March of the Evil Empires!
English versus the feudal languages!!
VED from VICTORIA INSTITUTIONS
First drafted in 1989. First online edition around 2000
It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!
Part 2 - Delineation of a feudal language nation
9. Indian Bureaucracy (the structural issues)
The Indian Bureaucracy is a boring, useless, contemptible, unwieldy structure, with which no honourable man can really aim to be associated with. The countless paper files, the useless studies, and paperwork the clerks do with diligent incompetence, the dusty rooms, the unclean windows, and the suffocating internal feudalism can give creeps to a man who stands in an English-thinking world and sees. Yet, what I have said is not the Indian reality. Even though the jobs should be tediously boring, the persons who are inside the bureaucracy do not usually quit, nor do they declare their dislike for the job. Actually, these creeps enjoy the job.
Without going to the pecuniary benefits associated with government jobs, may I debate what makes an Indian government job very attractive? It is the pompous level of respect they get from the public, and the disdain in words and usage, they can dole out to the people of India. To persons who don’t belong to the higher indicant levels, their attitude is that of to a dog. And these lower indicant groups of people are immensely more in number compared to the higher indicant group. To put it briefly, the bureaucrat’s attitude to the common Indian is as of to a stray dog in India.
NOTE added on the 24th of May 2016: Read my: Fence eating the crops.
Since they have all administrative affairs under their siege, and they can function as a cartel, they have installed themselves in the higher indicant group level.
The feudal language makes them holy; like it does to anyone in the higher indicant group. This gives them a cloak of un-approachability and a superior feeling. Suppose they block someone’s file, and there is a verbal argument, if the citizen retorts using the same words and usage used towards him, then it becomes mighty abusive words. The whole bureaucracy would mark him for destruction. Names of persons, whose lives have been severely disturbed by just being assertive to the bureaucracy, can easily be given.
So, what happens, as a matter of course, is that bureaucratic jobs are highly liked and sought. As an acknowledged fact, bureaucracy is highly feudalistic and domineering (even if the bureaucrat is a peon in the government office).
This un-approachability and aloofness of the bureaucracy is mistakenly believed to be a colonial legacy. Actually, it was a reality of the ancient Indian societies, wherein the officialdom, lived beautifully on the peasantry who was effectively blocked from retaliating by the language, which again created division among themselves. The common man could not communicate with the officialdom other than from a position of acute servitude. They could be compared to the dumb animals as far as their ability to communicate the pains and difficulties to the higher-ups was taken into account. One cannot be insensitive to anyone who talks on a level of equality. However to those who talk from a lower position, we can easily blunt our sensibilities.
The citizens resort to a variety of wild acts to show their un-exhibit-able individuality. This creates a feeling that there is too much freedom in India, than is good. The actuality is that nobody dares to go a higher-up i.e., bureaucrat, or any other socially dominant person and talk to him at a level of equality. However, the same person would, on joining with others of his same level, dare to behave and talk with marked impoliteness and affront to the same socially superior person, he had dared not to, at an individual level. (This is the hallmark of Indian social leadership).
The sweetness of a government job in India
An Indian knows the sweetness of Indian government jobs. A person who consistently lives in an English environment may not understand this. For him, government jobs in India may seem dull, boring and unproductive. However, from the Indian language mentality, the colour of everything changes with a government job. You become a superior, words of respect are directed towards you from the public, you can treat the public with disdain, you use less respectful words toward them, and you can communicate freely with your level and lesser level of personnel in the bureaucracy, while the public would find it difficult to communicate with any level of bureaucracy.
Here it may be understood that government jobs are not considered as jobs. But as positions in society, with the language assigning titles of respect to the positions. And indeed to expect persons having such feudal positions to work is in itself a crime. For work is meant for the menial guys, in feudal languages. For, the word for work and worker in many South Indian languages do have a lower indicant connotation. And indeed, bear in mind that Indian government jobs, are not in any sense a work, but a social position, like that of the erstwhile dewan*. In reality, each and every official is a dewan in his office.
Each bureaucrat would derive much pleasure in building up more and more power to himself. Thus, the general tendency of the bureaucracy as a whole would be to acquire more and more domain to itself by usurping the law making powers and creating more and more complicated laws and rules; thus reducing the layman to a level of utter hopelessness.
Indian Bureaucratic culture
Now let us look at the culture inside the bureaucracy. Here the language usage becomes very definitive in the sense that there is no confusion of hierarchy, and the common man is definitely assigned a lower cadre by the language. But here again, I must make it clear that I mean to start my discourse from my experiences in Malayalam.
There is a slight difference in the historical experience of the southern and northern parts of my state. The northern part had direct English rule during the Colonial period, and the southern part was ruled by the local king, though under the British suzerainty. The people of both these places had different experiences, especially the lower caste people, though that is not the subject of discussion here.
During the British rule and also for a few decades afterwards, the Bureaucracy in the northern area had not much superiority complex. People could more or less talk to them without much special problems of hierarchy, other than that what was already in the society. This was very much evident in the Malabri language words, they used for referring to and addressing a bureaucrat. The word of You and He etc. were very much what was used in ordinary polite speech. At the same time, Malayalam as well as Malabari, did have the problem of how to address a senior officer who was young in age. This was partially solved by calling that person by his designation. The educated people of Malabar (North Kerala), because of their interaction with the British attitude of communication would have found it difficult to bend their head before every bureaucrat.
However in South Kerala, the whole language (Malayalam) usage was in a different category. The culture was, more or less, that of pleasing the superior guy. The bureaucrat was not treated as another citizen. Ordinary terms of addressing or referring to them were dispensed with. Every word connected with them like You, He, She, all became Saar. Their names began to be suffixed with Saar, so that a name Peter Abraham became Peter Abraham Saar. Now it must be understood that this type of nomenclature is not equivalent to that of Mr. or Mrs., for here it comes as a term of not formal relations, as apart from intimacy, but as a title of stature. The same feudal words are used by these people in English also.
Now in a government office, naturally there is a hierarchy, as per the theory of bureaucracy. However, the private citizen is not part of the hierarchy. So, these Saars have a problem when dealing with the general public. They have to extract the Saar from them. So, the best way is to get them on their knees. At every opportunity, means are devised to exhibit the grandeur of the meanest government post. Even if a person has been posted to help the general public, the first thing he would make them do, is to wait outside his office, with his secretary blocking access, saying Saar is busy, Saar is in conference etc, while at the same time the whole aim of both Saar and his secretary would be to impose the understanding of the power of the Saar.
The whole set of the bureaucracy is riddled with this type of atmosphere. Each stage tries to show off its power to its lower grade and at the same time exhibit exquisite servitude to the higher grade. There is no arguing of points, correcting of mistakes, no updating of knowledge in the direction of the seniors. Actually, the whole atmosphere is funny. And would remind a person of the atmosphere in Kafka’s Castle*. Actually when I first read Castle more than 20 years ago, when I was around 17 years old, I found it difficult to correlate it with any English atmosphere. It was only later on that I noticed that the author was a German.
To put it in a proper perspective, I would give a situation example. Suppose one of the state ships has disappeared on the high sea. There is no news about the fate of the crew and officers and their wives, who sailed along. Their kin and kith wander through the various lanes of bureaucratic hierarchy. At every level, the officer concerned would show fantastic understanding of what all the distressed relatives have to convey. They might even tell about the news in the media about offers from abroad offering news and retrieval of the ship and men for a commission. The relatives would return in consolation that this officer would convey their request to the higher-ups. However the fact is that they are sadly mistaken. For, when this officer meets his higher up, he goes into a pathetic dumbness, especially if what is in his mind is something new to his officer. Actually, they all act as if they are a pack of nitwits, but at the expense of their countrymen.
So, the layman has communication problem with any level of bureaucracy. When he somehow does communicate his arguments to some low-level official, that particular official himself has communication problems with his senior officers. He cannot debate the whole grounds with them from a mood of intelligence. Hence he is not in a position to influence much, the decision making at the policy level, by conveying his grassroots level of experience of actualities.
Even in the higher echelons of bureaucracy, this dumb show is enacted with superb perfection. In India, the higher bureaucracy is filled with a group of imbeciles known as the I.A.S (Indian Administrative Service*) officers. They claim to be of the same calibre as that of the ICS (Indian Civil Service*) of the English rule time. In actuality, they have as much comparison with the ICS as roll gold has with gold. They can survive only in splendid isolation of grander and a philosophy that they are unapproachable. One would get the creeps when one sees how the country is being run. Because they require isolation and servitude from the common folk, their level of understanding of the country and its issues can be best described as that of a child. However, it is not their fault. For, they can only survive in such isolation, for this is enforced by the language. If they do start mixing with the ordinary persons, as in an English way and manner, it would create problems for everyone including their subordinates, who are at pain to enforce the system and the grandeur of the senior officer. For, in this language culture, the common man can understand only the language of power and grandeur. He would have a low opinion of persons and systems to which he does not have to show his servitude. If the common man is not deeply impressed, then there would be breakdown in systems. And indiscipline in the officialdom.
Here the people have to take the roll of a child when dealing with the bureaucracy. Yet, the bureaucrat who takes the roll of the teacher, is not one of calibre enough to take the child to a level of intelligence, but is himself in a multiple and complex role of an unintelligent child and immature adult in his own level. Here it must be emphasised that the persons concerned are not really unintelligent as they act out to be. But they are forced to act out as that because of the limitations imposed by the language. First of all, the bureaucrat cannot allow the ordinary citizen to show intelligence and grandeur of stature, for it would be viewed by all, including the citizen himself as a lack of power on the part of the bureaucrat. If such a situation continues, the language hierarchy would change, giving the upper hand to the common citizen, which is inconceivable for the officialdom.
It is an accepted display of courtesy when writing letters, to either address the person as Dear Mr. X, (this is actually unthinkable for many Indians, due to the fear of provoking the most negative response) or as Dear X (if the relationship is beyond the realm of formal addressing), or with a Dear Sir, or just Sir, when the letter is a formal one. Now, when the common public sends a letter in vernacular to the official, then he would go to terrible levels of stooping, and nobody would notice anything amiss. When the common man writes in English, the letter would commence with either Sir, Dear Sir, or better still Respected Sir. Yet, when the officials reply to the common citizen, they many-a-times, they tend to forget to use the word Sir, or Dear Sir. The general addressing is just the name on top of the letter and then the letter starts. This attitude is seen in the letters send by the officials of the State government, with the possible exclusion of the senior officials.
There may be bureaucrats who interact nicely with the ordinary person, but the hierarchy in language remains. Otherwise, the social software program would not run. However what comes out remains a mediocre society, when compared to the English world.
With experience, one can speak about the mediocrity of the Indian Bureaucracy. It can be shown how empty-headed the Indian Bureaucrat is; how behind the grandeur of superiority, they contain only ignorance and insecurity; and how the whole wealth of the country are being looted by them as pay, which is exorbitant, as pension which is undeservedly high, and by the rules they make that makes the common man their servant, by the money they collect from the citizens as bribe, (for, everything a man has to do is made a crime, if the bribe is not forthcoming). When the bureaucrat collects money, what really happen cumulatively is that they as a class have more money. So the language’s hierarchy is always in their and their children’s favour. They and their children can address other ordinary citizens and their children with the demeaning words. In years to come, if this system is left to itself, the whole dismantling of the officialdom’s feudalism that the British had knowingly or unknowingly done here, would be undone, and the country would be back in the hand of a numerically negligible officialdom and their families. It is only a matter of time before official posts become hereditary. For, in India. a government job is not understood as a job, but as a social position, which naturally has to be hereditary.
Inside the bureaucracy, it is a very cosy feeling. Once the feudal positions are mentally accepted, and everyone is assigned a particular level of respect, and position, the very living through these levels, enjoying and extending the respect and venerations, is a very pleasant experience, indeed. Yet, from inside this structure, all the common people, existing on the outside, seem to be feeble, impotent asses. And also, very dirty to behold. At the same time, the various persons in the varying hierarchy inside the officialdom seem to emit a halo, and a glow of supernatural divinity, to the various lower of bureaucrats.
Hierarchy inside the bureaucracy
When the British set-up the various administrative and police machinery in India, it was based on the English language, wherein there was easy communication without much hindrance from age, sex, social standing etc. A young officer could easily move with elderly juniors. But once the ‘Indianisation’ of the Bureaucracy took place, the language of oral communication essentially became the local vernacular, wherein a younger person would be actually conscious of his lesser age, more so if he is a positional superior. Also, the elders would be over-conscious of the fact that they are taking orders from a youngster.
The fact is that along with the bureaucratic hierarchy, another equally strong hierarchical software is also running; that based on the seniority of age. Both could in many situations, work antagonistically to each other. In this situation, the natural outcome would be a distinct aloofness of the senior from the juniors. For in an environment of informality, the realities of the Indian social emotions could become prominent and could put the senior in positions of unease. So, in all relations with official juniors, a youngster would put on an attitude of studied superiority in all aspects, even those unconnected with his official duties. In fact, an attitude of serious demeanour, at least pretended, and an attitude of aloofness is good on the part of the senior, especially if he is young. Otherwise the juniors may be too informal and understand the relation as too casual, which the language peculiarities could lead to difficulties.
Another situation where hierarchical language can create havoc is when the correct hierarchical positions are not known. That is, one official when communicating with another official does not know who is senior in position, he or the other man. In a language like Malayalam, where even the polite word for You has been replaced by Saar, if there is any confusion on the aspect of seniority, then the official concerned would definitely disincline to communicate. I have seen officials literally showing aversion to making phone calls to another official in another department, either because he did not know his relative hierarchical level, or just because of his disinclination to address a senior-to-him official in another department, who does not have any power over him, as Saar.
Actually there is proof that certain administrators of ancient kingdom in the subcontinent did know about the fact that confusion in hierarchy would create inefficiency in administration. I deduce it from a singular thing I noticed in Indian History. This is the famous Mansabdhari* System, of the Moghal kingdom* administrative system. All officials of the kindom was assigned a specific number, which was decided by the king or his appointed official. When two officials meet, the person with the higher Mansab number would be senior, and the other the relative junior. It would ensure speedy communication between the officials concerned, as each would know his relative position, and no attempt of deception would work. It is possible that it may have done some level of improvement in the administrative system. And given severe heartburns to some when wrong persons manage to occupy higher numbers.
One may remember that the Moghal kingdom was big, and covered almost the whole of North and Middle part of the South Asian peninsula. Yet, it may be remembered that the problem was not just feudalism in the language, but also the diverse types of feudalism that was practised in the locations in the subcontinent. One based on official position, one on family prestige, one based on age, one on caste, one on nearness to the positions of power etc. Actually only the last one was addressed by this Mansabdhari system. So the basic faults remained. It is possible that the Moghals may have been uneasy and distressed by the hierarchy, which may not have been as severe in the languages of their homelands, as it was in South Asian peninsular region.
Where one phone call would have avoided days and days of official written query and reply, and speeded up a bureaucratic hurdle in seconds, the officials take the longer, onerous option; all at the expense of the Indian Citizen.
One may be surprised to know that files take long days, and sometimes weeks to move from one table to another, even if the tables are near to each other. Inside the office also, there are a lot of varying hierarchies. One main hierarchy is based on the official seniority. Another one is that of age, which is also a factor of social hierarchy. In many cases, both these would go in for a direct head-on collision. The result would be lack of adequate communication, leading to infinite delays in dealing with bureaucratic emergencies.
Let me give an example: The army officers of India keep a very studied aloofness from the lower-level soldiers, in terms of communication. The aloofness is in the air, and not in the distance. The whole of the army officer’s family, including his wife, children are all kept in pedestals of feudal respect by the ordinary soldier. And it can only be so. For any detour from this path, would be one of insult, in the feudal languages. It may be noted that the language of communication between the officer class and the ordinary soldiers is Hindi. However, it may be understood that there is another hierarchy very much in existence in the social scene, which is based on age. Now, if it happens that a certain officer’s family has to move at close quarters with an ordinary soldier’s family, then it is possible that at least some of the relations between certain members of the officer’s family and some from the ordinary soldier’s family would be on the latter hierarchy; i.e. that based on age. In this case, it can happen that the hierarchy may be in a reverse order, especially if the officer is young of age, and the ordinary soldier is elderly. It can have severe repercussions on the functioning of the officer. Especially so, if other members of this household do not understand the implications.
The avoidable disasters
If it is claimed that many train accidents in India can be traced to this disinclination to call another official, and inclination to wait for the factor of luck, one may not be inclined to believe it. To explain this further: There is a system of reservation* in the Indian Railway System, under which a lower caste man who is appointed as a lower division clerk, within a few years would overtake many of his seniors, who are from the upper castes. This system has been introduced in the railways to give a chance for the lower castes to improve their lot. However in a language which is so feudal and hierarchical, it may play havoc on the psyche of many persons, who may be mentally injured by a junior suddenly coming into senior positions, which would be more so, because of the sting of the feudal language. The effect may have a domino effect on many persons, who would be wary of doing things, which would put them in the path of an adverse indicant word or usage. In times of emergencies, the whole communication would be delayed, because another software code would be running, that reminds the concerned persons to take more care of their own respectability, than of the impending danger.
The same can cause disastrous delays in military operations, wherein one may feel the sting of a lessening of respect, or fear of intruding the domain of a respected person or of an officer, to inform of an emergency, acutely than the pain of an enemy’s bullet. Or a reticence to take independent decisions in the eventuality of an emergency. It is not that the subordinate may not be able to take brilliant decisions. However the qualms of creating a feeling that he has overstepped his limits and entered the domain of the higher classes, would pervade. Or the impossibility of being allowed to explain his own version of what had happened and why he did what he did. When native-English speakers read this, they may think that they can understand the feeling. The fact is that they cannot; for the social context is entirely different.
An earthquake: I was in Delhi, when the Indian state of Gujarat was hit by a severe earthquake. I don’t know the exact number, but it is believed that tens of thousands of people died in the quake, most of them trapped under the buildings. What was apparent was that no one was in charge of any rescue attempt in a concerted and persevering manner. Each day’s report was of more and more buffoonery, with both political leadership as well as the bureaucratic leadership spending time in useless debates and trying to be impressed by the magnitude of the catastrophe. They seemed actually, to be using the time to sharpen their communicative skills; and also sort of leadership-less.
There is, and also was, a disaster management team to handle this sort of things. Forming such a board is easy. However when it comes for the individual members to take the phone and call on the various heads of government departments, including the army chief and demand immediate action, they would definitely develop cold feet. There would be a question of who should call whom, for only certain persons with adequate credentials can call on certain levels of personages. How to address him? Who should respect whom? At the same time, no one would admit to this mental handicap, and would just dilly-dally when the need of the hour is immediate communication and recourse to action.
The whole Gujarat earthquake was a great tragedy. For days on end, no help came. Persons with relatives trapped beneath the buildings, begged and screamed for help, for days, for help that would never come. If the Indian army personnel had just come immediately, and each one of them, just moved one stone at a time, many would have been saved. But, who would talk to the army chief, on a level of equality and dignity and seek a manner to save their fellowmen. And also, another fact remains: which Indian cares for another Indian in dire straits? For, remember that when thousands of women were burned on their husband’s pyre, few men from the subcontinent were bothered. It remained for the young English District Collectors to get shocked by this abominable practice, and demand the right to interfere with this nonsense religious right of the natives.
To defend themselves against the power of the officialdom, in ancient times, in the subcontinent, each group of professionals used to form a sort of union. It helped them in negotiating, with authorities. For, where a person cannot go and discuss on an individual basis, a sort of an address of an association, gave him the access. These associations are generally known as guilds. There were separate guilds for each and every profession, which may also be understood, in a slight manner, as caste. It may also be understood that there was naturally a hierarchy among the guilds. For, naturally the merchant class which had money and infrastructure, dominated over many other guilds. The communication between the guilds may be affected by the hierarchy in language.
Inside the guilds also, there would be a communication structure, which would be markedly hierarchical, based primarily on economic and other related aspect. A secondary level of hierarchy based on age also would be running on parallel lines, inside each guild. So that the lower level individuals inside each guild would continue to bear the stifling of hierarchy, and lower indicant words. They would also try with persevering nuisance value to wriggle out of this stranglehold, and also to strangle some other person.
Which means, whatever is done to avoid the communication hierarchy and gain access to articulation, ultimately comes stuck again in immovable levels of hierarchy.
The common courtesies in English
One thing that could have reduced the spite and strife between the common public and the bureaucrat, and led to meaningful utilisation of opportunities is courteous words, like Thank You, Sorry, Please, Kindly, I regret, I apologise etc. These words are in fact an extension of the underlying emotions of the English language. For these words can be used to any inferior or superior. Their usage does not refer to any attitude of inferiority or superiority; just good manners. Also, these words help heavily in talking with a wide variety of people, including bureaucrats and workers.
However, the vernacular or the feudal Indian Languages don’t have anything like that at all. There are many words, which may have slightly similar meanings. But these cannot be used to a perceived social inferior. For, all such vernacular words do have a feudal connotation. In the sense, the word slightly similar in meaning to Thank You, or to Sorry, cannot be used to a subordinate or serving person. Most of these terms can be used only by an inferior to a superior. The reverse is not usually possible as it would give negative impressions. For the meaning of these words are heavily weighted down with hierarchy. If any superior does use these words to an inferior, it gives an impression of pretended humility or plain mocking, and not any polite manners. Otherwise, the general impression would be that he is either becoming soft and inefficient. Or that he is developing insecurity in personality. And not that he is being polite and courteous. It may be understood that in the feudal languages, only the crude, rough, forceful characters, who can instil fear in others, are obeyed. The other polite person may be understood as ineffective.
In this connection let me put this into record here: There are many words and terms in English which, without much effort or conceding of superiority or inferiority, add to the smoothness of communication and manners. These are words like thank you, please, beg you pardon, excuse me, sorry etc.
A quotation from History: The Duke of Wellington, who had served in British-India under his brother, Lord Wellesley, declared after he came back to England:
QUOTE: The System of Government in India, the foundation of authority, and the modes of supporting it and of carrying on the operations of government are entirely different from the systems and modes adopted in Europe for the same purpose———. The foundation and the instrument of all power there is the sword———————————.END of QUOTE
Effect of abstinence: Here I think is the right place to say something about what happens if one does not use the highly suppressing, lower indicant words to and about youngsters, juniors, subordinates etc. in the vernacular. That is, for example, to young boys one refuses to use the lowest indicant word for You, that is in Malayalam: Nee. What happens? Well, it is very strange social situation. Youngsters used to English situations, and also youngsters of higher social standing will take it in their stride, and may actually feel very comfortable about it. But youngsters, juniors, socially inferiors, subordinates etc. who are used to the vernacular subjugating lower indicant words, would feel a bit awkward and may take a very strange mental understanding of the social environment. In most cases, they would really question the mental capability of the senior person, and feel that he or she is mentally unfit, not daring, soft and lacking in leadership qualities. And as mentioned elsewhere, in the vernacular, management essentially means the ability to use the correct stinging lower indicant word to the subordinate person, and the appropriate words of obsequious respect to the superior.
As a corollary, one may say that an English speaking man is essentially a softy, compared to an Asian of same social status. He can then only survive in a level of social seclusion, and the moment he is in the midst of these feudal persons, he is either forced to change his demeanour to that of some level of toughness, or become ineffective. In this regards, I would go into another far-away theme. That of the so-called Indian Freedom Struggle. The fact is that since it was a struggle against the British who always went for judicial actions, for whatever was done against them, the whole impression of the struggle was that of a picnic to all. Along with this, the halo of being a leader or being part of a dynamic and invigorating activity, in a place known for centuries of monotonous living standards, was essentially exiting. The most funny thing was that if the British themselves transgressed any judicial limits in their need to suppress the rioting or some other forms of anarchy, they themselves were hauled up by their judicial processes. Actually, in a land where the Kings, the feudal lords and other socially powerful characters used much more powerful and effective means to show their strength and power, this sort of buffoonery was taken as a licence for the display of all sort of socially suppressed feelings for adventure.
Political control on Bureaucracy
When the British left India, they had made a wonderful contribution in the field of Political Science to India. That was the bringing in of Democracy. The other deeper and finer aspect of its effects in India may be discussed later. The point that needs to be discussed is that they brought in the concept of the control of the People’s Representatives over the Bureaucracy. It was simply wonderful, for a country where the average common man dare not argue, debate, discuss or even communicate from a dignified and equal position with the officialdom. The People’s Representatives could put rein on the reckless onslaught of the bureaucratic power on the people.
However the persons who took the mantle from the British simply squandered the opportunities. Within these few years, things are going back to square one. That is, back to the time when the officialdom was all-powerful, with no one to even stand-up with a straight back and argue for decent and humane behaviour to the people of India. The bureaucracy exists in India, as a very powerful, selfish, conceited structure, very sensitive to any action that could be seen as a contest on their prestige. The whole senior, higher indicant part of the languages has been taken hostage by them.
Now the natural development has been that the politicians, who have to put on a struggle among themselves, are made to act out acrobatics by the bureaucrats. The people also see the politician as a hybrid between buffoons and crooks. Everyone is very brave when it comes to criticising, mocking, insulting, ridiculing or taunting the politician. Nobody understands that it is the politician who should be given more sense of security, least of all by the politicians themselves. They undermine the power and prestige of each other. At the same time, the bureaucrat stands in the sidelines and watches the passing-show, with a glee of juicy delight.
Now comes the real impact of all these years of such buffoonery. The politician is also just another common citizen of India. He suffers all the same insecurities and vulnerabilities that an ordinary citizen does have. In Malayalam, the people are forced to use feudal, words of homage to the bureaucrat. The politician also does the same thing. Things have come to such a pass, that when the politician becomes a minister, he is mentally a subordinate to the bureaucrat who he has to control. Earlier, the minister used to refrain from using the word for You, He, She, Him, His, Her, Hers etc. to, or to refer to a senior bureaucrat. They used to just use the official title, instead of all these words.
For example, to an Inspector General of Police, they would say: I.G, please do this; I.G may please come here; I.G., can take the action on this man etc. Now they have gone down more mentally and without any qualms would say, if the I.G.’s name is Antony: Antony Saar can do what Saar thinks is right; I told Antony Saar to do what Saar thinks is right; etc. One can imagine what these people have done to the democracy, which was given in a platter to them. Bureaucratic misuse of power goes unchecked and for any and every inhibition to the bureaucracy, new rules and Acts are passed by the Elected Bodies (Assembly*in States, and Parliament* in the Centre), so much so that now, any action against a harassing official is either not allowed or is a crime, with terrible consequences. The politician plays second fiddle to these mutated brutes.
Another thing to note is that nobody worth his name is willing to criticise a bureaucrat, or a police official. They all talk and write vaguely about corruption, and misuse of power, but no one dares to point is finger at a single person individually, unless that man is terribly out of favour, with the powers that be. In most cases, such persons may be the exception to the rule, in the maze of crooks. However to talk and ridicule a politician, there would be countless individuals. The pomp and pageantry associated with the senior government jobs do give the people a feeling that they are very special people, who are very intelligent, and the whole Indian economy runs because of them; when the fact is that the whole Indian economy runs in spite of them.
Hierarchy from the other end
At the same time, once a politician become powerful, then the bureaucrat had it. The relationship is not one of communication in either case.
Now, I am going to quote extensively from a report that came in the New Indian Express, about an interview given by the Chief Election Commissioner of India*, to the HARDTalk India programme of BBC. It may be remembered that many Chief Election Commissioners of India had a penchant to give into heroics, from the safe confinements of their statutory office.
The report dt. dec 26 2003.
........ flies off the handle
New Delhi, Dec 26: The Chief Election Commissioner is not known to mince his words but in an interview on BBC’s HARDT India, two months before his retirement, ...... has let them fly. Calling politicians “a cancer” that may kill the system, he claimed that a vast majority of them were poorly educated, common cheats who cheated all the time.
They were little more than ‘zamindars** exploiting the potential, resources of the state’, and not a single one was committed to democracy or its basic tenet, individual freedom. Somebody has to raise their voice, ‘everybody is flattering them all the time’, and it was his duty to do so, ...... told the show’s host, ——- ........
“Because democracy means a whole lot of other things, I mean it’s not merely going through the motions of elections. Democracy means basically individual freedom and that you respect individual freedom to the uttermost extent. I can’t think of anybody who is that involved in individual freedom,’ ——— said.
He asserted that he had deliberately set out to correct the self-delusion that ‘India was a marvellous democracy, the biggest democracy in the world and so on and so forth. All self-flattery, self-blandishment——It was about time somebody spoke the truth’.
When asked whether his recent reference that ‘if you are exposed to politicians too long, you’ll get cancer,’ wasn’t too vehement, .... said the word cancer expressed his views about politicians accurately. ‘We haven’t been able to find any cure for cancer yet so, in due course, if cancer is cured, we’ll have to find some other expression,’ he remarked.
The CEC said he felt politicians lacked the basic qualities required of a leader. ‘There are very few of them who even know how to talk politely. There are very few who understand basic courtesies. There are very few who talk to you on equal terms as human beings. Either they have their noses stuck in the air or they’re prostrate at somebody’s feet and there’s nothing in between.
On the criticism over his public snub to District Collector* of Baroda prior to last year’s elections in Gujarat-he called him a ‘a joker’-...... said his anger was justified and he had no regrets. ‘Maybe I should have been more aware of the mikes and the media around me,’ he said.
This outburst by an Indian bureaucrat might seem mighty brave and convincing. But doesn’t the whole theme have a smell of Winston Churchill’s* comment in the British Parliament during the Independence of India Act debate: Power will go into the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters. Not a bottle of water will escape taxation. Only the air will be free, and the blood of these hungry millions will be on the head of Mr. Atlee*. These are men of straw of whom no trace will be found after a few years. They will fight among themselves, and India will be lost in political squabbles.
Another thing to note is that the comment that has come from the CEC is not a new one from a bureaucrat. Almost all bureaucrats of India will say the same thing. Yet, have you noticed that he has not said much about the bureaucracy, which is definitely a more vibrant ‘Zamindar’, to whom no common man can go and talk with any level of dignity? The words ‘There are very few of them who even know how to talk politely. There are very few who understand basic courtesies. There are very few who talk to you on equal terms as human beings.’ are equally applicable to most bureaucrats of India.
With politicians, sometimes bureaucrats end up on the wrong side of the hierarchy. It is a strange environment, which they are not generally used to and very uncomfortable with.
And the words: Either they have their noses stuck in the air or they’re prostrate at somebody’s feet and there’s nothing in between; is just a pointer to my contention that in the Indian feudal languages there is only space for either obsequiousness or for reverence, no space for equal dignity.
When talking about the looting, this man has forgotten to add that he himself is part of the looters, by the exquisite perks he, and along with another army of officials are carrying home, leaving nothing for the common people of the land.
Now, look at what he has called a District Collector. Naturally, this man would belong to the revered group called the IAS. Many persons have told me that the mediocre and more or less, nonsense exam called the Civil Service Exam (in common parlance) is the best competitive exam in the world. It is natural to believe in the highest terms about all towering personalities of India. The people take on themselves to propagate their own worthlessness, and the superiority of persons who stand on unapproachable pedestals.
Making of laws and rules
The cumulative effect of all this is felt on a very significant area. Though it is theoretically the legislative bodies, which are given the power to make statutory laws, rules and Acts; in practice, it is the bureaucracy that does it. One of the main reasons, is that the political executives are so busy warding off forays from not only the opposition, but also from the disgruntled elements in their own parties, that they don’t usually have time to study any prospective rule or Act, that is awaiting parliamentary approval. Nor do many of them have the requisite knowledge in English to understand the various parameters of the new Act and how it will correlate with existing ones.
The result are rules written by the mean, arrogant bureaucrats, who are not bothered how the new rules would affect the common man. In many cases, they do not even take the elementary interest in going into the complexities of the Act; creating situations where again the common man is in a very vulnerable position, as not knowing what to do as what the Act says is very confusing, and in many cases simply stupid. It again gives more discretionary powers to the nitwits (the bureaucrats) who hold powers of prosecution.
One of the main reasons for this event is the lack of a decent communication between a rule-writing bureaucrat and the people who are going to be affected. The understanding of the common businessman does not come into the picture, when an Act affecting them is being written. Even if they are taken into confidence, only those who are willing to concede the required obsequiousness will co-operate. Also, the persons who do co-operate would not present themselves before the officialdom, with an individuality of a person with equal intellectual stature or rectitude. In a majority of cases, it would be a sort of communication between a bureaucrat who pretends to understand and know the finer details, without any actual experience and a common man who effectively enjoys the halo of social importance the proximity to a senior bureaucrat can lend, and is willing to gratify the feelings of the bureaucrat by nodding and concurring to the ideas and understandings of the bird-brained bureaucrat. The cumulative effect of all this is seen in the tragedy of any Indian citizen who gets trapped and lost in the maze of Indian laws.
In recent years, the salary and other perks of the bureaucrats have gone up astronomically. They can’t travel along with other Indians in the same ordinary class in trains. Even a small-time official now claims the right to go in first class compartment on public expense. The total of all the benefits that they get monetarily and otherwise would make up for a King’s ransom. However this does not ensure better service to the people. For, as a person goes up higher in the financial bracket, then his indicant level also goes up. So that, an ordinary man would find it impossible to communicate even with a government peon. Inside the system also, the ordinary clerks are heavily-paid super citizens, who their seniors cannot treat as a serving junior. They can only be seen as an equal employee who can be made to function, only with an understanding request.
When the British made the administrative systems, there was not an abundance of pompous titles for the various levels of bureaucracy. However, now it is a general requirement to impress the common man. So, all bureaucratic titles are being progressively changed. Earlier times, what was just an ordinary Taluk* level ‘officer’ (here the word officer need not give an impression, that the person who sits in this post has any officer qualities.) would now be known as an Assistant Commissioner. The incumbent is impressed with his own title, though it really means nothing, as he is way below the commissioner, and not in a hundred years can he become a commissioner. The person who has to see him on official matters is stuck dumb, and he goes down in his indicants. At the same time, the Assistant Commissioner’s indicant goes up. Moreover to visit an AC, would now require a lot of patience, for now he is a very big person, and access to him is restricted by a sort of self-made crude protocol.
I can give a beautiful story that happened. When the British were ruling India, the land Registration department, in each state, was a very significant one. It was one of the main revenue accruing departments in the country. The head was known as the Inspector General of Registration. Since, the departure of the British, its significance has come down, and the IG is very below the whole cadre of Indian Administrative Officers. Yet, as the title of a head of a department, and because of its striking verbal quality, it was used by the incumbents with ample pomp and pageantry.
During the British times, below the rank of the IG were the District Registrars. They were one in each district of the state. It so happened that the scheming bureaucrats in this department were very visibly discussing the possibility of getting more promotion opportunities. Someone suggested the need to have some official grade between the IG and the District Registrars. Actually, not for any need, but just for the heck of it, and also to improve the chance for promotion. What the bureaucrats need, they can get. For they do both the conspiring as well as its execution. One Zonal Inspector post was initiated in Trivandrum, the head quarters of Kerala State.
Now, one promotion chance was increased. However, there are others who are left out. So, again, conspiracy, and then execution. Three more posts were created after officially dividing the tiny state into three zones. Now what happens? All the four officials need separate office, official vehicles, official phones, peons, lower division clerks, upper division clerks, superintendents and a whole lot of other paraphernalia. Earlier a paper forwarded to the IG went straight to him, from the lower levels. Now, a lot of nitwits would sit over it to study, and wrap it in a vicious red tape.
Now, so far so good. Yet, still a nagging feeling of a lingering doubt and misgiving. As I heard one bureaucrat saying, “the word Zonal Inspector sounds like the old Thoatti inspector(Sanitary Inspectors)”. During the British times, there was an Inspector from the Municipality, who would come and check all the latrines, both private as well as public, for any incidence of lack of neatness, which may give cause for infection and epidemic. [In later years, after the birth of India, the people started calling them Thootti inspector. It was an insulting term. Sanitary Inspectors sly changed their designation to another one, and now are believed to be high-grade ‘officers’ in the health department.]
So, again conspiracy, and then execution. The name Zonal Inspector was changed to Deputy Inspector General. Now, it is very formidable title. Everyone is impressed, even though the incumbent may have the sneaky looks of a dacoit.
The reader may bear in mind, that all these manoeuvres were just for the ego satiation of the bureaucrats, though the extravagant higher expenses go from the public coffers. Yet, the people won’t be bothered. For no one has the intellectual daring to even think on these themes.
Megalomania: The average Indian official of any level does achieve an infection of Megalomania, as a sort of natural progression. The impetus for this comes from the language. He, on becoming employed in some position to affect another person’s life becomes acutely conscious of this capacity of him. Along with it, comes the highest indicant words and usage, by which he is identified and positioned. He would easily find that he can use lower indicant words to the common people, with no hesitation. This is a thing he would never do if he were an ordinary citizen of the country.
He becomes Megalomaniac. He then starts practicing this as a sort of perfected art. He appoints a junior clerk just for the purpose of blocking the access to him, and to make the people wait. While his newly designated P.A would inform them that Saar is busy, aSar is in a conference; Saar is in a meeting; with a gravity that would give an understanding that if the Saar can’t finish the meeting, then the whole Indian Economy would come to a standstill.
Schizophrenia*: Along with this comes his or her propensity for schizophrenia.
Illustration: Suppose an ordinary man in South Kerala, without sensing the full extent of Saar’s importance makes the mistake of addressing Saar with a Ningal, the infliction would manifest itself with a startling ferocity. In this connection, it may be emphasised that Ningal is a word of polite dignity, when used between the common people. However, in the feudal connotation, it lacks the proper level. Hence the outburst of the mental illness. The bureaucrat would immediately go furious, with no proper tangible reason. His eyes may become bloodshot; his voice may tremble; his physical features may also tremble; his words may lose proper grammar; his writing may all go wrong; he would lose his sense of proportion; sometimes he would refuse to look at the common man, who spoke to him, in the eye.
Actually, I do think that persons who exist on the borderline between a feudal set-up and the common people would be slightly vulnerable to mental tensions, which may sometimes have been diagnosed as pure mental imbalance.
The international dealings: The bureaucrats of India have a superiority complex when it comes to dealing with smaller nations and a very obsequious attitude when dealing with mightier nation like GB and USA. Actually for many bureaucrats and politicians, and even for many of the rich citizens of India, to consider GB as a great country is very much impossible, as they are accustomed to equate any small thing with insignificance, and hence to be addressed in less respectable terms. It is due to this reason that at one time an Indian Prime Minister had gone to the extent of calling Britain a third rate power.
When Indian Foreign Office bureaucrats interact with the smaller countries that surround its boundary, they do put on a condescending attitude, which the regional Hindi language could make worse. Many of the neighbours like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, etc do not have any affinity for India. Actually, but then in all these countries also, the same type of feudal language software are running.
In this context, another connected matter can be discussed. Now the international language is English. The functioning of international relations and inter-national communication is going on without the language adding more impediments to it. However one may contemplate a time when any other country like China, Japan or India coming into international prominence, like Britain or America. Naturally, the bigots in these countries would insist on international communication being conducted in their own national languages. Well, if Chinese, or Japanese, or Hindi, or even Malayalam comes into prominence, the natural tendency would be to use the lower indicant words, and connected package of usages to describe or to communicate with other countries, and their Heads, who are of lower stature. One may now think this unthinkable. However, in ancient time, in this South-Asian subcontinent, the big kings used such words to the smaller Kings, and dependant rulers. And remember, the empty headed, pompous, and ill-informed, yet possibly scholarly King of China did sent such a letter to the King of England through the British traders who came to visit him.
Some Indian history writers have opined that King George of England must have been shocked at the audacity and arrogance expressed by the Chinese Emperor in his letter to the former. For, the Chinese king was seemingly addressing a small King. This in Chinese language could have allowed the impolite boldness of expression. I do not know how the Monarch of Britain and his councillors took the tone of the letter. However it is possible that this letter itself could have given them ample evidence of the underlying contradictions and weaknesses in the Chinese society.
Yet, if the modern world were to start experiencing such behaviour, and forced to condone it, it would a very evil day, indeed. In this context, I wish to say that the concept of the evil empire, though enunciated in many Hollywood films and English comics, have not been fully understood by the English world. This Evil Empire is actually a nation with an Evil Language.
A historically recent example of this enduring inclination to use lower indicant words for perceived inferior foreigners is seen in the reported word used by the Chinese government in regard to the Prince of Wales, during the handing-over of Hong Kong to the Chinese government by the British. It was reported by the press that a word which cannot get an exact meaning in English, but may roughly be translated into ‘a mere Prince’ was used. It is doubtful whether the English native can properly imbibe the social significance of the word used. Yet, to any Asian, the enormity of a lower indicant word is, very much, unmistakably obvious. It really is a foreteller of how China would behave if it was to become the supreme world power.
4 - The officialdom
5 - The Police
6 - Efficiency
7 - Women
8 - Family System
9 - Bureaucracy
16 - Dignity of labour
17 - Teacher and student
19 - Economy and its connection with the language of the place
21 - Revolution