Thursday, April 09, 2009

Urbane views in a rural segment


Photo: Retired gynaecologist Dr. Sebastian P. Jacob

By Shevlin Sebastian

When a lorry, with marble slabs, came to a stop in front of C.V. Joseph’s house recently, about 25 men, belonging to various unions, appeared at his door. “Only four men were needed for unloading, and it would have cost me Rs 2000,” he says. Instead, after long, drawn-out negotiations, Joseph had to pay Rs 7,500.

“It was daylight robbery,” he says, at his spacious bungalow, at Nadakapadam, 10 kms from Changanacherry.

He has also been appalled by the rudeness shown by auto-rickshaw and bus drivers when he travels on public transport to places like Mamood, Karukachal and Changanacherry.

“They feel they can behave any way they want because the LDF is in power,” he says. “I have never seen such rudeness anywhere in the world.”

Joseph spent 30 years in Abu Dhabi, working as a senior manager at Unilever. “In the United Arab Emirates, the police and the government support private enterprise,” he says. “On the other hand, the LDF government lacks the will to enforce discipline on the trade unions and the work force. Investors are scared to come to the state.”

In this gloomy scenario, Joseph is excited by former UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor’s candidature. “I will be thrilled if Tharoor wins at Thiruvananthapuram,” he says. “He is well-educated and has vast international experience. There is an acute shortage of educated people in politics. Most of the politicians I have met are narrow-minded and mediocre.”

Nevertheless, Joseph, 60, is going to vote for the UDF, because of his admiration for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

A couple of kilometres away, at Perumpanachy lives James Chacko (name changed). A former teacher in Malaysia and Brunei, he returned in 1986. For the next 14 years he worked for a political party, before ill health forced him to quit.

“Around 70 per cent are in politics to make money,” says Chacko, 69. “They have no other agenda.” But he says he has never seen any overt corruption. “The bribe-taking is always done in the shadows, away from prying eyes.”

What has particularly distressed him is the apathy shown by party members towards the downtrodden. “I have never seen any of them doing something for the poor,” he says. “Neither have they visited a slum to know about conditions first-hand.”

Retired gynaecologist Dr. Sebastian P. Jacob, 71, at Nadakapadam, is not surprised. “When politicians reach a position of power, they want to ensure that they amass money to last a couple of generations,” he says.

Jacob, who has lived in the United States for more than 30 years, says he supports the UDF. “I don’t believe in Communism,” he says.

The doctor has a suggestion: Eighty-year-old politicians should retire from the game. “Fresh, young blood should be inducted,” he says. “And I hope these young people will do something for the state, instead of helping their families and their son-in-laws, like the previous generations have done.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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