Why India should stop being a nanny state and also ban the ban. Is the State a strong, angry parent who always wants to do things his own way, just to prove that he knows what is best for his children? Or should the State be an understanding and willing parent who allows its wards to grow and freedom, and yes, make mistakes from time to time, face consequences, and learn from them? This is the choice all countries have to make. And we citizens have no choice but to follow that election, because we have given the State, as we truly give our parents, that power over our lives.
The cryptocurrency ban also raised concerns about the restrictions on free choice. According to a recent news report, more than one Indian owns digital assets worth Rs 10,000, and will lose out as the black cryptocurrency market emerges. This has happened in the past, whenever we have blocked anything.
Take alcohol, for example. All recommended restrictions are bootlegging. And many deaths caused by illegal hooch. Take the lottery ban. Or casinos. Or, in that case, betting on cricket. All illegal. Everything is banned in most countries. However today we are full of online lotteries. Casinos have moved to the beach. And cricket betting is currently estimated at Rs 4 lakh crore – much less than our Defense budget.
And, interestingly, what is banned today can be considered appropriate tomorrow. Governments are changing. Opinions are changing. Opinions of right and wrong also change. Satoshi Nakamoto’s surprise introduction in 2009, Bitcoin, could – reinforced by Elon Musk’s $ 1.5 billion buy two weeks ago, and his announcement that Tesla car dealers would soon accept payment in this way – came out as a global currency. It sells for Rs 35 lakh for bitcoin today. Does anyone want an RBI-supported cryptocurrency? Not really. Defeat the purpose for which it was created: To celebrate the anonymity of excavation blockchains.
Taxes and revenue from alcohol are high (Rs 1.75 trillion by 2020), but it is still politically correct to admit that. Bihar’s putative prime minister Nitish Kumar announced last week that the ban remains a government policy and that any employee caught late will be fired immediately. Similarly, the ban on gutkha and pan masala makes no sense. Both are always available for free. Retailers also sell loose cigarettes, another banned item.
Research is not very different. But, fortunately, nothing lasts longer. Everything is available in the net. There was a time when research was worse than a ban. Take years of Emergency. Newspapers are published with missing articles and blank spaces. Cartoons fall. (Governments have no jokes. Cartoonists are often arrested and we recently saw a stand-up comedy show, Munawar Faruqui, arrested before he even finished a joke.) During the Emergency, the Censor Board demanded 51 cuts in grade B. a film called Kissa Kursi Ka.
But that was not enough for Indira Gandhi, who received a major confiscation and burned it at the Maruti factory in Gurgaon. It was a ridiculous decision because the film quickly acquired the status quo and Amrit Nahata, the maker, became a hero.
The frequent closure of the internet, either in Kashmir or on the outskirts of New Delhi where farmers are rioting, has not brought fame to India, only unwanted land attention. The State, you may not see it that way. No State does. It is not democratic or fascism; it’s about power. Power consumption. If you allow the State to use that power over you, it will do so. You can’t do anything about it until you decide to take that complete break, as children often do with their parents. Not because their parents are bad people but because their need for freedom is, at times, very important.
In India, we often believe that children are always wrong. And that parents are an example of all the beauty. Bollywood has expressed the belief that the mother is a tolerant parent who abuses the sewing machine, and the father as the person who gets the bread hard, is always misunderstood. Our myths and legends further develop this concept. And hesitant parents have no choice but to live by this superb image of what they should be – instead of living their lives the way they want to. Children, too, are expected to give up all their freedom in order to be a good child.
The result? Many families are broken. Many psychoses.
The fact is that freedom is not a threat. It frees us. It does not pull us away. Freedom is when parents and children live together in love and respect. Where they support each other to put themselves at risk, make mistakes and find life together.
It is the same with the Kingdom and its subjects. They must learn to live with each other’s folly. Pressure is not the answer. Prohibition and ban is not the only way to exercise authority or to teach people the difference between right and wrong.
Many banned books are outdated today. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses must be read. Guccione’s Caligula is a religion. Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange has been included in the top 10 films of all time. James Joyce’s lyrices are a syllabus for book readers. No one views Anais Nin’s The Winter of Artifice as pornography. Marijuana use is increasingly approved worldwide. New generations are discovering new beauty in things we were once forced to avoid.
The world is opening up. It is time for us to do the same.
Prishish Nandy writes a dubious two-week diagnosis of the nature of our imperfect democracy