, by SYYED MANSOOR AGHA
In this Section
Recently we celebrated our 64th Independence Day on August 15. The day marks the end of century-old British imperialism and beginning of self-rule in 1947. To be sovereign gives great feeling. This feeling was very strong in early days and in 50’s and 60’s the day was celebrated with great fervour and enthusiasm. Even in remote villages public participation was visible. However by the passing time the enthusiasm has diminished and now celebrations of the Independence Day and the Republic Day have reduced to customary official functions and public holiday. This qualitative degradation is alarming and speaks a lot about huge gap between our fascination for “Independent India” and facts emerged after Independence. This year’s Independence Day has been gripped by the talk of ‘corruption’ the omnipresent, omnipotent. During the last 64 years the degradation of our age-old value system has made us more selfish and greedy.
During our struggle for Independence we were made to live with so many charming dreams. The bold theme of the movement was, after our independence, we will be the masters of our own destiny. We were assured that our miseries will be eradicated with great sympathy and grievances attended with un-adulterated attention; however after the golden movement came, all dreams fell apart and people find themselves in a web of illusions. Instead of sympathy of governing class, poor people faced apathy, in place of speedy resolution of problems, inordinate delays haunted the needy. Lack of dedication, absence of discipline, tendency to evade decision making and greed to milk the clients for unholy considerations came as a nightmare. Now it has burst like a bomb.
After Independence, gradually the ruling class became adapted of misusing their official power for personal benefits. Criminalisation of politics is another facet of corruption. N.N. Vohra, the then Union Home Secretary observed in 1995: “A network of mafias is virtually running a parallel Government pushing the state apparatus into irrelevance.” Quoting some ‘DIB’ sources, he added, “….there has been a rapid spread and growth of criminal gangs, armed senas, drug mafias, smuggling gangs and economic lobbies in the country, which have over the years developed an intensive network of contacts with bureaucrats, government functionaries at local level, politicians, media persons and strategically located individuals in non-state sector. Some of these syndicates have also international linkages including the foreign agencies.”
The situation has deteriorated since then. This nexus has catapulted many persons of criminal background to the legislative house and chairs of Ministers and Chief Ministers. As in December 2008, 120 of total 522 Parliament members were facing criminal charges. Though Indian society has never been free from corrupt practices, yet there is now a sea change. Earlier, bribes were paid for getting wrong things done, but now people are extorted for getting their right things done at right time. Previously permit raj was blamed for bribes, now flow of money in open economy is being blamed. Free economy has opened a wide door of consumerism. Race for modern lifestyle has become other enticement to grab more money.
Extortion is not limited to wealth. Recently ugly incidents of sexual exploitation have also come in light.
A 2005 study done by Transparency International (TI) in India found that more than 50% of the people had first-hand experience of paying bribe or peddling influence to get a job done in a public office. A 2009 survey of the leading economies of Asia, revealed Indian bureaucracy to be the least efficient among countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, Philippines and Indonesia. The report also found that working with India’s civil servants was a “slow and painful” process.
Corruption in our political class is not new. M.K. Gandhi, fondly remembered as Mahatma Gandhi, recorded his anguish on their corruption as early as in 1939. He wrote in Harijan, “I would go to the length of giving the whole Congress a decent burial, rather than put up with the corruption that is rampant.”
He was lamenting the rampant corruption in Congress ministries formed under 1935 Act in six states in the year 1937. However his followers did not heed his concern. Our first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru was tolerant towards complaints of corruption. Krishna Menon (Jeep Scandal case 1955), Mudgal case (1951), Mundra deals (1957-58), Malaviya-Sirajuddin scandal (1963), and Pratap Singh Kairon case (1963) may be cited as examples. Same was the case with his successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, who otherwise had a clean image, introduced a new dimension of cultural and communal corruption. During the armed conflict with Pakistan in 1965 the Shastri Regime virtually entrusted whole apparatus of civil security system to RSS and by that granted his recognition to Sangh as nationalists, though Sangh does not believe in our Constitution, the very foundation of Democratic Republic of India and their anti-minority tirade is also well established and well known.
The iron lady Indira Gandhi was more tolerant to corrupt political practices. She at a time unfortunately belittled the menace of corruption when she said, “Bribery is universal phenomenon.” Her regime is marred with allegations of so many charges. Narasimha Rao’s regime may be counted as most degraded in this matter. It is alleged that he bribed members of Parliament and encouraged defections to continue in power. He also corrupted the administrative and political apparatus to facilitate demolition of Babri Masjid.
Records of NDA regime, led by BJP are not less dirty. Then Party President Bangaru Laxman and M.P. Judev were caught on camera accepting bribe. One M.P. is in jail for human trafficking, tainted CMs of Karnataka and Uttarakhand were forced to resign amidst enormous corruption charges. Former CM of Jharkhand Madhu Koda, and former Minister of DMK A Raja are in jail under corruption charges. Virtually no political party of India can claim to be free from corrupt practices. Leaders with clean hands are highly endangered species.
Though all politicians are aware that corrupt political practices, amassing of wealth by using their public position illegally, communalism, nepotism and sex are the main reasons behind the fall of the Roman Empire, the French Revolution, October Revolution in Russia, fall of Chiang Kai-Shek in China and defeats of many democratic governments in elections. Yet they are not taking any lesson. Recent spectrum scam and CWG bungling have crossed all the limits, so there is too much hue and cry and birth of Anna Hazare movement. The stated aim of Team Anna is eradication of corruption from the society but they are still groping in the dark. No work has been done on factors responsible for money hunger.
Origin of bribing in India is hard to find. As Sadhvi Kankeshwari Devi once said, “Bribe is in our blood. Even our offering to deity, is not symbol of piyar (love) but vayapar (business). We expect hundreds and thousands time more favours than we offer.” A prominent Arya Samaji activist and educationist Late M.S. Chaudhry, former Principal of J.V. College, Baraut, (who happened to be my English teacher in early 60s) once exhorted students to shun the greed of dhan (wealth). Lamenting the use of Deity Laxmi’s picture on exercise books, he said ‘this one deity is omnipresent in our minds and omnipotent in our public life.’ So lust for money is in the air of Indian culture. Heaps of gold, silver and other valuables, recently unearthed at religious places and rest houses of revered god’s-men, is a tip of un-accounted wealth. Who can touch them? Of late certain ‘ghod’s men’, pious in the eyes of people, have been caught pants down in immoral exploitation of woman and also in flesh trade.
Anybody concerned about national wellbeing will side the cause of Team Anna but to support his actions is hard to find takers who believe in democracy and parliamentary system. The language he is speaking is closer to indecency. Instead of creating awareness among masses to shun the culture of bribery and lust for money, he has picked up fight against the Government. We need to analyse the root causes of this deep rooted phenomenon and then suggest a remedy. One of the most important reasons has been degradation in the moral value system and ethical qualities. Free electronic media has severely damaged our age-old value system. Avalanche of consumerism has created uncontrollable hunger for money. Sobriety, simplicity, and modesty have become achromatic. Luxurious life is the goal of every individual. We have never heard a single word against these ills from Team Anna.
Our statute books have enough laws to deal with illegal amassing of wealth and theft of taxes. More laws are in pipeline. A new law of Anna like is not a definite measure to deal with. What is more important is the will to deal with such cases with iron fist. Awareness in public against electing tainted persons to legislative bodies is most important. A culture of denouncing bribe is needed. The whole problem requires deep study and reforms in the society. All sincere persons should come forward to create conditions in which status of a person is not measured by his wealth. Desire to bribe and get bribe may be defeated only by changing public perception.
[The writer is Gen Sec, Forum for Civil Rights; he can be reached at email@example.com]