Dear Prime Minister,
Kindly lend me your ears as I share my mann ki baat with you.
You are a very good orator, who can rouse the masses. You are a very powerful executive, who can control all actions of the government. You are an IT savvy person, who can make clever use of all forms of media to your development schemes. You are an astute business entrepreneur, who can maneuver the globalization system to serve your vision of development. You are indeed a model for many 21st century persons who aspire to fame, position and power.
However while all seems grand and beautiful with your leadership, there are serious concerns that many Indian citizens would like to draw to your notice. They know that you are not unaware of these serious concerns, but are distressed that you are not taking actions which the situations demand. Let me highlight these concerns by drawing your attention to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.
The Preamble of the Indian Constitution describes five cardinal features of the Indian state:
(1) India is a Sovereign State:
As a sovereign independent state, India is free both internally and externally to take her own decisions and implement these for her people and territories.
However don’t you think that our sovereignty is under threat at the hands of certain powers within and outside the country? For instance, as you are well aware, economic globalization limits the capacity of our country to determine our own policy outcomes in three main ways: through trade and economic integration; financial markets; and the competition for employment. So also our state sovereignty is weakened by fundamentalist, casteist, communal and commercial forces within the country.
(2) India is a Socialist State:
It reflects the country’s commitment to secure social, economic and political justice for its entire people. India stands for ending all forms of exploitation as well as for securing equitable distribution of income, resources and wealth.
However the difference in the wealth share held by India’s poorest 10 per cent and the richest 10 per cent is enormous; India’s richest 10 per cent holds 370 times the share of wealth that it’s poorest hold. Despite being a much larger economy and growing at a faster rate than its Asian regional peers, India’s progress on Human Development Index has been dismal due to poor social indicators.
Part IV of the Indian Constitution which talks about Directive Principles of State Policy asserts that the state shall strive to secure a social order in which justice – social, economic and political – shall inform all the institutions of national life; that the state shall strive to minimize inequalities in income; that operation of economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to
the common detriment; etc. These guiding principles are far more important today as your Government talks about development.
(3) India is a Secular State:
Needless to tell you, there is no such thing as a state religion of India. India guarantees equal freedom to all religions; all religions enjoy equality of status and respect.
However a spate of controversies from promulgation of anti-conversion laws to attacks on religious persons and places based on rumoured, contrived and false allegations to ghar wapsi and love jihad do not at all glorify India as a secular state. I am sure you will agree that such situations should not be brushed aside simply by calling them ‘saddening’ and ‘undesirable’.
The issue of conversion, I suppose you are aware, has been mischievously publicized. The Indian Government Census figures for instance state that in 1951 Christians constituted only 2.23% of the Indian population while in 2011, Christians constituted only 2.30% of the Indian population. Where are the so-called massive numbers of conversions to Christianity as publicized by some sections of society? Still they keep misinterpreting church humanitarian services such as education, health care and social service as enticements to convert.
(4) India is a Democratic State:
We are proud that our country is the largest democracy in the world.
However I’m sure you do discern that Indian democracy is under threat. Our elections in certain sections of the country are influenced by money power, muscle power, and communal considerations. India’s Parliament too has been corrupted. Following the 2014 Parliamentary election, 185 MPs had criminal cases pending against them. Of these, 112 lawmakers faced charges related to murder, attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping, and crimes against women.
Citizens too routinely have to bribe public officials for services that are free by law – such as access to healthcare and education, obtaining telephone connections or driving licenses. India’s poor more often find themselves victims of the law rather than enjoying the protection of it. Corruption is also corroding the impartiality of India’s judiciary.
(5) India is a Republic:
In India being a republic, we affirm a form of government in which power is explicitly vested in the people, who in turn exercise their power through elected representatives.
However, a big threat to the republican structure of our country is the rise of fascism. Fascism as you very well know is a political ideology that imposes strict social and economical measures as a method of empowering the government and stripping citizens of rights. Some of the defining characteristics of fascism are: racism/casteism, militarism, dictatorship, and destructive nationalistic policies.
Government mechanisms which expect all citizens to accept the government’s definitions, policies and methodologies of development, and which do not tolerate criticism or opposition are causing grave harm to the Indian republic and its constitution. Certain organizations or sections of society which act on their own according to their concepts of nation, to determine who, what or how people eat, wear, sing, dance, study, say or write, destroy the republic character of pluralist India. Instances ranging from beef ban to re-writing of textbooks to installation of religious images and adoption of religio-cultural practices in educational institutions and public places, to a takeover of cultural institutions do not augur well for the republic of India.
To conclude, dear Prime Minister,
You are a very good orator; please speak strongly and specifically against every kind of evil in the country!
You are a very powerful executive; please ensure that all government machineries act responsibly to ensure law, order and security of all people!
You are an IT savvy person; please ensure that freedom of speech and expression as well as the right to factual information is available is to all!
You are an astute business entrepreneur; please ensure that development is really available to the least, the last, the displaced and the lost!
May the Spirit of God envision and empower you in your commitment to just and inclusive sustainable development for all!
Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad
National Council of Churches in India.