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India: Eclipse at Noon - Text of 15th D P Kohli Memorial Lecture by Gopalkrishna Gandhi

19 April 2014

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[. . .] Our democracy is large, vibrant, but is also deeply flawed. Size and scale cannot and do not in themselves validate a democracy. There is something called quality also. The monarch, the voter, is powerful but his power is constantly subverted by blandishment. Money is at our democracy’s throat. Money can and does do worse. It can abduct, assault. It can finance hurt, it can fund harm, it can injure and manage to look injured. It can purchase death. Currency notes come into the election bazaar first in container and cargo quantities, then in truck-loads, going in to wholesale, small retail and finally in attaché, thailaa, jholaa and jeb-sized portions, every five years at the least and often oftener than that. They originate either legally, through licit company donations or come from a myriad sources which, necessarily and unavoidably, go back to our natural resources such as mines, forests and land. Illegal transactions in all these yield harvests of black cash and this is disgorged on people in jhuggis, jhompris and jhopad-pattis, right amidst tonnes of garbage and, within inches of it, cook, wash, sleep and being human, procreate, give birth and die in. It is on these that politicians descend at election time, laden with cash and hooch, to buy votes. Dr Ambedkar had spoken of how this India may well explode and blow up our Constitutional edifice. [. . .] Reliance Running a Parallel State . . . I do not know of any country where one single firm exercises such power so brazenly, over the natural resources, financial resources, professional resources and, ultimately, over human resources as the company of the Ambanis. [. . .] I wonder why it is that Indian science which has done such wonders for us, is yet to make an impact on what Nehru used to call the scientific temper. Superstition has increased exponentially in our country. I value the affection and faith of those who tie strings and charms to my wrists for love and care of me. But the rings and strings on the fingers and wrists of our politicians are signs of their fear psychoses, insecurities and desperate placatings of benign stars or for the averting of evil eyes. he number of Godmen and, to a lesser extent, Godwomen, is increasing in algebraic leaps. They even compete with each other, through giant hoardings, advertisement blitzes, carefully-orchestrated interventions in natural calamities, political crises and and road-shows. Some decades ago, there was the odd Dhirendra Brahmachari and Chandraswami. Now you find them behind every tree. Some of them, going by their elaborate attires, look like trees. There is an apt phrase for them : Dharma-vanijyakas, merchants-of-religion. This should have been the age of wisdom, it has turned out to be the age of foolishness.

Eclipse at Noon: Shadows over India’s Conscience
by Gopalkrishna Gandhi
Fifteenth D P Kohli Memorial Lecture
April 15th, 2014, Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi
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