>For a change, the cricket World Cup is taking a backseat on Indian news channels.
While the Centre and various state governments have long been guilty of or struggling with scams, corruption and social unrest, there now seems to be a sudden spurt in efforts to bring the culprits to book. Whether they will endure and be brought to closure is yet to be seen, but any step forward is welcome. However, as the investigations proceed, it is evident that the rot runs deep; the scams have resulted in massive losses to the exchequer, and with evasive replies and cover-ups, the government is not helping its cause. The Prime Minister’s press conference was a disappointment. No substantial answers were received, and if anything, it only threw up more questions on the methods through which the wrongdoings of various parties would be reversed. Equating the financial losses to subsidies and pinning the blame for corruption on coalition politics are examples of a weak defence. It smacks of the idea that the only intention of those in power is to stay there at any cost, and the interests of the people do not come into consideration at all. If this is the way a democracy functions, it makes you wonder what the countries in the Middle East agitating for democracy are in for. Stabilising a democracy is by no means an easy task, and considering the responsibilities the new governments will have to take up, the road seems to be going only uphill.
Interestingly, while the Middle East grapples with political problems that involve dethroning the existing leaderships, Belgium is facing a situation of an entirely different nature. The political impasse since last June’s elections has gone on for 250 days now, which means the country has existed without a government this long. It now holds the dubious distinction of having had no government for the longest period in recent times, taking the mantle from Iraq. While this has been a source of some hilarity in Belgium, it isn’t quite the ideal situation, the differences between the Flemish and the French areas asserting themselves and preventing political stability. How much authority does a caretaker government assert, after all? The monarchies of most European nations aren’t involved in major decision-making; they need properly elected governments at the helm of affairs, especially considering there might be important steps to be taken with the unrest in the Middle East. The volatile situation here might be a threat to oil resources and transportation in the Suez Canal. Trade will be affected, and so will the livelihoods of the large numbers of immigrants in the region. Bernie Ecclestone has indicated that the Bahrain Grand Prix, the season-opening race of the 2011 Formula One season, might not go ahead if the state of affairs doesn’t improve. This, however, may only be the tip of the iceberg.
One positive aspect that the protests have made visible is the power of the media- and not just the traditional versions, but new media as well. Facebook and Twitter were used to rally support and mobilise public opinion; though restrictions were eventually imposed, it is apparent they played a huge role in helping the public channelise its hopes and ambitions.
Change is in the air, and hopefully things will take a positive turn here on. It is a rocky road and several difficult issues need to be tackled. It is important for these movements not to lose momentum but to sustain their initial enthusiasm and continue to work for reliable leaderships which will lift them out of poverty and aspire to meet their citizens’ needs. As for democracies like ours, we need to ensure that the corrupt are punished and the country’s wealth properly used- easier said than done, yes, but we have made a start, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t keep going at it.