There are other kinds of evidence too of the colonial hangover in various aspects of life in India. One of those is some kind of a belief about a ‘Centre-State relationship’ that has not been consciously articulated, and therefore some of its deeper implications remain unexamined. Here ‘Centre’ is represented by the national government with its seat in Delhi (New Delhi to be accurate). In reality, this government, headed by a Prime Minister and his cabinet, is authorized by the adult population of India. This is because the process is one of election to the Loksabha (the Lower House of the parliament) based on adult franchise every five years (unless the mandate gets withdrawn earlier through various constitutional processes). There is also the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) with limited authority. The President of the Indian Republic, who is authorized to hold that office by the people’s representatives to the Loksabha and the Rajya Sabha, holds tremendous power based on the Constitutional authority. Then there are the various state governments that are also headed by people’s representatives, through election. So, since both the central government and the state governments are run by the representatives of the adult population of India, and the Republic’s Constitution spells out the nature of centre-state relationship, any dispute or difference occurring between the center and one or more states, logically requires resolution through constitutional process that also allows legal action.
However, there are all too many instances of the political parties, including the one in power in a state government, to give call for a general strike against certain decisions taken at the centre that is experienced as negatively affecting the state or the entire nation. Only, such general strikes are called bandhs (literally closure or a dam) and in character have little or no difference from general strikes. This usually happens when the party in power in a state sits on the opposition bench in the parliament. It then becomes an absurd situation of opposing a decision taken by people’s representatives at the centre by a political party that controls the state government, also run by people’s representatives. To that extent the state government covertly supports the bandh. I am calling it absurd because it becomes a fight between two sets of office holders, both of whom derive their authority from the people of India. My hypothesis to explain this absurd phenomenon is that this too is a colonial hangover. Delhi has been the seat of power held by foreigners from 1206 when the Turks conquered parts of northern India and started ruling from Delhi. This process ended only on August 15, 1947, when the British had to part with their Indian empire, that got divided in to present day India (Bharat), Pakistan, Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan), Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) and Sri Lanka (erstwhile Ceylon).
In the unconscious of the Indian psyche, it seems, the central government still remains as some kind of a ‘foreign’ power that gives ‘legitimacy’ to the conscious part of the psyche of the dominant political parties that form the state governments to call bandhs. The parties in the opposition in different states too then follow this model and organise bandhs to oppose decisions taken by their respective state governments. That such bandhs are destructive of the country’s economy or that it is the poor – the daily wage earners, small shop keepers and other small businesses, as also those who deal in such perishable products as vegetables, fish, fruits etc. that are sold daily in municipal markets – who are the worst sufferers, seems to be of no concern to the bandh organizers. It is as though like in the colonial days, political parties assume that great sacrifices are required by the people to shake off the foreign imperial power!
The adolescent aspect of these bandhs is indiscriminate vandalisation of both private and public property to express one’s anger against the powers that be. Once again, it is as though state owned property is not created out of people’s money, but from the ill-gained money of some foreign imperial power and therefore it is ‘good’ to destroy them.
This seems to be truer for West Bengal than many other states because, I further hypothesise, the seat of British power in India was originally Bengal with Calcutta as the capital of British India. Much later, it was shifted to Delhi (New Delhi). So the psyche of the Bengalis holds the idea of power being taken away by those who rule from Delhi and therefore bandhs are called in West Bengal almost at the drop of a hat!
It is also well known that little or no change has been made to the manuals of various all-India civil services like the I.A.S., the I.P.S. etc. During several occasions when I ran workshops at the IAS academy in Mussoorie, I was intrigued to find that this institution continues to start life in the morning by giving riding lessons, as though IAS officers posted in India’s vast rural areas, even today, are required to ride horses like their predecessors – the ICS – who had to ride horses in the absence of motorable roads in British India. While the British police academy in UK today have a training schedule of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for five days of the week, the police academy in Hyderabad runs the punishing schedule of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week that was introduced by the British Raj. They also continue to follow the schedule of alternate weeks of indoor lectures and outdoor physical exercise of various kinds. When I went to run workshops on two occasions at the police academy, I was told by some senior police officers, who were on the teaching staff, that this schedule is followed even though at the beginning of every week of indoor work many participants fall asleep in the class room from sheer exhaustion. Further, when the probation period ends, the load of paper work, (also a legacy of the British administration) is such that the IPS officers get little time for physical exercise. After the punishing physical activities of the academy, this leads to obesity among young IPS officers. Yet the old colonial practice is mindlessly followed.
Concludes in Part 7
Gouranga Chattopadhyay is Emeritus Professor of HR of the Academy of Human Resources, Ahmedabad and an independent OD consultant, executive coach and personal counsellor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.