quite a coincidence) would stand for office, the day Indians reject conventions of democracy and demand a better choice. In any case, Dr Jayaprakash has already launched the Lok Satta political party in October 2006. One waits to see if he would contest in the next general election.

Mediocrity is a truth we must reluctantly accept. Else the likes of Raju Narayan Swamy and Dr. Jayapraksash would have been our political messiahs long ago. Men of action like Raju Narayan have no place in politics unless the rules of the game are altered drastically. Plato the philospher believed in the rule of the wise. But Emmanuel Kant the professed that intellectuals should stay away from public life – “The possession of power unavoidably spoils the free use of reason.” Well, even Nehru or Lincoln had to make political compromises and avoid intellectual traps of rigid  moral stance. The Mensheviks could never survive with their idea of bourgeios democratic revolution. They were bound to go down to the Bolsheviks lead by Lenin who had made a more political choice of rousing the working class and peasants, the majority.

Would the bureaucrats have such political sense. the answer would probably be yes. But in a nation where only 60% can read and write and even lesser percentage with proper education, would a bureaucrat or intelectual stick out as a credible leader? The vote bank is in the villages not in the cities where intellectuals do not vote.

So what is the choice of future action for the likes of Raju Narayan Swamy?

In the 1960s, Dr. Bhagavathula Parameswara Rao received his PhD in Mineral Extraction from the Pennsylvania State University.  A lot of doors opened for him within the US. But he returned to India, to his native village and started the Bhagavathula Charitable Trust, an NGO for rural development. The man had a simple mission based on a simple idea.  Create opportunities of self improvement without depending on governmental aid.  The idea was that everyone must get together and act. He helped villagers mobilize savings and encouraged thrift, help them take up gainful occupation and develop co-operatives, enable women’s development, rural helath, literacy and vocational training etc. Dr Rao reasoned that rural development hinged on one factor – confidence building and action. he sought to end dependency of the development of poorest of the villagers using his simple philosophy of co-operation within community – self-help groups. Dr. Rao’s vision is to turn the 40 villages he chose as a part of his experiment to be model villages of success.

Dr. Rao reflects Emmanuel Kant’s philosophy in his article (a speech at Aid India ’99) where he says ” All our genius is used to make the system more complex. ” He refers to the bureaucratic set up.

Dr. Rao has been successful in his mission. He has definitely brought a change in the little landscape he has chosen to experiment with. he is not bothered about the scale of his work. He prefers to start small with definite goals. If only his model were replicated, there would be a greater impact.  All without government’s involvement.

Maybe that is the way to go for Raju Narayan Swamy.

A genius who chose to work through the government, a progressive mind that used the power of alternative media and opinion, a gentleman who sought simople confidence building measures. These are the stories of men who made a choice.

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