Rajasthan CM, Ashok Gehlot has asked the babus to stand up when the neta walks in, to return his calls, and to behave respectfully with him.
That this directive has become necessary is a wholesome development. It means that the bureaucracy is challenging the politician’s authority. This is a healthy sign. (Simultaneously the society should challenge the bureaucrat’s authority as all authority in the society should be based on contribution. And by that measure his record in the last 62 years is as poor as the politicians. But this is another matter and I will discuss it another day.)
Let us come back to the directive issued. Claude Lévi-Strauss, the French sociologist has done some pioneering work in this regard. Post studying the Western and the Eastern (Indian) society he came to the conclusion that there are two world views the western world view which he called Homo Equalus (human beings are equal) and the Eastern world view- Homo Heirarchicus (human beings are unequal).
Both these world views bring their problems. When Nicholas Sarkozy in his election manifesto promises that if he comes to power he will make the students address the teacher as wu (aap) not tu (tum) he is trying to correct the dearth of respect in his society which makes running it difficult. For any game to proceed smoothly you need an umpire (some authority)- same for a society. In the West too much stress on egalitarianism has compromised authority and this is creating many social problems.
The hierarchical Indian model is even more fraught with problems. Because the stress starts going on following protocol rather than on efficiency. It also fosters corruption in high places as the high ups have an additional armor of respect because of which their juniors are more hesitant to question their deeds.
And whom do you respect? Those above you. The people who are above are the bane of our society. It is the bureaucrats and the politicians who- to be fair to them- often unknowingly have marauded the country. So you start respecting the predator. Then he will predate even more.
So should we do away with the tradition of respect in our society? No. Even though in many cases respect is a phony concept we should retain it. Those who have thrown it out of the window (the West) is clamouring for its return. We need to mould the concept of respect. If the politician wants that the bureaucrat should stand when he enters the latter’s cabin; very well; the politician should also stand when the common man enters his cabin. If the politician wants the bureaucrat to “Sir”; him very well; he should also “Sir” the common man. After all the common man pays his salary. In fact for the same reason the bureaucrat also should “Sir” the common man. As some one has said, A society is like a stew. If you don’t shake it from time to time the scum rises to the top. As it has risen in India. So let us shake it. This will be a peaceful solution else I fear that if the bureaucracy and polity doesn’t starts behaving better with the public and doesn’t improve its efficiency a serious clash between the ruling elite and the frustrated public is coming.
The way forward is to give up symbols of power which alienate the ruling class from the common man e.g. the red light cars. Rahul Gandhi’s initiatives in this regard are admirable. By asking his party men to give up these privileges he will need to first himself forsake these. This is sacrifice. This should be commended. But the Congress should not undo in Rajasthan the good it is trying to do in Delhi. Don’t build more walls. Build bridges of respect below you.
Lastly if everyone is going to respect us, the common men, what are we expected to do? We should respect and behave more compassionately with people below us i.e. our servants, peons, juniors. Else every strata in this society is breeding scores ofVibhishans under it. Not only have we been exploited by our rulers- we have exploited those beneath us. Let it all stop.
Let us make a truly great nation. Jai Hind.