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On keeping them in line

By Sher Khan
June 28 - July 04,1999

On keeping them in line
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Hamdard University Seminar
  From Crisis to Hope

Even though it seems to go against our grain as a nation to form a line, or stand or stay in one, successive governments have perfected the art of keeping the burgeoning population in line at least on some occasions, with or without the use of the whip. As the demand on goods, utilities and services increases, while their availability on a per capita basis decreases, more and more people have to line up, for a longer duration and in lengthening queues, in the hope of obtaining some of the bare essential necessities of life. Last year we even saw bread queues, and also food riots as the government mismanaged the supply of wheat and flour. Perhaps the most docile liners-up that I have ever seen were citizens of the former Soviet Union at the heyday of its power. Long lines were to be seen outside every shop, outlet or facility, standing unquestioningly and impassively in the freezing winters of Moscow and Leningrad during a brief visit in 1978. Things apparently haven't changed for the better in twenty years, except that now people forced to stand in such queues probably feel free to at least grumble, if not riot, while those with money, no matter how acquired, have easy access to everything under the sun (sounds familiar?)

Keeping the people in line does have some positive aspects. For one it probably helps to keep them out of mischief which they would indulge in were they to have time on their hands.