A righteous conscience: “Not the India Nehru discovered: A Deccan Chronicle article” at humanrescueintermedia

Deccan Chronicle
Published on Deccan Chronicle (http://www.deccanchronicle.com)

Not the India Nehru discovered

Corruption today is rampant in India at all levels. The amounts involved boggle the mind. Scam after scam has surfaced. Never before has the functioning of the administration been so vitiated. Samuel Johnson wrote that politics was the last refuge of a scoundrel but Mahatma Gandhi showed that politics was a game a saint could also play. High moral values and impeccable integrity were the hallmarks of our Freedom Movement. To uphold values, at the height of the non-cooperation movement, when success was within his grasp, Gandhi called off the agitation because of the Chauri Chaura incident. Indian leaders of that period had made great personal sacrifices; their integrity was of the highest order. Two examples underscore this. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was a flourishing barrister, but when he joined the freedom struggle he gave up his lucrative practice. As deputy Prime Minister he dealt with hundreds of wealthy ruling princes, including the Nizam of Hyderabad, then the world’s richest man. When Patel died, he had no immovable property except a small house that he had inherited. His bank balance was a mere Rs 287. Lal Bahadur Shastri came from a very poor family. He was enrolled as a paid party worker on Rs 40 per month. After a couple of months he found that his wife was managing the household on Rs 30 per month. He got his salary reduced to Rs 30. As railway minister, Shastri resigned owning moral responsibility for a major train derailment. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This did not apply to the Nehruvian era, which was almost corruption-free. Winston Churchill’s malicious statement about power going into the hands of “rascals, rogues and freebooters” was proved utterly wrong. But the present scenario in the country lends a ring of truth to that vicious statement. The first instances of financial irregularities that surfaced in the government involved T.T. Krishnamachari and K.D. Malaviya. Krishnamachari had to resign as finance minister for his constitutional responsibility in the Mundhra scam, and K.D. Malaviya, the then petroleum minister, was dropped on allegations of accepting a gift of Rs 10,000. In the post-Nehruvian era, corruption became rampant in public life. Indira Gandhi’s statement that corruption was a global phenomenon implied permissiveness. The Janata Party’s movement against corruption made a beleaguered Indira impose Emergency. No doubt the movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan restored democracy but many of the leaders thrown up by the movement became highly corrupt on coming to power. The Bofors scandal cast a shadow on the then Prime Minister and shocked the nation. In spite of his unprecedented majority in Parliament, Rajiv Gandhi lost the 1989 elections; V.P. Singh won the mandate using the corruption card. During Manmohan Singh’s prime ministership there has been an organised loot of lakhs of crores of public money. His personal integrity may not be in question, but the failure of his leadership stands fully exposed. There are no takers for his “compulsion of coalition politics” theory. After ignoring the allegations for nearly two years, he was forced to take action and two Cabinet ministers of a coalition partner are currently lodged in Tihar jail. So also is the Congress MP allegedly involved in the Commonwealth Games scam. Another serving Cabinet minister from the United Progressive Alliance seems to be headed the same way while serious allegations have been made against two Cabinet ministers of the ruling party. In the circumstances, the government’s assurance that it will weed out corruption does not carry credibility. In view of the popular outrage, Anna Hazare’s fast evoked a national upsurge among the urban middle class. The fast by Baba Ramdev showed signs of setting rural areas on fire. This unnerved the government, whose befuddled response was like that of a headless chicken. Having initially ignored Mr Hazare’s fast, it yielded later and agreed to the unprecedented step of a joint drafting committee that included Mr Hazare and his civil society team but kept the Opposition out. When agreement on a joint draft Lokpal Bill was not forthcoming, the views of the Opposition, through the consulting of all chief ministers and, later, an all-party meeting, were sought. Not surprisingly, the government is being rebuffed. And now a minister has said that there will be no joint drafting in the future. But both Mr Hazare and Ramdev are being targeted for their links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, just like the Congress had dubbed Jayaprakash Narayan and V.P. Singh the same during their crusades against corruption. Concurrently, the Congress demonstrates its “secular” credentials by its alliance with the Muslim League, both in Delhi and Kerala. Mr Hazare and his civil society are described as “unelected” and “unelectable”, ignoring the fact that the National Advisory Council is no different. Inquiries have been initiated against Ramdev for his wealth, as had been done with Jayaprakash Narayan. Mr Hazare’s uncompromising stand on every aspect of his version of the Lokpal is not very reasonable, nor is the threat of another fast. His next fast may not draw the same response as his earlier fast. Ramdev’s attempt to escape from the Ramlila ground in women’s clothing and his threat to form a private militia of 10,000 trained people have been farcical. But the Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev movements took over the Opposition’s space in the crusade, sidelining the latter. The Bharatiya Janata Party lost the moral high ground while defending the Karnataka chief minister. The assertion that his action was legally right but morally wrong is ridiculous in the land of the Mahatma. The former British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone had rightly said that what is morally wrong cannot be legally correct. In 1920, C. Rajagopalachari wrote, “Elections and their corruption, injustice and the power and tyranny of wealth, and inefficiency of administration will make a hell of life.” Elections have become the fountainhead of corruption. None of the present crusaders against corruption has bothered to take up this issue. The fight against corruption must be multi-pronged. No doubt we need an effective Lokpal, but we must also have electoral reforms, fast-track courts that provide prompt and deterrent punishment of the corrupt, and we must unearth and bring back black money. Both preventive and punitive actions are required to rescue the nation from the quagmire in which it is mired. All this has to be achieved in a manner that preserves the majesty of Parliament. If this cannot be done through the present Parliament, the sooner we go for another election, without waiting for 2014, the better. * The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir


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