June 7, 2011
CRISIS OF NATIONAL CONCIENCE
DR. SESHACHALAM DUTTA
Edited and modified by Shree Vinekar on August 4, 2011
It is a recognized fact that for corruption India ranks 87th nation in the World. The issue of corruption attained monumental proportion in India and the resultant agitation reached the dimensions comparable to the current upheaval in the Middle East, as in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria. The Government of India responded with extraordinary suppression and black mail of protestors not unlike Mubarak and Bashar Assad. Guru RamDev’s house was searched for spearheading the awareness campaign, and was dug into to find evidence of hidden treasures. Anna Hazare, who has caused such a popular uprising unheard of before from any “Congress Man” and a disciple of Gandhi, has a character that does not permit black mail or name calling. He a wears a traditional “Gandhi cap” whereas the other younger congress leaders now-a-days disdain the cap, not willing to cover their hairless pates, and regard him as a relic of bygone ideological past, but remain deferential to him as a Gandhian. Congress party claims allegiance to Gandhiism in namesake only, and therefore, instead of deprecating him directly and discrediting him, has begun attacking the reputation of his Associates. These associates were investigated for evidence of ill-gotten wealth and verbally attacked and harassed as a ploy to discredit Hazare.
The real issue is not whether Hazare or Guru Ram Dev and their followers or any of the agitator associates are corrupt: or if Ram Dev is a great Guru or not, but whether the Cabinet Ministers, legislators and people in the position of authority are corrupt. The fact is such diversion tactics are misleading the Indian citizenry. The astute citizens cannot be deflected by attacking the messengers of bad news. The issue stands as is clearly and succinctly stated in the judgment of Indian Supreme Court: “Corruption results from the collusion of lawmakers, law keepers and law breakers.” The question is how to bring these colluders under control. Since the lawmakers and law enforcers are cahoots with the law breakers the elimination of corruption finally falls into the lap of citizens at large. The entire Nation for the first time, since independence of India –one may say -after centuries of tolerance is now demanding reform. This is the crisis of conscience of a Nation that woke up after centuries of deep slumber. Whatever the outcome, there is no going back for this Nation other than to perish- a grim and apocalyptic prospect for a great civilization.
Corruption engulfed every man in the street in India and in every walk of life, every Indian knows that much. From the ticket salesman at the railway station to lowly peon in the revenue office solicits bribes; for the most part these people are dismissed as an annoying and petty nuisance, but not so when it comes to college admissions, Government employment (a major employer in a socialist country) which is all demeaning for the victims and the perpetrators alike who participate in corruption. Now, corruption has crept into multimillion dollar Governmental contracts and even among the judiciary, pervading every walk of life, in dimensions hitherto unheard of. Even those who accepted corruption as a way of life and participated in the past are appalled and have become at once conscience-stricken. Not surprisingly the politicians in the Government and their loyal supporters including partisan elite are standing to defend the status quo, in addition to the trio of ‘corrupt law makers, corrupt law keepers and the law breakers.’ Hazare is simple minded if he believes that the present Government would accept a truly effective Lok Pal bill to investigate corruption in the Government, in all three branches, legislative, executive, and judicial!!. Truly implementing such a bill and making it into a law that is not just a window dressing is like asking the Cabinet Ministers to commit suicide. Case in point is not just the multimillion dollar2G scam, but the glaring episode of Hassan Ali Khan’s multi-billion dollar scam, (8.4 Billion foreign deposits from arms smuggling). Prima facie case was established four years ago to book Hassan Ali Khan and no legal action was taken. Never mind that Khan’s passport was seized, but hallo, in corrupt society it was not at all surprising that a new one was issued when everyone turned their back! He still boldly lives in India. Supreme Court wisely concluded that this would not be possible without high level political and Governmental collusion but did not cite the perpetrators for contempt of court!!!! What a great insight into the workings of a corrupt society the Supreme Court of India has!! Let us see now how the Indian elite defend the Government manipulation of the citizenry to go against the Lok-Pal bill proposed by responsible citizens.
Kapil Sibal’s vociferous outrage: Kapil Sibal (Minister of Culture formerly minister of Telecom before the scandal broke out) protested in injured innocence with indignity how the Civil Society (responsible citizens) would dare accuse the Cabinet Ministers of lying and cheating. “Yes, Sibalji, that is precisely the point. You are corrupt and your predecessor Governments and successive Governments of your party are accused of corruption, lying and cheating. To highlight the point, if you have forgotten or pretend to have forgotten, here are the details to clearly point out to you that your outrage is not that of an innocent man accused of a crime to be understood and written off as a normal human reaction. It is not only disingenuous, irresponsible, and totally absurd but is ill-advised for a person of your stature.
The 2G scandal of your Government involved bribes in astronomical numbers and your Government’s ministers have been disgraced and jailed. You and your party High command is accused of stashing the corrupt loot in foreign Banks and the P.M has told the Supreme Court that you made treaties not to divulge the names of the recipients of the illegal deposits!
In 2006 Shibu Soren, a ministerial colleague of yours was convicted as a murderer. Nearly one fourth of the members of parliament of India have criminal records.
In 2005 another colleague of yours, Laloo Prasad Yadav was convicted for an arms deal with South Africa in a $40 million bribery scandal.
In 2003 Environmental Minister Dilip Singh (BJP) resigned on bribery charges, instead of subjecting himself to investigation and conviction. .This needs to be stated just to highlight the point that the issue is not limited to your party alone. We are not concerned with which party is less corrupt or better. The longer a party is in power and is unchallenged in corrupt environment the more damage it will inflict on the society. The UPA and Indian National Congress Party foot the bill for this natural law of economics of corruption.
In 2003 anti-corruption Bureau spent 4.3 billion US dollars in Indian Rupees and charged 2,642 employees of corruption and your Government turned a deaf ear and applied a blind eye to the investigation for eleven years.
In 2000 one of the Prime Minister (P.M.) of India representing your party, who was regarded as the best one after Nehru, P.V. Narasimha Rao of Congress, was convicted and sentenced for three years on the charges of corruption. Yet you argue P.M should not be subject to Lok Pal bill!
In 1977 the year P.M. Gujral promised a clean Government in future (admitting by implication that the government was unclean before) your colleague Laloo Prasad Yadav was convicted and sentenced in a $1.9 Billion fodder scam; and he went to jail.
In 1996 Telecom minister Sukhram was accused of $8.5 million bribery scam.
In I996 the son of P.M, Sanjiva Rao was accused in hawala Scam. Ten congress leaders were involved in hawala scam during the same year. The list goes on and on as far back as 1947 including massive Bofor scandal implicating Rajiv Gandhi, the husband of the present straw leader Sonia and sugar imports scandal of congress ministers, and Harshad Mehta scandal of Bombay financial market demonstrating on the TV how he had packed one crore rupees in a small brief case to bribe the then Prime Minister.
Do I need to go on? This list is long enough to shut up Kapil’s garrulous grin at the suggestion that the cabinet ministers, M.P’s and even the P.M should be brought under a law to investigate corruption. Yet there are supporters for Kapil both in the cabinet and outside for reasons that are anyone’s guess. When the corrupt politicians, law makers, and law enforcers join together to form a cartel, what can be expected to come out of the mouth of those engaged in corruption for years?
Corruption of mind and conscience is more heinous and cannot be measured in dollars and rupees. Chidambaram like Sibal is a graduate of U.S Universities, so also Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the opinion maker for Congress, both of whom oppose the present popular uprising against corruption. They coined the cheap slogan for the Congress. From a member of Indian Think Tank, Mehta turned into a journalist. It is no wonder these politicians in India all had modern liberal education from Western Democratic Countries like U.S and UK; so also Assad of Syria. Assad of Syria and Mubarak of Egypt have the knowledge of the liberties enjoyed by free societies in the west. What makes them think and act in complete disregard for the rights of the people? It is not lack of knowledge but only arrogant disregard and contempt for their own people. Otherwise, how else can one explain that Nehru had to be compelled by the Supreme Court to honor the rights of citizen to travel abroad? It took, in 1962, four months to get a passport for this author to go to McGill in Canada, losing almost the whole semester. It takes only one week to get a passport in the U. S.! Regardless of their training and knowledge regarding how free people should be treated, these politicians exercised cruel repression upon their people.
Chidambaram, a Harvard graduate sent special police units to arrest Ram Dev in the dead of the night and woke up the unarmed peacefully sleeping women, children and the elderly camping in demonstration tent and assaulted them although they had not disturbed the peace or broken any law. . Chidambaram accused RSS to defend his evil act just like Mubarak called the uprising Al-Qaida inspired. P.M too justified Chidambaram’s action as inevitable with no explanation of how he reached such a conclusion. The parallel with the Middle East is complete. The P.M should explain if it is alright to beat and maim women and children just because they are related to volunteers that were allegedly affiliated with RSS.
Writing in "Hindu," Pratap Bhanu Mehta argues, referring to the agitation, that demanding the financial disclosures violated the fundamental rights of privacy of the politicians. Can a robber resist a search by law enforcers to find the stolen goods by pleading he has right to his privacy? Does he maintain that rule for IRS? The sanctity of privacy will be subordinated by the courts of law when it comes to searching for the stolen property. Accepting bribe is just like stealing and the wealth accumulated must be considered as stolen property that is illegally acquired. Further he argues that the civil society’s action is a black mail by a few; the solution should be sought by the elected representatives only, he says. He conveniently ignores that the problem is the corrupt government which has to be specifically controlled as regards it corrupt practices. He further claims the agitation is about a single issue while there are many to be addressed. Sadly each person has a single vote. He forgets a single issue can determine the outcome of an election. What about the right of the people to express their will and their right to demonstrate? He sounds like Mubarak. This issue is the life and death issue of Nation as we will show a little later. These arguments were picked up, not only by Chidambaram, but also by the chief mouth piece of the Congress party Digvijay Singh. He condemned “satyagraha” as black mail. No one accused Satyagraha and fasting by Mahatma Gandhi for cause or his protests as blackmail. It is legitimate popular and peaceful expression of one’s conviction and is respected all over the world; and the World leaders like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela emulated Gandhi in this respect. Margaret Thatcher allowed fasting of IRA activists and allowed them to die in jail; Indian Government is free to follow her example if it chooses to do so by not heeding Ram Dev or Hazare when they go on a fast! But, to call this form of protest a black mail is “un-Gandhian” as well as “Un-Indian” and at worst hypocritical for someone who claims to be a Gandhi followers like Digvijay and Chidambaram, if not for westernized Bhanu Pratap.
There are others in the past who condoned corruption; for one no other than Indira Gandhi, whose Government during the emergency and later involving her sons Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi and her Italian daughter-in-law, was complacent claiming that corruption was universal, meaning present in all countries and therefore to be accepted as a norm in India. Whether her father was corrupt or not never came to discussion, since he was a National hero. Only comments on his foreign accounts were published in American and Canadian press in 1960s. Ram Manohar Lohia a popular Socialist leader made comment upon Nehru’s death that “Jawaharlal Nehru gave nine crores to his daughter and only his ashes to India.” Not a single dime for a charity came from Nehru’s estate! When Nehru was a Congress Secretary, he did not have enough money and wanted to draw a salary from the Party, or he even was in the process of selling his furniture. Rising from such artificial economic depravity publicized by him there was no accountability to the public as to how and when did he accumulate nine crores of Reupees which is more or less equivalent of 100 crores in today’s value.
Justice Agarwal in condoning the judicial corruption said, “We come from the same corrupt society and do not descend from the Heaven! What about lawyers, politicians and the society.” Though he was right in his acknowledgement, he was rationalizing his condoning the conduct of corruption as a socio-cultural norm. This is a classic example of corrupted conscience as is demonstrated by Indira Gandhi and Justice Agarwal.
Culture of corruption in India has a long and continuing history. As against Indira Gandhi’s complacency, Mahatma Gandhi said in 1939, long before independence of India, “I would go to the length of giving congress a decent burial rather than put up with corruption that is so rampant,” referring to the corruption in Congress Ministry of 1937. It took Hazare, a Gandhian to talk about it again after 70 years and he is being attacked on all sides by supposedly true Gandhian congressmen. Indira Gandhi was right that corruption exists in all countries. But a venal corruption of the kind in India will destroy the country as noted by the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in his preamble to the United Nations report on corruption.”
Corruption is an insidious plague that has wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and rule of law, leads to violation of human rights, distorts the markets, erodes the quality of life, and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish”. He further went on to add, “Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.” India may rapidly develop economically, but the riches go to so corrupt few, exacerbating the poverty and increasing the income gap in the population. Anna Hazare, Guru Ram Dev and all other right minded people have to be admired for their bold effort, although Hazare has his own shortcomings in thinking for example that Nobel prize winners should be included in Lok Pal committees, forgetting that winning a Nobel Prize doesn’t confirm their ethical superiority or nobility in public affairs. Also, he seems to rely on Sonia Gandhi’s goodwill for his mission. Sonia as a head of the Congress with whom Hazare tries to consult is also accused of corruption who is suspected of participating with her husband and now with her son billions of dollars in black money in the Swiss bank(s), since her own National political culture was brewed in corruption. Giullo Andreotti, seven times Italian Prime Minister was accused of corruptions for a long time and repeatedly he got away with the help of the Supreme Court judge he himself appointed, Corrodo Carnivale, both of whom were eventually convicted. Italian political culture is notorious for corruption and the country is the main source of International lawlessness through Mafioso. It was ruled by at one time by a popular, but most brutal dictator Mussolini for over twenty years, not exactly where one would look for inspiration. That being the historical truth, naive Hazare is turning to a wrong person to seek approval for his anti-corruption movement.
Another line of familiar refrain is that a spiritual leader like Ram Dev has no business in politics or taking to public causes. It may be true that he should not be in electoral politics trying to come to power, although that is also debatable, as every citizen in a free country has a right for representative leadership, Pratap Bhanu Mehta attacks Ram Dev on his views on sexual orientation which has nothing to do with the issue at hand. It is only a cheap shot diversion. On the other hand, it is the duty of every citizen to speak up and participate in a National movement of far reaching importance. Not only Ram Dev, but Shankacharyas, Mullahs, and Christian clergy all ethical public minded people should join the agitation to prevent the country from going to Hell in a hand basket. We should support Baba Ram Dev for bringing his followers to the agitation.
There is this strange thinking in India that spiritual leaders should not express views on politics, which shows ignorance of how democracy is practiced in the modern World. Martin Luther King, a Gandhian was primarily the leader in Southern Baptist Church through which he fought racial discrimination. He always addressed his following from the church pulpit. Gandhiji himself was also a spiritual leader so also many who fought for independence without seeking political power. Another remarkable example is that of Archbishop Makarios, a Christian leader of Cyprus who fought British, was exiled by British and finally won the independence for Cyprus. Without Imam Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran would be still languishing under Monarchy with a puppet as a head for Western interests. Chidambaram scares every one that RSS might be leading the agitation on corruption. If they didn’t yet, they should, actually do so and there would be nothing wrong to fight the evil of corruption. RSS volunteers have the same rights as any other citizens to protest against the evil of corruption and why should Chidambaram object to that? Indian leaders never learned the lesson that their unfortunate country was sold by bribery to the British. In the battle of Plassey, Robert Clive bribed Mir Jaffar, the military general of Suraj-ud-Doulah, Nawab of Bengal. He was paid a bribe to stand still and not resist the British. The battle ended in less than two hours with an easy victory for the British with loss of life on both sides of less than 300 men. Bengal which included current Bihar was won by East India Company for a bribe. The view prevails in the world, even internationally, that anything in India can be bought for a right price. 2 G scam will be a pittance when the West and Japan buy the rights to build nuclear plants in India. Japan already paid heavy prize for admittedly defective construction of several nuclear plants by the company trying to contract with India. French and U.S firms already declared they would not be responsible for any nuclear related disasters when they contract with India. A nuclear disaster in India through such corrupt contracts will be of so large scale that hundreds of thousands will lose their lives and several hundred thousand will be maimed replicating the Chernobyl disaster several fold. Given the level and prevalence of corruption in India it is not at all unlikely. That is the logical extreme of corruption in India which will destroy India ultimately. So accusing Baba Ramdev of adulterating the Ayurvedic medications he distributes with cyanide is the height of roguery of the corrupt Indian politicians when all chemists know that traces of cyanide are normally found in many herbs and spices and are harmless. If corrupt politicians use non sequiturs like this they think they can pull the wool over the eyes of intelligent public for a while to hide their sins. This is the crisis of conscience in India today. The national conscience can be considered to be aroused sufficiently only if it is effective in substantially changing the behavior of the society and especially its political leaders and government officers.