Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Times of India 2002 Columns


On that terrible Tuesday, September 11th, I was visiting my aged mother in a village in the Punjab, at her guru’s ashram by the banks of the river Beas, when my son called from China. “Turn on the TV,” he said urgently. And we began to watch in stunned disbelief the barbarous tragedy unfolding on the other side of the globe. The second tower of New York’s World Trade Center came down before our eyes. It is three weeks now since that macabre dance of death, but I am not sure that we have come to grips with these mind-bending events. Ironically, faceless terrorists in Kashmir had set September 11-the same dreadful day-as the deadline for what women could wear. Tailors in the valley had been busy making burqas for weeks. But an innocent 15 year old girl, whose tailor failed to meet the deadline, found acid sprayed on her face as she was rushing home from school. She lost an eye and her pretty face was disfigured for life, and I discovered that I was far more moved by her tragedy. Two years ago Osama bin Laden announced from his hideout in the mountains deserts of Afghanistan, “India and America are my biggest enemies and all mujahideen groups in Pakistan should come together to target them.” Since then I have wondered why he singled out India and America as his targets. Migrations of diverse people created both America and India. America, of course, is a nation of immigrants, but India too was created by the historic wanderings of many peoples and tribes of Asia over thousands of years. America, until recently dealt with its diversity through the “melting pot”; India accommodated its migrant minorities through the caste system, which made it possible for a vast variety of people to live together. For example, Jats became a separate jati. Today, India and America are unusually open, diverse, and pluralistic societies, but they constantly have to appease minorities. Both present a challenge to fundamentalists, who are only comfortable in monolithic states with one religion, one language, and one mind. (Indeed, both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists have this problem in India.) Both societies are vulnerable to terrorists because they are so open. We have to be careful what slant we give to these events. It is not a war against Islam, nor is it a conflict with Pakistan. Pakistan has a more difficult problem because its identity is at stake. It has to decide whether it wants to be a fundamentalist Islamic state or a modern Muslim nation. By allying with the U.S. it has, in fact, been forced to choose. It must now learn that to be “modern” means that it has to be tolerant. Indians too would prefer a stable Pakistan under the watchful eye of America, rather than a fragmented, dysfunctional and terrorist country guided by mullahs. Thus, General Musharraf may be our best bet. In the long run India will benefit from what has happened. The world will now be much more sensitive to terrorist activities in Kashmir. The U.S. will keep Pakistan on a tight leash, especially since it possesses nuclear weapons. Instead of worrying about Pakistan we should seek economic gains from this conflict-both as a supplier of goods to the coalition armies fighting this war or a rest and tourism destination for their soldiers. Let’s remember that our national objective is economic and not military. We will only become a great nation if we become economically strong. Our real enemy is not Pakistan but the people inside who keep India weak economically. These are the corrupt employees in the Customs department who scare young entrepreneurs, the filthy excise inspectors who drive away foreign investors, the SEB employees who steal electricity, the forest officers who plunder our jungles, and Railways officials who fight corporatisation. Our real terrorists are government officials who are thwarting our second green revolution by denying our farmers the new miracle seeds. Cotton farmers in both our competitor countries, the U.S. and China, have taken a lead over us because they have planted their fields with Bt cottonseed, which protects their crop from bollworm--the dreaded disease that destroys half our cotton crop every year. As a result, American and Chinese cotton yields have risen 30 per cent and their cotton has become cheaper. But in India, officials have once again refused Mayco, the Maharashtrian seed company, permission to sell the same Bt cotton, even after six years of successful field trials. Some say that the company was unwilling to bribe, but what matters is that farmers in China and America are in the midst of prosperity while many of our cotton farmers have committed suicide. Our real enemy is within.


It is more than five weeks since the world turned upside down, and we are now in the midst of a war. Some Indians are uncomfortable and ask who is America fighting? Others are filled with fear and wish that they were not fighting in our neighbourhood. Americans too are confused, and insistently ask why were they made targets of the September 11 attacks? They wonder why is America disliked? And in this case, so hated that a few young men were willing to defy the basic human instinct for survival and die for what they believed to be a worthwhile cause. By and large, however, Indians have welcomed Bush’s global war on terrorism, partly because it has strengthened our own government’s resolve to fight terrorists. Indians believe that Maulana Masood Azhar is our Osama bin Laden--the mastermind of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan based terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in Srinagar that killed 38 people on October 1. Hence, we were relieved when America banned this organisation and froze its bank accounts. Azhar believes in jehad like Osama, and we want our government to go after him with the same vigour that America is going after Osama. Yet, despite supporting this war, Indians are ambivalent because we have been offended time and again by America’s indifference to non-American lives. America has historically propped up dictators in Latin America and backed tyrants in Africa and Asia, who in turn have killed millions of their people with America’s knowledge and support. The present, heinous Taliban regime is merely one example. One has to remember the millions who were killed in Vietnam, and Cambodia; the thousands who died in Lebanon in 1982; the countless millions who were victims of American government supported dictators in Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. It is this disregard for non-American lives that might begin to explain why America is disliked around the world. We also have the usual anti-Americanism, which is just as fashionable in our influential left wing and academic circles as it is in Europe and Latin America. These people are fulminating against this war. Many of them are the same people who oppose economic globalisation, technology, free capital flows and foreign influences. They charge that America is arrogant, hypocritical and is exporting an unhealthy consumerist way of life. However, this sort of anti-Americanism does not resonate with the common person, who loves America’s movies, rock stars, and uninhibited style, and admires the achievements of American scientists and athletes. I am not a fan of consumerism, but I am resigned to it because it reflects the rise of the poor into the middle class. I have sometimes wondered that when intellectuals consume books, classical music and art, we call it “gracious and elegant”, but when the poor consume, we call it “consumerism”. The average person is not anti-American because she realises that despite its huge flaws, America it is perhaps the least territorial and the most idealistic among the all the great powers in history. When Europeans were dilly-dallying it was America that came to the aid of Muslim minorities in Bosnia and Kosovo. It led the attack on Christian regimes in order to defend Muslim victims. And it did so even when there was nothing to be gained from it. Our Islamic population is also ambivalent about this war. Muslim Indians are more ready to argue the Palestinian case, and believe rightly that America could have done more to restrain Israel. They are upset that half a million Iraqi children have died as a result of American economic sanctions. They are consumed by the irony that Taliban and Osama bin Laden are America’s creation from the cold war. We have a few Islamic fundamentalists as well, but the truth is that the average Indian Muslim has reacted to this war in a moderate and mature way. Hence, we have not seen Indian Muslims protesting in the streets. Amidst all the confusion, uncertainty and fear, ordinary Indians understand that in the end this is a war against fanaticism and terror, and for decency and civilised tolerance for other religions and cultures. They realise that in all wars some innocent people will be killed. But they also know from their unhappy experience of the past decade that almost every victim of terrorism is also an innocent person. Thus, this is not America’s war. It is also our war. But President Bush has to be sensitive as he prosecutes it. He needs to convince the world that non-American lives are just as precious as American ones. Otherwise, for all the good that America will achieve, the world will continue to dislike America.


We have been obsessed too long with events outside, and it is time to return to our own concerns. I turn this Sunday to a tragedy that occurred in U.P.’s Muzaffarnagar district this summer. “Teenage lovers hanged to death as hundreds look on” read the bald headline, and the page five news report told the tragic story of Sonu, a jat girl, and Vishal, a brahmin boy, who were neighbours and had been in love for months. Their families had tried to break the alliance because they were of different caste, but when Vishal’s father caught the young lovers “in a compromising position in field nearby,” he summoned the families and the village elders. They held an impromptu village meeting, “ordered a death sentence”, and took the couple to the roof and hanged them. The next day the police arrested the families and the villagers who had taken part in the event. The parents, while consoling each other in jail, said without remorse, “We had to do it for the village’s honour.” The police chief added, “They will be let off, of course, because witness wont come forward. But then this sort of thing is not uncommon around here,” and he recalled three such incidents during the past year. I was aghast, and I thought, how, indeed, does one begin to make sense of the Indian village? B.R. Ambedkar, one of our founding fathers, shocked many in the Constitutional Assembly in November 1948 when he said: “What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism?” Some British administrators, however, were more generous. Charles Metcalfe, the governor general in the 1840s, called our village communities, “the little republics,” and Lord Ripon, the Viceroy in the 1880s, thought that the Indian village “contained a reservoir of intelligent and public-spirited men”. He proposed local boards of elected village representatives, and with that he struck the first blow for local self-government. Mahatma Gandhi was a man of the city but he had the most romantic view of the countryside. He dreamt of building a modern India around the self-governing village: “My idea of village swaraj is that it is a complete republic independent of its neighbours for its own vital wants and yet inter-dependent for many others.” Karl Marx too, curiously enough, was struck by the independent nature of the Indian village because it contained both agriculture and industry. But like Ambedkar, he condemned it as closed, and stagnant. He felt it “restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies.” Jawaharlal Nehru also disagreed with Gandhi, saying that “a village, normally speaking, is backward intellectually and culturally and no progress can be made from a backward environment.” As in all things, I think the truth lies somewhere in between. The majority of the villages, I am sure, are deeply unjust, many are chronically fractious, and some are tyrannical to the lowborn. But even if a quarter are decent, just and peaceful then we ought to lend our whole hearted support to the revolution that is quietly bringing self government to our villages. Rajiv Gandhi fought courageously for panchayati raj, and this culminated in the 73rd Constitutional amendment. Today, panchayat elections have been held in all major states and there are more than three million local legislators, of which one million are women. This could be the greatest change in the Indian village in a thousand years and the grandest blow for women’s freedom. Yet many Indians are sceptical and almost no one in our political classes is enthusiastic about village democracy. The urban middle class is too busy with its own problems and the village has receded into a remote memory. When we do think about it, we think of caste wars. State politicians and bureaucrats oppose panchayati raj because they will lose power. The villagers themselves lack confidence and education. Only in a few states--West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh--have expectations grown, along with skills and confidence. People here have seen a new class of village leaders come up, corruption has begun to decline, and there are better schools, primary health clinics, and cleaner water. It is a matter of time, I think. Plenty of heart-warming (and heart-rending) stories of panchayati raj come every day from across the land, and Delhi’s Institute of Social Sciences meticulously records them. As villagers in the other states gain experience, they too are becoming more assured and determined, and are beginning to stand up to the feudal forces. Although, like the economic reforms, this liberal revolution is half-complete, it is going to change the way we judge the village.


Ever since the British left we have heard constant carping against the English language. Then one day in the 1990s it suddenly seemed to die, and quietly, without ceremony English became one of the Indian languages. English lost its colonial stigma, oddly enough, around the time that the Hindu nationalists came to power and realised that Hindi had failed them. Hindi protagonists lost steam because they lost their convictions. Their own daughters wanted to learn English and get ahead in the world and their wives reminded them that English was their child’s passport to the future. Based on present trends India will become the largest English-speaking nation in the world by 2010, crossing the United States, according to the English linguist, David Dalby, the author of Linguasphere Register of the World’s Languages and Speech-Communities. Dalby predicts that India will then become “the centre of gravity of the English language”. Thus, it would seem just as intrusive to want to remove English from India today as it was to introduce it during the time of Rammohun Roy and Macaulay. We are more comfortable and accepting of English today, I think, partly because we are more relaxed and confident. Our minds have become decolonised and “Hinglish” increasingly pervades our lives. For a hundred years the upper middle classes have mixed English words in their everyday talk, but the present media argot is a creature of the new satellite and cable channels. Zee, Sony and Star, supported by their advertisers, have created this uninhibited hybrid of Hindi and English. Avidly embraced by the newly emerging middle classes, this new popular idiom of the bazaar is rushing down the socio-economic ladder. The purists disapprove, but most of us are resigned to it-we know this is how languages have usually evolved. Over the decades we have learned painfully that it is often better to go with the tide than to impose one’s will--all those damaging experiments in Bengal, Gujarat and other states, which deleted English from the school, have ended in decimating millions of futures! That English is one of our Indian languages should neither be cause for mourning nor of rejoicing. It is the way the world is going. English has become the global language at a time when technological breakthroughs have shrunk the globe. Yet, one wonders why Hindi nationalists did not invest more energy, enthusiasm and creativity in making Hindi richer and a more attractive alternative. Why did they not translate all the world’s great literary and scientific works into Hindi? Why have we not had an efflorescence of regional writing in the past half century? Certainly a few fine writers have emerged, but not the renaissance that we had hoped for. It is a sad thing that our own languages are not esteemed by their speakers. Mothers prefer to send their children to English medium schools as vernacular schools have poorer standards. Learning English also means a better job. The deck has been stacked against our vernaculars for a 150 years ago, but our language intellectuals could have done more. Whatever the reason, more and more Indians are growing up today more comfortable in English than their mother tongue. It is still a minority, but if this trend continues for a couple of generations then one day that minority will become a majority. What could stop this is a sudden resurgence in the quality of vernacular schools, and a renaissance in their literatures. But given the global ascent of English, this appears unlikely. We have made a pact with the devil. Fluency in English gives us a competitive advantage in the global society, on the one hand. But losing our mother tongue does impoverish our personality, on the other. For language is not only a means of communication, it is a source of new ideas and emotions. We realise that we cannot think without language, but we forget that we cannot feel without it either. I am able to feel certain emotions when I speak Punjabi that I do not in English. I have always wished that I could write in Punjabi for then I could express a whole range of new feelings. It is unclear where we are headed. What is clearer is that more and more Indians are speaking and writing English and getting published. They are finding a market for their writings both in India and abroad. Since the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children in 1981, Indian writing in English has become not only more visible, but also respectable. Earlier, Indians were suspicious of their countrymen writing in English-they argued that one could only write creatively in one’s own mother tongue. But they forgot to notice that English was becoming a mother tongue to more and more Indians.

What is wrong with our temper? 02/12/2001

Each age seems to have a unique temper, and it reflects the mood and the spirit of the people. The most famous mood, as far as I can tell, belonged to Europe at the end of 19th century when a spirit of intense vivacity--an almost desperate joy at being alive--led to some bold experiments in the arts. It came to be called “fin de siecle” and it was a rebellion, in part, against the Victorian “middle class morality” that Bernard Shaw had satirised with great wit. The Americans, of course, have built a publishing industry around their moods--hence, “the roaring twenties”, “the swinging sixties”, etc. If I had to define the present Indian temper based on newspaper reports, I would conclude that we lived in pretty dispirited times--a sort of post-reforms, post-Mandal, post-Nehru, and post-modern menopause. What accounts for our low temper? Why is there a general feeling of malaise and that too at the beginning of a new century? It is a puzzle, all right. Here, we have experienced a veritable revolution in the 1990s in our political, economic, and social lives. Our minds are freer and less colonised. Politically, we have been liberated from the rule of a single party and dynasty at the centre, and power has begun to travel to the villages via “panchayati raj”. Economically, liberalisation has begun to free us from the heavy hand of bureaucrats and politicians. Socially, the lower castes have risen through the ballot box, and there is a palpable feeling of confidence among the backwards. Technologically, our educated young have found a new hope in IT. Our day-to-day lives too have changed perceptibly. No one talks about inflation and shortages these days. Telephone services have gradually improved and we don’t need to bribe to get a railway berth as ticketing is computerised. Gone is our constant insecurity over foreign exchange and food grains. Neither are we hostage to the stiff news bulletins of Doordarshan. Nor do we run after the minister’s PA for a cooking gas connection. We have quietly accepted these changes and they have unthinkingly become a part of our lives. We have also had world-class performers to root for--Arundhati Roy, Vishwanath Anand, Amartaya Sen, not to mention our beauty queens. Even in the recent Afghanistan war, the world has noticed the exemplary behaviour of Indian Muslims, as Tom Friedman pointed out in the New York Times and attributed it to our open democratic society (which allows a Muslim, Azim Premji, to become the richest Indian). And yet, despite all this our national mood is down and out. Is it because we are in the midst of an economic slowdown, and this affects our mood? After the sensational years, 1993 to 1997--when economic growth averaged 6.8 per cent a year--the truth is that growth has slowed down in the last five years to an average 5.8 per cent. But let us not forget that despite being in severe slowdown, we remain one of the fastest growing large economies in the world. The real culprit behind our malaise, I think, is the depressing state of day-to-day governance in the country. What blackens our day is that state electricity employees steal forty percent of the nation’s power. They don’t steal power in Bombay because distribution is in private hands; yet knowing this, we haven’t been able to privatise power distribution elsewhere. If only half this theft stopped there would be enough money to build new power plants. It costs more to ship goods from Delhi to Bombay than from Bombay to London because railways have failed to carry freight economically and honestly and truckers continue to be victims of poor roads and incessant delays and bribes at octroi and police posts. In U.P. and Bihar one third of the teachers don’t show up in village schools, and sixty percent of the contraceptives of the health ministry are stolen or misused. No one has calculated the cost of loss of trust in our system because judicial delays allow people to get away with “bounced” cheques. Contributing to our unhappy mood is the loss of idealism and ideological certainties. We feel betrayed that Nehruvian socialism has led us into a ditch, and secularism has turned out to be hollow--out of tune with the people’s ethos and unable to stop the rise of Hindu nationalism. It is difficult, meanwhile, to feel enthusiastic about the market because the “invisible hand” is, in fact, invisible. The loss in today’s jobs is more obvious than tomorrow’s rewards that trickle down subtly. What we can see instead is the failure of our politicians to invest in education and health to build the capabilities of our young. So, maybe there is a reason for our low spirits.

Who will roll the chapatis? 16/12/2001

I tell my young niece that this must be the best time in history to be a woman. Around the world women have never been freer and this has to be one of great achievements of the 20th century. The consciousness of women’s oppression came to us from the West, but women’s organisations in India passionately took up the rallying cry, and their prize has been a third of the legislative places in village and municipal governments and a third again as heads of these governments. We have thus witnessed the great spectacle of almost a million women panchayat members begin to govern our villages, and of these almost a quarter of a million are chairpersons. Studies by academics reveal that women are increasingly exercising a benign influence over local affairs and panchayats headed by women outperform those headed by men. Having said that, there still remains a huge gap between aspiration and reality-the sobering truth is that millions of women either die in childbirth or are never born, and thousands are victims of domestic violence, rape, and dowry deaths. In the summer of 1994, Basanti Bai, a dalit, made history by becoming the first woman sarpanch of Barkhedi gram panchayat in Sehore district in Madhya Pradesh. Her family remembers those days when the upper caste villagers repeatedly threatened her and registered fake complaints with the police. After she resigned no one in the village would give her work and she had to go outside to look for work. Eventually the village realised its mistake--she had been an excellent sarpanch--and they voted her back at the next election. Today, the village hand pump is a proud testimonial to her leadership. Fatimabai, a sarpanch in Kurnool district in Andhra, wears a burkha and can neither read nor sign her name. She lacked confidence at first, but later managed to do what no man had done. She metalled the village access road, built a schoolhouse, repaired the public water tap, registered land ownership pattas, and physically led the village to clean up a large tank. Above all, she refused to lease the village pond to her biggest supporter; instead, she held an open auction, which yielded a lakh of rupees for the panchayat fund. A decade ago during the debate on the Constitutional amendments, we constantly heard this refrain: if women get on the panchayats, who will make the chapatis? Who will look after the children? Well, no one talks like that anymore, as Bishakha Dutta’s book shows. Today women members travel long distances, sometimes escorted by male relatives. A survey by CWDS finds that 65.5 per cent of women attend panchayat meetings regularly. Studies also contradict the common belief that women representatives belong to influential families with political connections. Susheela Kaushik’s study of six states confirms they are mostly OBCs and 40 per cent belong to families below the poverty line. But there is a darker side, too. In Madhya Pradesh, Kusum Bai, the OBC sarpanch of a gram panchayat in Khandwa district, defeated another woman candidate, whose husband, along with three others, gang-raped her. Two days later, completely traumatised, she tried to commit suicide. A primary school teacher, who became sarpanch in Pune district, was beaten up by the rival male candidate (and his hired goons) simply because she had won the election and he had not. The overwhelming evidence, however, suggests that the Indian village is changing. Studies confirm that women panchayat leaders perform better because they focus on the right priorities--installing water pumps and wells, constructing toilets, village roads, schoolhouses and appointing good teachers. The women themselves report that they now receive new respect from their families and the community. Those elected have realised that they need to acquire an education. Inspired by the example of Mayawati, the dalit leaders of Uttar Pradesh are keen to see girls in their villages attend school regularly. Govind Nihalani’s film, Sanshodhan, sums up the picture. In it a woman member of the panchayat in Rajasthan mobilises the village to build a primary school and successfully foils the local Thakur landlord who is bent on stealing the school funds. It is a simple political film, which shows how Thakurs and the elite will try to subvert the democratic process when it goes against their interest. They try to pack the panchayats with their relatives and friends, but eventually they fail and have to reconcile to sharing power. They say that the measure of civilisation is how it treats its women. If this is true, then we are certainly becoming a more civilised nation day by day, and panchayati raj has something to do with it. There is much to be done, but we have come a long way from Manusmriti to Madhuri.


We have always known that a successful nation has three attributes: politically, it is free and democratic; economically, it is prosperous and equitable; and socially, it is peaceful and cohesive. But it is rare to find a nation, which scores on all three counts. Most Western countries have democracy and prosperity, but they suffer from social disintegration. The nations in the East have prosperity and social cohesion but they suffer under authoritarian political regimes. For decades India used to score high on the political front, middling on social criteria and low on the economy, but in the 1990s it has reported considerable gains in all three areas. Politically, our elections have become fairer, thanks to the interventions of the election commission; democracy has also gone down to the village after the 73rd amendment to the Constitution; but governance at all levels has deteriorated. Economically, we have become more prosperous as our growth rate climbed up, yet our economy has remained half reformed. Socially, lower castes have risen, especially in the north and after Mandal, but our peace has been continuously shattered by turmoil and violence in Bihar and other places. The world has fought bitterly over how to achieve these three goals. Even in the last fifty years when there was relative peace in the world, the Cold War ensured that we remained divided. Now, after the collapse of communism and the slow erosion of ideology in the world, a remarkable consensus seems to be emerging, at least on one of these goals-how to make a poor nation prosperous. It is a consensus based on empirical data, painstakingly gathered by researchers covering a half-century, and can be found in Gerald Meirer and Joseph Stiglitz’ Frontiers of Development Economics: The Future in Perspective. Not surprisingly, the starting point in moving from poverty to prosperity is sustained high economic growth. Nothing reduces poverty like growth. Since India and China together account for more than a third of the world’s people, and since both have experienced high growth for two decades, the world as a whole has become less poor and more equal. More than a half billion people in the two countries have risen out of poverty between 1980-2000. What makes for this poverty reducing growth? Two things-one, a healthy climate for business and investment and two, the poor empowering themselves to take part in the growth. A healthy climate is not just about attracting multinationals (although foreign investment is very important in raising the savings rate of a society). It means keeping inflation low, for example, so that ordinary people can enjoy the rewards of their efforts. A healthy climate is also one where small entrepreneurs are not at the mercy of inspectors and petty government officials, who want a bribe before they will put signature on paper. This is the shame of India, as the Global Competitiveness Report keeps reminding us, and explains our low levels of foreign investment. The most troublesome officials are in the excise, customs, and tax departments-all of them in the Finance Ministry-yet neither Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, nor Yashwant Sinha succeeded in cleaning up his own stables. The widest consensus is on opening the economy to trade and investment. The record shows that open economies have consistently outperformed closed ones, and the link between economic growth and openness is so overwhelming that it should silence swadeshis and protectionists forever. So, if we wish to be a great exporting nation, we must lower our tariffs, which are still amongst the highest in the world. There is widespread evidence that an attack on poverty does not succeed through government programs, where majority of the funds leak out in corruption and administrative expenses. It is vastly more successful when the poor take part. This happens where the poor have access to schools, primary health care. Also, where panchayati raj has taken off, communities report lower teacher and student absenteeism and better run poverty programs. The history of poverty is one of inadequate property rights. A fourth consensus is on the crucial importance of enforcing property rights if one is realise the benefits of the market. In India, we have an independent judiciary, but judicial delays and our inability to dismantle the accumulated legislation of the socialist raj nullify our advantage. Finally, people everywhere are disappointed with the massive state intervention of the socialist age. The consensus is to redefine the role of the state to give us only good governance and to build up human capabilities that are so crucial in raising our productivity. For the rest, the state should be kept out, and we should observe the Chinese proverb: the people are happy when the king is far.