We the people of this country gave unto ourselves a democratic Republic to be governed in accordance with a carefully drafted Constitution. This in essence resolved that those entrusted with governance have to do so in accordance with the rule of law. Somewhere along our evolution as an independent country, we discovered, to our dismay that a vast majority of those who were to govern had not heard of the mandates of the rule of law. Indeed, there was a growing cacophony of the strident that laws of the jungle were better suited to our national disposition. Might is right worked much better particularly if used conjointly with the veneer of the state’s instruments. Indeed, if might is right is the paradigm, then its corollary, survival of the fittest is the cultivated rationale to be practiced as the art of living.
On display in public spaces, roads and highways, access to public conveniences, is manifest of this evidence, that the driving force of our civic interaction is survival of the fittest. The pedestrian, weakest of the species amongst road users, is relegated to being an unwanted obstruction to the speed merchants. So, also the cyclist who is considered to be without adequate cause, to be at large on the roads. Size is the king of mobility, the bigger, the heavier rules left, right and centre and whatever is remaining of the road.
All those who still believe that the rule of law will protect their freedoms and rights, need to be reminded that we have a new criminal code that prevails. It is administered by the powerful and the their musclemen. Overtaking on the roads is an offence and you could pay with your life or limb should you be guilty of such an act. Conversely, not allowing the powerful and their progeny to overtake is an offence too and deserves similar punishment. The trial and sentence are swift, delivered by the person offended! Such is the evolving nature of the penal code, that offences can be created to suit a given violation and the severity of the punishment is directly proportional to the imagined disregard of the majesty of the powerful.
The law of the jungle has overtaken and ‘chambalisation’ is spreading in every facet of governance. Civic administration is straining at the seams, mostly giving way to urban chaos. In fact the doomsayers are now predicting the death of our best cities. A recent study by the IISC, a leading research institute, has said that the once beautiful city of Banglore transformed to Bengaluru will be ‘unliveable and dead’ in the next five years. Its built up area has increased by over 575% in 40 years and the green covers have declined by 70% in the same time. Obviously the city management has not kept up with the increased population and its needs. Realistically looking at the state of our cities, a similar prediction would not be very far off the mark. An alarmist view, for sure, but has a ring of truth!
Big or small, the cities’ governance systems are in a broken state with little signs of a serious effort to fix them and make them fit enough to survive. The fate of the small towns is far worse, as there is no semblance of a civic authority to anchor their basic needs. So the brave citizens do what they can by their own resources with little regard to any urban development norms. The poor and the weak suffer in neglect and apathy. In fact, the waste that we are generating even at a conservative 0.75 kg per capita per diem is enough to bury us by the end of the next decade and even the fittest will suffer in health and prosperity.
The road to repair needs to be laid now. The interplay of democracy and politics has to result in fair governance. More of one and less of the other will only cause fractious outcomes. Of course, it is not going to happen by itself. In this day of apps and networks, just imagine if the governed demanded accountability through canvassing citizens to voice their injustices or the ones they witness. A group of aggrieved buyers have demanded of their recalcitrant builder to deliver on the promised homes, a family whose child was shot for overtaking a powerful politician’s vehicle, public outrage against police inaction during an agitation, all these and more will compel law to assert its supremacy.
Technology is there to ensure detection. Cameras, instant transmission, replication and instruction to act are built into linear steps and once detection is ensured only law has to take its course, to use a oft-repeated cliché. It could work in the very near future but only if we become determined to see that might is no longer right but right is The Might.