THE indefinite fast by Team Anna in Delhi has once again brought corruption in India back to the front pages of newspapers and prime-time discussions in the TV channels.
After a series of scams tumbled into the public domain, the Congress-led UPA government launched into action, initiating cosmetic investigations by the pliable CBI. A few ‘known’ faces were arrested and put behind bars. It is not surprising that now, each one of them is out, some even back where they were before the arrest, a la Kalmadi. The Congress strategy was to pretend to be responsive to the public outcry. After tempers cooled off, the scamsters were released on various grounds.
One of the important provisions of the Lok Pal Bill, as designed by the public is to free the CBI from the government clutches and make it an independent constitutional body. This has now become imperative, given the way the premier investigative agency has been dancing to political tunes. It goes flip-flop on cases involving political leaders, as per the latest directions from the Congress high command. Like a sniffer dog it has been at the heels of the Andhra leader Jagan Mohan Reddy while it has suddenly gone coy over the DA (disproportionate assets) cases against both Mayawati and Mulayam Singh. It is reported that the Congress used the ‘proof’ of several improprieties of Mulayam Singh and his family to make him fall in line with UPA over the presidential election. If political grapevine is to be believed, Mayawati has sought Congress’ ‘protection’ from any vindictive action by the Akhilesh government in UP over her omissions and commissions as Chief Minister.
There is hardly any sector in India which has escaped large scale corruption under this government. Food, industry, telecom, defence, sports, aviation, rural schemes and health — to name only a few. India’s aviation story can make a good text-book case in bad management. At a time when the sector was growing, successive ministers and the structure have killed it. Today, the flyers are paying fares that are exorbitant and the services have come down. The road transport and highways ministry made an unverified claim a few days ago that 1.25 lakh kilometers of road have been laid in each of the last eight years. It is anybody’s guess where these roads are. The situation in power sector is deplorable. Several small units have shut down because they became unsustainable without power. On the whole the infrastructure is in a shambles. The general comment one hears from the public is that the situation can improve only when this government is out. The jokes about the Prime Minister and Congress party president are doing the rounds in SMS and the net and has even got mention in such serious journals as The Economist and Time. It is now being increasingly seen that the fountainhead of all corruption in the country is an extra constitutional power that is controlling the government. There is a coterie that protects this power, in which a section of the media too is a willing player. As mentioned in these columns before not only does India lack a resurgent opposition, it badly needs a combative and critical media that is apolitical and non-partisan.
A Prime Minister who had no political baggage and who enjoyed a good image in the public at least initially could have achieved much. Much more than what Manmohan Singh has to show in his report card. If he had set his heart, he could have worked, even with one hand tied behind the back. To do that, one would need a strong sense of commitment and a burning sense of patriotism within. Need we say more?