Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Incompetent Editors

Times of India publishes an editorial ‘Two Cheers’ in the issue of October 26, 2006. ( ) It is a very ill conceived, cheap editorial. The editorial is about American Media hype about Obama Presidential candidacy. Here are some points to consider:

- Candidacy of Hillary and Obama are still media phenomenon only which do not warrant any editorial attention at such an early stage. If an editorial board wants to give attention at such an early stage, it will have to start attending to all nuances of party politics in America as well as complete coverage of American elections. Clearly that is not something necessarily much useful to Indian population.

- No doubt American Democracy is lacking something until she gets a woman or a minority person as President or Supreme Court Chief Justice. But from that to conclude that America does not have right to propagate Democracy world over is wrong as like how this editorial tries to admonish America. If one reads American and World History, there is no regime - including UK - which has followed one single book (American Constitution) so consistently – complete in letter and spirit.

- There is no point confusing Pres. Bush’s Iraq war justification (spreading democracy) with the credibility of America in propagating Democracy to other countries. One needs to remember that around 2800 Americans have died and 400 Billion tax dollars spent in Iraq where 3 widely acclaimed elections took place in Post-Saddam Iraq. Don’t dare to be righteous in lecturing American people about their commitment and sacrifices for the cause of Democracy. Can TOI editorial board remember how many Indian’s died in promoting Democracy out side India? Or how many Rupees spent? Iraq is America’s failed policy, mainly due to Pres. Bush. But that is no reason to question the sacrifices done by Americans. How about S. Korea? More than 50,000Americans died in Korean war, the fruit of which is free, democratic S. Korea. How about Kuwait in 1991? And we are still not talking Germany and Japan after WWII.

- If TOI editorial board wants to brag about better elections conducted in India, one can understand that. America has yet to attain perfection in conducting elections despite all the high tech equipments and resources. But if any one lesson out of Iraq is, it is that elections are just one part of Democracy.

- How is Indian democracy handling the historical anomalies of Caste System and consequent Reservations? Can any sensible person say that it is rightly handled in India? Getting minority people in power is one thing, but to make fundamental difference for down trodden masses in just manner (without trampling freedom, opportunities and liberty of other sections of society) is what counts. In that sense American Democracy has at least addressed core problems to some reasonable degree even if symbolic achievements like minority people at the pinnacle of power are yet to be realized. In India, it is reverse – symbolism comes first; substance may or may not follow. Further, we all know total failure in applying law to perpetrators of Delhi riots in 1984, Babri Masjid mayhem in 1992 and Godhara in 2002. This is all in the same great democracy which prides itself in minority troika at helm – Sonia, Dr. Singh and Pres. Kalam.

- From process and structural point of view American democracy is very superior and more importantly it is practiced rigorously. How often do you have anything like Senate and House hearings about current issues in India? How often foreign policy matters are ratified by Parliament in India? Which Democracy takes pulse of its citizens every two years; years after year for over two centuries? Which Judiciary can claim sustained independence as like American State, Federal and Supreme Court System? Which Democracy has as independent Media as like America? Can TOI editorial board remember how it conducted itself in the Emergency regime of Indira in 1977? One can go on and on.

- Just because Nancy Pelosi possibly becomes the first woman House Speaker does not mean American Democracy suddenly becomes great. Pelosi’s Speaker Tenure will be still judged by how she solves America’s problems. It is complete lack of understanding to assume that Liberal Americans will be simply happy by seeing a woman speaker or a minority President without a concrete agenda, efforts to implement that agenda and in the end concrete results. America’s notion of a successful politician is not so cheap nor so shameful.

All in all it is a useless and wrong editorial. Taking pot shots at American Democracy shows abduction of editorial duties in pointing real challenges faced by Indian people as well as people in other countries.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
October 25, 2006

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