Cry for stability surpasses curiosity over n-deal

July 17th, 2008 - 11:49 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, July 17 (IANS) It may be the buzzword that has the country agog and brought the government perilously close to collapse, but what is the nuclear deal all about? Actually, few people know and fewer care with rising prices and the strains of daily life making the nuances of the India-US civil nuclear deal an esoteric concern. As a random survey by IANS revealed, the common person feels that political stability and a better quality of life matter more than the nuclear deal because the government needs to put the economy back on track.

Amid the din of the Left withdrawing support on the deal that has been cooking for nearly three years and is aimed at making India self-sustainable in the energy sector, most people battling double-digit inflation, spiralling costs of fuel and essential commodities are frankly feeling out of their depth.

The general refrain is there is tomorrow’s grocery and fuel expense to take care of and the monthly pay cheques of corporate India have not yet addressed the rising price curve.

“What is this nuclear deal all about? I know Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush had signed a pact that will help India generate nuclear power for civilian use.

“But what are its dynamics? What has held it back for three years? Why does India need to go to the IAEA and get the approval of Nuclear Suppliers Group. The jargons are difficult,” said Sonia Sinha, a Pune-based software professional who is in the capital for a visit.

Added a bewildered Citibank executive: “Can someone please put it for me in simple words? What is this nuclear deal, what is the NSG, what role does the IAEA have.”

She does read the papers every day but, trapped in the daily struggle of a demanding job and a home to look after, is simply too busy to get into the fine print.

The mood is also one of boredom and impatience.

“I don’t care about the deal apart from watching mugshots of politicians on television. Nothing about the deal has registered. What hits me is that when I run up a bill of Rs.100 for two vegetables or my investments fetch me poor returns, no one bothers. I want stable prices and a better life for myself,” said Rattnotama Das, 40, a mother of two school-going children.

Ditto for Bangalore-based senior event management executive Debargha Chatterjee: “We may be a knowledge-based economy, but I just can’t figure it out. The middle class is stretched to its limit with the rising price curve. The salaries have not risen commensurately and monthly expenses have gone up. The Left’s reaction to the deal and the government’s eagerness to try a new number game seem irrelevant.”

The cry for stable governance resonates from every corner. “It is more important for the country to have stability now than the N-deal. What will happen if there is an election tomorrow? Who will rule the country, how will the people cope? Everything seems to be going for a toss,” is how V.K. Karthika, editor-in-chief of leading publishing house Harper Collins, put it.

If there is anguish amongst upwardly mobile professionals, the community of students are blissful in their ignorance.

“I have no time to follow the nuclear deal or track the political developments on television. I go to school during the day and work in the evening in the lawn department of a star hotel. I have to pitch in for my family,” Delhi-based Ruchika Chawla, a plus two student, said.

“Moreover, I don’t understand English. It does not really make sense to me. I have to eke out a living for myself after high school,” said the 18-year-old.

Then there are the legions of blue collar workers, daily wage labourers and others so caught up in the daily task of just getting food on their plates that the nuclear deal must seem a mere indulgence. But yes, an election, the prospect of a new government, is of importance.

Do not blame the television for not reaching out to the people on these crucial issues, warned Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of the popular television channel CNN-IBN.

“Television is a very powerful medium. But the job is for the politicians to do. We also do our bit in reporting and analysing the issues, but at the end of the day the government has to reach out to the people,” Sardesai, a Padma Shri winner, told IANS.

Of course, there are also those who follow the moves of the government and the politics they influence closely; for whom the nuclear deal and its dynamics are of crucial importance.

Delhi-based consultant Shantanu Chakraborty is one of them. Discussing the Left pullout, he said vehemently: “The party (the Left) has an affinity for China… but Manmohan Singh is a judicious man and whatever he does should be good for the country. India needs to become powerful.”

But Chakraborty seems to be in a minority. For others, concerns about the nuclear deal are luxuries they think they can’t afford. Clearly, our politicians have failed to connect.

Caught as they are in the growing clamour over the debate over the deal, are the politicians listening?

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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