the-south-asian.com January 2003
JANUARY 2003 Contents
'INDIA IN SLOW MOTION'
- all about bad governance
Isidore Domnick Mendis
Former BBC South Asia correspondent and Indophile, Mark Tully and his colleague Gillian Wright have written a book, India In Slow Motion , according to which bad governance has put India on the back foot from which it is finding hard to recover…
Until a decade ago BBC World Service and its South Asia correspondent, Mark Tully were synonymous. His association with the broadcasting corporation was so complete that even now when any BBC correspondent visits a small town, chances are he may be referred to as Tully sahib!
Sir Mark Tully. The man who enthralled generations of Indians with his indepth and incisive reportage. Such was his credibility and aura that whenever a sensational news broke out people preferred to listen to the BBC than to All India Radio.
Today, Tully may no longer be the South Asia BBC correspondent but he hasn't left India. And he is far from retired. His knowledge of India is vast - ranging from Kashmir crisis to kebab joints in Lucknow and paan shops in Delhi. He also does a weekly programme on BBC Radio called Something Understood. Besides, he has written some amazingly successful books on India.
Now, Tully and his colleague Gillian Wright have authored another book, India In Slow Motion. The 302 page book priced at Rs. 450 and published by Penguin India has the makings of another best seller. The authors' attempt to unravel a diverse range of subjects like Hindu extremism, child labour, Sufi mysticism, crisis in agriculture, political corruption and problem in Kashmir.
The book is more on bad governance that has put brakes on progress in India. The authors say the administrative system has not been properly reformed or finely tuned since the British left. It has been drifting along with no serious thought given to governance.
" The British administrative system was exploitative as it was designed for a colonial government. It was not suited for a democracy. Unfortunately, when India got independence it started with British style of colonial administration where bureaucrats and other public officials treat people as if they are governing them rather then serving them." Says Tully.
Another aspect of this non-governance, according to Tully, is the ongoing culture of what he terms as the Mai-baap sarkar where only self-servers and lackeys survive.
"Initially Gillian and I started out to do a book on sacred places of India. But after discussions we decided this was not that we wanted to write about. There was such an urgent and pressing need to highlight the issue of bad governance that has been making the system hollow from within. There is an all-pervading sense of frustration in the country as far as the common man is concerned," says Tully.
The book says that all major problems afflicting India including political corruption, bonded labour or isolated examples of Hindu extremism are a result of an unresponsive government. "Kashmir is a classic example. Had all the money poured in for development been properly utilized things would have been different today. There would not have been any resentment against the Indian rule. But what people see are different things. There has hardly been any development. Schools are run down, medical facilities practically negligent, condition of roads awful. So where did all that money disappear?" asks Tully.
Though the book admits that corruption is present in every country, but what is most worrying is the level of political corruption in India. " The only way out is to make the government more accountable and transparent. It must start at the grass roots. Villagers must demand accountability and keep tabs on how development funds are utilized. Unless this is done, things will keep slipping and the common man will keep suffering," opines co-author Gillian Wright.
One bright spark is the all-round computerisation, says Wright. " Computers will bring about efficiency. When I first came to India in 1977 I remember spending hours in long queues to buy three train tickets for different destinations from three different counters. Now I can stand in one queue and get whatever ticket I want," says the author.
Wright earlier worked with the BBC World Service in London. Thereafter she majored in Hindi and Urdu from the University of London. Then she came to India in 1977 and has since been working with Tully. She has translated Hindi novels and short stories into English. She has authored three books, Indian Birds, Hill Stations of India and Sri Lanka. In addition she has worked with Tully on three books Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle, No Full Stops In India and The Heart of India.
But its not all a dooms-day scenario as far as the book goes. Tully also lists a few things that India can be proud of. " It has some role model states of good governance like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Here real efforts are being made to improve standards of government through IT. Even Rajasthan is making attempts to improve the concept of governance," Says Tully
He is very concerned with the growing incidence of religious intolerance in India " This bothers me a great deal. One of the greatness of India has been religious tolerance. This must be revived. There should be no place for intolerance at least in India," says Tully who was born in Calcutta and educated in England.
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