Farrukh Dhondy | Bureaucracy in UK, EU & India: Putin’s war to BoJo’s rescue?

Putin’s criminal war has caused the largest refugee crisis Europe has known since the Second World War

“See what you think,” they said to Bachchoo

— But the thoughts wouldn’t turn into images.
He waited for them to becomes visual, but
The curtain was lifted and the stage was empty.
“See how you feel,” they enjoined Bachchoo
And yes, love became a vision —
But not in the mind.”

— From Akela Khaathai! by Bachchoo

Bureaucracy”, as Karl Marx once said, “is the enemy of freedom”. George Orwell added that “bureaucracy is the weapon of the feeble minded”. And, of course, Wittgenstein, with mathematical rigour, had said that “bureaucracy is the lyric of the bureaucrat” And then who can forget Emoji Feromonereplacementwalla’s memorable metaphor: “Bureaucracy is like a cucumber!”?

Actually, gentle reader, none of them said anything of the sort. I made up these feeble aphorisms suggested to me by a paradox in the affairs of today’s Britain. The news and recent trivial personal misadventures and annoyances have made me dwell on the subject.

But first, the paradox on the Brit political landscape. BoJo was elected Prime Minister on the promise to “Get Brexit Done”. On forming a government, he has appointed people to be ministers of this and that Brexit portfolio. While his propaganda, even through the right-wing papers which support Brexit, insist that breaking with the European Union’s “bureaucracy” has bestowed great gifts on the UK, the opposite is manifestly evident. The shortages of labour in several industries — the fruit and vegetable harvesting work force, truck drivers, nurses, doctors, etc. One could go on and on.

But the real irony of this getting away from “bureaucracy” is that it has imposed a lethal burning fiery amount on Britain’s imports and exports, while the EU’s form-filling was, to coin a metaphor, like being safely in the frying pan. (This is ridiculous! Get a grip! — Ed)

Apart from the fact that every import from Europe has now to undergo several bureaucratic procedures, causing massive tail backs and even headaches at the exporting and importing terminuses, there is the insoluble Northern Ireland Protocol.

What’s that? It’s a clause which BoJo hastily signed in order to Get Brexit Done. In effect, it means treating Northern Ireland, which is, to date, very much a part of the UK, as though it were a part of the European Union. As the Unionist politicians of Northern Ireland say in protest, it draws a border in the North Sea and in token makes Northern Ireland a part of the Irish Republic. There’s no resolution and in normal times it would have contributed to a severe questioning of BoJo’s policies and even his position as PM.

But Vladimir Putin to the rescue! His invasion of Ukraine has deflected all pivotal criticism from BoJo who now poses as the Churchill -- not of warfare but of economic sanctions. BoJo vows publicly to destroy Putin. Putin inadvertently saves BoJo’s skin. Kya tamasha, kya daastaan!

The war in Ukraine, the bombing of civilian targets, has led to millions of Ukrainians fleeing the country. Putin’s criminal war has caused the largest refugee crisis Europe has known since the Second World War. The countries neighbouring Ukraine — all except Belarus — have responded with open doors and mostly commendable generosity. Poland has welcomed over a million refugees and its government pays subsidies to Polish citizens who take them into their homes. Slovakia has accepted 160,000 to date and tiny Moldova 83,000, which is about three per cent of its own population — a gigantic increase in a week! So why did I use the phrase “mostly commendable”? Because I have read reports that Indian and African citizens studying or working in Ukraine and fleeing from its bombed cities have not been treated the same as the “white” Ukrainians. They have been refused permission to cross the borders out of the path of devastation and death. I admit that this may not be a complete report, but the attested incidents in the news embolden me to relay it.

The EU has also thrown open its doors to the Ukrainians fleeing the war, allowing them access across all borders without hindrance and an assurance that they can remain and work for three years.

Ukrainians trying to get to Britain hit a wall of bureaucracy. UK’s home secretary (Ugly Clueless?) determined at first that only those with relatives already living in Britain would be allowed in. There was a massive protest. The government, wanting to preserve its winning political stance to “keep Johnny foreigner out”, the substance of the Brexit vote, may have miscalculated. Even so, Home Secretary Clueless persists. The number of Ukrainian refugees wanting access to Britain piles up at Calais. They not only have to pass several bureaucratic criteria by filling in forms, they have to wait to get an appointment at a visa station in Paris.

By March 7, 9,000 Ukrainians had applied for asylum and 760 had been admitted. Good going, Clueless!

And my brush with bureaucracy? Trivial. Every time I leave India I stand in slow queues to present my passport to immigration officers. In other countries I only encounter such scrutiny on entering the country, not on leaving it. What on earth are these queues and this examination for? Is it meant to stop criminals leaving the country? Wouldn’t it be like good riddance instead of spending taxpayers’ money on jailing them? Or is it to provide additional employment to immigration officers? Or is it to deter citizens from leaving under-populated India?

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