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March 30, 2009

An Indian Congressman…

Filed under: India, politics, social change — neosurya @ 12:46

Look at this pdf file. It is an article summarizing the “PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES 0f THE 87th US CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION”, comments by “Dalip Singh Saund”. Some of the content is summarized below:

Let us àuppose that the Congress had
passed this kind of a bill 3 years ago.
That was the time when Iraq was governed
by a King and Prime Minister who
were very friendly toward the United
States. Suppose then we had promised
the King of Iraq an annual sum of $100
million for 5 years to improve the canal
system. One daywe wokeup to find that
the King and Prime Minister were gone
and the Government was taken oiler by a
revolutionary leader not very friendly to
the United States of America. Then if
we had decided later that It was not in
the best interests of the United States to
give this massive aid to the new government
of Iraq, where would we be? We
would be in a position of offering apologies
and making excuses for not giving a
foreign government our own money. We
would be placed in a position of refusing
to give funds to build canals for the people
because their rulers had changed.
In Korea there was a big upheaval.
Syngman Rhee was our friend. We do
not know where we stand with the new
government, although we are friendly
toward it. What would be our position
if we had promised Syngman Rhee $400
million annually for economic development
on a 5-year basis?

No one will dispute with me that the
purpose of this program is to help the
less fortunate peoples in the underdeveloped
areas of the world achieve a better
and fuller life. And by that I mean
all the people and not a thin strata on
the top.
That has been our mistake all along.
We have been identified with the ruling
classes. We have been coddling kings
and dictators and protecting the status
quo. The status quo for the masses of
people in many lands means hunger,
pestilence, and ignorance.
There are glaring instances where our
aid has helped to make the rich richer
and the poor poorer. And we then wonder
why the people of the underdeveloped
areas of the world do not appreciate
the help of Uncle Sam.

What compelling arguments from a congressman!!! I wonder when our politicians would pen such comments instead of throwing chairs and damaging the parliament. Here is another snippet by Sanjeev Sabhlok from the FTI mailing list:

I’d like us to focus on the Australia vs. India (or UK vs. India) example. Westminster democracies, similar in most ‘laws’ and structures, yet functioning quite differently. Comparing (good) apples with (bad) apples is a good way to learn.

Both Australia and UK have tended towards the welfare state and moved far away from capitalism, and if I had my way I’d make them more competitive and reduce the welfare state.

However, the structures they have designed allow ordinary good people – with absolutely no means – to succeed in politics. That is very important for us on FTI to note.

Consider my neighbouring electorate in Melbourne. Conrad D’souza, an Indian doctor my age  (came a few decades ago to Australia) has been nominated as Liberal Party candidate a few times now and secured a good number of votes (not yet won). He is an ordinary person; no extraordinary means – like most of us on FTI. Yet, the Liberal Party found him suitable and nominated him on a number of occasions.

Penny Wong, a relatively more recent migrant to Australia not only was nominated on the Labour Party seat but is now the Climate Change minister of Australia.

Kevin Rudd, PM of Australia, was an ordinary diplomat (counterpart of IFS in India) in China before rising to chief secretary in Queensland and then joining politics at a young age. A person of modest means, but extremely sharp mind, Australians have nominated him, and made him PM.

Most Australian politicians are ordinary middle class people. Julia Gillard now Deputy PM Austrlia was a mere Ministerial advisor (a junior policy position) a few years ago.

Most Australian politicians live very ordinary lives in ordinary houses. If you come for coffee to the Deli below my office, you’ll often find many politicians there, and also wandering about in the streets, like any other common person. People don’t even look at them and indeed, most people don’t even recognise their politicians.

I can go on and on.

Merit counts, and despite its many shortcomings, democracy works in Australia. It is a free country for the most part, as well. And everything works (99%). Shantanu, Anil, Dipinder, etc. can enlighten me whether UK works at least better than India (I’ve never been to UK).

I don’t see the need to get into debates about what is a republic/ how we should have 50 plus 1 per cent votes for selection, etc. FPTP doesn’t create severe problems in UK, so why should it do so in India?

These are fine academic debates to have once good people enter and clean up politics in India. Till then I am inclined to simply suggest we **learn** the detailed mechanics of why these democracies work well and ours doesn’t (despite very similar laws), and thus to seek to improve our democracy.

Also, I’m not ready to even remotely consider the Singapore model for anything. We have excellent, historically proven models to learn from. India’s constitution is fine (as far as its democracy goes); let’s stick to democracy.

I do not need to say more. I dream of a day when my daughter will not have to think of entertainers and sports-persons alone as her “Indian idols”.

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