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A Prayer for 2023

A Prayer for 2023

As 2022 draws to a close, its time once again for a prayer for India ahead of a new year.

Where the mind is without fear and the held is held high.. Where India takes the threat posed by China seriously as a ‘united’ country, not where the political response is marked by a juvenile and frankly self-defeating  ‘tu tu main main’ argument with government and opposition accusing each other of being in collusion with the Chinese. Where the army is kept out of  the ugly political slugfest and fully supported in bravely protecting our borders on icy climes. Where when things go wrong in 2022 we don’t blame it on Nehru’s failings in 1962.

Where parliament is a forum for informed debate on matters of   national  importance, where mikes of  opposition MPs are not switched off even as the cameras focus relentlessly on the treasury benches. Where parliament sessions are not consigned to being a mere ritual, where the opposition doesn’t disrupt and the government doesn’t dictate but both sides learn to talk to rather than talk at each other.  Where crucial cabinet decision making is not reduced to unilateral action, where India presiding over a G 20 summit is about collective pride and not individual self-promotion.   

Where the executive and judiciary don’t confront each other but recognize their constitutional limits. Where judges appointments are not held up only because the government wants to prove a point. Where judicial independence is not compromised by ministers publicly attacking judges.  Where the judiciary stands up to protect the rights of  citizens in all cases and not selectively. Where human rights activists are not languishing for years in jail without bail only because their ideological leanings lead them to be branded ‘anti-national’.

Where the Election Commission acts as a neutral umpire and doesn’t gear its actions to suit the party in power. Where elected representatives don’t switch sides only for ministerial benefit. Where the Enforcement Directorate cannot be an uncaged Rottweiler in opposition ruled states while being a pliant poodle in BJP-ruled states. Where enforcement agencies aren’t used to intimidate political rivals into falling in line, where the Prevention of  Money Laundering Act cannot reverse the basic principle of  jurisprudence of innocent till proven guilty.

Where a rational discussion on the economy calls for more facts, less spin-doctoring. Where all is not doom and gloom but neither can ‘don’t worry be happy, we are better off  than the rest of  the world’ become a recurring mantra. Where it is better to admit that growth has slowed down and jobs are scarce rather than live in denial. Where our low ranking in the global hunger index should trouble us just as lifting so many millions of  Indians out of  poverty should be a matter of  satisfaction.

Where one political party’s welfare agenda cannot become another party’s ‘revadi’, where political parties should make election promises they can deliver on rather than spur a freebie culture that will only bankrupt the exchequer. Where parties seek votes on governance and not by raking up polarizing issues as weapons of  mass distraction. Where elections are fought on the needs of  a 21 century India and not who destroyed which place of  worship in the 16th century. Where climate change is an issue that is not confined to seminars in distant global capitals but becomes an integral part of  the national conversation. Where the right to breathe clean air is seen as a fundamental right as much as a right to clean drinking water. Where every year when our cities are flooded out, we hold urban bodies accountable for the taxes we pay for better infrastructure. 

 Where we cant have a financial system that writes off hefty loans for corporate India but a farmer has his tractor seized for defaulting on a single loan instalment. Where small and micro industries get the same benefits from banks that a well-networked large business does. Where we wonder why so many wealthy Indians are taking overseas citizenship, where we cant talk of  ease of  doing business and then let the taxmen target businesses. 

Where government recruitment exams aren’t endlessly delayed and when they are held we don’t have paper leaks every year that compromise the careers of  lakhs of  young Indians. Where reservations don’t become a political weapon that prevent a level playing field in highly competitive professions, where the number of seats available in the general category don’t shrink every year, where equal opportunities are made available through scaled up scholarship programmes.   

Where inter-faith marriages aren’t instantly demonised as ‘love jehad’ and where love is not criminalized through unconstitutional laws.  Where collective anger against rape is not determined by the religious identity of the rapist but by the nature of  the crime. Where whether the name of  the accused is Aftab or Amar, the law for murder is the same for all. 

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Where the colour of  a dress that an actor wears in a film is hardly reason to seek a ban on the film. Where in a plural society, no one has a monopoly on colour choices, where saffron can be pious and beautiful at the same time. Where the targeting of  an Indian Muslim superstar is called out for the unalloyed bigotry it represents, where self-styled cultural vigilantes cant become the sole guardians of  a millennial civilization and its value systems. Where a government doesn’t promote a film that fits in with its propaganda machine while censoring those that don’t buy into an official narrative. Where tolerance and accommodation of  the ‘other’ becomes a symbol of  our unique diversity.

Where social media doesn’t become a ‘free for all’ forum for hate speech and abuse, where fact-checkers aren’t arrested only because the facts are inconvenient to the powerful in a post-truth world. Where Indian corporate barons with entrenched political interests don’t sermonize on freedom of  speech while effecting hostile takeovers of  media companies. Where prime time tv shows don’t profit from communal polarisation but provide their viewers with knowledge and not noise.

Where India qualifies one day for the World Cup football finals and throws up homegrown football icons rather than appropriating a Messi as one of  our own. Where our womens hockey and cricket players get the same attention as their male counterparts when they conquer new peaks. Where every Indian, irrespective of  caste, income, gender, region or religion, feels a sense of common citizenship in being Indian.

Into that heaven of  freedom, let my country awake! Happy New Year!

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