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Why has the political class not struck a chord with its younger, aspirational constituency?
What is to be done?" This was the question that captioned Vladimir Lenin's political pamphlet defining his vision for Russia. It was a straightforward tract and it succeeded in galvanising the cadre of Bolshevik revolutionaries. The same question has been on the lips of people across India over the past year. The slowdown in the economy, the rising incidence of social violence, the spate of public corruption scandals and the brutality of the gangrape in Delhi have compelled this question. People have answers — indeed, there has been no dearth of suggestions. The industry federations CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM have a clear list of dos and don'ts for reinvigorating the economy; Anna Hazare pegged his prescription for tackling the malaise of corruption on the Lokpal and amidst the sorrow and anger that surrounded the Delhi gangrape, there has been a catalogue of suggestions on what must be done to bring greater security for women and in general alter the nature of the relationship between the genders. The police force should be strengthened; VIP security cover should be reduced; punishment must be swift and severe; Parliament must pass appropriate legislation; and educational curricula should specifically address social prejudice.
These responses have all, however, come with a questioning caveat. Will the authorities act? Will this time be different and promises delivered? There is a profound scepticism about the government's willingness to take up the public cudgels. And for good reason. Little has been done to shift the needle.
Why is this so? Why is there such a gap between prescription and implementation? Is it that the government is not willing to respond, or is it that the system of which they are the custodians is not capab-le of meeting these demands? I do not have the answer, but as I reflected on the contrast between US President Barack Obama' s dash to Newtown in the wake of the shooting in which 20 children were killed and the deafening silence with which our leaders greeted the crowds gathered at India Gate, I wondered whether there was not both a generational and systemic explanation for the latter's behaviour.
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