Monday, April 9, 2007

Uttar Pradesh - Pulling India Down

The biggest state of India in terms of population, Uttar Pradesh , UP is going to poll with first phase of voting already over, and the great circus of democracy is on display yet again. UP perhaps remains to be politically most important state in India, not only be shear number of MPs it provides but also by the huge and varied political leadership which it keep churning out with regularity, though quality of its leadership has gone downhill as has State’ s economic and social profile. It is generally said that one should avoid stereotypes, but they provide an indicator of larger trends which give us a vital understanding of our societies and cultures. During my college days, I used to be astounded by few of batch mates from UP, who had some kind of built in political awareness and which I later came to know was also pretty much the same with an ordinary, common men from UP, including taxi drivers and security men and paanwalas one meet in Mumbai .

Its Politics: UP is a cauldron of amazing array of intricately fragmented identities making it a virtual quagmire of divisive politics. If politics can be equated to a business, which to certain extent it is, then customers (voters) of UP are so much sensitive to their complex spectrum of sometime overlapping identities, that politicians do nothing more than catering to their identities and raising emotive issues to keep voters in good mood . State is polarized in various communities to such an extent that its political equations are made up of very intricate arithmetic where numbers of voters based on what social groups they belong, play most vital role. A miscalculation of this arithmetic can cost a party dearly. One has to know which assembly has how much percentage of voters belonging to a caste, sub caste, religion before deciding and tailoring the agenda for that constituency. To get the airthmetic right, alliances are struck and sometime they can be struck between parties who are ideologically at different poles In this year's elections, BSP has been wooing upper caste voters which could have been unimaginable till few years back as BSP has been vehemently anti-upper caste party. Votes are openly asked in name of caste and religion and most of voters see it as a form of social or political power. In state, social justice often means, deepening the caste based identities instead of making them redundant. If parties like SP (Samajwadi Party) and BSP (Bahujan Samajwadi Party) can be condemned for playing politics based on caste and minority appeasement in name of secularism and social justice, party like BJP has done no good by targeting majority Hindu upper caste votes by raising specters of Muslim dominance. Just before elections were to start, BJP had released an inflammatory CD as per media reports which were subsequently disowned when EC threatened it with disqualification. Congress is confused and has been since it lost its ground in the state. It was perhaps Congress's failure which led to emergence of regional and smaller parties which now influence national politics so heavily. Perhaps congress failed as a true national party and could not represent all segments of society who felt politically powerless and that then culminated in form of regional parties and quite understandably too. In case of UP, the political history of BSP is interesting as regardless of kind of politics it plays now, it can be credited with actually making a marginalized community's voice heard and making it realize how much political power they could wield. This is something which even leader like Ambedkar could not do but today he would be annoyed seeing what BSP is doing with the power it has now. Instead of using the power in uplifting the castes which were suppressed for many centuries, its leaders are merely looking backwards and in past and have done very little in terms of changing economic ground realities. Castism is a social evil and it will not go away unless there is a social change. A political party like BSP can atleast starts this social change from somewhere and not fiddle with emotive and regressive agendas like creating Ambedkar villages. Such ill placed policies don’t lead to any social justice and merely encourage ghettoisation.

Crime in UP: UP is also one of India's BIMAROU state and is a huge burden and concern in way of India becoming a modern, developed country. Most of UP is caught in a time wrap with some parts of it almost resembling Wild West, virtual badlands. Most of mainstream media has time and again run stories of virtual lawlessness in parts of UP. There is rampant gun culture, kidnappings and rapes. Ordinary people are afraid to even approach police because mostly it is police which is hand in glove with perpetrators of the crime, as was proved during Nithari killings also. Opposition has been constantly saying that there is unwritten dictate from government about not filling the complaints so as to fudge the crime members form state. In one of the funniest spectacle if it can be so termed, recently, ruling party in state used none other than Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan for showcasing how safe and progressive UP was. Amitabh Bachaan was seen saying that "UP main hain dum, kyonki jurm yahan hai kam". Ostensibly he was not paid for it as SP's "leader" (it is not a joke) Amar Singh is like Bachchan's younger brother. Bachchan who might not be spending even 2 weeks in state in entire year, says in the ad that he would like to be born again on the ghats of Ganges in the state. Obviously Bachchan has shot himself on foot for taking a wrong side and he should think hard about how much of his credibility he is going to put on stake for supporting his friends who happen to be on wrong side of argument. In a country where police is seen with fear by ordinary people, one would wonder how many people would have courage to go and approach police to register cases in a state where police has almost no credibility, as was also indicated by statement of one of retired senior officers of state police recently. There can never be any economic progress when there is crime and fear in a society and when large number of elected politicians are known criminals (24 out of 80 MPs from state have criminal records, 110 out of 400 MLA have police cases against them).

UP will pull India Down: What does UP stand for? Does it belong to new India which is trying to go towards modernity? UP has all the problems which will stop India from progressing both socially and economically. It is deeply divided based on caste, it is divided based on religion, divisions run deep and wide, democracy is extremely fragile as strong arm tactics are part of its politics, there are virtually no industries in the state and nobody wants to go there because of high crime rate, most of government institutions hardly function anymore and it is hotbed of corruption with even its legislatures being caught on camera , openly taking bribes and even willing to kill for money. Dismal politics in state has led to dismal economical performance. UP is economic battleground. The per capita income of the state has been declining over the years with the result that the gap between its per capita income and that of other states has widened. Its rate of urbanisation is dismal (20% urban population as compared to 44% in Tamilnadu). Bibek Debroy , an economist states that if India grows at 8 percent, in 2020 UP will have per capita income roughly at the level where Azerbijan is today, marginally ahead of Zimbabwe. Considering that UP has such a large population, (Larger population than UK, Germnay and France put together) if it does not do well, it would constantly pull India down and decelerate our country's march towards economically better future. If India has to do well, it is utmost important that UP does well. It is so much important to free UP from a medieval state it has fallen to. It is so much important for its badlands and bahubalis to be eradicated. It is so much important to de-polarize its masses who are always dissected based on caste and religion for political gains. But all of this can only happen when its people realize this fact. Unless there is a genuine awakening in its people, its politics would not change much and unless that happen its people of state would keep rolling in poverty. Election commission’s moral code of conduct, central government's policies, World bank assistance and NGOs can only be catalysts, but the real change has to come from within.


indscribe said...

Good post Gaurav bhai. These toondoo images are a new thing for me.

Manjari Rai said...

Its sad..but its a vicious sense of direction without education without money without work.. but is there any speakable work without decent education?

I have heard of people work relentlessly for educating the masses gratis...things like basic hygiene...civic sense...not to marry off young girls...adopt environment practices..but their work is lost...thanks to UP's massive population...

Perhaps UP will change too..nobody should give up yet!