The Key to Singapore

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Jul 2018 11:45:11


By Gantantra Ojha,

A few months ago, I was driving on the Forest Avenue, Bhilai when the car in front of mine stopped abruptly. I noticed a police picket ahead where two policemen were having a heated argument with three motorcyclists. One of the onlookers informed that none of them were carrying driving licenses and other necessary papers. After five minutes, I observed, the three young men riding away with smug smiles. Later, I learnt that one of their powerful 'bhaiyas' had scolded the police over mobile phone and ordered to let them go. So, without any fine, they were just let off.

Cut to Singapore. You may be a VIP but if you jump the red light thrice, your license is cancelled and you are debarred from driving, indefinitely. This is called implementation of the Rule of Law which is the pillar of a functioning democracy where nobody is above the law.

Let us take a look at a primeval hunger of man —Sex. In India, rape is a routine phenomenon most of which is not even registered with police stations. Also, it takes years to convict and punish the culprit(s), if at all. But in Singapore, even a diplomat is not spared. A Saudi Arabian diplomat was convicted of molesting a hotel trainee in 2016. In Feb. 2017, he was sentenced to 26 months jail and four strokes of the cane. The High Court rejected his appeal saying his sentence was already quite lenient.

What is the point in having excessive civil liberties when one is not sure whether the young sister/daughter will come back home safely or whether an old relative staying alone in a metro city will remain alive the next morning. But in this island, young ladies can take a taxi to the airport at any point of time without bothering about their own safety or that of their belongings.

All this happens not as a miracle but due to fear of punishment which is quick and harsh. Though hailed as a prosperous and successful nation, Singapore still retains the colonial practice of caning the convicts, diplomats included, as mentioned above. Normally, caning is done in addition to prison sentences. Judicial caning is administrated to male convicts between the ages of 18 & 50 for a wide range of offences under the Criminal Procedure Code. Women and men above 50 as also men sentenced to death are exempted from caning.

The emphasis on leading a disciplined life without disturbing the privacy and other rights of one's fellow human beings is so great that even chewing gum is banned. If you chew it, you have to cough up a heavy fine. Thereby hangs a tale. The founder of Singapore and its first Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, was once asked by a foreign correspondent that why the chewing gum is not allowed since it spurs people ‘s creativity. The Prime Minister retorted, "if you can't think without chewing, then try a banana." Now, look at my plight when walking barefoot in a temple premises at Hyderabad, I experienced strange sensations when the gum spat by devotees stuck to my soles.

Singapore has some of the strictest gun control and drug laws, enforcing them with death penalties. Trafficking more than an ounce of cocaine or firing a gun while committing another crime (regardless of whether anyone was hit) is punishable with hanging. As a result, Singapore has practically no gun crime and negligible drug problem.

We are unable to run even our Panchayats and Nagar Nigams properly. But this small colonial island achieved so much since its formation as a sovereign nation in 1965. It doesn't have minerals. It doesn't have natural scenic beauty except the sea. Tourist attractions are mostly man made. With all these disadvantages, this multi-ethnic, multi-cultural population of 5.6 million has been transformed into an economic force to reckon with. Trading is its main business activity. The Singapore port is the second busiest in the world by cargo tonnage. More than 95% Banks are foreign. There are hardly any tariffs. The inflation rate is - 0.5% and unemployment is 1.8%.

Also, it has emerged as a great education hub. The National University of Singapore ranked number ONE in Times Higher Education Asia University Ranking 2017. It draws students and faculty from over 100 countries across the world. None of our universities are anywhere near this.

I have no intention of eulogising Singapore and deprecate India. But facts are facts. We may criticize their system as regimentation, enlightened dictatorship having punishment like caning etc. But the taste of the pudding is in its eating. If all of us are left free to enhance our own perceived advantage then the only result will be chaos. So, if we are interested in real progress — individual, technological, academic, economic or even spiritual, there is no alternative other than imbibing discipline as a way of life. And that is the key to Singapore. My fervent hope is that this key is found by our people sooner than later.

The world was far behind us when the Vedas were being written. As heirs to such a great tradition, I am sure, my countrymen will echo the sentiments of Abraham Lincoln who said, “ I am a slow walker, but I never walk back. “
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