Saturday, June 04, 2011

What is wrong with Baba Ramdev? : Bhanu Pratap Mehta

It is an unseemly sight. First, the government loses all moral authority by its complicity with corruption. The political class abdicates its role. Civil society steps in to fill the vacuum. Hunger strikes begin. And the government of an aspiring superpower, instead of behaving like a government, succumbs to blackmail after blackmail. There is something medieval about the image. The “Baba” arrives. Practically all of government that matters shows up in attendance. God forbid if the Baba curses them. You have to sympathise with these artful ministers.
They are valiantly trying to make up for the fact that the Queen Mother, her Dewan and the little Prince run away from the most ordinary governance that matters. They have outsourced all leadership and thinking. A few ministers are left to pick up the pieces. 
Then there is the gloss on this bizarre spectacle. First, abdicate. Then, cravenly submit. Then call it responsiveness. Such corruption of language signals a deeper corruption. A responsive government is one that in its routine functioning discharges its responsibilities: enforces the rule of law, dispenses justice, provides good management of the economy and so forth. Submitting to every whim of self-appointed civil society advocates is not responsiveness. A responsive government would govern, not sleepwalk to airports. 

The fifth element of authoritarianism is endless confusion of roles. Baba Ramdev has solid achievements to his credit in raising consciousness about yoga. It is heartening that citizens take more interest in public affairs. But there is a presumption that accomplished individuals, by virtue of their achievements in one sphere, can leverage that authority everywhere. This confusion of roles is almost everywhere. Parts of the media cannot decide whether they want to be trustworthy institutions of record or tools of partisan, rabble-rousing demagoguery, with editors donning the mantle of revolutionaries. But the short-term gains of this activism will come at the price of long-term credibility. True change will not come from this confusion of roles; it will come from each profession discharging its responsibilities to the best. 

A morally insidious vacuum in government. A self-proclaimed civil society displaying its own will to power. A media age where being off-balance gets you visibility. A public whose mood is punitive. An intellectual climate that peddles the politics of illusion. And all this in a context where government paralysis is enhancing the two biggest risks to the well-being of the poor — entrenched inflation and slowdown in growth. Instead of clamouring for visibility, we should follow old Baba Ramdev’s advice: take a deep breath.
Bhanu Pratap Mehta in Indian Express. Here

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