"Narayanan made a mistake by not contesting for a second
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Advani's Russia visit rescheduled
NEW DELHI: The visit of Deputy PM Advani
to Russia starting on Wednesday is being rescheduled, it was
officially stated here on Tuesday night.
Clips missing from railway track
NEW DELHI: Sixty pandroll clips of a rail
track were found missing near Saraichand station of Lucknow
division and the railways had filed an FIR in this connection.
Sahani to be sworn in as Goa
PANAJI: Kidar Nath Sahani would be sworn
in as the new Governor of Goa on October 26, Chief Minister
Manohar Parrikar said.
Gurudas Kamat is MPCC spokesman
MUMBAI: Maharashtra Congress
vice-president Gurudas Kamat takes over as the spokesman of the
Maharashtra unit of Congress.
7 killed, 59 hurt in shopping mall
VANTAA: A bomb killed seven people and
injured 59 others at a busy shopping mall on the outskirts of
Parliamentary Affairs and Telecom Pramod Mahajan
told India Today Editor Prabhu Chawla
that he likes all good things in life.
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Global corruption watchdog, Transparency International,
has rated India 71st in its 2002 Corruption Perception Index, an
unenviable position that the world’s largest democracy shares
with Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and Honduras.
Except Pakistan and Bangladesh, all other South Asian nations
fare better than India as far the extent of corruption in
politics, bureaucracy and business is concerned. Commenting on
this lamentable state of affairs, journalist Chitra Subramaniam
coined the sardonic phrase, ‘India is for Sale'.
Since Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu converted the Punjab Public
Service Commission into his personal fiefdom and sold access to
the state civil service to the highest financial bidder, the
hitherto faltering faith in India’s elite administrative offices
has been completely crushed.
Forget the perennial phenomenon of high political scams whose
latest avatars go by the names of Tehelka, Coffingate and Petrol
Pump, and just look at nooks of Indian society where one never
expected the dangerous gangrene of corruption to spread.
Today, IIT entrance examinations and
international cricket matches are fixed. The ‘Mammaries of the
welfare state’, in Upamanyu Chatterjee’s diction, are being
squeezed to dessication by the universal kleptocratic mantra,
‘I, Me, Myself.’ Self-centred, valueless and cynical attitudes
from the Prime Minister’s Office downwards to the lowest
institution of the country are collectively responsible for the
hydra-headed monster of corruption.
It is in such a woebegone condition
of the nation that the life and message of Lok Nayak Jayaprakash
Narayan, whose 100th birth centenary falls on October 11,
attains relevance. Like his guru, Mahatma Gandhi, JP’s life was
a testimony to selfless service, devotion to common good,
non-expectation of rewards and vision of an egalitarian and
Born in a thatched hut in 1902 in
Bihar’s Saran district, JP was moved by revolutionary
nationalists in his early years. At the age of 14, he started
wearing crude village footwear instead of British manufactured
shoes, and cleaned them with Indian mustard oil to forgo buying
imported polish. In 1920, when Gandhi gave a national call for
non-cooperation with the British, JP flung his textbooks into a
water tank to emphasise repudiation of the colonial education
A chance opportunity took
19-year-old JP to the University of California, USA, in 1922,
where he eked out a living drying grapes, washing dishes and
doing odd jobs on Sundays. "Equality of human beings and the
dignity of labour became real things to me," he would retell
later. He read Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg, as all
progressive youngsters of the time did. On graduation in 1929
with a Masters in Social Science, his Professor commended JP for
possessing "germs of leadership" and "ideals of human welfare".
On returning to India, Jawaharlal
Nehru took the budding socialist under his wing at the Congress
Labour Research Department in Allahabad. The problems of
industrial labour were sought to be integrated into the Congress
manifesto, and like Nehru, JP had differences of opinion with
the more conservative Gandhian factions in the party. In 1932,
during the renewed Civil Disobedience movement, JP ran an
illegal underground office of the Congress in Bombay and managed
to stage a Working Committee meeting when the top brass
leadership was imprisoned.
In 1934, JP founded the Congress
Socialist Party as an adjunct of the main Congress, aiming at
elimination of exploitation and indebtedness of poor peasantry.
He remonstrated to Nehru that, after Congress acquired power in
the 1938 Legislative Councils, "it has been converted from a
democratic organisation of millions of downtrodden people into a
handmaid of Indian vested interests.
Jailed in Jamshedpur after
protesting British attempts to drag India into the Second World
War, JP gradually came to dissociate himself from communists who
supported the British war effort and justified Stalinist
excesses hypocritically. His 16-day fast against ill-treatment
of prisoners in Deoli made him a national hero, and more
importantly, signalled that Gandhian ideation had replaced
Marxism in JP’s mind.
Like a modern-day Shivaji, JP
sensationally escaped from incarceration in 1942 at the advent
of the Quit India movement, and earned a capture reward of five
thousand rupees from the British. Rearrested and savagely
interrogated in Lahore prison, JP’s spirit never broke down.
In the final years of colonial rule,
JP galvanized masses around India by advocating ‘open
revolution’ to bring the edifice of Pax Britannica down. When
communal riots broke out in Bengal and Bihar, JP fought for
repatriating Muslim evacuees with dignity, which would "deflate
Mr.Jinnah’s balloon of a separate Pakistan". His ‘Letters to
Freedom Fighters’ won great fame and pan-India circulation in
the final years of British rule.
After freedom, JP chose to stay out
of the trappings of power and turned into a bulwark of civil
liberties and accountable governance. Again, he warned Nehru how
corruption is rampant everywhere and even excels the
malpractices prevailing in British times. Democracy could only
be sustained by a continuous ‘spiritual regeneration’ of India,
In the '50s, he took a vow of ‘life
service’ under Gandhi’s mantle-bearer Vinoba Bhave and
championed the cause of land redistribution through bhoodan and
village uplift. Unlike the duplicitous leaders of today, JP
donated all his ancestral property to the landless, retaining
nothing but his personal home. Living in the austere Sokhodeora
Ashram as an ascetic, he eschewed calls from within the Congress
party and the press for succeeding Nehru as Prime Minister. He
also became a staunch advocate of decentralisation of
administration so that democracy grew rooted and participatory.
JP was one of the first social
thinkers to attribute famine to man-made causes during the
starvation crisis of 1966 in Bihar. As he had done in the 1943
Bengal famine, he and his followers took to rural areas nursing
the sick and the debilitated, while questioning the inefficiency
and dishonesty of politicians in combating it. JP’s followers
established nation-wide voter education councils to enlighten
the electorate about parties and candidates with criminal
records. Naxalism was opposed, but JP warned Indira Gandhi that
its socio-economic roots could one day implode and plunge India
into chaos if no immediate action were taken against oppression
of the poor.
Once the economic conditions of
northern India went from bad to worse in the early seventies, JP
launched the Sarvodaya Satyagraha to root out unemployment,
inflation and corrupt politics. He issued a memorable call to
youth to enter the political scene and shake the police-state of
Mrs. Gandhi that was upholding injustice.
JP’s image as ‘people’s hero’, which
resonates to this day, is largely a result of his spectacular
moral mobilisation of the Indian masses for ‘total revolution’
against totalitarian tendencies of Indira Gandhi. It culminated
in the one-million-man march in Delhi to present the People’s
Charter, demanding free elections bereft of violence and
improper use of public servants, and end to black-marketeering
and zamindari. At the frail age of 73, he courted arrest once
again to set a personal example of sacrifice. After the
Emergency was lifted, JP’s followers rode to power in 1977, even
as the instigator of the anti-Indira wave chose to solemnly
retire to the shadows performing social work.
When JP passed away in 1979, it was
widely held that not since Mahatma Gandhi, had a single feeble
old man exerted as much influence on India. It was an influence
based on morality, ethics, simplicity and service.
During the heyday of the Sarvodaya
Movement, illustrious Hindi poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar wrote a
paean to this inspiring, honest and saintly figure: Jai
Jayaprakash. Saara Aasmaan Tumhaara Hain (Hail Jayaprakash, the
Entire Welter is Yours). But when I look to the firmament now,
there is no JP or even memory and remembrance of a great soul
who awakened millions, especially the youth, to pursue national
service and a corruption-free India. Today, embezzlement,
kickbacks, fraudulence and total disregard of the suffering
denizens are accompanied by escapism on the part of
well-intentioned and qualified Indians who revel in criticising
the ‘system’ but care only for their own personal careers and
JP’s remark from prison to a
district magistrate in 1975 is worth remembering: "It’s not a
matter of my health. It is the health of the nation that needs
restoring." That spirit eludes Indians today, a glaring
discrepancy which Shashi Tharoor has termed "the divide between
India and Indians". The younger generation of Indians, of which
I am a part, should consciously pledge on JP’s birth centenary
to do justice to his memory and rededicate our skills and
energies to the multiple problems facing India.