We live in depressing times…

Posted: December 16, 2010 in Corruption
Tags: , , ,

(With due apologies to the sage Confucius)….We live in depressing times. You might smile as you read that Saina Nehwal has won another badminton tournament or India has beaten New Zealand in cricket or that Bhupathi and Paes have reunited. But the story next to these is all about a certain Raja and the 2G scam. And the one next to that one is a point-by-point rebuttal by one industry captain to accusations by another. Below that is a story on the hillside project that is suddenly in rocky terrain. And somewhere on the inside pages there are reports of generals who’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar and journalists being accused of being fixers and lobbyists.

The smile has by now vanished. Even the most die-hard optimist must feel a little cynical about the state of the nation. Is there even a semblance of a government in place? Rule of law seems to have disappeared. It’s almost as if the country is floundering like a rudderless ship in stormy waters. No one is in control and no one really seems to care. That Parliament hasn’t functioned these past three weeks is of little or no consequence. It’s not governance that is the priority. It’s who blinks first, that is. It’s not about nailing the guilty. It’s about deflecting the blame away from oneself.

No one cares how many crores of the tax-payers’ money goes up in smoke. No one cares how many farmers commit suicide because unseasonal rains destroyed crops; No one cares how many died in terrorist violence. No one cares that industry captains with their own agendas, backed surreptitiously by their political benefactors, are indulging in a public slanging match. No one cares that people have died in bomb blasts and instead they blame each other. No one cares that the country is being sold to the highest bidder for thirty pieces of silver by pimps and charlatans in white pyjama, kurta, dhoti or business suits. And the ones who care have no voice.

Politics is being played out over a hillside project and a multi-storey building. Crores of rupees have already been paid by bankers and private investors into the projects. Suddenly everything about the project is illegal – so says the ministry. Tax-payers have put in their life’s savings to own a piece of prime property at this hillside haven, in the hope that they can spend their retirement away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Suddenly they can see their savings disappearing downhill. It’s the same story with a multi-storey building and land deals across the country.

Everyone’s asking the ministers why they and the governments before theirs approved the project if they knew it was illegal. Surely they knew that. After all, the projects weren’t conceived or executed with the wave of a magic wand. Can someone just run a bulldozer over multi-crore housing projects, without a thought for the investors and residents? Anyone who is anyone is on the take – from ministers, local goons, to politicians, to so-called environmental activists to NGOs – all with their own agenda. Does anyone care? Is it an ethical, moral, legal or political issue?

Parliamentarians, who are supposed to be squatting on the benches inside the august house, have been squatting outside raising slogans. And, for what? Just a little one-upmanship and a few hundred crores wasted in public money. It’s been three weeks since they last met to discuss the problems plaguing the country and its people. They’ve been extremely busy doing nothing. When they aren’t protesting, they are spending crores chartering private planes to attend weddings of politician’s kids. How do they manage to get the money to indulge in such pleasures? No one’s asking.

To add to the gloom are reports of Indian army officers involved in cases of corruption, nepotism and sexual harassment. This is the one institution you believed was above all that. Not anymore. I remember a colonel, whose flat I had taken on rent in 1994, because we didn’t have a place of our own. When I met him for the first time he laughed derisively when I told him that so far only the army was ‘clean’. “They make money even on spectacle frames.” That was in 1994.

In the midst of all this mayhem, the government has quietly increased the price of fuel. It’s a good way to make up for the losses they have forced on us. Who says they aren’t working?

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