Could you please consider allowing and doing a guest post on each other's blogs on this issue we are faced with, in the wake of the BOM attacks. It just seems to me it will send a terrific message that there are fundamental issues on which different people are quite united. There may be many reasoned arguments why this is not a good idea, but I cant help thinking if we cross that bridge onto thinking of a few reasons why it *is*.
The upshot of Jai's suggestion was that I invited one of the other bloggers to write me 750 words (and I quote again) "on specific steps we can individually take in the wake of last week's atrocity. I think a lot of us are searching for answers to exactly that: what do we do, what can I do? Not what the government should do, but each of us."
In response to that invitation, I just received the essay below from that blogger, Nitin Pai of The Acorn.
This is, I believe, the first time I've carried a guest post here. I'm honoured to offer it to you.
Thank you Jai, and thank you Nitin.
A common bank of votes and notes
Nitin Pai, by invitation
Since those Pakistani terrorists attacked Mumbai in the last week of November, I received innumerable emails and phone calls from nice people expressing righteous anger against two targets: the incorrigible Pakistan and our own arrogant, self-serving and incompetent politicians. Shouldn't we just bomb that place Muridke, where the ISI trains jihadis? Shouldn't we punish politicians and bureaucrats who failed to prevent these attacks from happening? It was difficult to reason with them: no, we can't just bomb Muridke, because, you know, that would start a war with a wretched, broken country that has nothing to lose. And besides, that's exactly what the Pakistani military-jihadi complex wants us to do. Now, I didn't think that I would have to defend myself against the charge of being a "dove". But let that be for now.
What about our politicians and our security agencies? Shouldn't they be punished for ignoring the terrorist threat until it was too late? Sure. But first, let's ask when was it that we gave them a credible signal that we think this was important. And let's ask ourselves why it should be surprising that our intelligence and security apparatus failed to prevent a sophisticated amphibious assault mounted by both the might of a powerful intelligence agency and a well-organised organised crime network.
South Mumbai is one of India's richest constituencies. It also has the lowest voter turnouts. The Maharashtra state government routinely fails to protect its citizens from the ravages of the monsoon. Mumbai didn't complain. The Maharashtra government failed to put uppity political goondas in their place. Mumbai didn't complain. The state government shelved plans to invest Rs 2000 billion to modernise the city. Mumbai didn't complain. Plans to transform it into an international financial centre disappeared into another black hole. Mumbai didn't complain. The good citizens of India in general, and Mumbai in particular had seceded from the nation---choosing to provide for themselves the basic public goods that the government ought to have.
It is unreasonable to expect competent policemen and intelligence agencies when the public works, healthcare, education and environment departments are characterised by non-performance, corruption and worse. Unless the overall quality of governance improves, one cannot expect India to battle terrorism and other lesser threats to human security. And you can't expect law enforcement to comply to the civilised norms we expect. In this context, it is just as unreasonable to expect the Indian state to be effective against terrorism as it is to expect it to show regard for human rights of suspects. The upshot is that overall governance must improve. How?
By voting. By giving money, legitimately, to politicians to support their election campaigns. And by holding them to account. I'm stopped at this point by people who say it won't work, and we need to do something "stronger" to change politics. I find this amazing. Because despite being one of the simplest instruments available to Indians, it is dismissed as being ineffective by people who have not even tried it. If the vote is empowering the historically downtrodden segments of the Indian population, won't it empower the middle class too? No, it's not a quick fix, but our politicians are a smart lot---they are bound to notice a bank of votes and notes when they see one.
It doesn't matter if the choice on the ballot is between a criminal and a person who has broken the law, between a former and current member of the same party, between a candidate of this party or that. Voting is the most credible signal we can send to our politicians---both to fix the drains and to secure us from terrorists. It's time we send it loud and clear, above all the noise we make.