Crisis of leadership

Published : Sep 24, 2010 00:00 IST

IN JHARKHAND, THE CRPF and the State police leave the Dangaburu forest, which is 40 km from Khunti, after an operation against Maoists on July 26.-MANOB CHOWDHURY

IN JHARKHAND, THE CRPF and the State police leave the Dangaburu forest, which is 40 km from Khunti, after an operation against Maoists on July 26.-MANOB CHOWDHURY

A determined leadership that places the country above everything else is the need of the hour to check the growing incidents of unrest in the country.

ONE is looking today at an India where there is widespread unrest and anger in Kashmir coupled with violence that the State government seems unable to control; a seemingly unending blockade of a vital national highway between Nagaland and Manipur that has cut off the latter from the rest of the country and deprived it of essential commodities; endemic violence by Maoist insurgents in the densely forested areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh the red corridor; and the unrest among farmers in Uttar Pradesh following large-scale acquisition of their land for the Yamuna Expressway.

While the maintenance of law and order is a State subject, when it becomes evident that a State is unable to cope with it or does so in a singularly stupid or partisan manner, then it is essential that the Central government takes effective steps to ensure that the rule of law is established firmly. What one sees today is the unacceptable spectacle of different State governments in different degrees of paralysis, or acting in such a brutal manner that the law and order situation worsens. Amid all this is the seeming apathy of the Central government, which has so far confined itself to platitudes from the Prime Minister and some assertions from the Union Home Minister.

One would have imagined that what was apparent to laymen of the country being riven by unrest and the dangers thereof would be more than apparent to the authorities charged with the overall maintenance of order in the country. If it is, they are keeping it a close secret, so close that they do not let it become apparent in any manner on the ground.

Sending the Central Reserve Police Force and other paramilitary forces is not enough. The forces need to be used purposefully to end unrest. In some situations, as in Kashmir, it is not so much about using the security forces as it is about ensuring that the police stop the use of lethal weapons against youngsters on the streets and think of other ways to check the unrest. Surely, the authorities know of several alternatives, which they do not, for some inexplicable reason, seem to be using.

To step a little away from the instances of unrest beginning to emerge all over the country like festering sores, what seems to be of greater concern is the lack of focus on the prime factor in the process of governance. Good governance is not the provision of access to health care, or schools, or the laying of roads and so on. These are, of course, big concerns that must follow the primary concern that of maintaining order to make all the rest possible and making sure that the country is not torn apart or divided into resentful regions. Examples of simmering resentment are the Telengana agitation and the anger in Nagaland and Manipur over the area that is home to the Tangkhul Nagas and to Manipuris.

Good governance begins with the establishment of the rule of law and ensuring equality before the law. If the layman can see the truth in this, so can those in power. But they will not do anything about it, or cannot, because they lack the will to act. There is no leadership.

This is true not only of the party or parties in power, but also of those in the Opposition, in the State legislatures and in the Centre. They are equally part of the total process of governance. They need to move away from the acrobatics performed by their members in Parliament and the State legislatures, institutions that people hold in great respect as a source of good governance. It is these institutions that develop and forge the vision of an India that is integrated and where order reigns and the rule of law prevails. It is these institutions that can reprimand the executive if it does not perform its tasks as it is mandated to, or does so with harshness or indifference.

There is one thing that the parties in power at the Centre and in the States and those in the Opposition share: a lack of statesmanship and strong leadership that puts the country first and party considerations and cronyism second. It was our good fortune that we had such leadership in government and in Opposition in the early years after Independence. That made it possible to weather the terrible conditions that prevailed the universal hunger and poverty, the lack of medical help and the widespread ignorance.

That leadership gave the country what it needed then integrity and a sense of order. True, there were incidents of violence and communal hatred that destroyed people and property. But these incidents were dealt with firmly because the leadership on both sides stood united against it.

There is talk today of all political parties sitting together on various issues (not, significantly, on the never-ending unrest in the north-eastern region), which is all for the good, but what is needed desperately is leadership, a strong and determined leadership that, as one has said, places the country above everything else, and the establishment of law and order as a precondition for all other action.

One sincerely hopes the country will get such leadership, which does not bow before political pressure merely because a powerful coalition partner issues a threat. A strong leadership will not shy away from seeking a mandate from the people if any group or party forces it to compromise.

There comes a time when juggling with allies and political alignments must be set aside for statesmanship in the interests of the country; going by the rising unrest and spreading lawlessness that time has come.

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