IT has been a painful one month. Watching spokespersons of political parties slugging each other on matters of corruption has often made one feel like throwing up. What has this country come to? The tragedy is that every party is projected as guilty of corruption. And while the media has been doing its job there has been a feeling of being tremendously let down by practically every segment of society.
A former Law Minister charged six Justices of the Supreme Court of corruption. Presently, one judge of the Kolkata High Court, Soumitra Sen is on his way to be impeached. The Adarsh Housing Society scam revealed the involvement of top Army officials, not to mention bureaucrats. Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s resignation has already been accepted. Karnataka’s Chief Minister BY Yeddyurappa is under the scan. The belated resignation of IT & Communication Minister A Raja merely shows how deep corruption has eroded our society. The time has come for setting up a cleansing process or strengthening an existing system that sends a signal to one and all – parties in a coalition government, Ministers in a coalition cabinet, bureaucrats and politicians – that those guilty of corruption will have to pay a high price.
It all started with the liberalisation of the economy. Entrepreneurship went haywire. As business opportunities started blossoming, so did corruption. The two seemed to go hand-in-hand. Matters went from bad to worse when it became apparent that the only way to get going was to go getting. In the circumstances, it does not come as a surprise to learn from Ratan Tata that a Union Minister expected Rs 15 crore from him to set up a new airline in tandem with Singapore Airlines. To get things done, paying the authority concerned a named sum has become standard practice. The rot had set in. That alone would explain how a former chairman of the Indian Medical Council could amass one tonne – repeat, one tonne – of gold. The country is blissfully unaware of what has happened since his corruption case became household news. Has the one tonne of gold been confiscated? Has the gentleman been tried in a Court of Law and sentenced to a lifetime imprisonment?
There is total silence on the subject. The truth is that most political parties have lost their way in the thickest of politics. Trust has become a depleted commodity. One obvious reason seems to be that our political parties have lost a sense of vision. The Bible said it all when it noted that where there is no vision, the people perish. Cynnicism has replaced faith in good administration. Some of the biggest corporate houses are known to have been very liberal in doling out cash to seeking politicians.
The nation has to be grateful to the Tatas for still retaining a sense of values. When vision dies it is replaced by a hunger not for giving service to the country but for practicing power and getting rich overnight. And, as is well-known, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And that is what we have been witnessing in recent times. Principles get thrown overboard to stay in power in a coalition with each partner in the coalition demanding freedom to administer as it pleases as has been witnessed in correspondence between the DMK Minister and the Prime Minister’s office. The impertinence shown by the Minister is unbelievable. In this instance the Prime Minister seems to have allowed himself to be pushed into a corner. Can he be blamed? Shouldn’t the Congress Party bosses – more specifically Sonia Gandhi herself – be held responsible for Dr Manmohan Singh’s plaintive silence?
It is Manmohan Singh who has been called over the coals. If such a leading political party has found itself in such a grave predicament, to whom can one look up to for true leadership? To quote the Bible again: “If the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted”? Political parties, bureaucracy, the Courts, the Army, even the media have all shown a fall from grace that, to say the least, is appalling and putting the nation to shame. Increasingly even the government organisations authorised to investigate crimes are turning out to be untrustworthy with the public losing faith in them.
We don’t have a Mahatma amidst us to show the path of rectitude and give the kind of moral leadership that we seem to so desperately need today. We don’t even have a Jayaprakash Narayan now and even if we have one, it is doubtful anybody would listen to him. The craze for money and power has so entangled us in its crass embrace that he would probably be laughed out of town.
The country seems to have gone so far down that there seems to be no way out of the impasse and the public is getting suffocated. Which is why some kind of self-introspection among all our parties seems so urgently called for. The BJP, in this regard, has a special role to play, as has the RSS.
The Congress is a lost cause. One expects nothing from it, considering its record in the past two years. Slugging it out on TV channels is merely washing one’s dirty linen in public. The finger-pointing that party spokespersons indulge in merely reflects the desperation that the country is faced with. One can do without such show of pusillanimity.
The downward trend in national character has long been apparent and was to surface in all its ugliness in the conduct of the Commonwealth Games.
Pestilential and growing venality has been steadily passing for government whether at the Centre or in the states. Party tickets have been available to anyone who has the money to buy them. Rules are routinely broken; buildings come up only to crash down as was witnessed recently in Delhi. All that is par for the course, which is no consolation. Where do we go from here? Should we call for fresh elections both at the Centre and at the states to give citizens a chance to make their views felt. If the anger among the people is any indication, the UPA government will be booted out in no time, as it should. But who is to bell this particularly vicious cat?
Which is why this is a time for reflection. And it is also a time for Citizens’ Groups to make themselves heard. If they won’t act, who else will? The 2010 year-end has to be seen as a defining moment in the history of post-independence India. Never before has the country felt so betrayed, as it has been in just the last one quarter and it is time the voice of the people makes itself heard. India must be re-born.