“Life always gets harder toward the summit - the cold increases, the responsibility increases”
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Typical effects of good governance (Yahapalanaya) are slowly but surely taking root in our country. The mindset of the current ‘Buruwa (bureau) cracy’ reminds one of a frightened little boy who was once caught with his hands in the candy jar. To repeat the same deed brings thoughts of punishment but the greed has retreated. A pathetic tragicomedy is playing out and the end of the first Act is nearing. But the audience is not responding in a patient and gentle way. On the contrary, it is increasingly getting more raucous because the dawn of illumination on reality drives them further towards impatience and more vigour. The fear factor is playing a very retarding role in that any project or venture that seeks government approval at any level, especially when bureaucratic officials become signatories, the ghosts of FDIC, Bribery Commission and media begin to haunt these known and unknown culprits who had a heyday during the last regime and the said projects get stuck. Delays become the norm of the day.
Complaints are piling up; they are not only coming from those money-grubbing commission agents who have submitted their lucrative proposals for approval; those anxious parents who want their children admitted to one of the better schools in the country are mournful; transfer-seeking servicemen and women are lining up and returning home with no satisfactory answers and its becoming increasingly unbearable. When they reach home empty-handed, they tell their unfortunate stories to their friends, neighbours and working colleagues. The impressions become worse when these stories are told over and over again. It’s not a pretty certificate to brag about and the critics are sharpening their weapons. Uncertainty has become the word that describes the state of the land.
Rhetoric does not match the actual deeds; meetings, discussions and workshops don’t substitute for visible implementation and debates in parliament aren’t a viable alternative to hard-work. No Cabinet Ministers, State Ministers, Deputy Ministers or ordinary MPs are seen on the paddy fields scattered across the land; they are not seen inspecting new factories, nor are they visible in the shack-houses of the urban proletariat. Of course, they are amply portrayed as deliverers of economic empowerment. They are received by hundreds of henchmen and cronies with garlands and beetle sheaves. The same old caravan is taking its inevitable trek, towards what end, fortunately or unfortunately, none seems to know.
For instance, Pathiraja who is a junior executive in a private sector company is a hardworking man. He is in his late thirties and has a schooling child qualified to enter grade 2 or 3 after completing grade 1 schooling in his neighbourhood. Pathiraja wants his son admitted to one of the leading schools located, not far away from his home, and he approaches the officials concerned. He had already saved enough of ‘santosam’, if necessary, to be given away to whomever when called for. But he failed. He went to the extent of meeting the political authority in his area, yet no results. During the last regime, it was not easy but given the corrupt-ridden environment that enveloped the politicos and their henchmen, the right amount of money passing hands would have gained Pathiraja’s son a school that he wanted. Yahapalanaya or the very notion of Yahapalanaya prevented Pathiraja from his dream. It has crippled the officialdom. Today, hundreds, if not thousands of Pathirajas, crowd the corridors of Ministries and departments, going from one desk to another with no satisfactory answer to their burning questions. There is no easy answer to school-admission problem of the day. A long-term solution is to uplift all schools to the same level or at least to an equivalent status. Until then, what can the government do? Grieving parents are losing their patience; they are caught in a cruel cycle of corruption and Yahapalanaya. The only alternative the rulers of today have is to be candid about the whole issue. There is no escape from reality and if truth be told to the masses in a succinct and coherent manner, whether the listeners pay attention or not, the relief those utterances bring unto those who rule would be a fresh breeze that would calm their minds. The irony is Pathiraja and his likes in the land could not care two brass buttons for Yahapalanaya. In the haste to get their children a better school, they would resort to giving ‘santosams’ and think about consequences later.
In a faraway land in a remote hamlet lives Pathmasiri, a retired mechanic whose grown up daughter is an arts-graduate. She has been at home, looking for jobs ever since her graduation and seems to have had no luck whatsoever in securing government employment.
Their house is half completed; the temporary roof that looms over their heads is leaking when it rains; unplastered walls are rough and edgy; the floor is not paved and payments on the bank loan are in arrears and the house that was half-completed by mortgaging the property to raise funds for the daughter’s education is on the verge of going into foreclosure. Pathmasiri has managed to reschedule a payment scheme by pleading with the Bank Manager.
Does Pathmasiri ponder about Yahapalanaya? Any ‘palanaya’ (governance) that does not ‘deliver the goods’ to him is immaterial to him. The immediate chain of emotions and thoughts that sets in conditions the mindset of thousands of Pathmasiris dispersed around the Island. Their anger and frustration assume a totally new character and property. The Government simply cannot disregard them; nor can they hoodwink the thousands of Pathmasiris any longer.
However, the age group and the very nature of the social class that Pathmasiri hails from, is not one that would resort to violence or protest. Yet their unexpressed grief and lament is like an ember, burning beneath a dormant surface. Yahapalanaya’s very core is challenged; its validity is questioned and its apathetic journey is slowly and surely coming to a dead halt. A swift change is needed and no Government politico is forthcoming as to the real reasons and causes of this meandering approach to statecraft.
The political landscape in the country is changing and it is offering diverse alternatives not only to those who rule but more sharply to those who are ruled. Modern scientific discoveries have brought about rapid changes in the communication sphere that bedevil even the educated mind and the scope of expectations they entail surpasses all make-believe horizons. Pundit Nehru wrote in his ‘The Discovery of India’, about the present day youth having got used to all the amenities of modern scientific discoveries without understanding the ‘inner content’ of that scientific revolution that really began with the Industrial revolution and still continuing its relentless journey towards the end of time.
Possessing a ‘smart phone’ and sending text messages, reading and sending emails, indulgence in various social media activities and adventures, have displayed a magnificent scope of modern communication. But other than offering instant gratification on all these modern gadgetry, a genuine intercourse of ideas and ideals seems to be completely absent; any attempt at free and independent expression of thought and mind takes a secondary role and the prime concern of these owners of modern contraptions is instant gratification. How can one blame these youth who resort to means and methods of instant gratification because such devices are readily available and at competitive costs? Whichever way one looks at it, the picture, instead of presenting a cosy painting, appears more like a caricature drawn by a mad man.
Yahapalanaya has no solution. It is unmistakably futile to attempt to institute Yahapalanaya in exclusion to economic empowerment of the masses. Good governance has no meaning to an empty stomach.
The lives of Pathiraja and Pathmasiri tell a story that no ruler can ignore. Those lives were built on dreams of a generation. Just because the rulers of the day chose to disregard them does not qualify those dreams to be illegitimate or mere fantasies. As much as politicians have had dreams to become ultimate rulers of this country, in their own small and mundane genre, these ordinary men and women like Pathiraja and Pathmasiri too dreamt of giving their children a better education and livelihoods.
They walk, bus and run to their workplaces; they excitedly look forward to hosting their families to a monthly or quarterly meal at a reasonably good restaurant at which most of these politicos and their henchmen dine and wine on a daily basis.
They rejoice at their children’s achievements in school and lament when they don’t get good grades; they keep their hearth burning and doors and windows open to fresh winds and alternative means of earning. Rulers must not close those doors. Such a tragedy would, in turn produce many tragedies whose character and demeanour would continue to harass and torment our contemporary history.
In this cruel journey of life, every attempt must be made to make sure that the ordinary Pathiraja and Pathmasiri are proud to embrace their lives as a whole, irrespective of circumstances. Time is running out. It’s time that Yahapalanaya was reintroduced not only as a means of good governance, but a summit of all dreams and aspirations of the masses -- economic, social, cultural and spiritual aspects.
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