Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Indians are familiar with the way the elected governments chosen once in five years become totally insensitive to the aspirations and expectations of the people who elected them. Most recent example was the massive outbursts from the masses against the phony efforts to set up an Omdusman for bringing corrupt people to books and the fact that in spite of 43 years of promise and evasive action, no such corruption fighting mechanism has been put in place tells its own story! Same is true in almost all areas of citizen welfare programs promised but never delivered. In stead the politicians are more enamored by legislation like the Food Security Bill, Farmer Subsidies, PDS Subsidies etc that they expect will bring them dividends in the form of votes. Compared to the situation in India, American democracy seems to be more vulnerable to "alms" from big league business players with massive resources to influence policies favoring them!

Look at the corruption fight in India. Being a parliamentary democracy people expect their representatives to engage themselves in making laws that can be considered to be beneficial to them. Unfortunately the elected representative has a free reign to do whatever he or she feels which need not be in the best interest of the citizen. This is what happened during the recent show down between masses and the parliament which politicians of all hues proclaim to be supreme with people having no power to even register their views in a peaceful manner. It was due to sheer desperation that masses had to converge on the streets compelling the government to introduce some sort of a Bill for creating an Omdusman and subsequently aborting it at midnight under one pretext or the other. This fight with politicians and bureaucrats will have to continue in the coming months to put further pressure on the parliament to give the country a law that will reduce if not eliminate corruption altogether.

According to dispassionate observers no democratic government is immune to succumbing to the powers of a few people with money power and in effect it is more akin to an oligarchy-"government of the lobbyists, for the lobbyists and by the lobbyists" The million dollar question is how to fight with such a fatal combination? Probably there can be one way to fight this oligarchy through mass movements that protest against the entrenched power. Of course it may be logical to argue that the voting power of the people must be channelized to punish the political class that refuses to see the needs of the citizen. Looking at history there are many instances where mass pressure had forced the governments to change the unpopular policies. The infamous Vietnam War was ended by my massive unrest and demonstrations by the people on the streets and for that matter the abandonment of segregation policy also driven by people's movement. There is no alternative to collective action by large numbers of citizens who can muster the power to reverse unfair policies and force governments to come nearer to people in whose name they rule the country.

Coming to the food system which has a profound influence on health of the citizen, governments must be freed from the clutches of corporate industry players who have nothing but the welfare of their companies in mind rather than that of the people. Why is that Genetically Modified (GM) foods, despite having doubtful safety credentials, have been forced through the throat giving no clue to the consumer that these foods contain GM ingredients. It is time that American citizens stand up and force the government at least to make the food industry declare the truth on the label. Recent march of thousands of people from New York to Washington DC to protest against GM foods containing packages not declaring about the same may be a beginning and once it assumes critical mass no government can escape from bring in compulsory labeling regulations eventually. An excellent example is the mass movement against the Keystone XL pipe line in the US when thousands of people sat in front of the White House to protest its approval which was considered a  "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet."! It appears that the pipeline proposal had several supporters among the law makers who shamelessly pocketed $42 million from the fossil fuel industry. Though these protests led to a delay in the approval process for the time being it is unlikely that the government will pursue with it in the near future.

In India Government after prevarication for two decades enacted the food safety act with an Authority consisting of crass bureaucrats to oversee the implementation of the law and see what is happening now. The country has become a "free for all" society with food adulterators and fraudsters holding the hapless consumers to ransom. If some of the reports are to be believed, though India is a top milk producing country on paper, more than 70% of the milk bought by the consumers is made from pond water, detergents, urea and other inedible ingredients and what is that this Authority has been able to do to combat this crime? Similarly China is reported to be flooding markets in India and in many other countries with low quality fake "Made in India" brands at reduced prices! Where is the "Authority" when it comes to stopping this heinous practice by the neighboring country.


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