Posts Tagged ‘corruption’

The other day, I was in the bank queue and standing behind me was a gentleman from Bihar, so we got chatting and he said “Bahut kathin hain, Modi jo koshish kar rahein” (It is very difficult, what Modiji is trying to achieve). I asked him to explain, and he said he had returned from his village in Bihar where no one wants Narendra Modi’s anti-corruption drive to succeed because they are happy with the corrupt way of life.

When you hear such things you know Narendra Modi is facing an impossible, nay herculean task, in ending corruption. His own party is neck-deep in it. It is ingrained in the system and some people don’t want to get rid of it. They will fight it to their last breath because for them, it’s a question of their very existence.

The Bihari gent said that in his village, dozens of fictitious Jan Dhan accounts have been opened by crooked bank officials in which money is being credited and withdrawn every month by nameless persons. The account holders, thekedars and bank officials take a cut and everyone is happy. Why should they want to change a system that fetches such returns without an honest day’s work?

When I told him about the cash being recovered from all over the country, he laughed. He said that schemes such as MNREGA were the biggest financial scams in independent India and even Mr Modi with all his good intentions can do nothing, because the rot has gone too deep.  And this is happening in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar, when he is backing the campaign against black money.

Like me, he too was despondent. “Chor hain sab. Is desh ka kabhi bhala nahin hoga.” (They are all thieves. The country will never improve).

The day before on Twitter I had an argument on the very subject with a journalist who said I could not base my example on one instance. Well, here’s another.

I am no economist, but as a middle-class Indian I see around me the willingness to change but there are three other groups of people who are fighting change. The first is the corrupt lot for whom demonetisation has been an avoidable disaster, and if they can’t save their money they definitely don’t want a system which won’t let them make anymore. Look at the way the bankers and lawyers have circumvented the system to issue trunks full of new currencies to all kinds of dubious people, while the common Indian frets and fumes in a queue.

The second lot is the so-called ‘left-liberals’, who share a visceral hatred for Modi. Irrespective of what he or anyone from his government proposes, they will close their eyes and oppose it. The gates are closed for any debate on the issue, and if there is one, it’s a monologue in which they are right, and everyone else is wrong.

For example. I hear people on TV channels trotting out the most bizarre reasons for not going digital. Some of the more absurd reasons I’ve heard by idiots in the garb of journalists, on why poor people can’t open bank accounts is, that poor people haven’t been inside a bank. Haven’t they been inside a post office or dak ghar as it is called in the villages? In a village in Uttar Pradesh, one man says no one in government told him he could open a bank account. In the past so many years if no one in government told villagers that they could open accounts even in post offices, who is to blame? If there are so few banks in villages, then who is to take the blame?

Then there is the absolutely bizarre justification from people against demonetisation. It would make me laugh if it weren’t so tragic. They will say that daily wagers have been the worst-hit because the small factory owner has been forced to shut down. Why the “small factory owner” was running a cash-and-carry business for decades, is something none of them have cared to ask that guy. And it’s not like he just started it. He’s been doing it for years and his father before him. Has he tried to open accounts for his workers in these last 30 days to solve their problem? No he hasn’t. He has preferred to shut down instead. It’s pretty obvious why.

Just go to some of the busy chowks in a city like Pune on any given day. Among the milling crowds are dozens of labourers. They aren’t all waiting for public transport. They, men, and women with babies, are waiting for a contractor to land up there and pick them out like cattle to herd them into a truck and take them to a construction site. Here they will work in the blazing sun and at the end of the day, they will get paid for a day’s work, from which they have to pay the contractor. You can guess what they end up with after paying that. That is, of course, not a concern of journalists churning out reports about the negative impacts of demonetisation. That’s not the angle they’re looking for in that story.

And finally, there is a fourth group – journalists – who are happy sitting in their air conditioned offices churning out stories from twitter feeds and Facebook updates and calling them ‘exclusives’. I remember joking years ago that some journalists could turn a press release into a byline story, but I never realised it would get so bad! They’ve gotten so used to sucking up to ministers and drinking subsidised booze at the Press Club that they’ve forgotten their primary responsibility – to question those in power, and keep questioning them, until they answer.

Not one journalist is asking this simple question of the politicians in and out of power – What was your party doing all these years?” Not one journalist is throwing up facts and figures in the faces of these politicians and asking them to explain the discrepancies. Some of the politicians have become millionaires and billionaires in five years. Not one journalist asks them how they made so much without any legal source of income, except their MP’s salaries. That is left to the analysts and opinion writers, who very few read anyway. So after a few hours of being stonewalled by the politicians, the journalists go back to the Press Club and order another drink, and move on to their next desktop exclusive.

I am sorry for being such a cynic, but I completely understand what the Bihari gentleman meant when he said, “Chor hain sab….”


I know that many of my students are aghast that I speak in favour of Anna Hazare’s movement. They believe the man is crooked, cantankerous, slightly unhinged, and totally eccentric. They also believe he is encouraging a revolt and is hell-bent on destroying democratic institutions such as the parliamentary system of governance. I completely respect their views and admire their stand on this whole movement. They are also quite surprised to see me talking a different language and not one of cynicism!

They believe that Hazare, through his agitation, is looking to usher in a sort of parallel government – something akin to what happened during the French Revolution with Hazare becoming something of a Madame DeFarge, the fictional character from Charles Dickens’ epic ‘Tale of Two Cities’. So why am I supporting this man and the movement? Okay, so here’s the truth. If it had been Mickey Mouse instead of Anna Hazare orchestrating this anti-graft movement, I would still have supported it. Why? Here are a few reasons.

1. In general, I dislike politicians. They have reduced this parliamentary system of democracy to something that we normally flush down the toilet every morning. Which parliamentary system allows MPs to be so easily be bribed to vote for or against a party? Where a government is stopped from functioning for almost a month by MPs who stage walkouts? Where crores of rupees are spent in inquiries which yield zilch; Where MLAs destroy furniture and beat up their colleagues? Where investigative agencies are instructed to protect the guilty instead of uncovering the truth; Where the prime minister defends the same crooks? Where reforms meant for the people have made the poor more impoverished, and the rich even richer; Is this is the ‘parliamentary democracy’ some people wish to preserve, and citizens don’t have the right to question?

2. I dislike the Congress Party. The people who have been a part of this 100 plus years old party have very subtly and covertly destroyed every tenet of democracy so carefully nurtured and put in place by the founding fathers of Independent India – all in the name of parliamentary democracy and good governance. Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and others must be turning cartwheels in their graves watching this rape and subversion of parliamentary democracy. Where Nehru encouraged debate and welcomed criticism, today’s politicians send out hit-men to silence critics. The person who set the ball rolling in this respect was Indira Gandhi. She hand-picked politicians who would always vote for her; chose committed judges – committed only to her; destabilised State governments that did not toe her line; encouraged charlatans in sadhu’s robes…I could go on. And that has continued to date.

3. This is the proverbial last straw – the petty corruption that is around us. Forget the corruption of the politicians and look at what we face every day. From bribing to get a learning licence to bribing an I-T official to bribing to get a ration card. Then there is the crumbling infrastructure – bad roads, lack of power, water etc – which gets worse every year. And while we fret and fume, we read about politicians sitting in the State and national capitals who acquire huge mansions, properties and luxury cars, just a few years after getting elected. But we don’t have the right to question them or the officials on how our money is being utilised.

If the government was honest would people have cared to listen to someone like Anna Hazare? Can one blame the common citizen for backing him? Not everyone may have read the Jan Lokpal Bill or the government’s version of it, but it doesn’t matter. I’m pretty sure not all of the 540 + MPs have read it either. At the end of the day, the end justifies the means. Respect for a system, be it the law or parliamentary system of governance, has to come from both sides. When the politician doesn’t respect it, can he expect his electorate to do so? So far this movement has been peaceful and that is what is worrying the government. There is no provocation from the protesters, so how can the police resort to the lathi? This agitation may fail, but if it can achieve even 30 per cent of what it has set out to do, I think the people of this country would have won a resounding moral victory.

And, finally, before accusing Hazare of resorting to blackmail and destroying democracy, and criticising those who back him, people should look really hard at their own lives. Before taking the moral high ground and accusing others of being morally bankrupt, they should ask themselves: Have they not resorted to threats, blackmail and agitations in their quest for, what they presumed, was justice, when all avenues of discussion and dialogue had failed? Have they not criticised institutions and reviled those who headed them? Think real hard before answering this question.

Now that Suresh Kalmadi’s goose is all but cooked, here’s a question I would like to ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sports Minister MS Gill. What were they doing talking through their respective butts these past few years, when they should have been getting off it and getting the job done? Why didn’t they stop Kalmadi from spreading the ‘Wealth’ around when they had the time and the authority? I guess the inclination was missing.

You can blame Kalmadi all you want for this Commonwealth Games disaster, but is he alone responsible? Shouldn’t this have been the direct responsibility of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his various ministries? After all, this entire exercise involves a lot of government departments not just one, so why did they all sit back and allow one man to run riot?

This isn’t the Pune Festival we are talking about, where there are bullock cart races organised in the suburbs. This is the Commonwealth Games where so many countries of the world would be participating – even if they were mostly a bunch of second-rung athletes from a lot of inconsequential countries who were coming along for the ride.

Why did the Prime Minister wait till two months before the CWG to kick Kalmadi’s ass – figuratively speaking. If the mild-mannered Sardar could have done that literally and liberally, the country wouldn’t be in the mess it is at present. Why I say this is because it is hard to believe that the prime minister was unaware of the fact that Kalmadi and his cohorts were engaging in large-scale corruption. When the rest of the country knew it, how is it that he didn’t? He is either totally incompetent or couldn’t care less. If anyone should take moral responsibility for this gargantuan disaster it is the Prime Minister.

And then there are enough powerful politicians with an axe to grind with Kalmadi, ready to jump on the anti-CWG bandwagon. I am sure they’re all sitting back and chortling at the disgraceful events that are unfolding in Delhi at present. That politics was being played out over the Games was obvious to anyone who understood an iota about politics and political happenings. This entire exercise was one of Congress+Kalmadi versus the Rest and the Rest was winning from Day One, because an inept government with an ineffectual leader allowed things to go adrift.

Strangely enough the media has been writing and speaking about all that was wrong with the organisation of the Commonwealth Games from the beginning. So how is it that the government didn’t think it was worth acting upon? And tragically this has been the case with every political event in the country. There is a tendency to let things drift until it reaches a point of no return. While that says a lot about the country’s politicians, it also speaks a lot about the so-called power of the media!

There is a lesson in this for all those who believe that it is always the media’s job to “do something.” What were the people doing when this charade was being played out over all these years? Did we (and I include myself) file a public interest litigation against Kalmadi or the IOA or did they launch a campaign which would force the government to step in. The answer is a big NO. So let’s not rage against the system that we are a part of and have done nothing to change.

We know that once the Games are over (assuming that they will be held), there will be a massive cover up. Kalmadi will obviously be the fall guy and face a temporary banishment. Everyone will congratulate each other for ‘punishing’ the guilty and things then will return to normal. This is how things have turned out on every occasion earlier – be it in sports or politics. What’s the guarantee it won’t happen again? Can you blame the citizen for becoming a cynic?

A student of mine asked me earlier whether we should just sit back and accept it when we know the country is being screwed by the politicians. We can vote out the corrupt or turn to the judiciary. We can cast our vote every few years and hope that the man or woman we send to Delhi will make our lives better. But even then there is no guarantee, because we aren’t really sure that the person we choose to represent us will ensure for us a better life.

And then there is the judiciary, which we always thought would come to the rescue of the common man. But look at what happened in a northern state. The Chief Justice met the Chief Minister and soon after the judge looking into corruption cases against her is divested off the case! Then some former law minister says that more than half of the judges are corrupt. So who do you turn to?