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April 17, 2011

Page: 10/35

Home > 2011 Issues > April 17, 2011

The Moving Finger Writes

A land without leaders

ARE we a nation corrupt to the core? Or can we seek some consolation that we are not as bad as many conceive us to be? Prior to the British take-over of India, we had a splendid reputation of people with high moral values, but over the centuries Indian moral standards have continued to fall at an alarming degree.

A recent global study, incidentally, noted that 85 per cent of Indians returned lost mobile phones or wallets to their owners, a degree of honesty that is unique. But obviously this rare distinction has to be mostly attributed to the poor and not to the upper classes whose record from the Jeep Scandal to the latest 2G Scam is enough for any decent human being to throw up.

The names of those charged with legal ‘improprieties’ - to put it mildly - is legion. Haridas Mundhra, Harshad Mehta, Sukhram, Union Finance Minister of another day and age, TT Krishnamachari, a former Petroleum Minister KD Malaviya, Sardar Pratap Singh Kairon, Hare Krushna Mahatab, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, Lalu Prasad Yadav and the latest in the line Adinuth Raja, whose associate Batcha reportedly committed suicide.

Down the decades, we have had the HVW Submarine Scam which cost the exchequer Rs 32.55 crore which is chicken feed by today’s reckoning. The 1990 Airbus Scam reportedly cost the country Rs 120 crore. The Indian Bank Case of 1992 cost Rs 762.92 crore and the government had to pump in Rs 2,675 crore to stop a run on the bank. According to a report by the Washington-based Centre for International Policy, India lost as much as half a trillion dollars in illegal outflows out of the country between 1948 and 2005.

The latest in this category is the Hasan Ali case. If Ali opens his mouth wide, the names of several celebrities are likely to come tumbling down. How long are we to continue carrying such a burden? According to a survey conducted in 2005 by the Association of Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch (ADR-NEW), an umbrella body of about 1,000 NGOs across the country, just in Bihar, a total of 109 MLAs in the 243-strong Assembly had criminal cases pending against them. Out of these, reportedly, 64 had really serious "criminal charges" to face. As many as 39 MLAs were from JD(U) and 32 from BJP and 19 from RJD. The 15th Lok Sabha reportedly had as many as 150 MPs-belonging, sadly, to all political parties-facing criminal charges such as rape and murder. In 2009, it was reported that 59 newly-elected MLAs in one state had criminal cases against them according to their self-sworn affidavits.

In Jharkhand, more than 26 per cent of the elected representatives were crorepaties which is indicative of the theory that money not principles, is important for winning elections. Again, reportedly, among those elected to three Vidhan Sabhas, 284 were crorepaties. The ADR-NEW in its report in 2009 also noticed that as many as 50 per cent of elected MLAs in Maharashtra faced criminal charges as per their own self-sworn affidavits. Haryana had 17 such MLAs. Many of them, it would appear, never ever learnt good manners and decent behaviour. And this applied to MPs as well.

Disruption of proceedings, even in the Lok and Rajya Sabhas has almost become standard practice. The public remain muted spectators watching MPs hurling microphones and furniture at each other. The Speaker, in such circumstances, should not only have the power to order them out but there ought to be a law which disqualifies them from their elected status. It was shocking to watch MPs behave like rowdies when, for example, the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill 2008 was passed by the Rajya Sabha. One can understand opposition to the Bill, but snatching the document and tearing it, breaking chairman Hamid Ansari’s microphone and climbing on a table is hardly the behaviour one expected from any decent human being. Even if there is no law, the political parties concerned should make it a practice to take stern action against the offenders. The trouble in this man-forsaken country is that, it has no leaders of standing. It is not just the country’s elected representatives that need to be called to order.

The bureaucrats are no better. To know them better one must read Sanjoy Bagchi’s The Changing Face of Bureaucracy in which he says that "there is no dispute among the IAS cadre that...IAS Collectors have become more corrupt... (and) have devised novel ways of making money", taking their cuts "in every deal that passes through their hands". Bagchi points to what "senior IAS in the cadre alleged" "that 70 per cent of the young collectors are venal". One might remember the case of a retired officer who was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for writing a book about the alleged corruption in purchase of equipment in a Central Civil Intelligence Organisation. He was told that he had broken the law. A person like PJ Thomas even gets defended by the highest in the land. Let us face it:

The country no longer has any secular leader. Men like Sri Sri Ravishankar seem to carry Ganga waters to Varanasi. Political leaders keep such people at arms length. We have politicians revealing "inside events" to American diplomats, no doubt feeling flattered that a white diplomat from a powerful country is listening to their inanities. Our so-called ‘leaders’ live in Delhi, are scared to go out into the wide, wide world to face the public and are merely content to quarrel among themselves as to who should be the next Prime Minister. One can understand someone like LK Advani who is advanced in age and cannot be accused of not moving out of Delhi to face whether rural or urban audiences. But what about leaders of other parties whether of the Congress or even the CPM?

There are only two ‘national’ parties now: the Congress and the BJP. All others are regional parties and one cannot imagine Karunanidhi going to address an audience in Rajasthan any more than one can expect Mamata Bannerjee addressing an audience in Tamil Nadu. Our "leaders" are content to run their little kitchen empires. The days of a Nehru, not even of a Subhas Chandra Bose or a Jayaprakash Narayan, are long over. We are ruled by little men with little minds and petty hearts, but great ambitions out of sync with their capabilities. We don’t even have a judiciary we can look up to with judges at the highest level betraying the peoples’ faith in them. And to think that a Rajya Sabha panel has framed sixteen charges against Sikkim High Court Chief Justice PD Dinakaran. Where are we heading for?

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