BELLING THE BIG CAT (Editorial)

The survival of the tiger has become a burning issue, one of serious concern because of the rapidly declining numbers, despite the special task force initiated by the prime minister. Alas, the force is headed by a non-tiger-expert. The annihilation of this majestic species is symbolic of the disappearance of the integrity, honesty and majesty of governance in India. As king of the forest, protector of the precise and carefully-spelt-out law of the jungle, the tiger represents the best in rulership and keeps the necessary balance in the food chain as well. We have managed, over the last few decades, to destroy this essential balance of life, and with that the destruction of values such as honesty, integrity, commitment and service, all of which are integral to good governance and inclusive administration. The tiger is the keeper of the law, and as it dies unceremoniously at the hands of defective policies, unthinking, short-term initiatives and an abject lack of understanding and expertise in wildlife preservation, India too contorts with the breakdown of law, drowning under the onslaught of a tsunami of corruption, malpractice, nepotism and anarchy that stems from inept governance, selfish political compromises and the government's continuing status quo in an attempt to live through a full term and remain in power at the cost of destroying the fundamentals. For a ruling coalition to succumb to a barrage of blackmail for three years from a weird partner, who remains outside of the accountability structure and who has been a traditional enemy, rationalizing negative interventions by describing them as imperatives of coalition politics, is no longer acceptable. To hold one billion people to ransom because of a personal need to survive in positions of power is equally inappropriate. Still carrying on Times have changed dramatically and past baggage must be discarded to make way for change, development and growth without the rhetoric of populism. Let's have real commitment and action in areas that have been neglected and rapaciously exploited by our political class for decades. When leaders do not stand by their values and beliefs, citizens reject them as weak and unfit to rule. When leaders buckle under pressure regularly, they are deemed ineffective and are gradually put aside as incompetent and incapable of good governance. Once the public dissects the posturing, the decline is not gentle but definitive. When there is a strong perception that the leader, the face of governance, is manipulated invisibly by some other force, people of a country sense the weakness and opt to vote for an alternative. The pretended innocence about the degradation around us shows up the ruling coalition. The explanations are packed with superficial half-truths that are signalled out to the public. What follows is an overwhelming disrespect for all that the government, and its once-upon-a-time sacrosanct institutions, have stood for and represented over 60 years. This truth is the saddest of all and Bharat is convulsing under this very dangerous reality. Are the various greedy mafia desperate only to serve their personal interests by poaching good, clean individuals and political practitioners, much like the illegal trapping and killing of the king of the many jungles of India? Illegal is the key word, one that has eaten into the foundations of our plural culture. These rapacious, anonymous white ants helped by worms and snakes, and by other scavengers, are thriving with the death of the protector of the law and the fine balance. As the sanctity of the last of our sacred groves is being brutally manhandled, so are the integrity and values of civil society in its finest and broadest definition. Who will bell the Big Cat?

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