Democracy at dead end

The week started ominously enough. The bankers’ strike on Monday and Tuesday was quickly followed as in a relay by two days of strike by Central Government staff of TN. But then all that pales in comparison to the paralytical strike that the Centre itself has lapsed into, what with a rowdy Parli and a dysfunctional administration looming over us.

The bankers had planned to bunk work soon after Pongal, the typical and rather, tempting striking season, when holidays could be extended, particularly when a weekend is also thrown in. The plot got postponed but the itch could not go unscratched for long and hence the banking week began only mid-week this week. Business operations went haywire as cheques deposited last Friday and Saturday remained uncleared even at the time of going to press. For the bulk of the populace leading an ATM-to-mouth existence, life came to a standstill as their standard source of succour went scarce. And as the suffering of people who could not access their own money peaked, the captains of bank unions in all sadistic delight promptly declared success.

The Central staff caused lesser pain probably because our personal cash is not vested with them, at least not directly. Still, the extra punch hurt as strikes by the most secure lot in the country, in job and post-job, does not really square with the disproportionately large multitudes who have no such guarantees and instead are at their mercy! Of course, the familiar alibis for shirking work were touted, but our senses have gone numb to their self-serving ways. But the moot question is, who are these strikers striking against? The people no doubt are the collateral victims, a la Senthil or Vadivelu in a comic caper, but we are told that the strike is directed at the Government. Is there one at all now? Even in its nascent stage the UPA was woefully short of hearing, lost in its own scandalous din. The paralysis only spread as days passed with all its faculties always in defensive mode. With polls due and rulers in abdication mode now, is not protesting against this dead-as-a-dinosaur regime a futile exercise? Probably not, if we figure out the irony that unions’ only work is to strike work!

But Parliamentarians stole the show from all the habitual strikers of the land and the rusting official machinery. Even the self-confessed anarchist and revolutionary-turned-ruler, Kejriwal, would be having a rethink on ‘protest politics’ which touched an unprecedented low inside the hallowed Houses that our endangered democracy is now imprisoned in. As Telangana and Andhra MPs, including some ministers, of the house-divided called Congress, clashed, other reps from the as-yet-undivided State pitched in to fight ugly battles in full view of the world. The rounded edifice of our democracy was demolished brick by brick by its own sworn custodians even as they made a laughing stock of themselves and those who voted them. The shame was such that even our Jeeves-like-PM with his unmoving demeanour confessed to a bleeding heart, a heart that had bravely and brazenly borne the burden of scams that bled the nation by billions in public funds.

The new nadir was accompanied by some novelties too. Trust the fertile minds of our evergreen reps to be inventive. Of course, all the familiar (Un)Parliamentary ingredients like noise, pandemonium, sit-ins, squatting, standings (on chairs and desks, that is), tearing of legislation papers, broken mikes, flying paper weights, walkouts etc were there. But the use of pepper spray (by a Cong MP) to spice up the boiling T-cup is an extraordinary landmark in Parli history. Doctors and ambulances had to be summoned to attend to teary-eyed, coughing reps while the interior itself had to be expunged of the offensive item. Not to be outdone, a TDP member brandished a knife, all of which raised a profound Constitutional question: Why are our MPs not frisked while entering Parli? By the way, was this not provocation enough for Kejriwal to send in the Delhi police? He was probably busy handling his own Assembly where lip-stick and bangles were thrown around the same day!

For the record, this was the final session in which many critical pending legislations were to be passed. The railway budget too got derailed and there is no clue if we have one. No one knows if the T-Bill was tabled or not. Indeed, if anything has to be passed in Parli, it has to be only in typical Cong style: Under-the-Table! The privileged Parli is now a private den of dangerous possibilities. Given the pepper episode, we have to swallow with a pinch of salt that Cudappah’s famed country bombs could stage an entry if the session continues. A LS that has so destructed democracy and disillusioned the denizens deserves to be dissolved sans delay.

Now, that tastes sweet as sugar!

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Jawahar T R