Monday, April 19, 2010

For Sashi Tharoor

I rarely take serious note of any political event in India. Definitely not seriously enough to write a blog about. And never have I blogged about any one single person centric event. But this time with this forced resignation of Sashi Tharoor, I am seriously perturbed.

First of all I know Sashi Tharoor only as much any lay man knows from his websites and public statements. But I have known about him since a long time from he used to be the under-secretary  general to UN and later executive assistant to Kofi Annan. More because as far as I remember he happened to have studied at the St.Xavier's Collegiate School Kolkata where I studied from Class 7 to 12. If my memory is not failing me badly I remember my english teacher there Mrs.Ranjana Bhattacharya telling me that Sashi Tharoor was in her class. I also happend to be in Ranjana's class quite a few times. A very charistmatic english teacher who started off by giving me the near failing marks in the beginning and scaring me to death with her principles but ending with giving me the highest scores in my final english exams. Getting almost full marks in her english correction scheme is not a cake walk. 

The basic point that is far from clear is, what is the crime? In no allegation that I hear people putting up against him is there a crime! I see no victim! He apparently "influenced" Sunanda Pushkar's getting a stake in the IPL Kochi team. So what? What prevents me from helping a friend of mine get something as long as I am not breaking the law or infringing into the rights of some more able candidate?

There is no clear allegation of crime against him as far as the news reports go. I suppose he probably being unfamiliar to Indian politics became just an easy target.

I believe our home minister Chidambaram is a very knowledgeable and respectable man and he has also stated that Sashi Tharoor didn't benefit from the IPL bid. This statement obviously has no legal value but is definitely important.

It seems more to me that it is hurting the deprived sensibilities of some people to see an "elite" in a high post. If this results in me being labeled an "elitist', so be it.

There is little doubt that very few people in the Indian parliament have the level of know-how of international politics as Sashi Tharoor. Goes back to his extensive involvement in the past notably with the peace processes in Geneva and Yugoslavia. It is hard to imagine a person with such extensive international experiences in the Indian government.

Now isn't the cost that India incurred in losing his know-how quite substantial?

More importantly, why are the people who have something against Sashi Tharoor not filing some police case against him and take to proper legal route if he is suspected for some crime? Why just create a ruckus in the parliament and cause personal embarrassment? 

Deplorably it isn't unusual in India for a technical problem to be turned into a personal mud slinging.
Even in research institutes during scientific discussions!
Unfortunately Sashi Tharoor hasn't been spared either.

And this isn't the first time. His tweeting has wrongfully been repeatedly pulled up against him many times. We as a nation don't seem to really believe in freedom of expression and all this hue and cry about maintaining secrecy about government policies is just arcane psychology to say the least. Wonder when people will realize that paranoid secrecy in the functioning of an administration is the perfect womb for corruption.

In India one is free to have an opinion as long as it agrees with the person higher up.

His comment about not enjoying a holiday on Gandhi Jayanti was definitely a good point and didn't obviously go down with the section of people who mysteriously feel that holidaying is a great way to show respect to a person. I think if not anything Gandhi was at least quite a hard working guy. We even give holidays for voting!

Here we see not just causing personal embarrassment to a person but a signal to the intellectual class of the population. "Stay Away".  The entire Sashi Tharoor episode casts a deep shadow on the sensibilities of the Indian parliament and its sensitivities about the upper educational echelons of India.

There seems to be a systematic (deliberate?) disconnect between every Indian administration body and the intelligent educated Indians.

It in someway comes as a very little surprise since quality education never really was in the priority list of the Government of India. It has always been focussed on opening "more" institutes than to build even a single best-in-the-world institute. It continues to live under the self-defeating delusion that quantity can substitute for quality.

We as a nation are still far away from realizing that education is NOT about being able to turn knobs of some machines or read and write or even being able to compute some Feynman diagrams! Education has to beget ability to have researched opinions. Now you cannot expect people to get more educated and yet have no opinions in the public. Civilization is essentially characterized by the extension of the means by which every opinion can get heard in the world and resulting in more and more sophisticated public discussions. Democracy by discussions is an idea championed fiercely by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. We have moved from speeches to posters to books to web-pages to blogs to Orkut to Twitter. The Indian administration has to realize that they cannot live under the delusion of wanting hordes of educated people without opinions!

Then let the government invest more money into making A.I and robots and not on schools, colleges and universities. They might just then have the country they dream of, lots of intelligent machines working day and night and producing results but will have no opinion whatsoever. Robots will not blog or tweet.

This episode further deepens the fatal chasm that exists in India between the intelligent educated people and the administration systems.  We are just making it threateningly impossible or people in the former class to step into the second. May be its the way it is designed to be.