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Re: "Iron in the soul, decay in the brain"

Please help make the Manifesto better, or accept it, and propagate it!
May be the president himself is a politician, indulging in rhetoric.

>From: Dharma Tejus <dtejus@yahoo.com>
>Reply-To: debate@indiapolicy.org
>To: debate@indiapolicy.org
>Subject: "Iron in the soul, decay in the brain"
>Date: Sun, 6 Feb 2000 19:31:02 -0800 (PST)
>Please help make the Manifesto better, or accept it, and propagate it!
>Our president, the highest official in the country, made a speech which, I
>he thought was a necessary message. Most of the media didn't pay much
>attention or picked on some peripheral issues. Here's something about the
>speech and its reception, by a jornalist.
> >From Frontline:
>Iron in the soul, decay in the brain
>"It seems, in the social realm, some kind of a counter-revolution is taking
>place in India."
>"...as a society, we are becoming increasingly insensitive and callous."
>"...The infamous practice (of sati) still manages to raise its head and,
>what is worse, even gets explained away as 'suicide' or as saintly
>"In parts of rural India, forms of sadism seem to be earmarked for Dalit
>women. From the time of Draupadi, our womenfolk had been subjected to
>public disrobing and humiliation as a means of vendetta - individual,
>social or political. For Dalit women it h as become a common experience in
>rural areas..."
>"...the manner in which we squander or pollute precious reserves... the way
>we allow children to be exploited, the disabled to be passed by, speaks of
>a stony-hearted society, not a compassionate one that produced the Buddha,
>Mahavira, Nanak, Kabir and G andhi."
>"...our greatest national drawback (is) the status of our women, and our
>greatest national shame, the condition of the Dalits..."
>"Untouchability has been abolished by law but shades of it remain in the
>ingrained attitudes nurtured by the caste system."
>"The unabashed, vulgar indulgence in conspicuous consumption by the
>noveau-riche has left the underclass seething in frustration. One half of
>our society guzzles aerated beverages, while the other has to make do with
>palmfuls of muddied water."
>"... there is sullen resentment among the masses against their condition,
>erupting often in violent forms..."
>"Our giant factories rise from out of squalor; our satellites shoot up from
>the midst of the hovels of the poor."
>"What one finds disconcerting is even the absence of political rhetoric on
>these social ills."
>- President K.R. Narayanan.
>IT was simply the most significant speech made by a head of state in
>independent India's history. And much of the media missed the story.
>When K.R. Narayanan addressed the nation on the eve of Republic Day, he
>handed down a scathing analysis of what has gone wrong with the country in
>recent years. Coming from a person holding the nation's highest office, it
>was not merely unusual but unpre cedented.
>Here was the President of India speaking of "a counter- revolution taking
>place" in our society. With the exception of Harish Khare in The Hindu (who
>caught the soul of the speech in his report) most newspapers did not even
>mention that phrase, le t alone comment on it.
>Here was a head of state saying, "the plain truth is that the female half
>of the Indian population continues to be regarded as it was in the 18th and
>19th centuries." When a person with four decades of experience as a
>diplomat uses such unvarnished langu age, he does so deliberately and after
>much thought.
>"Many a social upheaval can be traced to the neglect of the lowest tier of
>society, whose discontent moves towards the path of violence." That is the
>President of India explaining the turmoil in many parts of the country.
>Stating as given, that which off icialdom would fiercely contest.
>Narayanan's main focus was on the rapidly widening inequality that marked
>Indian society in the 1990s.
>It could not have been more appropriate. While people belonging to a
>microscopic percentage of the population are crowding weight-loss clinics
>to shed their fat, hundreds of millions of Indians are actually eating
>less. While young CEOs of companies draw pay packages that are unheard of,
>the real wages of agricultural labourers have stagnated or fallen in parts
>of the country.
>Recent studies based on official data suggest that 70 million people have
>been added to those below the poverty line since the so-called "reforms"
>began. Even the World Bank concedes a disturbing rise in poverty in India
>(see the Bank Update on Poverty, July 1999). Hundreds of farmers committed
>suicide in India of the 1990s. And the number of job-seekers registered at
>employment exchanges reached 40 million. Put that in a single queue
>crowding two people to a metre - you would have a line 20,000 km long .
>More than thrice the length of India's 6,083-km coastline.
>The President's Republic Day address was thus the first speech from
>official quarters approximating the realities of the 1990s. A far cry from
>the gung-ho pro-liberalisation platitudes stuffed down Indian ears since
>HOW did the media respond? The country's most powerful English daily, The
>Times of India (Mumbai edition), gave all of six inches to the President.
>Less than half the space it gave the privatisation of Indian Airlines
>alongside (the Indian Airline s story was the first lead). The Times of
>India headline managed to miss entirely the thrust of the address. Its
>headline was "President for peace, advises Pakistan to shun terrorism."
>On comparison, I found that the paper had given much more space on the
>front page of The Bombay Times to fashion model Madhu Sapre and assorted
>film stars to lecture us on patriotism during the Kargil conflict.
>Apparently the President of India is a weak-selling brand. And an
>unpatriotic one.
>The Indian Express (Mumbai) did far better, though the Indian Airlines
>story was the first lead story there too. It noted that the President had
>expressed serious concern over regional and social inequalities. It caught
>his distress over growing d isparity in society. And it gave his comments
>more space than The Times of India did.
>It then destroyed with its editorial the good sense shown in its news
>report. The President's speech had "all the usual lamentations..." And it
>challenged Narayanan on quotas by completely misstating his position. "No
>Sir! Permanent reservation is not sa lvation, it only enhances the social
>divide." Nowhere did Narayanan call in his speech for "permanent"
>reservations. Nowhere did he espouse them as "salvation".
>And, of course, the editorial lectures the President on where The Indian
>Express thinks salvation lies. "There is an Indian market, a market not yet
>fully free in a democracy. But the state has not fully come to terms with
>the bazaar. For that we need a statesman with iron in the soul."
>The editorial is a perfect reflection of the vulgarity, self-righteousness
>and self-indulgence that the presidential address so movingly describes.
>What Narayanan calls a "stony-hearted society" is what The Indian Express
>endorses. In response to the misery of hundreds of millions, it wants a
>leader with iron in the soul. The editorial made very well the President's
>point: "There are signs that our privileged classes are getting tired of
>(the) affirmative action..." The Indian Express seem s positively 
>In all the TV channels I flipped through in the period soon after Narayanan
>made his speech, the first lead was the privatisation of Indian Airlines.
>Zee at least noted that there were critical references in the President's
>address. Some of the others wa sted not a word on it.
>Never mind it was the first honest appraisal of the state of the nation in
>the post-1991 era of liberalisation and globalisation coming from a person
>holding high office.
>THE effect of the President's speech (and later his comments on the legal
>system) on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was entertaining. The same
>people clamouring for "a strong chief executive" were in panic at the first
>sign of a President giving the n ation both guidance and a piece of his
>mind. Remember, these are the very politicians who want a switchover to a
>presidential system where the chief executive is unshackled from
>What if K.R. Narayanan had continued in his initial profession of
>journalist? And if he had submitted this striking analysis to a newspaper
>in Delhi or Mumbai? It is likely to have been rejected by the editor of the
>editorial page. The writer would have been told it was too ideological,
>lacking in objectivity and in balance.
>It is not ideological, however, to dance like scantily clad cheerleaders
>for each act of privatisation that takes place. A semi-literate
>glorification of Market Fundamentalism and its Gospel of Growth would also
>not be ideological. That is normal behavio ur. The President's comments on
>the performance of the judiciary would be seen as inviting trouble and
>lacking in respect.
>In short, he would not have been published. Come to think of it, even
>submitting the speech as President of India has not helped him get it
>published properly. Maybe we need a few editors with less iron in the brain
>and more grey matter.
>This is the National Debate on System Reform.       debate@indiapolicy.org
>Rules, Procedures, Archives:            http://www.indiapolicy.org/debate/

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This is the National Debate on System Reform.       debate@indiapolicy.org
Rules, Procedures, Archives:            http://www.indiapolicy.org/debate/