Harbinger of a New India
Delhi, the capital of our great nation India witnessed many political upheavals, a spectator to the rise and demise of kingdoms and dynasties, had been lucky to host the formation and launching ceremony of the “WELFARE PARTY OF INDIA”.
On 18th April 2011, around 3000 people gathered at the Ambedkar Bhavan to be part and partners of a historical event. It might be an accidental coincidence that the launching programme of the WELFARE PARTY OF INDIA, formed as the “voice of the voiceless” took place at a location known as the saviour of the downtrodden in India. Tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of many of the audience when the tri-colour flag with ears of wheat at its centre was unveiled to symbolise the official launching of the Party. The list of the 35-member working committee, representing the plurality of the Indian populace with diverse regions, religions and communities had stunned many as there was apprehension in the air that the to-be-launched Party would be composed of only some groups and communities. There were seasoned political persons, religious personalities, Dalit, human rights and social activists in the team led by Mr Mujtaba Farooq (President), a veteran trade union leader and social and educational activist.
With more than a thousand registered political parties and innumerable unregistered ones filling the siyasi maidan with little space, it is relevant to deal in brief here the relevance and necessity of the new political outfit from the national and societal perspective. The driving force that energised the freedom fighters led by Gandhiji, the Father of the Nation, Nehru, Azad, etc was to wipe out and wash off the tears of the poorest and the least privileged. The pro-poor leniency witnessed during the early post-independence decades was taken over by liberalism and “Manmohan-ism.” Care and concern were shifted from aam aadmi to corporates. The gulf between poor and rich gets widened to the extent that about 77% of the Indian populace earn less than Rs20/ per day according to the Report on Condition of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector (2007). Lack of concern for public health care by governments, central and state alike, causes the death of about 5000 children EVERY DAY due to easily preventable causes like diarrhoea, pneumonia, and neonatal problems, as per UN CHILDREN’S FUND REPORT. Most of them die before they see even the fifth-day sunrise. Agriculture, the bone of India has become a bane for our farmers due to the wrong agrarian policy causing 46 farmer suicides EVERY DAY for the last 16 years.
Politics in India for our freedom fighters was karma and was driven by dharma. It was not a means to amass wealth but a mode to serve the masses. Corruption at all levels has led to the loss of confidence of people in democratic institutions and practices. The Election Commission has been forced to appoint brand ambassadors to drive people from picnic centres to polling booths. Strengthening democratic values and reinforcing the confidence of the people is a sincere service to the nation and its people.
Democracy is a system wherein all are equally included and duly accommodated, not isolated or excluded; opportunities are available to all and the most marginalised and deserving get special care. There is no majority, but inclusiveness. Golden letters of promise written in the constitution were countered and contradicted by real happenings. Dalits, tribals, and minorities were driven away from various walks of social life, with legal and legislative acts failing to provide protection and mainstream political parties playing to the tunes of caste interests they were forced to turn to assertive and affirmative political formulations for an inclusive democratic social order.
The purity of politics in the post-independent scene gradually drove towards nepotism and authoritarianism. Democratically elected governments were thrown apart for mere political bias. Communal riots began to show their ugly face. Failure of government institutions in providing security and protection made promises of inclusive democracy hollow and shallow. Caste conflicts continued unabated in independent India also and a large chunk of the population still remained “untouchables and unwanted.” The situation compelled the marginalised sections including minorities to seek alternatives and thus emerged non-Congress coalition governments in many states in the 1970s. Other than a few states, these coalition practices did not function cohesively and continuously. The political scene witnessed a dramatic tremor with the submission of the Mandal Commission report. It resulted in energising the political and social awareness of the backward classes and communities. Mandalisation of Indian politics was initiated thereafter. Privileged caste congregations, controlling power and authority with clout hitherto, felt the danger of the consolidation of Mandal-inspired sections. Their conspiracy to divert the attention succeeded with aggressive communal postures in the Ram mandir-Babri masjid issue. Overt operations of communal fascists and covert cooperation from soft rightists divided the populace and witnessed the blackest day in post-independent history-demolition of the Babri masjid.
Mandalisation of Indian politics had witnessed the emergence of and activation of a number of political and social movements aimed at social justice. Alas! Aspirations and ambitions of Mandal-people could not go further and more fruitful; political parties with the agenda of social justice were soon gripped by corruption and scandals. With goodbye to transparency and accountability, they almost became family business houses. Muslims, the largest minority community, stuck and stumped with the demolition of the Babri masjid, began to exhibit political maturity and assertiveness and got rid of the practice of casting wholesale votes to either this or that party. Secular parties made many promises to them for their social emancipation, but they got disappointed when found that the tall promises made to them were false. They soon came to the conviction that rather than emotional outbursts and communal or sectarian formulations, constructive and non-communal value-based initiatives taking all pluralities of Indian society on board can only yield better results.
This realisation and evaluation of political undercurrents accelerated the thirst and quest for an alternative political platform based on values. Discussions and interactions with like-minded individuals and institutions held at various places in the country led to some conclusions and a draft concept paper of the proposed party was circulated among political leaders, community chiefs, and social activists. With slight modifications, the concept was finalised. (See Vision Document). It was in unison accepted that the new political outfit should be truly plural, committed to social justice, transparent, accountable, and adopting constructive and peaceful means. And thus emerged the WELFARE PARTY OF INDIA.
On the world map, India is a happening place now. Our successful experiment of an independent democratic society has become an exemplary model in itself. Our economic growth is attracting worldwide attention. The world is in awe of the talents of our scientists, technocrats, and professionals. Indians are consistently pushing up their ratio among the wealthiest individuals in the world.
But the flip side of this splendid advancement is that its fruits are viciously confined to a tiny section of society. Despite this unprecedented growth, the majority of our people are unable to fulfil even their basic needs. We are among the fastest-growing economies, but still more than half of the poorest, hungriest, and most deprived people of the world live in our country.
We didn’t fight the war of Independence just to get rid of the British. The objective was not to replace the white masters with black masters. This heroic saga of our proud history was driven by a noble vision. The objective wasn’t merely to alter the hands that were ruling. It was to change the style and way of ruling.
Six decades after achieving independence, this dream is still unfulfilled. Corruption has become such an irrepressible menace that the whole system seems to be helpless before it. Everyone recognises the presence of this fatal disorder, but no one seems to have any cure for it. Political institutions of all levels are totally in the clutches of this debilitating chaos. Its ruinous impact has paralysed the bureaucracy. And now the media and judiciary are also getting spoiled.
Recent years have witnessed the emergence of a new institutionalised variety of corruption. This new form, powered by a well-coordinated nexus between the ruling and opposition politicians, corporate leaders, their lobbyists, and media tycoons, has the capability to influence the decisions and policymaking at the highest levels. This situation can push the country to the worst kind of economic chaos.
A major factor contributing to this situation is the flawed developmental vision of our rulers. Under this vision, the whole focus is on creating wealth, regardless of the origins and the sources of the new wealth, regardless of its target beneficiaries, and regardless of the kind of compromises, this wealth creation demands on the sovereignty and dignity of the nation. Instead of the interests of a common Indian, the interests of domestic and global capitalists have become the main decisive factor for policy formulation. The role of the state has been confined to providing opportunities for the growth and development of the businesses of the corporate houses and eliminating the hindrances from their path. Agriculture and Agro-economy are in crisis. Opportunities in rural areas are shrinking; the share of agriculture in GDP is fast declining and in rural and urban India the poor man is always under threat of displacement. The economy based on usury and speculation is concentrating wealth in a few hands. Many rural households are left with no alternative except to migrate to a city and live there in extreme sub-human conditions.
The impact of this terrible state of affairs is not confined to the poor and downtrodden. Most frustrated is the growing urban middle class. Our professionals find it difficult to fulfil their aspirations in India through fair means. A huge number of our competent engineers, doctors, and managers are forced to migrate to foreign lands. Budding entrepreneurs are disheartened by the sleazy traditions of political intervention and corruption at each step. Despite all the claims of development, the fact remains that, had these evils not prevailed, our progress would have been much faster and the whole country would have benefitted from the fruits of this progress.
Weaker sections of our society and minorities are still struggling for justice. They have no reasonable representation either in the institutions of governance or in the national wealth and production. The common man is still at the receiving end of the worst kind of atrocities and human rights violations by the very institutions and authorities that were supposed to be his protectors. The authorities have amassed powers that consistently and increasingly threaten the lives and dignity of humans. In many regions of the country, the poor, the Dalits, the minorities, and other disadvantaged sections are forced to live in a constant state of fear and insecurity.
The real test of a democracy is how it treats its minorities. The biggest minority of the country, the Muslims, have gradually become the most backward social group. By all educational, economic, and other developmental measures, they have gone through an unprecedented downfall in the last six decades. They have not been able to get rid of the lethal sense of insecurity. Violent communalism always keeps them terrorised. State excesses, sometimes in the name of curbing communal conflicts and sometimes in the name of countering terrorism, have not yet stopped.
The emergence of fascist and totalitarian political movements constitutes a great threat to the country. The organised and institutionalised communal massacres, the rising social trends of communal discriminations and boycotts, baseless allegations of terrorism against the pre-identified target communities and exploitation of the police, media, and even judiciary for promoting such allegations, registering and advancing unsubstantiated criminal cases against the activists working for truth and justice-all such frivolities are aberrations no more. Such despotic currents are indeed a warning bell for any democracy. The independence of democratic institutions and their free functioning within their areas are among the lifelines of a healthy democratic society. The way our institutions have been degraded in the last decade is a matter of serious concern.
The most important factor responsible for this situation is the peculiar political culture that has built up in our society. This culture that is grown on the foundations of corruption, nepotism, caste and community favouritism, elitism and dynastic polity can never ensure justice for everyone. Exploitation, oppression, treachery, and narrow-minded bigotry are the indispensable and logical outcomes of this culture. The biggest casualty of this culture is merit and talent. Worthy and able individuals get detached from the process of leadership and nation-building and the charge of the nation goes into the hands of undeserving mediocrities.
The national political parties are fully under the influence of corporate groups. A large number of corrupt politicians have infiltrated them. The totalitarian-leaning and anti-minority bias of a mainstream party are well-known. Parties so far considered the champions of the poor and downtrodden have either succumbed to the capitalist influence or their obsolete ideology, and class politics can no longer go with the aspirations of the new India. The small parties that could have become their alternatives are so viciously stuck in the narrow circles of their regional and sectarian interests that they also cannot promote real justice and equality. It, therefore, implies that there is no political force that is capable of providing universal justice and with which every Indian can associate his or her hopes.
The main reason for this situation is the worst kind of materialism that has taken the whole country into its grip. This is greed and gluttony that makes a man unworthy of pursuing any great ideal selflessly. After business, industry, and bureaucracy, now politics and public services are also in the grip of this avarice.
In creating a passion for selfless service characterized by great ideals, the fear of God and spirituality play a pivotal role. Unfortunately, in the politics of our country, religion has always been used to create differences, polarize society, and exploit the weak. In a religious society like India, religious and spiritual values ought to play a constructive role in bringing about a healthy social change. As the Constitution does not oppose spirituality but opposes discrimination between religions, the secular Constitution of India should not be a barrier to this. It is necessary to connect politics with high moral standards on the basis of spiritual and moral values.
The Constitution of India has given a concept of democracy that envisages equality among all strata and sections of the society and the scope for the fulfilment of the aspirations of all. But in effect, our caste- and community-based political system has taken such a shape that democracy is being practised in the sense of the majority. Despite constitutional assurances on full opportunities for all cultures to thrive and develop, practically minority cultures do not get the support they need and deserve.
The big question is how the much-needed political reform can be accomplished. For this, a mere change of hands is not sufficient. The entry of some new leaders or parties is also not adequate. Any superficial or mechanical change will not suffice. What our body politic needs are a paradigm shift, a kind of metamorphosis, a change from the deep roots. It requires a massive social awakening. It demands alternative political culture, new political traditions, and the environment. We need to wear off the connection between politics and capital. There must be an end to the unhealthy penchant for considering politics a profession and a wealth-creation tool. We need to wipe out the tendency of considering politics a weapon in communal, casteist, and sectarian conflicts. Politics will have to be cleansed from crimes and criminals. The criminalisation of politics, the communalisation of politics, the commercialisation of politics, and the sectarianisation of politics are the biggest evils of our prevailing political culture. We need to erect a mighty social and public resistance against these evils. This should bring forth and make prevalent such individuals in politics who are driven by high ideals and moral standards and who aim at justice and welfare for all Indians.
It is with these dreams that concerned citizens from different walks of life across the nation have come forward and established the Welfare Party. The Party comprises of individuals with a track record of flawless public service, who are able to fight and offer sacrifices for values and ideals. The Party will be a platform for people of all communities, classes, and social groups and only those individuals will be allowed to enter the Party who can prove by word and deed their commitment to the values and vision of the Party. The Party shall strive to promote alternative politics and shall attempt to emerge on the horizon of Indian politics as the voice of the voiceless, the hope for justice, and the harbinger of a new India.
It will not be just another party engaged in power politics, but will rather be a movement for reforming Indian politics and will try to realise a welfare state based on moral values and governed by the principles of Justice, Freedom, Equality, and Fraternity. To achieve the objectives, the Party will launch massive public campaigns and awaken the socio-political public consciousness. It will try to inculcate self-esteem, self-confidence, and the ambition and courage to fight oppression and exploitation in the common man. It will try to promote able and virtuous leadership from among the masses and will try to advance alternative politics in the country through this social struggle.
The Party shall try to promote alternative politics in the country that is firmly rooted in high standards of morality and ethical values and is free from crimes, corruption, selfishness, and all kinds of narrow-minded prejudices. It will require making effective the mechanisms of accountability and transparency at all levels of public life and ensuring that authority and power are always coupled with an equal magnitude of responsibility and answerability, and flawless character becomes the most fundamental prerequisite for political representation.
The Idea of a Welfare State
The Party will aim at the establishment of a welfare state. It is the conviction of the Party that sufficient nutritious food, decent clothing, proper shelter, essential healthcare, and elementary education are among the fundamental human rights and it is the duty of a welfare state to fulfill these basic needs of each and every citizen. Development with Justice and Equality.
The Party envisages speedy growth in the industry, trade, commerce, and the national economy. But it shall try to reform the economy in such a way as to ensure that the obligations of justice and equality properly regulate the process of development and wealth creation. Humanity and human beings must get precedence over economy and capital. The concentration of wealth must be curbed and all the Indians must benefit from the fruits of development. Economic development should also uplift the backward and downtrodden sections along with the industrialists and businessmen. Concerns for sustainability and the protection of the environment should also form an important regulator of development.
Democracy, Pluralism and Inclusiveness
The Party shall promote the true spirit of democracy. The Party strongly believes in democracy not in the sense of mere majorityism but in the sense of inclusiveness and pluralism. A truly democratic society is one that addresses the needs and demands of every section of the society and ensures that every section contentedly fulfils its aspirations. The ideal society that the Party envisages will be founded on the notion of universal human brotherhood. It will make the people of India grow above the narrow divisions and discriminations based on caste, community, region, and language and nourish the spirit of unity in diversity. This notion of universal brotherhood implies that a warm hand of cooperation is extended to the weak and oppressed sections of the society and minorities, they are uplifted through special measures and affirmative actions and it is ensured that they get a dignified place in the society and do not lag behind in the race of progress. It also implies that women should get full growth and development opportunities with full protection to their femininity.
The Party envisages a society where all cultures have full opportunities to thrive and develop. The concept of federalism that the Party believes covers cultural federalism along with geographic and linguistic federalism. In a culturally diverse society like India, all cultural entities should get the fullest opportunities, resources, and powers to protect and promote their cultural values and identities. The Party proposes a notion of democracy where the rights of cultural groups are also protected along with the rights of individuals.