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India; our tipping point

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By Hugh and colleen Gantzer

English Novelist, Charles Dickens, wrote “A Tale of Two Cities”. The two cities mentioned were London and Paris and the novel is about the French Revolution of 1789 – 1799. Its opening lines have become famous for the way it can be applied to other times and places.  These include events which have happened, and are happening in India today.

Dickens starts with the words “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The world has never given India more regard than today. It is an economic power on the ascendant, but the way we have treated our farmers is deplorable. When compared with the manner in which the European Union is handling their farmers agitation, we emerge as big bullies fighting the hands that feed us.

Then Dickens says, ‘It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” When Prime Minister Mody told Putin “This is not the time for war,” it expressed the wisdom of a true Vishwa guru.  But his long silence in deploring the sextarian horrors that occurred in the “so called” double engine state of Manipur have still not been explained.

Dickens then says, ’’It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.”

There was a surge of happiness when ancient techniques of architecture were used to construct a shrine demolished by a historical bigot. But why was no action taken to restore the shrine of other faiths destroyed by modern bigots.

Next, Dickens says, “It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.”

The whole world rejoiced when light was brought to the miners trapped in a tunnel in our state. Much was made of the so-called rat miners who achieved the final break through to release the trapped workers. But why was the home of rat-hole miner Wakeel Hassan demolished by the Delhi Development Authority? Is the so-called bulldozer justice biased by the name of its victim?

Dickens next said, ‘It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.’ This is exactly how we felt when we learnt that the Minister of our state government entrusted to protect our forests had turned into a prime predator, in league with his DFO. It is virtually impossible to protect anything if the fence starts devouring the crop. This is particularly dangerous because trees are the only self-propagating defence against climate change. The winter of our despair could come close on the heels of our spring of hope.

Our last quote from Dickens is “We had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going directly the other way.”  We are elated when we hear all the wonderful guarantees given for our future well being. As a couple we have made a profession of travelling around the world.  We, therefore, greatly appreciate our Government’s resolute action in bringing home every stranded Indian. But, though physical safety is important, so, too is financial security.

We are disturbed to learn the Supreme Court’s opinion on the electoral bonds held by the State Bank of India. There seems to be a lack of transparency. That worries us because the worst case scenario is terrifying. When a financial organization with the size and clout of the SBI finds it difficult to answer questions of the Highest Court in India promptly, it throws a shadow on all the financial transactions of the state. When this is read with the clear and continued dilution of the Right to Information Act, it strikes at the root of public accountability and transparency. In this age of information technology when most citizens have access to smart phones, attempt to conceal information of public interest are bound to give rise to speculation and rumours that no amount of spin doctoring can suppress.

Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are examples of what can go wrong when governments start believing that they can fool all their people all the time. That, in short,

is the sobering message contained in the introduction to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

We ignore it to our peril.

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.) (The opinions and thoughts expressed here reflect only the authors’ views!).