By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
Everything is fine. Trust our representatives because they have been elected; so they are trustworthy. That’s how things went until recently. But that has changed. Whether in India or Mauritius, the tune no longer strikes a chord with the people. What guarantee have we had that different governments have been clean for decades? It is a Westminsterian parliamentary democracy and all. Let them rule the country and go back to your jobs. We are made to believe that as long as there is no proof that rulers are involved in corrupt practices, they are irreproachable. The system is as flawed in Mauritius as it is in India. Do we need a Jan Lok Pal Bill? Or will politicians refuse an independent control on their governance of financial affairs? In India, detractors of the bill are saying that any citizen who has doubts about the integrity of politicians can report to the police or change government in the next elections. What a farce! What happens during the five years of waiting? Let corrupt practices go on?
Numerous juicy contracts have been signed with big corporations in various sectors over the past decades. Perception or reality? That politicians of all hues have allegedly squeezed the juice out of those contracts for self-interest for decades? That political parties are fish out of water once they are prevented from milking the system by twisting and tweaking it towards their narrow ends, i.e. by making money through the business of politics?
Governing has evolved into a more complex system from the original technical bureaucracy across the world over the past decades. But it is intolerable that politics becomes big business.
Government is meant to be exercised for the people by the people. Civil society cannot shirk its responsibility to check and change a system that is flawed and inefficient. Abdicating equates to living in spiritual slavery.
Low season tourists
The minister is deploying a lot of energy to fill all the hotels that have cropped up along the coast in the past years. With fewer hotels years ago, the number of visitors always dwindled in the June to August period. However, every new government vowed to halt the building of more hotels and did the opposite once they are elected. Then, hotels mushroomed around at a quicker pace.
Given the insufficient number of visitors in the hotels all year round and the even lower number off season, it was not reasonable to build so many hotels.
There are serious doubts about the economic relevance of a sprawling hotel industry in such a small territory.
However, in a short-term perspective of tapping the euro zone in the low season, it seems that the minister had no choice than lure the potential visitors of Reunion with attractive fares. Even though the European summer period prompts people there to stay at home, it will be wise to campaign in other European countries beyond England, France or Germany. The Finance minister announces the arrival of a number of Belgian businessmen. Why not attract Belgian tourists as well, and those from northern Europe.
Beaches for Mauritians
As things stand, Mauritians feel more and more deprived of enjoying the sight and use of the beaches along the coast, not to mention the small islands offshore. Living conditions are getting tough as purchasing power is being dealt a hard blow through inflation. Associations which defend beaches against unbridled exploitation should be congratulated for not letting random ‘development’ overweight public interest. Transport fare is quite high as well as boat fare, so much the better if the fee for L’île aux Cerfs has been dropped by the ministry.
Many people have hardly started to have a better life after their parents’ sacrifices for years. The apartheid mentality which consists in segregating the best places and keeping the public at bay should come to an end. If the authorities have no will to change it, civil society and NGOs should make it happen. The same applies to the islands around, which are being reserved for the enjoyment of an elite and for the profits of a few. Let them be accessible to one and all.
The Sage of Khilchipur
A world-weary man ventures into the jungle of Ranthampore to live under its leafy canopy among wild animals, eats fruits and paste of leaves as a dozen tigers sit around while he meditates. Prabhudasji has been attracting hundreds of devotees to his sanctuary where he has set up a school for the villagers and a nature cure centre. Ashiqali Nathani, a 60-year old Muslim industrialist whose family left Karachi to settle in India in 1949, happened to seek guidance from the sage at a moment of great difficulties in his life. As things cleared for him on his return to Mumbai, the industrialist revamped the seer’s Ganesh temple for Rs 15 million in tribute to the guru. He also added a college and a 30-bed hospital, and built a comfortable house for him. Ashiqali Nathani built a Durga temple, a mosque and two dargahs in Panvel, Mumbai.
The story reported in the Indian press brings to our mind the classical Hindu scheme of values, particularly that of the sanyasin’s detachment, renunciation and spiritual quest. If anything, we badly need such examples in Mauritius, a natural setting where people can go and sit in meditation around a sage.
In the meantime, we may try to tighten our belts as the President advises and in the face of rising food prices, some folks had better practise the belly-vanishing trick taught by Swami Ramdev. If 50% of Mauritians are obese as the Minister of Health stated, the belt and stomach exercise may be a worthwhile challenge!
* Published in print edition on 22 April 2011