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Are rules only for the common man?

"If the parliament does not take up its normal business and people are not represented for their cause it will lead to anarchy," said NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Friday, a day after a youth attacked him in New Delhi. The statement comes at a time when the country is passing through one of its most turbulent phases post independence.

Pawar's words are profoundly important, however, they have arrived rather late for the common man. These are times when the aam aadmi is completely distraught with the system and is battling corruption, nepotism and a dejected system of governance. Barring a ticket for a railway journey nothing else is affordable, thanks to the price rise.

So, when Pawar was assaulted, the political class came together cutting across party lines to condemn the attack. The call for bandhs followed thereafter, luckily for a brief period. However, the common man steered clear of the protests, leaving it entirely up to the NCP workers to take to the streets. The Sena and MNS even went on to describe it as an attack on Maharashtra. But, no other organisation or citizen group condemned it, why? Could this be due to the general apathy towards the political system?

Then came an unacceptable reaction from social crusader Anna Hazare who said, "Only one slap?" It was unexpected from a person who proclaims to be a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and who united the nation in the anti-corruption drive. While the populace whole-heartedly supported Hazare, who has no political connections, they refused to support a politician who was assaulted publicly. Quite intriguing, isn't it?

Hazare may be wrong, or his style may be objectionable. But, the political class should also ponder over the fact that why did millions throng to the streets on Hazare's call? The government can defeat Hazare and his supporters by touching the very nerve of the demands and defeat the purpose of the agitation.

So why does a seasoned campaigner like Pawar who has been in politics for the past 44 years, now talk about not ignoring the common man, and why only after the assault?

It is a fact that most politicians have distanced themselves from the core issues that affect the common manĀ -- price rise, lack of houses, jobs and corruption.

Take an example from Mumbai. Today, no political figure is ready to react over the most pressing issues that Mumbaikars are facing, even though many of the state politicians have their homes in South Mumbai or other plush areas of the city.

More than two lakh posts at various levels are vacant in government offices. At any given time we find most of the government staff is busy in surveys of some or the other kind, election duties, census operations and so on. So, who will address the issues of the common man?

The scene at IAS cadre is no different. Currently, as many as 58 posts of IAS officers, against the sanctioned quota of 350 are lying vacant. At Mantralaya at least six departments have no full time secretary including the crucial school education department.

One example will reveal the current state of affairs at Mantralaya. A week ago, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan wrote a letter to Director General, Information & Public Relations to replace one of his PROs. The letter created a sort of storm as CM is not supposed to issue orders directly. It is learnt that CM had on a few occasions suggested for the transfer but it was still not implemented. So what about the common man?

As per the norms, each minister should declare his assets and investments by August every year to the CM, who then submits them to the Governor. But very few leaders follow it judiciously. So, when our politicians do not abide by the norms, is it only the responsibility of the common man to maintain decency and discipline?
--The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY

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