Governance By The Unelected

By Lt Gen P R Shankar (Retd)



Earlier articles : Who Is Leading Delhi Out of The Crisis?  ,


Indian Leadership Vs Chinese Virus and India on the Mend

I hear the hollow rattle of death racking up our toll of sorrow. The rattle starts when the wail of the siren fades. Today is the tenth day when the death toll has crossed 3000. As the toll inches towards 4000, death is palpable by its proximity. People we knew, who could have lived till tomorrow, are dying today and are leaving a void. Sorrow is spreading without a full stop or a comma.   There is no doubt that some states are recovering. Some states are battling. Some stand on the edge of the precipe; off which, Delhi has fallen without a parachute. The Central Government blames the State Government. The State Government blames the Hospitals. The Hospitals go to High Court. The High Courts’ blame the Central Government which appeals to the Supreme Court which suggests that the IITs and IIMs to take over. Then why do we need the IAS – the non-existent steel frame. We can discuss this after the crisis is over. In this ‘Macabre Round Robin’, which started late in April, more than half a lakh have lost their lives. A sound which is loud and clear over the wail of the death is the ‘Silence of the Elected Government’. That sound is loudest in Delhi.

A lot of loyal and nationally minded people and geriatrics like me say that in this hour of crisis, we should stand by the PM and the Government. The question is where is the Government to standby? Building Central Vista? Those affected by the scourge know that the Government is ‘Missing in Action’. If you have forgotten, the last public appearance of the PM conveyed a message  – ‘Take Care of Yourself’. That is precisely what I am  doing. Following his inspired call! Taking care of myself! In India when the elected government fails, the ‘Governance by the Unelected’ kicks in. It manifests in two forms – the Black Marketeers and the ‘Good Samaritans’. The faceless ‘Government of the Unelected’ is by the people, of the people and for the people. Get on to the social media and you will find help from ambulance to hearse. It is indeed fantastic that India has risen. God bless their souls. NGOs, voluntary groups, students, RWAs, hospitals, Mohalla Committees, social, religious and non-religious organisations have responded to the needs of those in sorrow or panic despite the exalted empowered groups.  Ambulances, lifesaving oxygen, hospital beds, home isolation assistance, medicines, online guidance- everything is a call away, even if it is reached after failing with many fake numbers. Makes you feel proud that in India, someone will at least respond. What if the good Samaritans do not respond? Don’t worry. The black market and spurious drug market is always there to contribute to consumption and  10% GDP growth. In this route, the danger is that it could hasten you to death being spurious or unaffordable. The ‘Government of the Unelected’  can be described in two ways.  First be proud that ‘People Power’ is coming to the fore. ‘Yeh Mera India’ moments and ‘It Happens Only in India’ sentiment. Second. We are tending into anarchy where we are left on our own. Strong words? It has been more than two weeks since this macabre round robin has started.  Delhi my national capital is still wallowing in this unmitigated ‘man made’ disaster with more cities and states to follow.

I am a Gunner. Firepower is always a precious commodity in battle. Never enough. Hence the overriding principle in Artillery is ‘Centralised Control and Decentralised Execution’.  It enables efficient firefighting. Why the Dickens have our brilliant IAS officers and ‘Janta ki Sevaks’ decentralised control or are refusing to take control or ceded control when the need of the hour is to firefight? Paralysis or good old plain Incompetence or abdication of responsibility or all?  Hey man, Dickens is dead. No one reads him anymore. There is a three way hoarding of every item and service meant to fight Corona. The unintended hoarding is by the incapability of the government which cannot deliver its capacity. The Good Samaritans have to hoard with good intent to deliver. Otherwise where will they deliver from? The black marketers anyway have to hoard to profit. So a hell of a lot of capacity is in hoarding when people are gasping for it. If the government centralises, opens channels and garners the Good Samaritans, clogged delivery lines will open up. Back the ‘Governance by the Unelected’ damnit!  When the time comes the very government you are part of might be invisible to you. If you do the correct thing, treatment and service will go into homes of the needy in an organised manner. How can it go? The government is busy with  legal issues and central vistas. The deafening silence of the last PM earned him the moniker ‘Maun Mohan Singh’ and ‘Accidental Prime Minister’. What now? Ah! I forgot. Wrong address. The message won’t reach since the Residence is changing and the postman is working from home.

big bang

What about vaccination? The game to the fastest 15 crore is achieved and nothing more. Saw it flashing on some TV channel yesterday. Policy paralysis and decentralised control , sliding down the merry vaccination graph indicate the ‘World’s Largest Vaccination Drive’ is driving to a grinding halt sans the fanfare. The ultimate weapon to fight the Chinese Virus was to be our humongous vaccination ability – network and production. Instead of centralised, non-competitive and prioritised vaccination we have migrated into a decentralised competitive privileged vaccination system. States, private players, central government and international agencies are all competing for a mysteriously shrinking capacity touted as the world’s highest with the owner decamped to London in a private jet. Capacity lying idle and an own vaccine which is being ringfenced. Maybe I am right. Maybe I am wrong. How the hell do I know? My ‘Elected Government’ has become a vaccinated ‘Maundhari’ with triple masks. Be sure the Corona cannot go in to infect it nor can a voice come out. The ‘Government of the Unelected’ cannot give me vaccines.

Another question I asked myself. With so many people and organisations joining the fight against the Virus why is it that some cadre based organisations, with a national foot print and professed discipline, have not jumped into the battle fray. I do not see them active on the ‘Good Samaritan’ social media. Oh no! They are no more part of the ‘Government of the Unelected’. They are now fully part of the ‘Elected’ and busy with post poll issues of state elections. Its infradig to call them ‘Unelected’.  It hurts their pride and nationalist sentiment and probably what is left of their conscience! Well they gave a national example of Covid Inappropriate Behaviour by holding the Kumbh Mela. Every religious and non-religious organisation is now following this example of ‘Covid Inappropriate Behaviour’. Do not ask me about these organisations. Ask Gaurav Sawant of India Today about them. The poor guy has been losing his temper over some.


Why am I writing all this? Be rest assured, when the time came many of us have stood by the government and nation in true Kennedy fashion. We asked not what the country can do for us. We asked what we can do for the country.  However, when the time has come the Government has not stood by many. The people of my country still do valiantly. I do hope this cynical and despondent piece of mine is read by some of our silent leaders who are not even seen to be doing anything.

-The writer was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Department of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda