Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Foxes Guarding the Hen House Yet Again?

We have heard, for the past five or six days, "Acche din aane waale hain." That's all very well, but, to quote a very popular fantasy series partly based on real-life historical events and characters, "Words are wind." Why is that so? Let's look at a few facts:

  1. The Congress may have been ignominiously trounced but the virus of dynastic politics still infects the political system. There were many politicians who spoke out in the 1970s and 1980s against Mrs Indira Gandhi's decision to induct her sons into politics--it's interesting to see that so many of them have followed in her footsteps. Imitation seems to be the sincerest form of flattery here. 
  2. Another major concern: 34% of the MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha have declared that they have criminal cases against them. Why is it that parties persist in giving tickets to such people, who will eventually do little to improve governance or add to development? Could it be because fighting an election in India is increasingly expensive? Could it also be because many candidates offer handouts to the electorate to get elected?
  3. We have modeled our parliamentary system on the UK--why can we not insist that political parties cap their total expenses per election at a certain fixed amount? Our inability to limit party expenses on general propaganda enables people with big money power to call the shots.
So, what are the solutions to these problems? Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Ensure that each constituency (central and state) has a volunteer committee of party workers, who are not just career politicians but also work for a living, from which candidates for elections (central and state) are chosen.
  2. Use the massive mandate given in this election to sweep out the 34% criminal elements out of the House. Otherwise, the 34% rotten apples will spoil the rest (66%) of the crop, and everybody will feel free to consider a politician corrupt, even though they might not say so, for fear of defamation charges. Lawmakers, like Caesar's wife, must be above suspicion. Pass a law that prevents anyone with criminal charges of any kind (or their family members and friends) from fighting an election until said criminal charges are dropped after investigation or the person charged with the crime has paid a debt to society. 
  3. Come up with realistic estimates of how much an individual candidate must spend to fight elections at the state and central level, and how much each party must spend per candidate fielded. Get election accounts audited (by CAG if necessary) and submit these to the Election Commission--provide copies of these to all media houses upon request.
Unless such steps are undertaken, this vote for change will be nothing more than yet another mirage in the desert--or, as the French say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (The more it changes, the more it's the same thing).

Monday, 13 May 2013

If Only...

BJP ally Shiv Sena claims that the projection of Narendra Modi as a Hindutva leader would have led to a BJP victory in Karnataka. They're wrong--because it was not the projection of Modi as a secular leader that put off voters, it was the BJP's association with Yeddyurappa and the Bellary coal scandal that put off Karnataka voters. We are all sick and tired of ministers treating their offices of service as offices of profit. And the only way to teach them all a lesson, no matter which party they belong to, is to give them a drubbing at the elections. Let them lose their deposits; let them sit in opposition; let them repent of their sins and learn some humility. So far, they have only lost an election, not their lives. Let them beware, lest the people lose all patience and let loose a revolution, in which ministers and their kin, who have been fattening themselves at the expense of the country, lose not just their wealth but their lives as well.

And talking of Hindutva--how does the building of a temple to Rama help at all, when not a single politician follows his values? We're far more interested in education, health care and livelihood than in building temples to gods whom we worship but do not emulate.

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Ancien Regime Rides Again?

Stories of a top railway official willing to allegedly offer the railway minister's nephew a bribe of Rs. 90 lakhs for an even more impressive post on the railway board have appalled those of us who have read of plum posts in Church and State being sold under the ancien regime in Europe. Perhaps we should not be surprised at this--the Congress suffers from a feudal/durbari mindset, and these stories of such impressive posts being sold for large sums of money, supplied by vendors, are but the tip of the iceberg.

The question then arises--if a man is willing to pay more than 90 lakhs for a place on the railway board, after borrowing the money from a vendor, is he not likely to take decisions that benefit that vendor? In short, is he not likely to buy the cheapest materials possible for the railways, while billing the railways for more expensive goods? Remember that scene in Jolly LLB, where station house officers with a relatively clean image are required to bid for a post in the capital? Isn't it likely that, if a man has paid for a certain post in government, his first concern will be to repay the money he owes and make as much as he can (in whatever way possible) out of his investment? He's not likely to do an honest job or give an honest opinion--he's more interested in making a profit on his investment. Is that how our government is run?

It is evident, from the stories that have appeared in the press, that companies owned by members of the minister's family have received crores of rupees in loans, after a certain CA was made a director in Canara Bank in 2007, when the minister in question was MoS in the Finance Ministry. Evidently, members of the minister's family, whether close or extended, see his office in government as an office of profit. Does the minister in question see his government post in that light? And how many such men are there, who have entered politics because they had no marketable skills, and want to retire after making a killing?

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Justice Verma Committee Report: Law Minister's Response

Yesterday, Shri Ashwani Kumar, Law Minister, said he disagreed with the committee on its stand that politicians accused of a crime should be debarred from contesting elections. He says that politicians should only be prevented from contesting elections when they are proved guilty of having committed a crime.
What Shri Kumar fails to realise is that the Indian legal system moves slower than the mills of God and justice in India is truly blind. A case as grave as that of the 1984 gas explosion in Bhopal has left the victims at a serious disadvantage--those responsible for taking decisions that led to the accident were allowed to leave the country. So, people who are dying of illness or have been severely disabled due to the explosion have lost out on adequate compensation and on being given justice--they do not see those who took these decisions being punished for their crimes.
The other danger with allowing a person suspected of having committed a crime to fight (and perhaps win) an election is that such an individual will use political power and political networks to evade justice. Not to put too fine a point on it--we've seen how the mere threat of a CBI investigation into various cases is used by parties in power at the centre to keep their coalition partners in line. Hence the insistence that political parties, which field such candidates, should not be permitted on the ballot rolls.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Get Criminals out of Political Life

Much of the outrage associated with the Delhi gang rape has been directed at the political class, with good reason. It appears these worthies continue to include criminals in their ranks--many politicians who recently stood for election have criminal cases pending against them. Why do political parties continue to field such candidates? Hence, this petition to the Election Commission, requesting the Chief Election Commissioner to de-recognize political parties which field candidates with criminal records. Independent candidates with such records should not be included on the ballot rolls.

Something else that's outrageous--it appears the person responsible for assaulting the Delhi gang rape victim is a juvenile and will therefore be let off lightly, with a three-year sentence in a juvenile home. Why should the perpetrator be treated so gently, keeping his age in mind? Why not judge him on the basis of his crime and give him the punishment he deserves?

The outraged response to the Delhi gang rape has not made India any safer for women--stories of atrocities against women continue to fill the pages of our newspapers. I think the only way the Indian governing class will actually take some action is when Western governments declare India an unsafe place for women visitors--there was the case of a foreign diplomat raped in a South Delhi car park, as well as the more recent case of a foreign tourist raped in Mumbai.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Breaking Babaji's Fast

The government, as represented by its ministers, has found an unusual method of creating a popular opposition--by not doing its job. The civil society agitations that have been in the news would have never occured had the government done its job--by controlling A. Raja and Suresh Kalmadi, making them accountable for their actions in office even as they worked on the rollout of the 2G spectrum and Commonwealth Games respectively. By not controlling these men, and then by refusing to react positively to the suggestion to bring black money stashed abroad back into India, the government gives the impression that, if not hand in glove with the corrupt, it is not exactly an administration that believes in punishing the guilty.
And then of course, there is the Lokpal Bill, which is necessary, to ensure that our legislators and bureaucrats remember they are accountable to the people. It appears that when in office, they tend to forget--they then act in the interests of their party, their castes, their family, their community, perhaps their constituents and states, but certainly not for "we, the people". And yes, the PM and the Chief Justice of India should be under its jurisdiction. The police force in each state, and the CBI in particular, should no longer be under the purview of the state or central governments--we have seen how everything to do with the police, from their recruitment to the cases they investigate, tends to get politicized or used to make populist points. It's now a given that, if a regional party makes a pact with the party at the centre to support its government in parliament, the various corruption and criminal cases registered against it by the CBI will be dropped. Our cops, from the constable to those working for the CBI, need to be armed and trained to deal with a wide variety of law and order problems--Maoist and fundamentalist terror; the activities of criminal networks in India and the various criminal acts committed by individuals, whether for personal gain or for the satisfaction of sociopathic desires. However, they are poorly paid and barely looked after by their political masters, who use them as goon squads to crush their opponents.
Baba Ramdev is only one man, as is Anna Hazare--as were Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. However, they are not alone--they voice the rage of the people against an elected government that has not been doing its job, either of managing its ministers (the compulsions of coalition government be damned!) or of preventing the siphoning off of public money whilst undertaking public works to glorify the nation. I am sure Dr. Manmohan Singh is an honest man (and so are they all, all honest men) but can they now stop behaving like a bunch of ostriches with their heads in the sand? It took many months and a loud outry against his non-performance to get Kalmadi and his corhorts into CBI custody, and again, it took a media storm to get Raja and Kanimozhi where they are today. So can this government not understand that the people are heartily sick of their excuses? We want a government that is honest, neither casteist nor communal and prepared to act swiftly to defend the people of this country, whether against terrorist threats, crime networks, corrupt netas or babus and piracy. Government spokespersons keep talking about how fast the economy is growing--but it is of no use to the aam aadmi, whom this government claims to represent, if the fruits of this growth are devoured by a corrupt elite. So get moving on the Lokpal Bill; get ready to stand up and be counted.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

So now Mulayam Singh Yadav and his party want to drag us back by God knows how many years by abolishing English and the use of computers. Then you have the BJP, which has been carrying out a religious progrom in Orissa along with other members of the RSS family, trying to get all the votes possible by being a party for all seasons. And of course, the Congress tops the list by fielding Tytler and Sajjan Kumar YET AGAIN, based on a "clean chit" from the CBI. Based on what evidence, I wonder? Or is it based on the fact that these two worthies belong to the ruling party? Is that the sole criterion? And then there is Mayawati, who could probably teach Robert Mugabe a thing or two about kleptocracy.

There are times when I think that the only difference between India and Zimbabwe is the fact that we have elections more frequently and there are occasional changes in the ruling party at the centre. However, we too are ruled by a bunch of thugs and kleptocrats, who, because of their lack of respect for the rule of law, have subverted every government institution to such an extent that we are vulnerable to terrorist threats from all sides. THIS IS TRUE OF EVERY PARTY, INCLUDING THE BJP. The latter used to pride itself on its discipline and its so-called cleanliness--but it has proved to be just as corrupt and equally uncaring. There's nothing to choose between Delhi 1984, Gujarat 2002 and Orissa 2008. Hence,
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the least evil of them all?

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