The Republic and its Future

Posted: January 28, 2014 in Blog, Religion, Social
Tags: , , , , ,

Growing up, a typical Jan 26 would start with a late morning breakfast in front of the TV watching the Republic Day Parade. Gradually the charm of this prestigious event faded off as the TV channels multiplied. This Republic Day was different. I finished my breakfast rather early to make it in time for the occasional Nirmukta meetups I have grown accustomed to. The venue was Coffee Day Square for the third time.

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It started around ten minutes late (I was late myself). Was a slightly smaller crowd than usual. Four by the time I got there which went up to seven in about another half hour. After the initial uncertainty of how the turn up was going to be, we settled on a make shift seating arrangement comfortable enough. After a quick look at the menu, orders were placed. Predictably everyone ended up choosing different types of coffee. Once the decision was made on the beverages we were ready to jump into the discussion. First up were introductions.

As usual most were new faces, but no ice breaker was required. The customary introductions were punctuated with references to Atheism and experiences that come with being a non-believer. The influence of family on your religious outlook and the inevitable friction with the overwhelmingly theistic community took center stage even as the speakers changed. All the different stories and experiences seem to fit almost seamlessly as listeners nodded along in agreement.

On the agenda was “Current Politics and Changes Seen”. Being the flavor of the week or month this seemed to have ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ (AAP) written all over it.  Sure enough the discussion started with a critical outlook on the infamous midnight raid on an alleged prostitution and drugs racket were foreign nationals from African countries were targeted by the Law Minister and a group of locals. Some were of the opinion that this act was unforgivable and moreover the party has not taken any action on the minister. There was also a counter view that even though the act is to be condemned, the new party should be given time to straighten its act. Reflecting a public perception, the party was also criticized for catering to popular views and not having a clear vision. The party to this point has been driven till date, almost solely on an anti corruption agenda.

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Two of the attendees missing. One had to leave early and the other one was the photographer.

The debate slowly moved into governance issues and the effectiveness of democracy in India. The Constitution of India was discussed as the topic of Republic Day came up. Despite having a commendable constitution the country has not been able to live up to the ideals prescribed in it. This was the general sentiment of the entire panel. Many questions were raised. Was this the failure of democracy as a system? How did we end up here and who is responsible for the state of affairs? How do we get to a better system or how can governance be improved?

There was a discussion on Communism and Marxism (I really need to read about how they are different) and how these systems have fared around the world. Case studies were Cuba, U.S.S.R. and China. I put forward my own thoughts in the form of the 1945 Satire by George Orwell titled Animal Farm. The conversation got interesting as there were differences in opinion on why Capitalism is needed and how far a Govt. can go forward in terms of welfare to the poor. How the corporate lobbies influence governance. More specifically the disagreement was about private participation in Education and Healthcare.

Eventually the opinions converged around ideas on how technology could and should be used for welfare. It should not be surprising as most of us were from IT/ITES sector. Things that could be done to alleviate poverty, improve education and healthcare were the broad topics which were subjected to our analysis. On that note the discussion turned to the final phase.

Enough talk, what do we do about all this? What do we plan to achieve in the future. There was a suggestion that we could organize a run on Indian Atheist Day. Having done the research now, it falls on March 23rd, the death anniversary of Bhagat Singh. It falls on a Sunday, so looks like an ideal day for the next meetup anyway. Another idea raised was about poverty and how we know so little about it. Hence the suggestion was to find a village affected by poverty and pay a visit to find the underlying reasons for it. Also we could think of pushing forward ideas from earlier meeting like the Feminism campaign, Intervention program etc. We paid our bills and headed out where a few of us hung around for further discussion on random topics.

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The aftermath.

Please feel free to voice your opinions in the comments section. If you were at the meeting please add anything that I might have missed or overlooked.

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