VOYAGE TO THE UNKNOWN

American democracy is going through a stress test. While the members of Congress are conducting a hearing for the impeachment of the President, the president calls their work "witch hunt" and "lynching". Both words conjure up American experiences that very much point toward a painful past. Where this tug of war between the president and the legislators will end, nobody knows. However, the way the process is being conducted is exemplary. Nobody is throwing objects at the opponent. Yes, exchange of angry words and name calling do take place, but compared to other areas, these are pretty mild. The exchange is civil and within the bounds of the parliamentary process.

While American democracy is in turmoil, India's democracy too is going through its own version of stress test. Under the new government - usually known as Modi 2 - Kashmir is legally and fully integrated into India. In order to do so all the public discourse about the subject has been cut and any hint of dissent has been eliminated. When communication is curtailed and public figures are in prison, there is little chance for any public activity to take place. The action in Kashmir follows the pattern of BJP's methodical attempt to make India a Hindu land. Following a wrong way is no excuse for doing the right thing.

Donald Trump, the president of the United States and Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India seem to have similar temperaments. They follow each other's formula to enthuse followers. However, Trump's proclivity to tell lies is unique. While embracing Modi in Texas Trump has done little to ease restrictions on immigration from India or the work permit for spouses of Indian immigrants already here. Trump's desire to generate wealth in America runs counter to keeping these highly trained individuals Idle. In the same way a trade dispute does no good to anyone. In spite of a strong financial market with nearly full employment, Americans feel insecure today. The fear of inflation and uncertainty rules everything. In spite of strength and vibrancy in different areas, American economy as a whole is weak.

On its part, India for a long time has remained susceptible to natural disasters. Heavy floods and rain in different parts of the country have created havoc in India's civic and economic life. Employment for millions of idle hands is still a problem. Modi's long standing promise to the nation that his government will create millions of jobs for those who are able and willing to work has fallen flat on its face. Unemployment in both rural and urban areas is still a problem. Through high doses of nationalistic pride in the name of Hindutva or Bharat Mata attempts are being made to divert people's attention from real issues. Through heavy propaganda, ordinary citizens are swayed in a particular way that benefits the government and the ruling Party.

Right now, under charges of financial corruption several political bigwigs from the opposition Congress Party are in jail. It is always easy to put people from the other side in judicial custody by those in power. In this, India is not alone. Many other countries have done the same. For example, Brazil has put Lula de Silva - a former president and an iconic figure for many working class people of Brazil - in jail on corruption charges. Pakistan has jailed both Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Shariff for corruption. Putting opponents in jail, out of political revenge, has become like honor killings in tribal societies. They also have become a barrier to national progress. Unless there is a system in place to root out corruption, a handful of high - profile arrests and jailing would not lift the level of honesty in the country.

For a democracy to run smoothly, honesty among public servants is a crying need. Unfortunately, police, bureaucrats and elected officials in India are known for amassing wealth way above their known means. Unless doing so becomes an object of despise it would continue unabated while dragging the country further into abyss.


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