SECULARISM & THE MINORITY VOTE

Guest post by T.R. Ramaswami

A hotly debated recent subject is secularism and the statement that the minority vote is so important that it will decide the fate of any election. You cannot have “secularism” and the concept of a “minority vote”. This is an insult to both, the minority and the majority. It implies that the minority individuals have no will of their own and are no better than a herd of buffaloes. But there is one more angle. If the majority voters are about 70 crores (80% of the voters) and the minority is only 12 crores then how does the majority allow the minority vote to be the deciding factor?  So here is a clarion call for the majority. Come out to vote. This call is not to ask you to vote for this or that party but ONLY TO VOTE. After all in a democracy the majority decides and what it wants prevails. Right?  And remember – if the majority does not vote then it has no right to wail or complain that the minority is deciding the polls. They will. And bad netas are elected when good citizens do not vote.

 

SECULARISM – THE WAY AHEAD

 

With elections just begun, some of the recent balderdash relating to ‘secularism’ needs to be clarified. “Secularism’ means that the state does not sponsor or have an official religion and all citizens are allowed to practice any religion of their choice. But the state unfairly supports some religions by way of subsidies. There is also another important religious choice like NOTA – Atheism. In fact atheists are the most secular. But secularism has been made political by first introducing the word in the Constitution during a turbulent time – the EMERGENCY. Were we not secular from 1947-1975?  India is not secular because that word is there in the Constitution. It is there because the majority in this country belongs to a secular religion. Show me one country in the world which has a minority religion of more than 10% and is secular.  If we are secular then we need a secular civil code. Let us formulate one and throw it open WITHOUT COMPULSION to all Indians. There are many who want to boot the religious clergy of mullahs, bishops and purohits out of their lives. In one generation religion will cease to be a vote garnering issue.

 

 

MOST SECULAR CONGRESS LEADER

 

In the media and electoral brawl on secularism, minority votes, etc people seem to have forgotten the most secular leader of the Congress. Unfortunately his death changed the course of Indian history. Many Hindus and even members of the RSS and BJP shed copious tears on his death and the minority heaved a sigh of relief. He was so secular that he would have put the RSS and BJP to shame making them look like boy scouts. The secular leader – Sanjay Gandhi.

 

UNHOLY SECULARISM

 

I write with reference to the letter “An Appeal to the Secular” (ET 8 Apr 2014) signed by Achin Vanaik and many others. This letter represents the height of unsecularism and a biased hypocritical view.  Such a letter should not name anyone, but it chose to – Narendra Modi – for the so-called progrom of 2002. Where were these worthies when Sikhs were slaughtered in 1984? Was that secular? And even more Muslims – estimates are between 30-50 thousand – were slaughtered in 1948 after Operation Polo. The Sunderlal Report is still under wraps like the Henderson-Brookes Report. Was Sonia Gandhi’s sucking up to the Imam secular?  Would you have remained silent if Modi had met the Sankaracharyas? Now will you have the decency and fairness to publish this letter or confirm your true colours which you have revealed by publishing the above referred letter?

China’s Iron rice bowl policy

Poor are hardworking, they are very calculated (i.e. they plan their expenses and never waste money on frivolous trinkets), they are very versatile & adapt to the situations and they don’t mind even travelling far and wide to meet their goals. Yet for generations they are poor. Why? They were born poor and are now trapped into a vicious circle. If you belong to a country with predominantly poor/marginal citizens, a lot of them farmers on hand-to-mouth sustenance, what would you do to transform the country?

It’s not an overnight job, China formulated their Iron-Rice Bowl policy way back in 1949 and today they are reaping its rich dividends. There have been several theories around what Renaissance started in Italy, Why industrial Revolution started in England, Why in the early 20th Century America became the industrial powerhouse and why Japans overtook them. But I am yet to read about one single theory which says why China has become the manufacturing hub of the world. Because what China did was transformational and it changed the entire DNA of the country most economists don’t like to acknowledge this reality.

The viscous cycle that I was talking about was education & healthcare. Without proper education the masses don’t have the tools and knowledge to offer anything more than unskilled manual labor. But if the children work instead of going to school then they can never be truly educated. I am sure there are a couple of exceptions, but generally child laborers are destined to work their entire life as unskilled daily-wagers. China has 100% literacy while in India 1/3 of the people still cannot read or write. Furthermore we have created a pseudo-caste system revolving around English. So that anybody who is not convent educated and fluent in English will always feel inferior.

The second element of the viscous cycle is “Healthcare”. I have rarely met any poor family that is not able to save a considerable percentage of their daily income on a regular basis, while most middle class families would take lifestyle loan and show little or no financial planning. This fund enables them survive not only the rainy day but also improve their earning capacity through productive assets (vehicle, shop, land, cell-phone, etc.) So over a decade through diligence & discipline most families can escape poverty. However more often than not you would see is that a disease or injury would force the family to dip into their savings and borrow heavily to pay for the medical treatment. This unfortunate & unforeseen hardship sets the family back by 10-15 years and often leads to splitting of the family so that individuals could survive and escape the debt burden. Hence in absence of a strong affordable public healthcare program, no poor can even dream to be happy. In China I have seen expats & senior officials of rich companies often going to public hospitals. In India…. Anybody who can afford will find out reasons of not going to a public doctor (I was an exception, my daughter was born in a government hospital)

It’s been 67 years since India’s independence but are we free yet? Do we have the culture and environment around me which enables us reach our fullest potential? Is the system around us empowering us for “pursuit of happiness”? India is on the verge of the next General Election and these are the questions that are bugging me. A few slogans don’t amount to anything unless the systematic rot in the system is addressed.