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April 17, 2011

Page: 11/35

Home > 2011 Issues > April 17, 2011

Media Watch

Bribing MPs: Old story new packaging

WHAT is often not realised are the revelations frequently made by columnists which, sadly, often go unnoticed. Writing in The Times of India (March 20) Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar (SWASAA) reminds us how, former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao survived a confidence vote by acquiring the support of three MPs of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. These gentlemen were naÔve enough to deposit Rs one crore apiece in cash in their respective bank accounts and were caught by the police. But, according to Aiyar, the Supreme Court then held that voting for any reason whatsoever in the Lok Sabha was covered by privileges of Parliament, which gave immunity to wrong-doers from the normal laws of the land. So, MPs taking cash for votes could not be prosecuted.

Now, take the story made public by WikiLeaks and reported by The Hindu. Four MPs of Ajit Singhís party were apparently bribed to vote for the UPA on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal issue. Ajit Singh has denied it, claiming that not four, but the partyís only three actually members opposed the Congress-led government. Did they, Aiyar wonders "get a better offer from the other side". The public has cease to respect MPs. Writes Aiyar, and he needs to be read: "When the Constitution was formalised, it provided that Parliament should codify its own privileges, laying down precisely which acts would be immune from prosecution, or civil suits. More than 60 years later, Parliament has not yet done so. MPs of all parties prefer their existing immunity for all actions. This is the real scandal and no party or newspaper is highlighting it". Two people have overnight got out of news. One is PJ Thomas, who resigned as Central Vigilance Commissioner. Whatever has happened to him?

The New Indian Express (March 4) had strongly condemned the government for paying "scant regard to the ethical issues involved in the appointment of a tainted official", adding that "to claim that the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister had no knowledge of the corruption charges against him, while the whole world knew about it, was to insult the common sense of the people". There has been no reaction to it whatsoever. Par for the course. The other is Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi who had been appointed as mohtamim (Vice Chancellor) at Darul Uloom, Deoband. Has he been sacked for saying kind things about Narendra Modiís rule in Gujarat? One of the silliest charges made against him was that in October 2010, at a function in Beed, Maharashtra, he had presented a Radha-Krishna figure to a Hindu Minister. How much ridiculous can one get? But one understands from The Hindu (March 4) that major changes are taking place in Muslim society of which so few are aware of. Recommended reading is Vidya Subramaniamís article in the same paper which is an eye-opener.

The question arises: why arenít our daily newspapers doing a real study of what the average Muslim thinks about contemporary events? According to Vidya, at a gathering at Delhiís Ghalib Academy on February 21, some 300 Muslim clerics "skull cap, flowing beards and all, lined up behing Vastanvi" indicating their support to him. It is a big story. But our major dailies obviously donít think so. Then there is the case of Hasan Ali Khan, suspected of stashing billions of rupees in Swiss and other foreign banks. He reportedly told the media that some politicians had also given him money to be stashed abroad. Who are these gentlemen? What has happened to Hasan Ali? Is politics at work to get him freed?

According to Hindustan Times, the police had intercepted a telephonic conversation among members of the Peoplesí Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) a front of the Maoists, on how to derail a train - and yet the police did not take any action. Hindustan Times even published a transcript of the conversation between the saboteurs. There the matter ends. There has obviously been no follow-up on the story. Did the government take action against the saboteurs? Against the policemen? What is wrong with the media? Why is there no follow-up of important events? According to the paper, officials have clammed up. The media should know how to get official mouths open.

In the matter of Hasan Ali, The Hitavada (March 13) has some pointed remarks to make. Wrote the paper: "Looking at the shoddy probe going on into the misdeed of the biggest tax evader of India and stud-farm owner of Pune, Mr Hasan Ali, it seems that this case may also go the way the Bofors Case has gone... It is surprising that while the common man is made to suffer at the slightest pretext by various law-endorcing agencies, here is a man, who is the nationsí biggest tax defaulter, who has stashed crores of rupees in foreign banks, who allegedly has forged passports, who is suspected to have links with arms dealers, and is still roaming free. Shame on these agencies". The paper said that if the agencies are not doing their jobs properly, they must be disbanded to save tax payersí money and asked: "And why does not the government crack the whip on them? Why have they to be prodded by the Supreme Court every time to act"? A good question. Interestingly, in the matter of the WikiLeaks The Asian Age (March 25) believes that allegations of "purchasing" MPs call for an investigation. That, according to the paper, "is obvious". The paper reminded readers that a "criminal investigation" had been ordered into the allegation of trading MPs and entrusted to the Delhi Police. But no report is yet out. How long will that take? The citizen by now has come to accept corruption as part of political life that does not need correction, on the philosophy of chalta hai. Will the media kindly make a study of that? Taking too many things for granted is not good for democracy - or for good government.

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