Sunday, June 21, 2009


English is a wonderful language with excellent expressive power, though it can be non-sensical in terms of spelling and pronunciations. Its ability to assimilate words and ideas from other cultures and languages has made it still more expressive and loved by people in all the continents. No wonder parents rush to English medium schools to get their children admitted and this desire is widespread even amongst low income groups. Probably their preference for such schools is more driven by the hope that higher quality education is imparted only in such schools with a better chance for a better quality of life for their children after growing up. Vernacular fanatics are forgetting that if the country and its people have to be benefited from knowledge developments around the world, familiarity in English is a prerequisite while proficiency in native languages can go side by side.

The word 'author' refers to one who is a writer of an article or book but it can also apply to a person who creates or begins an idea or a plan. Either way an author has to be a creative person with brains, experience and vision. An 'authority', on the other hand, need not be an author though reverse could be true some times. The power to give orders confers on a person the authority and these orders are meant to be obeyed. Delegated responsibilities for specific function to specific people also come under the expression 'authority'. Authority can also mean a learned person with special knowledge gained over years of learning and experience and at times of doubts and indecision, people generally turn to wiser peers who can be the 'authority' on the subject. It is a different matter that so called 'authority' misuses the power some time for considerations other than what is intended for.

'Authoritarian' is an adjective word used to persons who demand absolute obedience to his orders or commands. In the common parlor it is also used to reflect the good intention of a well meaning parent or a teacher who has the well being of those ordered about while being authoritarian. Of course authoritarian streak is anathema in a democracy where decisions are made by the majority, not by one person or a coterie of persons. In contrast 'authoritative' persons derive their strength from the power enjoyed by them by virtue of their strength in skills or knowledge. A person can also be designated as an authoritative spokesman by a body or group of persons vested with authority.

Indians seem to be fond of the expression 'authority' which is often a prerogative of the government which rules the country. The power of an authority can be executive, financial, judicial or management. All government 'babus' have power in one form or the other that enables them to have extra ordinary influence on the citizens as their decisions can affect their lives to varying extent. Power in any form can be the drive engine for corruption as is being witnessed in the country and more the power, higher will be the temptation to be corrupt. It is said that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Country's bureaucratic system is so structured that, with power and pelm distributed amongst the 'babus' beginning at the bottom to the top with few exceptions, corruption is in-built and probably nothing can come in the way of the ever growing corruption faced by the citizens whose daily lives are intertwined with the actions (or non-actions?) of the administrative lords of the country.

It is not a coincidence that government culture in India, inherited from the Britishers, continues to use the word 'Authority' to designate administrative bodies affixing the word after the functions assigned to them. We have "Authority" set ups, for food safety and standards (FSSTA), food exports (APEDA) and marine products exports (MPEDA) in the food area but there are several such bodies conferred with the coveted affix 'authority', We have separate 'authority' for airports, high ways, steel. inland waterways, gas, insurance regulation, sports, zoo development, urban development, telecom regulation, electricity, coastal aquaculture etc most of them with umbilical chords to the government at Delhi. While UK has practically replaced these authorities with boards, directorates, agencies, commissions etc, India revels in creating more authorities, many of them toothless tigers with very little independence from the government ministries, lorded over by politicians and bureaucrats. Citizens of this country are, by now, familiar with the 'authority' syndrome and probably have taken them as another aberration in our democratic society.


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