If there is one thing common between bal thackeray and Nani Palkhivala, it is their fear of India’s disintegration. One of the last surviving greats of the Tata empire, Nani Palhkivala, eminent jurist and India’s former ambassador to the united States of America, is convinced about the country’s all round degeneration. Indeed, when an eminent and highly respected person like Nani Palkhivala gives up hope, it is high time rational Indians think of a solution out of the quagmire the country finds itself in. In a freewheeling interview, Nani Palhkivala speaks his mind.
Are you hopeful of India’s future? Do you think India will survive as a nation and March ahead to become a world leader?
I am afraid I take the dimmest possible view of Indian character. I have never seen it more degraded and more corrupt than what it is today. And I have said that publicly time and again. This is because good people are not taking part in public life. They have no future here. A man like me would have no future whatsoever in public life because people vote on the basis of caste, community, religion and region. One of the finest men in northern India was Hari Nanda and I was one of the fools who told him that men like him are needed in public life. He took my advice and stood from Faridabad where he has done more good than any one else I am aware of- he has built schools, colleges and hospitals. But he was not only defeated in the elections but also forfeited his deposit. I have nothing but contempt for such a democracy. India has today paid the highest price ever paid by any country for adult franchise. We have the highest culture ever known to any part of the world and yet we have never taken the trouble to teach our people anything about our culture. The young people do not know what their identity is, what their nationality is. If this is democracy, let it perish. I had great hopes for this country. When I look at the people who have come to power, I ask myself-is this the country to which I have devoted my entire life? I have tried to do what I could to save democracy in this country. When Mrs. Gandhi tried to choke democracy. I fought against her, and now I am wondering id I did the right thing when I see the type of people in power today.
What can be done?
What we need is a strong man. I repeat again and again that what India needs is not more of democracy but a strong man who can keep us discipline more then freedom. But this country is getting more and more freedom without any discipline. If it is to be a dictatorship, then we must have a man like Lee Kuan Yew. I would any day have a controlled or guided democracy.
Will Presidential system solve the problem?
The solution is not in Presidential system. People will again vote on the basis of caste, religion and region. I am not aware of any solution. I am only aware that people must be educated and realize what they are heir to. Is there any school, apart from the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, where students are taught anything about their culture? If you teach anything about your culture, it will be treated to be a communal kind of education where you are being taught to be a Hindu or Muslim. I feel very pessimistic. I t will take years and years before this country rises to the level at which it was when I was your age.
Will India survive as a nation?
I am not sure that India will continue to be one country. I have a feeling that the way in which we are operating today, will lead to the dismemberment of the country.
Can we be totally pessimistic? Is there no solution?
We can find a solution, but I am not very optimistic about the immediate future of our democracy. What you need is a man like emperor Ashoka or Akbar. But do you think a man like emperor Ashoka or Akbar would ever get elected to our Parliament? They would stand no chance.
Being an eminent jurist, what do you feel about the increasing confrontation of Indian judiciary and the executive? We have come to a situation where the Chief Justice of India has to go public about an influential person trying to meet him in the Hawala scandal. Also, do you feel that India needs an active judiciary as the executive is lacking in its duties?
There is no confrontation. It only shows that our people have become so degraded and our character has sunk so low that nothing will work here. The judiciary is the only thing which is keeping us on the rails. The executive and the legislature are totally lacking in their duties. The judiciary cannot take the place of the executive and the legislature and I think the judiciary is doing the right job.
Today Indian liberalization seems to have gone haywire. On the other hand, you have Indian companies still talking about the multinational scare. Do we need to be protected? And, do you feel that both economy and liberlisation are on the right track?
Liberalisation is going on the right lines. Speaking for myself, I would be in favour of greater liberalization. Take for example the insurance industry; I see no reason why foreign insurance companies should not be allowed to come into India. In fact, Mr. R.N.Malhotra was appointed to head the committee. He submitted a report, but nothing has happened. The left wing parties are totally opposed to it. Look at the banks after nationalization. We do not get any service; the employees do not care because they know that nothing will happen. If Indian business houses have not been as successful as they should have been, it is the fault of the Indian character.
Do ethics play an important role in the growth of Indian business? Do you feel that Indian business houses, especially the top ones, have been ethical in their road to success? Would they have been where they are now if they had been totally ethical?
You can have the highest standards of development and combine them with ethical standards.
The Tatas have set the first electoral fund for political parties. Do you think it will work?
Though my group feels otherwise, I personally feel that according to the rules and regulations, no new party would be able to come to power will have to have the background and the history and then the trust will support it.
By Ketan Narottam Tanna