From porn ban to land ordinance, incompetence and prevarication have become the hallmark of the government
Ajay Singh | August 13, 2015 | New Delhi
There have been petitions in court and the press council against certain news portals for promoting pornographic material in the garb of information. Similar petitions were also filed against certain big newspapers for promoting sex trade in the garb of classified advertisements. As usual, the fate of these petitions is endless litigation that leads to nowhere. There is always a section ready to defend smut in the name of freedom of expression.
This bears significance in the context of the debate triggered by the ban on porn sites by a nanny state. Does promotion of porn or sex trade in news portals fall in the category of freedom of expression? In a society which has culturally and historically attached a sublime value to sex – consider the stone carvings and statues at Konark and Khajuraho temples, it will be difficult to classify India as either prurient or prudish society. The Indian genius always lies in the middle.
What has gone wrong is the attempt to pass off licentiousness as a legitimate right to crass commercialisation by pandering to the
society’s baser instincts. One look at these news portals would confirm that these sites do not intend to promote sex education. Neither do the classified advertisements in newspapers providing “female escorts” or “massage parlour services” intend to improve spiritual or physical fitness of the readers. Rather, they are brazenly solicitous calls which are illegal under the existing law. But the whole debate shifted to “freedom of privacy” as the department of telecom acted unwisely by banning certain porn sites without realising the futility of this exercise in an information age. The government acted in a kneejerk manner only to repent later, telling the supreme court that it does not intend to do moral policing.
More worrisome is the fact that there are all signs to indicate India is increasingly becoming ungovernable under the stewardship of its present political class and there is a method in the madness. Look at the manner in which the Congress with its less than ten percent strength of the Lok Sabha has been trying to wash out the entire monsoon session of parliament without compunction. The government, despite its overwhelming majority, appeared helpless and could do little to counter the “tyranny of minority”.
If the opposition has been conducting itself in a brazenly irresponsible manner, incompetence and prevarication have become the hallmark of the government which assumed power on the assurance of chest-thumping masculinity. The manner in which the government recanted on the land acquisition bill was indicative of a meekness arising out of indecision and drift in the governance. Despite the promulgation of the ordinance thrice, the government failed to convince the country of its development road map. Instead, it kowtowed to the opposition’s prescription. The story of the real estate regulation bill is no different: after making changes in the UPA version and taking a tough stand, the government stands embarrassed as a parliamentary panel has recommended bringing back several provisions. Similar stories of two steps forward and one back can be cited from other areas of governance.
Apparently, incompetence combined with unbridled hubris in a section of the BJP leadership has made the matter worse. Those assigned the task of floor management in parliament have been singularly lacking in political management. After slightly more than a year, performance of none of the ministers is worth talking about.
There is little doubt that prime minister Narendra Modi rode on a high tide of expectations which are not easy to fulfil. But the mandate for him was also extraordinary. Across the country and even at the international level, he was seen as a doer who would deliver and steer the country on a new course. But that narrative seems to be fast losing its steam as the government allows itself to be dictated by a vociferously irresponsible and discredited opposition. Perhaps those who voted the BJP would be quite disillusioned if this government turns out to be a mere sequel to the Manmohan Singh regime.
(The opening comment appears in the August 16-31, 2015 issue)
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