Democracy and Dynastic Rule

10/06/2009

When late Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, of Congress Party gave important party positions to her son, opposition parties agitated against the attempt to bring in dynastic rule. At that time, Mrs. Gandhi asked why the country should lose the services of her talented son, merely because he was her son. She claimed that as an individual, her son had the right to do whatever he wanted to, whether to be in politics, business or agriculture. Since then, the states of Haryana, Punjab, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh have seen relatives of politicians – sons, sons-in-law and wifes – occupying positions of dignitary in party or government.

The latest instance is that of Chief Minister Mr. Karunanidhi of Tamilnadu appointing his son Mr. Stalin as the Deputy Chief Minister. There does not appear to be any opposition to this in the party. The D.M.K party seems to have made it a policy to nominate the wife or son or daughter of deceased members of parliament (MP) or members of legislative assembly (MLA) for elections in the mid-term poll.

In India there are innumerable cases of MPs, MLAs, State and Central Ministers and political party leaders grooming their relatives to succeed them. These politicians use the following logic: the son of an industrialist succeeds his father as the Managing Director or Chairman of the company. Why should not a politician’s son become a politician, that too with the acceptance of the people?

Dynastic rule agitates against the spirit of democracy. Even during the days of the Kings, the people would not have had any objections to the Prince succeeding his father. In some countries, while people want a particular leader to continue to be in power, the constitution of the countries have prescribed a limit of two or three terms for the President/Prime Minister. This is with a view protect democracy and to prevent dictatorship. In this spirit, it may be worthwhile to debate whether some restrictions should be placed on the children and other relatives of political leaders entering politics in order to protect democracy. Of course, after a few years – 3 to 5 years – of retirement of the leaders from politics, their relatives could get their right to participate in politics.

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Study of Languages in India

13/04/2009

Children in India are made to spend a lot of time learning languages. A child in the state of Andhra Pradesh learns three or four languages – the mother tongue Telugu, English, Hindi and sometimes Sanskrit. A child in the US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Russia and China learns only one or at most two languages. To that extent, the child in these countries has more time to learn other subjects like science, mathematics, history, geography and geology. This child also has time to think and analyze.

The argument in Andhra Pradesh is that children should learn their mother tongue, Telugu. There is no dispute about this.  There is also a case for learning English because it is an international language and higher scientific and technical knowledge could be obtained only through English language. Not only advanced countries like Germany and Japan, but also the less developed countries in Europe and countries like Malaysia have only mother tongues as medium of instruction, not only at school level but also at the university level.

As regards Hindi, the argument is that people seek employment in Hindi speaking areas in India and hence they should learn the language. This argument is not tenable. Out of 100 students hardly 1 or 2 go outside the state to Hindi speaking states. For their sake, the remaining 98% of children need not be made to learn Hindi. Their time for learning more of science and mathematics need not be robbed. Again 1 or 2% of the people may go for jobs to neighboring states like Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Orissa and Maharashtra. Does this mean that every student should in addition to the other subjects, learn Tamil, Kannada, Oriya and Marathi? Thousands of Hindi speaking people come and work in Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, and Karnataka. Do they learn Telugu, Tamil and Kannada at school?  No. If a Hindi speaking person can work in non-Hindi speaking state without learning the language of that state in school, why not a Telugu or Tamil speaking person work in non-Telugu or non-Tamil  speaking state without learning the language of that state in school?

Regarding Sanskrit, some may argue that it has rich literature. But most of the Sanskrit literature has already been translated into Telugu and children can read the translated works. If any one has special interest he or she can learn, but for that, others need not be taxed. Tamil also has equally rich literature. It does not mean that every child in India should learn Tamil language at primary stage.

It is clear that burdening school children with several languages has deprived the nation of outstanding scientists and technocrats. Learning several languages, not only takes away the time from other subjects but also makes the students lose focus and concentration. It is important to correct this trend.