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Another Roman tragedy in the making?
In the midst of India's exceptional growth story, when scams like 2G, CVC appointment or cash-for-votes have taken centre-stage, we should ask ourselves whether we have over-invested in building an economy but shown not the least interest in building a society that scores high on the morality index.
Twenty years ago, India threw off the chains of protectionism and unleashed a growth story that has been phenomenal. Rushing headlong into the future, India has established itself as the world's second fastest growing economy and will soon be a power to reckon with. The 21st century, pundits say, will be the Asian century. Together, India and China will rise again and maneouvre the power shift from West to East.
But, it's early yet to pat ourselves on the back. Sure, we have turned into an economic powerhouse that is steering itself to become the next superpower, but as a society that has lost its moral compass we are far away from achieving our social goals.
According to Unicef, India today is a country where the sex-selective abortion industry is worth Rs 1, 000 crore. And this is only expected to grow considering that some estimates claim that by 2020, India will have 25 million surplus males. We account for nearly 40 per cent of the world's child marriages and nearly 1, 000 young people are done to death every year in the name of family honour and tradition. The National Crime Bureau records show that in 2009 alone, in Madhya Pradesh, 8 women on an average were raped every single day.
This is a day in the life of India. A life that has become a byword for greed, corruption, bureaucracy and fear. Where an honest government officer is burnt alive in the broad daylight, thousands of crores are swindled in scams, and the government brushes the muck under the carpet of "coalition dharma". We may pride ourselves in being the world's largest democracy but a future superpower cannot afford to have a Parliament where one-fourth of its leaders face criminal charges. It's shameful that our prime minister said it was a mere "error of judgment" that a man chargesheeted in a corruption case was appointed to head an anticorruption body.
A widely quoted British historian, Edward Gibbons, once blamed Rome's fall on its dishonest leaders and lack of civic virtues in the Roman society. Built by a line of great rulers, a powerful Roman Empire at its peak stretched from present-day England to Africa and from Syria to Spain. But even this once-great empire could not survive the moral decay in its society. So, how can we claim to stand our ground with such examples of blazing corruption and low morality in our country? When our moment of glory arrives for us to claim the throne, will India be ready to command the respect and stature of a superpower ?
The truth is, every empire follows a cycle: it rises, reaches its peak and then the fall begins. As historian Niall Ferguson recently wrote, all empires are condemned to decline and fall. But the question is: will India be the only nation in history that will go directly from rise to fall without the usual interval of reaching its peak? As our moral conscience hits its lowest ebb, are we scripting India's own "Roman tragedy" ?
For over 70 years, few families of a dalit community were living segregated on a piece of land owned by the Savanur Town Municipal Council in Karnataka. Last year, a news report said that the council had decided to remove the dalits and build a commercial complex on that land. Angry, the dalits reported the matter to the sub-divisional officer, but to no avail. Helpless, the community had to protest outside the council office by pouring human excreta upon themselves. One is left speechless that there are still people in this country who have to go through perhaps the lowest form of humiliation to fight for their basic right to live. And just to let you know, by the time you read this article, another woman would have been raped in India. Some superpower, right?
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