OVER six decades after Independence, isn’t it time to ask ourselves where we are heading as a nation? Is there any answer? Why are we so self-destructive? Winston Churchill, the racist British Prime Minister who hated India, thought that the country would go to pieces within months of attaining freedom. Another British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan condemned Hindus as double-faced, an epithet that could well apply to Britain itself. But as the years flow one begins to wonder how we flow with the current. True, for all our shortcomings we have remained a democracy. For all our political turbulence we have stayed united. More importantly we have shown a will not only to survive but to make unbelievable progress.
In 1947, India was importing safety pins. That was the level of our technical and industrial competence at the time we won freedom. Now we are planning to send a man to the moon. It is that long a way we have travelled. But at what price? According to Pratyush Sinha, the outgoing head of the country’s Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), one-third of Indians are “utterly corrupt” and fifty per cent are on the border-line. That makes it around 85 per cent of the nation’s 1.2 billion population.
According to Tansparency International-a global anti-graft body-India ranks 84th on its Corporation Perception Index (CPI) with a 3.4 point rating out of a best possible score of ten. Hardly 20 per cent of Indians are “honest regardless of the temptations because this is how they are”. And that tells it all. There is reason to be concerned. Corruption has sneaked into all sections of life. Only the other day, former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan alleged the eight of the past 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt. And he had the courage to name them. There has not been a word of remonstration from the accused. As he put it, things have changed drastically during the last two or three decades and Sinha attributes it to “increased wealth”, obviously, corruption has been receiving greater social acceptance.
A media report recently pointed out that it is not just at the judicial level that corruption has turned into a menace. At the lowest police level, the average bribe in police circles is Rs 2,100. As much as Rs 3,600 per case is taken as a bribe in police stations in the Northern Range. This is chicken feed when one thinks of the tax evasion in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. But corruption is not confined to the lowest in the police hierarchy. In the last four years, the Karnataka Lokayukta Police have either arrested or trapped over 1,400 officers for corruption of whom at least 60 per cent are senior IAS or IPS officials. Recently, the Karnatka Lokayukta unearthed a major racket involving Rs 106.89 crore in payment of compensation to land acquired by Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB). Forged records and distributed fake compensation were the main reasons for the state suffering financial loss. Are police alone to blame?
The Union Communications Minister, A Raja, was served notice by the Supreme Court in a Rs 70,000 crore 2G spectrum scam and no action has been taken against him as yet, though the media has been crying for his blood. The Central Vigilance Commission recently found certain charges against the Chief Executive Officer of Prasar Bharati as sustainable, but the Government has taken no cognizance of the matter. Meanwhile, the Railway Ministry’s ambitious freight corridor project has been hit by a Rs 700 crore, scam, following preliminary findings of the Central Vigilance Commission about alleged irregularities in three contracts awarded by the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd (DFCCIL), a Public Sector Undertaking.
One understands that the controversy over the scam has put a question mark over the World Bank-financed Rs 4,000 crore contract. According to a World Bank spokesman ” a governance and accountability action is under preparation”. There is just no political will to curb these trends in the UPA government. It comes as a shock to learn that as much as over Rs five lakh crore (Rs 58,00,00,00,00,000) of public money has been siphoned off from India by corrupt politicians ad officials between 2000 and 2008. That is around $ 125 billion dollars, enough to repay our foreign debt thirteen times over! This has been revealed by a Washington-based research and advocacy group known as Global Financial Integrity (GFI). An economist of the GFI, Karly Curcio has been quoted as saying that “much of the funds flowing out are generated at home within India and then sent illegally abroad”.
Apparently, the growth of corruption and India’s underground economy contribute significantly to illicit financial flows from the country. If that money is recovered, it is claimed, no income tax need be paid by Indians for several years. And yet so little has been done to identify the guilty parties. Ministers can almost get away with murder. Some thirty months ago, the Centre had opposed a petition seeking change in law which would disqualify legislators instantly if sentenced to more than two years for a criminal offence. Any legislator or government official should automatically cease to hold on to his position for even the most minor offence. But we have laws that make a joke of democracy like the Representation of Peoples’ Act. Those who make laws and those who dispense justice should both have their slates clean. And what can one say about a Jat organisation in Haryana that threatened to disturb Commonwealth Games if the community does not get adequate number of government jobs?
It is pure and simple blackmail that one should be ashamed of. And what can one say about the over Rs 60,000 crore spent an the infrastructure spent for the Commonwealth Games? According to the media it is because of “the unholy nexus between people in power and the contractors, the latter virtually hijacking the event…” Have we as a people lost all sense of honour and responsibility? In regard to the Commonwealth Games, the media itself has shown itself to be petty and mean to India’s eternal discredit. Winston Churchill must be laughing in his grave. The sad thing is that we have no one to provide moral leadership. As a nation we are drifting.