Turning leadership into drama

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saved from a near-fatal attack of coronavirus, gratefully named his baby after his doctors.

Published: 10th May 2020 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th May 2020 08:22 AM   |  A+A-

PM Narendra Modi

PM Narendra Modi. (File photo| Twitter screengrab)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saved from a near-fatal attack of coronavirus, gratefully named his baby after his doctors. It did not occur to him to send the Royal Air Force on a fly-past showering flowers on the hospital in appreciation. He did not even get an army unit to fire gun salutes. Britain is old-fashioned.

India is dynamic and full of drama. To celebrate the campaign against coronavirus, an IAF fighter and a transport aircraft performed fly-past in several centres across the country.

The jets flew as low as 500 metres so that citizens could get a close view of the nation’s gratitude to corona warriors. The three service chiefs formally laid wreaths of gratitude at the Police Memorial in Delhi. In the evening, naval ships off several bases from Porbandar to Port Blair fired flares to highlight the idea of gratitude. The military rallied in full force to demonstrate how dramatic an Indian show of sentiment can be.

Under a less drama-loving leadership, the unique organisational capabilities of the armed forces could have been put to more constructive use. Two years ago, when floods overwhelmed Kerala, our troops conducted heroic rescue operations. The movement of multitudes of migrant labourers is a crisis as formidable as the Kerala floods.

The armed forces with their training could have mounted an operation to handle the mass movement of people in a planned manner. But all we saw was the pathetic sight of tens of thousands of helpless men trudging mile after mile with nothing to eat and nothing to look forward to.

Eighteen desperate men travelled inside a cement-concrete mixer, a national shame. The leadership of a country where such things happens should feel not only ashamed but also guilty. In India, they don’t.

Even in the midst of tragedy, the focus has been on showmanship and individual glory. The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), in existence for long, was replaced by a more personality-oriented PM-CARES.

The bureaucrats must have laboured hard to reach that acronym. What they finally concocted was patently artificial — Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations. The PM cared so much that contributions qualified as CSR expenditure, a privilege not available to PMNRF contributions.

Higher levels of drama were reached when, two months ago, everyone from the President to housewives in city slums started clanging kitchen utensils, beating drums, and blowing conch shells. It was a theatrical response to the PM’s theatrical call to observe janata curfew and a 5 p.m. noise show in appreciation for medical workers. Catchy slogans like ‘9Baje 9minutes’ were part of the showmanship.

Loyalists were not only thrilled by the noises made; some devouts saw the hand of heaven. They said the shouters and clangers emitted positive energy which was enough to push back the virus. There were wellness coaches who used the occasion to curry favour with statements like "Mr Modi is creating energy medicine through you."

Five thousand years of civilisation has given us myriad ways to please those we want to. No other civilisation — not Chinese, not Egyptian, not Mayan — was as clever. Which explains why the Indian civilisation is still functioning while others have vanished. Don’t ask for whose benefit we are functioning. The clever do not raise questions that bring cleverness itself into question.

Outwardly, India has all the qualities to be recognised as a world power. But its inner weaknesses stand in the way. Poverty is of the extreme kind. Infrastructure and investment statistics proclaim it as a Third World country.

The current crisis has brought about what has been described as a "jobs bloodbath" with some 13 crore salaried employees, small traders and labourers turning unemployed. It is reminiscent of demonetisation, a classic example of drama replacing planning; our economy is still suffering from that folly. It is as though, India is under some kind of curse. 

No country has progressed far by playing up one personality as the presiding genius. A country of India’s diversity needs presiding geniuses in every diverse segment who together will lift it to the top. In times of crisis, a national government ought to reflect a national consensus.

We seem unable to achieve that kind of harmony when harmony has become the only way to survive. We seem unable to have a government that inspires all segments of opinion equally. We fall for personality-based leaderships. We pay the price for that.  


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  • Narendra rana

    Mr George seems be suffering from some vital virus of "colonial ghosts"-type. One of the symptoms of this common indian disease
    2 years ago reply
  • Amar

    Back at it in full swing!!!!
    2 years ago reply
  • Unknown

    This is the most partial article you can read in the online news industry
    2 years ago reply
    • Badri narayanan poondi

      we dont have the Goenka IE any more sir
      2 years ago reply
  • sanjoy

    Excellent artcle By Mr.George.Thank you.
    2 years ago reply
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