New Year Brings New Hope

Letter from New Delhi

A weak glimmer of hope flickers on the horizon for the New Year in India. This comes after Indians have shown their approval for a new political party for the common man in Delhi. This party promises to put power back into the hands of the common people frustrated by endemic corruption and battered by rocketing inflation. Topping it all, the party plans to interact with the people on most issues that concern them.

The elected candidates include highly educated and qualified professionals as well as simple, literate folk all with a common purpose: to uproot corruption and provide transparency by consulting the voters. In their inter-action with the public and the media, this new breed of political activists turned elected representatives hardly display any ego. They keep repeating that the common man elected them with silent power and they are to serve the common man and live as a common man as they have denied themselves the perks of public office like swanky bungalows, motorcades or even gun-toting security personnel. But their new quality of egoless leadership does not look like a façade but the real thing. Osho’s greatest emphasis is on witnessing and then abandoning the ego. Unlike the hardened politicians claiming to serve the common man, this does not amount to a charade.

Modern technology, like the social media, enables direct inputs by the people on matters that affect them. From the state level, it can climb to the national level in the coming general elections. Among the elected members is an Osho disciple. Can this new wave sweep the national scene as well?

If it happens, democracy will take a big leap. Osho has never been impressed by democracy which he labels as “government by the retarded, for the retarded, of the retarded”. Democracy is certainly better than monarchy or dictatorship but modern man can do better than this type of democracy. Look around the misgoverned countries in the world today and it becomes clear that autocrats and dictators are ruling uncontrolled in the facade of democracy.

If this ray of light heralds a new dawn after the approaching general elections in spring, India will move on at a brisk pace and set a noteworthy example to the world by crowning democracy with meritocracy. Osho has always promoted meritocracy. He asks, “How come that the geniuses of the world are outside governments?” Basically, the people of merit are not the people who rule. Isn’t it high time that the best brains in every walk of life are brought in to run the country? Instead, we have ministers for science and technology or health, finance or planning, education or environment who have no clue about these specialized disciplines. Worse, the mediocre and semi-educated people govern with impunity and arrogance while lining their pockets.

The voters who elect these leaders should also be educated. Those who elect local government leaders should have completed primary education. For electing state leaders, the voters need to complete high school and for national leaders, a university degree. So educated voters will elect meritorious people. What about the wise old people who are not educated? Well, with the spread of education, this problem will be solved in near future; but until then, a viable solution can be devised.

Osho says, “Democracy is not succeeding; it has failed. It was better than its predecessors, but now we have to find a new alternative, because democracy has failed. The future belongs to meritocracy.”

Consult the people. Let merit shine. And upgrade our governance.

* * *

NRIs Want More Facilities in India at PBD 2014

NRIs will make news in India with the 12th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in New Delhi from 7 to 9 January 2014. The 25 million NRIs sent $70 billion to India in 2012 and are expected to send more than $80 billion last year. This far exceeds India’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) at $47 billion in 2011.

In June 2013, the NRI bank deposits stood at $71.07 billion, according to the Reserve Bank of India data. This is an increase of 21 per cent over the previous year. The NRIs took benefit from a weaker Rupee at this time and sent their cash to India to earn higher interest than in countries where they live.

No wonder they want more facilities and more say in their welfare and in Indian affairs. PBD was the response with a special ministry for their concerns.

First of all, the NRIs who visit Indian frequently wanted long term stay and the Indian government introduced PIO scheme with 20-year visa. Then the Indian government extended it to granting a dual citizenship with some conditions calling it the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card that allows them to live in India as long as they live plus other benefits like owning property and working. The OCI scheme was launched at PBD in 2006 and 1.3 million OCI cards have been issued up to July 2013. The maximum of 520,055 OCI cards were issued to Indians living in the US followed by 307,822 in Britain and 133,755 in Australia and 114,748 in Canada.  But London topped all cities with 214,500 cards followed by New York at 174,396 and San Francisco at 119,125.

The overseas Indians with Indian passports can also vote in elections but only in person. This was also announced at a PBD. Making a special trip to India to vote is too much for most NRI. So they request for a postal ballot. With general elections coming in a few months, this demand becomes more pertinent and thus it is likely to be voiced again.

A NRI major problem is the court cases for their properties in dispute by their friends and relatives. These cases estimated at around 10,000 that drag on for years and years. So NRIs want fast track courts to conclude them superfast, especially with high property prices in India.

More significantly, they want at least two NRIs nominated to represent them in the upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha. Why? Because they have a stake in India as they support their families, invest and support welfare schemes in India with their remittances. As 40 per cent of their remittances help in household expenses of their dependents, they want a say in the government.

PBD 2014 focuses on NRI youth. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has been running for some years a ‘Know India Program’ for youth to discover the land of their ancestors. Youths come to India and visit different regions to get to know their grand-mother land. Now they have invited around 50-60 NRI youth and a hundred Indian youth for this conference to inter-act with each other and participate in the proceedings as well. The main focus, however, is still investing in India.

The ministry has authorized FICCI – Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry – to organize this conclave.  From last year and some improvement has been visible. Along with the main PBD, there are similar NRI meetings. Most notably, Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) will hold its conclave. After PBD, some states like Gujarat will hold their own NRI conference as many states have an NRI ministry to cater for their needs.

The PBD is inaugurated by the Prime Minister and the closing session is addressed by the President when the much awaited Pravasi Bhartiya awards are presented to NRIs for their outstanding contributions. This is a sensitive issue as many NRIs are disappointed and claim that a particular state always gets the most awards and the most deserving persons are ignored. Perhaps this year will be no different.

What NRIs take away from this PBD remains to be seen.


* Published in print edition on 10 January 2014

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