Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Value of Money vs People in emerging India

The advent of high-tech high-speed life has impacted societies all over the globe in a big way. The societal impact on has been diverse and enormous. On the positive side, Indian techies are emerging more competitive and grabbing higher salary jobs than any other in the world market. Yes, Indians have created a niche of honour for themselves in diverse fields like IT, medicine, environment, astrophysics et al. On the domestic scene, our economy too has managed to remain on a steady growth path despite a roller coaster journey through scams, red tape and corruption. We are now a society that is fast adapting to international norms of social, professional and commercial behaviour. With mobile wielding rickshaw pullers, roadside hawkers and their non-haggling cash ready customers milling around, chain snatching bikers too have melded themselves as a category in the milieu. Minor hang ups notwithstanding, there is plenty for everyone to enjoy life – air conditioned homes, work places, malls, cars, bars, clubs…. What’s not there, man?

On the negative side, in our exuberance to compete and hurry to win we seem to have forgotten to carry with us some valuable paraphernalia we will need to sustain our achievements on reaching the destination – our value system based on a culture of ethics and morals. We have missed out on the correct valuation of cooperation over competition, quality over quantity, standard of ‘life’ over standard of ‘living’ and the innate urge to give rather than grab. The national scene today is a veritable mix of oddities and contradictions. In affluence, we have our cities that will challenge the world’s best. In poverty too, we have regions in hinterland that could make countries like Somalia, Burundi and Zimbabwe look affluent in our comparison. We have business empires and tycoons whose wealth and life style will disconcert the best known kings and emperors. Yet our ordnance factories are so primitive and dysfunctional that we depend on others to arm and equip our military.– world’s second largest military might. Israel, a country that came into existence in world’s most desolate land after India gained her independence, also manufactures and supplies sophisticated military equipment to us! We have world’s most educated and ‘honest’ man heading the government; yet, no previous government has been more maligned than Manmohan Singh’s with no signs yet of the inundation of scams abating. We have lavish civic services infra-structure like primary health care centres, dispensaries, roads, electricity, TV and tele-communication network – even water supply network in some remote areas but thanks to the callous administration, these amenities lie in utter neglect, glut enormous government grants and have failed in delivering.

Despite easier access to modern amenities the rural India has been left far behind the high speed urban advancement. The divide between the rural and urban has only widened. Even poverty has its own status and class that clearly sets apart its urban poor from the rural rustics. Whereas the exploited destitute of city slums assumes an urbane swagger at the sight of a displaced tribal from Orissa, Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh or a debt laden farmer from the barren lands of Vidarbha, the latter – the feeder of the nation – presents a pathetic picture of a humbled warrior in dire need of justice and fair play rather than a share in the loot.

It is these contradictions that are threatening to slow down India’s march to a glorious future in the new world emerging from the Recession in the west and anti-autocracy turmoil in North Africa and West Asia. Our younger generation is already providing high tech solutions to complex problems of organisations and governments all over the world. Our reservoir of skilled and semi-skilled workforce too is larger than China’s. A new class of entrepreneurs is also well poised to venture out taking global leads. What is holding them up? The answer is: the environment creators at home! Who are the environment creators? They are a vicious circle of people whose insider trading techniques keeps them camouflaged from the public view.

A former minister simultaneously agreed and disagreed with my argument recently and sought to explain away this vicious environment of corruption and callous governance. “Forget about the theories you read in political science books about democracy and governance. Agreed, it is the people who matter in democracy but which people?”

“The people – the citizens of the country, of course! Who else?” I stressed hard.

“No, it is not that simple. The people who count here come in four categories:

I – The top academic brains who compete and win the most coveted careers through IITs, IIMs and other top grade institutions. It is the guys in this category who get fattest salary packages.

II – The next best join Civil Services at Centre and State levels. They control everything including the first category through a maze of regulatory mechanism.

III – Those who fail to qualify for the above two categories, take to politics and form the third category, the Third Reich of Indian Politicians! In the name of democracy, they control both the top categories.

IV – The school drop-outs and others who fare poorly academically, join the underworld of crime, handle black money and control the other three categories!”
Little wonder that the last category is now joining active politics and coming to assume direct control as ‘elected representatives’ of people to Parliament and State Legislatures.

The emerging amalgam of crime, corruption and politics is a more potent threat to India’s security than any external threat – even nuclear. As the crime graph continues to rise rather steeply, crimes such as rape, murder, high-way robberies are becoming only more audacious and daring in metro-cities and towns. The audacity of the crimes done and failure of police to effectively act only shows what patronage and impunity the criminals enjoy. The politico-bureaucratic combine are now busy drafting innovative bills that could silence the public outcry against raging corruption in higher government echelons and also protect the high and mighty of corruption.

Hopefully, India would be inducted as a permanent member of the UN Security Council in the near future. A plethora of opportunities lies ahead for India to assume bigger roles at regional and world levels. There is enough talent too. The government machinery has, however, gone rusty and needs urgent overhauling and oiling. It is not that those in authority are unaware of what is required to be done. They have become accustomed to move only when pushed by public pressure. Corruption is the breeding ground for all crime and terrorism since such pursuits need black money. However, corruption has seeped so deep in our political system that no political party today is keen to institutionalise any effective mechanism to curb and punish corruption at political and bureaucratic levels.

People power alone can coerce them into positive action. The public anguish over rampant corruption and government apathy is fully justified. This simmering energy needs to be carefully harnessed and guided to bring in accountability and good governance. Anna Hazare’s Movement against corruption has been so far fair, straight and transparent. More organisations need to lend a helping hand and all the people must rise for a peaceful but sustained campaign. No doubt there are a number of reforms pending but let corruption be the first enemy to be vanquished.

Ruling Clique Vs Democracy

The idea of ‘Democracy’ has gone awry in modern India. The spontaneity and universality of the people’s war cry against corruption in higher government echelons has scared not only those in power in the UPA government but also those in the Opposition smarting to return to power sooner than later. They are all set to unite and will flock together whenever any Lokpal shot is fired. The recent conclave of all political parties called by the government to discuss the format of Lokpal Bill has given us enough insight into the mindset of India’s political class. Earlier, the Congress spokesman, Manish Tiwari had called civil society activists like Anna Hazare ‘un-elected tyrants’, thereby suggesting that tyranny is a function and prerogative of the ‘elected’. It is like a thief who, chased by the victim, cries for help and expects the onlookers to save him and punish the victim. His mentors in the government, Pranab Mukherjee, Kapil Sibal, Chidambaram and many more readily lent their music to this anti-civil society chorus. Later, after the all party meet in New Delhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav in his idiosyncratic style ridiculed peaceful mass movements by civil society activists and called them ‘a threat to democracy’. Almost all political parties seem to empathize with this notion: people being a threat to democracy – a threat unto themselves! If peaceful mass movements are a threat to democracy, what better democratic methods would they suggest for the people to make their voice heard and heeded by the government?

Are they really worried about ‘Democracy’? Or is their very notion of democracy different from what people hold it to be – a government of the people, for the people, by the people? The fears and concerns expressed by our politicians, however, betray their skewed conceptual interpretation of the great idea of democracy. They now assume themselves to be the embodiments of ‘Democracy’. This essentially connotes a privileged group of parties and individuals, who are off the people, force the people and buy the people to perpetuate their exploitation.

Election manifesto is a written undertaking each political party elaborately publicises committing themselves on the eve of elections in the service of the people assuring them with specific plans and projects within their tenure as people’s elected government. One would wish these manifestoes were to serve as reference points and constant reminders for the ruling parties with periodic performance audit posted on public domain. Sadly though, these undertakings are dumped as garbage soon after elections as leaders and parties go off the all the people, to force the good people and to buy stooges to pursue their undeclared aims. Selectively employing the Chanakya stratagems of ‘saam’ (persuasion), ‘daam’ (bribe), ‘danda’ (coercion), and ‘bhed’ (divide), our leaders have mastered the art of ruling by creating safe zones and sanctuaries for unhindered exploitation of public resources. They are highly innovative in crafting and selling dreams to the people hungry and eager to alleviate their suffering. They deftly entice and win over the poorest of the poor by doling away subsidies, caste based reservations and occasional freebies that serve to perpetuate their dependence on the political masters. It is from poverty that our politicians earn their fortunes in the form of votes and even notes that are easily siphoned from the subsidies, quotas and a host of schemes and programmes meant for the poor. ‘Long live Poverty; we will keep you alive’ could well be today’s political slogan – if only truth were to prevail.

This is best explained by the government’s stubborn stand to keep the most powerful people out of Lokpal’s ambit – the Prime Minister, Judges of High Courts and Supreme Court and MPs. And this is in spite of the fact that there are more than 160 sitting MPs in the present Lok Sabha against whom there are cases registered in courts of law, a lot of them facing multiple charges including serious crimes like murder. There are MPs and at least one minister already in jail with some more in the pipeline. Immunity provided to MPs for their conduct within the Parliament was intended to protect and encourage people’s representatives to serve people’s cause without fear or worry, not to get away with misdeeds like the JMM bribery case, ‘paid queries’ case or the blatant horse-trading during ‘confidence motion’ to save the Manmohan Singh Government (UPA 1) when MPs waved bundles of notes in the well of the House. The presiding officers (Speaker in the Lok Sabha and the Chairman in the Rajya Sabha), they say, are empowered to deal with delinquent members. There have been innumerable cases like these and more of gross misconduct by MPs, but no member has ever been dismissed from membership, even though some of them should have been convicted and jailed. Yet, they do not want them to be within Lokpal’s jurisdiction. Why?

Today, while there are ministers, MPs and senior bureaucrats facing enquires and trials for serious embezzlements, there appears no end to the deluge of scams that continues unabated. With Maran also now sacked and almost set on his way to Tihar, the UPA government appears to be held precariously by sand walls which threaten to crumble and wither in the clammy humid monsoon of scams. In such a vivid scenario how can you think of ‘corruption’ in high places without Ministers, MPs, bureaucrats and judges – the privileged categories they propose to keep out of Lokpal’s reach? Willing accomplices and patrons in positions of power come handy to lobbyists and their corporate clientele to manoeuvre government decisions in their favour by circumventing rules and procedures. To build and foster a conducive system, it is necessary for the ministers and bureaucrats to retain control, direct or indirect, over the investigating agencies like CBI and, as far as possible, over the so-called autonomous bodies like Central Vigilance Commission, Central Information Commission, Election Commission, other national Commissions and even Judiciary through a convergence of common interests where everyone gains – materially or otherwise – on reciprocal basis except the state and its people. And the nexus flourishes and proliferates. Of course, there have been individuals of great character and verve who, as heads of such bodies, meant business and refused to give in to political or bureaucratic pressures and restored public faith in institutions like the offices of CEC and CAG. These are rare examples though. Most of the institutions of democracy have lost their sheen and credibility, the PAC deadlock being the latest example.

An analysis of how some key posts are filled at the top echelons further clears doubts, if any. The first defect lies in the selection procedures for the autonomous bodies. For example, a selection panel comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister and Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha presupposes that the government nominee shall be appointed making assent or dissent of the third member (Leader of the Opposition) irrelevant as was done in the case of PJ Thomas who became India’s Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) despite serious objections raised by Sushma Swaraj on his integrity. Technically, no impropriety was committed in this case because the principle of a majority 2:1 upheld fairness of the selection legally. But on grounds of ethics and need posts like CVC to be held only by men or women of unimpeachable integrity, this appointment brought us all shame and compelled the Supreme Court to intervene.

Dr Ketan Desai, President, Medical Council of India, was caught in April 2010 taking Rs. 2 crores bribe for granting government recognition to a private medical college. Much earlier, he was also convicted by the Delhi High Court. Yet, thanks to hefty cash packets, he rose to hold this top position in medical profession. Riding on his clout with ministers and bureaucrats, he was audacious enough to elevate unqualified people of dubious credentials to positions meant for highly qualified and meritorious doctors at the MCI and in hospitals. Not to be left behind in the fashion parade of misdemeanors, a former Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan, has been in the news for quite some time for all the wrong reasons most unbecoming of honourable man in that position. Yet, he was appointed Chairman of the National Human Rights.

The process of dealing with a corrupt judge of High Court or Supreme Court is so complex that there has been only one impeachment in India till date and that too in 1949 before the Constitution became effective. The second impeachment motion against Justice V Ramaswami failed in 1993 because the then ruling Congress (205 MPs) abstained. Interestingly, he was defended by Kapil Sibal, his lawyer at that time. Little surprise that shamelessly unfazed by all the allegations and indictments, judges like PB Dinakaran (Chief Justice, Sikkim High Court), Soumitra Sen (Calcutta High Court) and many more arrogantly go on dispensing ‘justice’ in their high positions.

Even as crime graph in general moves upward, it is still feasible to put petty criminals behind bars. It is the big fish that has proved too slippery for the law all through. From Bofors to Fodder to Hawala and the outpouring scams of today – only preliminaries have been played. No powerful politician, bureaucrat or judge has been finally convicted (having exhausted appeals at the Supreme Court level).
The system has proved power friendly and at a time when the talk of an effective Lokpal is gaining momentum, fears of those in power are quite understandable. Political parties have moved away from nationalistic orientation and metamorphosed into cliques of vested interests like promoting dynastic power centres. Coteries of henchmen have mushroomed in almost all parties. These henchmen are mostly local goons who have embedded themselves between the leader and the people insulating the former from the latter. Soon after the elections, leaders are quick to snap their public contact and interact with the people through their henchmen whose swagger signals when and whether you will have the Netaji’s darshan.

Gimmicks by Rahul Gandhi, the Prince Charming of Indian politics like dining at a Dalit’s home, stage-managed padyatras and public display of a pseudo-frugal life style are carefully orchestrated to create a mass impact even as his oratory skills and leadership prowess still remain hidden. Even if he fails to leave behind any lasting impact, his style leaves people largely amused. Organisations and parties bereft of ideas and ideologues will be likewise forced to innovate, borrow and stage-perform to entertain people. But how long will this drama go on? The political environment in India has become highly polluted and all parties need to reorient and readjust to changing ground realities of a new emerging India that surges from within.

Institutionalising a powerful, independent Lokpal will only help the country to prosper faster making development people friendly. The ruling clique has drifted far away from the people and a course correction is urgently needed. The sooner they change their bearing and perception, the better it shall be for them as well as the country.

Rise India, rise against Corruption

It looks like the entire world is under winds of change. The United States, modern world’s unchallenged superpower, was first thrashed by the economic downturn of 2008 and then lost her prestigious global credit rating of AAA to AA+ triggering fresh shock waves in the world economies. The scenario is more than matched by India through rising inflation, rampant corruption, inefficient administration, terrorism and Maoist insurgency pushing people’s patience to the limit. Thanks to inroads made by the telecom technology into routine life, general awareness and aspirations of people all over the world have also expanded exponentially. People are now asserting more vigorously to make governments responsive and people friendly almost in all developing countries. The uprisings raging through the countries of North Africa and West Asia with angry masses determined to topple corrupt and callous regimes hold enough warning and lessons for us in India.

Ironically, India’s healthy growth story in the private sector is sharply contrasted by falling standards of probity and accountability in governance. In ‘Corruption Perception Index 2011’ compiled by Transparency International India scored a poor 2.7 out of 10, a grade worse than countries like Honduras, Zimbabwe and Venezuela and a continuing slide from 3.3 scored in the previous year. India not only tops the list of nations having tons of black money stashed in Swiss banks but its cache of black money there ($ 1546 bn) is far more than the combined total of next four countries in the list of black money deposits namely, Russia, UK, Ukraine and China ($ 1056 bn) as reported in Times of India (Ahmedabad), dated 8th June 2011.

Moral Decline in Politics
Mahatma Gandhi wrote in Young India in 1928,
Corruption will be out one day, however much one may try to conceal it; and the public can, as its right and duty, in every case of justifiable suspicion, call its servants to strict account, dismiss them, sue them in a law court or appoint an arbitrator or inspector to scrutinise their conduct, as it likes.
Do we have leaders who would think like this today? Of late there has been a qualitative decline in our political discourse and debate in and outside the Parliament. Whenever cornered in the face of logic and fair argument, politicians lack the capacity to absorb criticism and accept a point; and what is worse, they do not hesitate in turning abusive and raking up details from the irrelevant past in a no-holds-barred mudslinging match. The virtue of magnanimity and tolerance has disappeared from the Indian political scene. There is an increasing breed of leaders today whom people know more for abusive language and naked arrogance rather than their contribution to public good in any sector. They are like the mischievous hockey coach who taught his players, “hit the opponent if you can’t reach the ball.”
The first batch of Indian parliamentarians considered Lok Sabha subordinate to the People of India, for, it was ‘WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved ….. and do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.” The Constitution of India subordinates the Government (the Executive) to the Parliament which in turn is and will always remain subordinate to the PEOPLE of India on whose mandate it runs the affairs of the state. It is the people’s aspirations that must be respected by their representatives – the MPs– while enacting laws in the Parliament. But having tasted blood in an increasingly corrupt environment where election to the Parliament too can also be traded for cash, it is simply logical for the politicians to behave in such irresponsible and arrogant manner because they ‘paid’ for getting elected and people have no right to demand more from them! This drift in public morality has added to the malaise too.

It is insulting for every proud Indian that as many as nearly a third of our Parliament (Lok Sabha) – 162 plus latter additions like Kalamadi, A Raja, Kanimozhi and more in the pipeline – are facing criminal charges (ranging from trespassing to murder). This is more than 27% increase over the previous Lok Sabha’s record. Also, there are 9 ministers in the central cabinet facing criminal charges including one for ‘theft’. As per National Election Watch, 76 MPs are involved in serious criminal cases. We are inching forward to a situation when criminals will have the majority and form a Government of their choice too! In times of coalition governments, if Madhu Koda – a lone independent MLA then – could become Chief Minister of Jharkhand, he, now a sitting MP who regularly attends the Lok Sabha session from Tihar jail, could well become India’s Prime Minister too. Why should they vote for a strong, independent and effective Lokpal bill?

Dangerous Forebodings

The countenances our leaders put on while answering questions on TV channels betray their smug attitude and insincerity towards issues vital to the nation. There is an obvious disconnect between the people and the government, and the drift is taking them far apart. It is a dangerous trend and calls for immediate change in the way our political masters think. Today, the Home Minister, P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal are redefining ‘Democracy’ calling Anna Hazare’s peaceful protest fast ‘undemocratic’. The Constitution, on the contrary, bestows upon every citizen a fundamental right “to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union, movement….” The Government attitude to Anna Hazare’s peaceful protest fast-cum-rally is an ominously very similar to how Hosni Mobarak’s had chosen to deal with the Egyptian people protesting peacefully in Tehrir Square of Cairo in January this year.

Police brutalities range from uncalled for lathi charge on the sleepy crowds of women and children at Ramlila Maidan to trigger happy cops shooting and killing the unarmed and innocent kissans protesting peacefully against injustice as seen in Bhatta Pasraul in UP and Pune-Mumbai Expressway in Maharashtra. These incidents have grim resemblance to what Gaddafi’s forces did in Tripoli when people rallied there for peaceful demonstration against a highly corrupt and callous regime. Activists and journalists who gave voice to public disgust and suffering were hounded and either killed or put in jails forcing the public to take to arms and turning it into a bloody civil war.

In sharp contrast to Anna Hazare’s peaceful pleadings spurned and ridiculed by the senior Congress functionaries including cabinet ministers, there exists a plethora of evidence to show how our political parties have been holding unruly rallies, demonstrations and bundhs with scant regard to law and public convenience. In fact, almost always has the government bowed more readily to the violent mobs going on rampage burning trains, vehicles – public or private and vandalising shops with impunity. Many of India’s political leaders have risen through violent riots and have no idea about a higher, nobler form of protest – Satyagraha. The message is clear: the government yields to threats and violence more readily. Shiv Sainiks have been deftly employing such tactics in Mumbai every now and then. Even in Delhi, the Congress workers rally up to block traffic and cause public nuisance without bothering about any rules or permits which Team Anna is being taught to seek today. It is easy now to understand how insurgencies are aided by governmental apathy and stubbornness.

There were differences in drafting a joint Lokpal Bill which could not be resolved at the Joint Drafting Committee formed by the Government. Both the sides finally presented their own drafts. In all fairness, the Government should have placed both the drafts on the table of the House for an open debate. Withholding the draft Jan Lokpal Bill and deliberations of the Joint Drafting Committee from the Parliament and the people appears inappropriate and unjustified and makes a mockery of decisions taken by the Government at the highest level.

‘Be you ever so High, the Law is above you!’

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi faced serious corruption allegations in the Bofors case, until then the worst in the scale of corruption. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao also faced allegations of corruption in the JMM vote-for-cash case. Preventing the Lokpal from looking into such cases will in no way enhance the prestige of the high office of the Prime Minister. In fact offering himself to the Lokpal scrutiny will only go to serve as the highest example of our faith in the basic principle of jurisprudence, “Be you ever so high, the law is above you.”

And why not bring the higher judiciary under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal too? On 17 August 2011, the Rajya Sabha is set to take up the case of impeachment of a sitting High Court judge, Mr Justice Saumitra Sen. Another judge in the higher judiciary, Justice PD Dinakaran, Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court, has now resigned after his efforts failed to stymie the pre-impeachment enquiry by a duly constituted enquiry panel. There have been allegations of impropriety with credible evidence involving judges in lower as well as higher judiciary including chief justices of the honourable apex court. Former Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan’s name is today remembered more for wrong reasons than his for his uprightness as an honourable judge. The list of corrupt judges taking bribes, seeking undue favours like going to the extent of joining en-mass to misappropriate junior employees’ provident fund deposits is increasing by the day.

Existing Regulatory Institutions have failed

Sectoral regulatory bodies have failed to deliver due to vested interests which helped foster a fraternity between the corrupt officials and the investigators. Even after the arrest of former President of Medical Council of India (MCI), Dr. Ketan Desai, corruption at the MCI has continued unabated. As per Health Minister Gulab Nabi Azad, 80 cases of corruption against officials of MCI and medical institutions were being probed till May this year. No wonder human organs are being traded illegally and poor patients continue to suffer and die for want of medical care. Similarly, people were shocked by revelations of fake pilots, not one or two but plenty, flying unsuspecting passengers across skies although the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) monitors and controls standards of flying safety and certification. Appointment of persons of questionable integrity to head institutions like the Central Vigilance Commission (PJ Thomas’ case) has seriously marred the credibility of such institutions in whatever limited sphere they functioned. Enforcement Directorate functions under the Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Defence and therefore remains a hand-held tool for undertaking only specific cases assigned to it by the ministry. States also have ‘Anti Corruption Bureaux’ but corruption in states also has only frown with highly placed beneficiaries hogging shamelessly with fearless arrogance as we have recently seen in Karnataka, Delhi and Mumbai to name only a few.

Thankfully, a few institutions like the Lok Ayuktas (Karnataka and Delhi) and the Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG) have performed laudably in their bid to instil some fear and caution against corruption. What does it prove? It only proves that India is in dire need of a strong, independent and effective Lokpal with enough powers to investigate and punish speedily in a specified time frame. The Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by Team Anna Hazare meets these requirements which, if enacted into law, will change the way our government offices function. They will be more responsive, efficient and people friendly – an environment where the corrupt will have much to fear from. No doubt, corruption may not vanish – yet let’s make it a risky business. Why is the government scared? Premonitions of losing a lucrative business?

OROP - Issue Small, Fall-out Fearsome!

The issue of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) has been heating up since long. More recently, the nation has seen its 2.3 million ex-servicemen – the most disciplined and law-abiding class in our society – having to publicly protest and return their medals with petitions signed in blood to draw Government attention. Unlike their civilian brethren, soldiers do not have ‘Associations’ to hold rallies and demonstrations to express their grievances. Ex-servicemen are, therefore, neither used to nor temperamentally inclined to make public their woes – a virtue the nation must respect. Yet, if an increasing number of them are now resorting to such methods, it must become a cause of concern for the Government.

The weird arguments citing burden on the national exchequer and risk of triggering similar demands from other Central Civil Services are unfair and unjust because there is no similarity in the job profiles of civil and military services. Rationale behind such rival claims would therefore be grossly faulty and a scantily clad mischief aimed at perpetuating the on-going neglect and systematic suppression of the military and its retiring/retired soldiers. There are ground realities that further reinforce the genuineness and urgency of not only the grant of OROP to the Ex-servicemen but also the need and importance of restoring the lost dignity, morale and well being of the nation’s muscle power – India’s Armed Forces:-

1. Significance of Military ‘Rank’: The hierarchy of military leadership is based upon visible badges of rank and embellishments on the uniform worn by officers and JCOs/NCOs. All professional and social protocol of inter-action is governed by the status and authority carried by respective rank in the hierarchical order. Legally and traditionally, Armed Forces personnel carry their rank even on retirement as a legacy. Whereas in the active military service no junior can get more salary than his senior in the same rank, on retirement this equation is ironically turned upside down, as we have juniors retiring later getting more pension than their seniors who retired earlier in the same rank. It is ridiculously embarrassing besides being unjust in every respect.

2. Serving and Retiring at a Loss: The majority of jawans and officers retire 10 to 20 years earlier than their civilian brethren, thereby losing service benefits, pay and allowances of higher ranks for those many years. The necessity to maintain a youthful military profile leads to jawans and JCOs retiring when they are still in the age group of 38 to 48 years and officers at 50 with their kids still too young, parents too old and family responsibilities far more expanded. Civilians, on the other hand, get to serve up to 60 years and retire happily after reaching their final pay bands with their children well settled and life’s basic commitments largely accomplished. These harsh terms and conditions of Service result in heavy financial loss at the most crucial stage of a soldier when he needs financial security most. Since almost all civil government employees reach their final post/pay band, they naturally retire having earned highest pension scale in their stream, which virtually translates to a more remunerative deal than the OROP demanded by ex-servicemen! Accordingly, if military personnel chose to invoke the ‘principle of equity’, they should rightfully be demanding the highest pension grades in the corresponding running pay band of Sub Major in respect of JCOs/OR and the final scale of SAG/HAG (Major General/Lt General) in respect of officers since similar dispensation is in vogue for civil services.

3. Unequal Career Growth Options: Whereas nearly all civilians make speedy career advances in secure environs of their pre-specified state cadres/deputations and reach their highest rank/pay bands, the majority in the Armed Forces (jawans and officers) find themselves out of job even though they fulfil the laid down criteria for career advancement/promotions. A look at this career contrast: Whereas over 90% of the IAS officers reach Secretary/Additional Secretary level and none retires below Joint Secretary rank, only 0.02% of the Armed Forces officers make it to Army Commander level, 0.15% to other Lt General levels (Corps Commanders and others) and only 0.4% to Major General level (even after the recent cadre enhancement!). Because of the constricted pyramidal organisational structure of the Forces, a large number of competent officers fully eligible for higher ranks have to be wasted out every year. Caught in a whirlpool of systemic adversity, large number of such qualified officers get neither their deserved pay nor pension. Likewise, the majority among jawans too reach no further than Honorary Havildar level whereas almost all LDCs in central services and all Constables are assured to retire at least as Section Officers and SIs respectively reaping highest returns until and after 60 years of age. Military personnel obviously deserve to be appropriately compensated for the losses they are suffering due to early retirement and short-changed dispensation due to restricted career opportunities, early loss of job and resultant loss of salary and pension due to early retirement.

4. ‘Unique’ Service Conditions: Forfeiting their fundamental rights, our jawans and officers not only serve in extremely hostile terrain and climate but also spend the better part of their life in separation from their families even in peace locations with no guarantee of even weekly holidays and festivals. From fighting at the world’s highest battle-field where hostile terrain and weather claim more lives than the enemy, to operating in jungles and desert far away from the civilisation, soldiers lead unusually tough life – unseen and un-imagined in civil life. These extraordinary service conditions make the Armed Forces uniquely distinct from and incomparable with any other Service in the country. Recognising this uniqueness of the Defence Services, the Government has already decided to have a separate Pay Commission for the Armed Forces in the future (as announced in the Lok Sabha by the Defence Minister on 13 July 2009). The crucial details as to how such a Pay Commission would be constituted and how equal to or independent of the other the Central Civil Services Pay Commission it would be, have not yet been made public.

5. Nation’s Last Resort: In spite of its back breaking Recession, it is primarily because of its superior military might that the US is in a position to assert its will and authority coercively over any country in the world, disregarding dissent, if any, from any power in the world. It is through a credible military deterrent that a nation’s diplomatic and political strides find meaning and economy its protective cover. Few countries have used their military might more than India to defend their borders and maintain order within. With a history of four wars since Independence, incessant insurgencies and expanding terrorism, India should be imparting lessons to the world on the importance of maintaining a powerful and motivated military. From Siachin to Arunachal to Kanyakumari, for anything too serious or too dangerous, eg, natural calamities, epidemic, riots, disruption of essential services, failure of civil administration – even for salvaging the national honour in fiascos like the CWG footbridge collapse – the Government and the people alike have always turned to Fauj (Armed Forces) for speedy solutions. Others can raise their hands, stand aside and watch. But has the Fauj ever belied nation’s faith in its Armed Forces? Their failure, God forbid, if ever so it were, it would be a national disaster.

The treatment being met out to the Armed Forces in India has started hurting the serving and retired soldiers alike. A calculated and systematic method is seen clearly at work in degrading the position and prestige of military ever since the 4th Pay Commission. Every successive Pay Commission has pushed Armed Forces a few notches below their deserved niche. The way the Ex-servicemen’s demand for OROP has been treated goes to prove that there are anti-military forces aggressively at work to deprive soldiers and ex-soldiers of their genuine dues. In all fairness, bureaucrats found guilty of delaying and denying military dues and entitlements must be severely dealt with and even prosecuted for their anti-national outlook or for inefficiency. This must be particularly ensured in cases where the political leadership and/or the higher judiciary have ruled in favour of the military. The case in point is the ex-servicemen’s demand for OROP which has been long lost in bureaucratic machinations despite its non-controversial character and unanimity of views in its support from all authorities/judiciary/political parties that have ever deliberated over this demand as is clear from the following facts on record:-

(a) Firstly, grant of OROP has been repeatedly recommended by successive Parliamentary Committees over the years.

(b) Secondly, nearly all major Political Parties including Congress and the BJP have supported the long pending OROP demand in their election manifestoes. The UPA Chairperson, Mrs Sonia Gandhi is on record declaring her support in favour of Ex-servicemen on this score in her public utterances and media interactions.

(c) Thirdly, observations and directions passed by the Judiciary (including honourable Supreme Court) in a number of cases relating to disparity in pay & pension of ex-servicemen have favoured removal of disparity on this issue. An anguished Supreme Court has gone to the extent of admonishing the authorities for treating soldiers/ex-soldiers like ‘beggars’.

(d) Fourthly, even the Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary found it hard to refute the legitimacy of OROP demand. However, while the Committee largely accepted the essence of the demand in respect of the JCOs/OR (PBOR), in the case of Commissioned Officers, it stopped just short of according parity between pre and post 01-01-2006 pensioners. (Statement of Shri AK Antony, Minister of Defence in the Lok Sabha on 13 Jul 2009 refers). Confounding the simple issue, the Committee’s convoluted recommendations at best halved the injustice to officers by introducing an absurdly misleading idea ‘modified parity’ as if there could be such a thing as ‘modified truth’ or ‘starve & enjoy’! Reality is that anything other than ‘parity’ is ‘disparity’ and that must be resolved in simple and absolute terms.

Unfortunately, a skewed impression has been created about the genuine requirements of the serving and retired soldiers as if these were no more than their welfare demands. The seriousness of repercussions such distorted views can have in weakening the vitals of our national defence is indeed grave because the nation’s defence potency will be only as strong as the motivation of its soldiers. Their well being must, therefore, be viewed as national imperatives and not merely questions of their welfare. Since every serving soldier is a future ex-serviceman, repercussions of decisions on issues like OROP directly affect the psyche of fighting soldiers as well. The simmering disgruntlement among the soldiers and ex-soldiers raises serious questions on the state of morale and motivation of our Armed Forces. Nothing can be more perilous for a country than a demoralised military led by an impoverished leadership in the wake of continuing Government apathy on basic issues such as OROP.

Mumbai 26/11 Investigations – What happened?

Pakistan’s reluctance in prosecuting the sponsors of 26/11 Mumbai attack has angered us continually even though a few suspects including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the LeT operations commander were arrested and put through trial under pressure of mounting world opinion. However, the Indian government, media, people – all have been fuming at Pakistan government’s unyielding attitude on the issue. Nevertheless, while an atmosphere of peace, friendship and cooperation is always the best option for both the countries, aren’t we asking for too much in expecting Pakistan to prosecute the people who, it secretly believes, deserve gallantry awards? How naïve of India to expect that her tormenter would come to her rescue! As if we should have asked then President Musharraf to hand over or prosecute Pak army officers and men guilty of Kargil 1999 intrusion. Agreed, these are the times of outsourcing businesses; but outsourcing matters of national security to Pakistan or the United States would be simply preposterous with disastrous outcome. Security issues have to be dealt with directly by us through an efficient mechanism with effective intelligence collection system, swift combat response, hot pursuit and follow up methods to effectively fight and defeat the menace of terrorism.

What is more dangerous for the national security is a corruption aided tendency in our officialdom to pass the buck and cover up the mounting inefficiency in police, local administration and intelligence agencies at all levels. Neither our intelligence agencies nor the Mumbai police had any clue about David Headley – the LeT member and lead scout of 26/11, who continued visiting and holidaying in Delhi, Mumbai and rest of India for years before and after the Mumbai attack until he was arrested by the FBI sleuths in the United States. And now we want him to be made over to us for ‘further action’. The working of the police and intelligence agencies has been disappointing because blinded by rampant corruption they keep groping in the darkness without seeing much. Local suspects arrested from far off places like Kolkata, Srinagar and Delhi have not led Mumbai police beyond primary level information like how the terrorists managed Indian SIM cards and little else. They did not examine their own surroundings and failed to penetrate the network in Mumbai that made 26/11 possible, no matter how well the ISI had trained and equipped them.

An operation like 26/11 could not have been possible without a pre-arranged foolproof Support Base in Mumbai. Typical military operations in border areas may be carried out without a ‘support base in situ’ if the objective is clearly identifiable and covered approaches are available. ‘Covered approach’ in the military parlance means a concealed route chosen by the attacker to obscure his movement from enemy observation. But navigating through the hustle and bustle of Mumbai roads and carrying out a simultaneous raid at 10 different targets including Taj Hotel, Oberoi Trident Hotel, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Leopold Café, Nariman House Jewish Centre and Cama Hospital by terrorists coming ashore for the first time ever on an alien land humming with activity will be a foolish idea most unlikely to succeed unless intimately supported from the target end. A terrorist squad, howsoever well trained, leaving Karachi for Mumbai, not by air but by sea, would require pre-positioning of a reliable and well organised ‘support base’ with tentacles at sea, at the beach and in the city. It is understood that the overall coordination and monitoring controls would continue to function from Pakistan. And lo, we have not yet looked for those who constituted this support base for the terrorists and arranged for their reception, guidance, security/disguise, logistics, transport and, if possible, a get-away plan after the operation is over.

Having planned and participated in operations in the elite counter terrorist force, the National Security Guard (NSG), I have some idea about the functioning of Special Forces like ISI (Pakistan), Mossad (Israel), Delta Force (US), GSG-9 (Germany), SAS (UK) et al. While it might sound highly unethical and illegal, it is not unusual for the state secret services to recruit and utilise terrorists, smugglers and criminals to carry out covert operations deep inside enemy territory. Even assassinations and kidnappings are part of the game. Sometimes, victims also are grouped, armed and trained to fight insurgents on behalf of the state like ‘Salwa Judum’ in Chhattisgarh. Therefore, it is no big revelation that Ajmal Kasab and his buddies were trained under the ISI supervision. The manner in which Mumbai 26/11 was executed made it abundantly clear that the operation was planned and executed under expert supervision of the Pakistan Army and the ISI. The tactics, weaponry, grenades, composite survival provisions, medicines, steroids and communication system used by the terrorists pointed towards them unambiguously. Nevertheless, what has got overshadowed by the ‘Headley confessions’ is the need and urgency of home scrutiny that could have busted the ‘in-city network’ before it melted away.

Some vital aspects that should have been explored on priority by the Mumbai police and intelligence agencies involved in investigations are:-

1. An operation of the type of 26/11 has to be preceded by detailed reconnaissance and surveillance of the target area to assess its vulnerability vis-à-vis security status, suitable time of attack; communication, route, transport, navigational assistance and disguise required.

2. Contingency plans to strike at other targets in the event of initial plans becoming too difficult to execute.

3. Necessity to maintain total secrecy till the last moment.

4. An unobtrusive but tactically useful location near or at the target itself for reconnaissance/surveillance personnel to acquaint themselves with the profile of the target and routine activities, state of security vigilance, vulnerability level etc. Ideally, such surveillance would be mounted several days ahead of the D day. These advance elements may either join the assault team or withdraw just prior to the H hour for other tasks.

5. A suitable ‘Safe House’ for the advance elements and contingencies.

6. Elements who are assigned such missions also need local contacts to merge with the local milieu without rousing suspicions.

7. They might use more than one type of electronic network like satellite phones, mobile phones, radio, VOIP etc.

8. It may sometimes become necessary for such terror teams to kill their supporters whom they consider might get caught and blow up the operation before it is launched, for example the killing of the Captain of the fishing trawler ‘Kuber’ and taxi drivers.

9. Requirement of subsidiary support like planted media stories, flare up of communal violence, sympathetic political leaders diverting public attention, human rights activists blaming police and security forces, help line activists provoking help seekers etc can tilt public mood adversely. We have live examples of this support extended by our own leaders like the Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh who blamed “the RSS inspired Hindu extremists for Hemant Karkare’s death” and by AR Antulay, then a Union Minister who said “Hemant Karkare’s death might be linked to his investigation of 2006 Malegaon blasts believed to be handiwork of some Hindu extremists”.

It is also important for the investigating agencies to understand the mechanics of planning and execution of such operations. Unlike the earlier blasts and shooting incidents in Mumbai, the attack of 26/11 was qualitatively different. Local assistance and coordination must have been provided by helpful elements at sea, on the beach and in the city, perhaps closer to designated targets. The investigating agencies should have focused on the distinct stages and phases of the operation that would have helped narrow down their search on matters of direct relevance rather than groping all over the globe, looking for a needle in a haystack. An analysis of how the events unfolded suggests that most probably the operation went through the following stages/phases :-

1. Preliminary Stage: Selection of volunteers, grouping, training, and other preparations.

2. Phase I: Movement requiring means of transport and navigation at sea from Karachi to Indian waters;

3. Phase II: Reception and marrying up with the advance elements, final briefing from a stand off distance at sea; and landing on the beach;

4. Phase III: Quick dispersal of teams in pre-arranged vehicles for their designated targets;

5. Phase IV: Execution.
Normally, terrorists tasked for such operations are so deeply indoctrinated that they operate almost under a spell and will normally neither surrender nor get arrested alive. Kasab is a rare and lucky find for the Mumbai police.

But it is not only the Mumbai police; the entire system of our governance has been seriously damaged by corruption. It is because of corruption that failure in performance does not get punished and the inefficient and delinquent officers manoeuvre their way up the ladders without much hassle. Gratuitous returns have sickened our leaders, departments and forces that nothing seems to move us speedily in the direction required. We all are aware about the power base of the underworld in Mumbai, the finance capital of India. With Daud’s clout spread in Karachi, Dubai and Mumbai, it should have been possible to pick up more leads to reach more logical conclusions unless these leads led to someone too hot to touch.

Last week I ran into a Pakistani journalist at a seminar in Delhi and asked him why his government was sheltering the LeT operatives like Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhavi and other criminals wanted by India even when his country is suffering most from terrorism. He retorted, “You are quick to blame Pakistan for not proceeding strictly and swiftly enough against those who are accused of their role in the Mumbai attack of 26/11. Whereas we have proceeded against the suspects of Mumbai attack despite India not sharing the evidence collected in this regard, aren’t you sheltering Afzal Guru despite a death sentence by your own Supreme Court even after his review petition has been rejected and the sentence again confirmed? I’m happy you have not yet blamed Pakistan for this”. (Afzal Guru was sentenced to death in 2004 for attack on Indian Parliament, was to be hanged on 20 October 2006 but lives on for no apparent reason. His mercy appeal for presidential clemency has been under consideration since 2006!). I tried to explain to him the legal rights of such convicts but he countered me yet again, “In another case, it was your cabinet minister who escorted Maulana Masood Azhar and his co-prisoners aboard a special flight and delivered them to freedom and safety in Kandahar and now you want Pakistan to arrest and send them to you. Isn’t it funny?”

I had no answer. At functional level administration we lack professionalism. At national level, we do not know how to deal with serious situations at home or abroad. Result: no police or army officer knows about the ‘government policy’ in the event of a hijack or hostage situation because unlike Israel, India has no defined policy on it. Likewise, diplomatically we are still in an ambivalent state while dealing with nations involved in Arab Spring. Is India on the right path to assume her global role in the emerging world? Course correction in our governance was never needed more.

How Greed breeds modern Leaders

Corruption first creeps in slowly and quietly into individual brains. If we retrospect our childhood days, we would know how we – or our siblings and friends – snatched from others whatever we liked, no matter who the rightful owner was. A loving and caring elder always stepped in and quietened those he could but helplessly gave in to the more stubborn who would not stop crying until his whims were met. That was how the first software of corruption was chipped in our personal systems. We grew up with an obsession of whims and pre-conceived notions that gradually took command of our behaviour.

Today we have reached a stage when nothing attracts us more than figures and statistics. We all feel greedy to have more – whatever, whenever, wherever and however! After all when you have more than your neighbour, you earn his envy. ‘Life is no good unless I have an edge over others’- we seem to think even when we have enough to lead a normal life. Accumulation of assets gives us an expanse to gloat over with a sense of triumph in a world that is racing to grab more. Of course, far from being sinful, honest pursuit to earn and create more resources in life is a highly desirable activity and ultimately it benefits the society. What is harmful and dangerous for the society is acquisition of resources and privileges through dishonest pursuit and machinations. Spread of such a culture vitiates the atmosphere and promotes unfair competition, rivalry and crime.

The quest to excel, however, has different meanings for different people. The fear of being left behind in the race forces us to ignore the fundamentals of life in the fiercely competitive environment. We find parents boasting of their kids getting as high as 99% marks. Teenagers attend school, tuitions, coaching for competitive examinations with no time for societal chores, nature watch, hobbies, games, outdoor adventures and so on. Care is taken to enrol into those Tutorials where the student’s teacher has commercial interest. The aim is clear: to get highest possible marks, no matter how. And so we know why teachers perform perfunctorily in class room teaching but do their most in ‘tuition’ sessions out of the school. Every year we also witness how question papers are secretly fished out and sold for hefty amounts a few days prior to the date of the examination. And the malaise is no longer confined to Boards alone, it has now become a high paying furtive business eating into the country’s most prestigious competitive examinations like JEE and other UPSC controlled or institutionally conducted examinations. And yet, universities and colleges too joined the mad race to rake in students who are in the highest slot of the cut off percentage set as high as 98 and, in some cases, 100%. Is percentage of marks obtained by students the only measure of their worthiness for the institution, society and the nation? Who would look for the more vital attributes in personalities the country and society need like aptitude, vision, character, disposition towards social/national issues and so on?

Next mile stone in life is the career which also is measured not so much from the job content but from the figurative assessment of the salary package. Campus placement carries its own stress and glory with multinational companies (MNCs) offering enormous salary packages to youngsters striving to subsist on frugal pocket allowance and hostel expenses paid by parents who kept tab on their expenses. Once in the job, they quickly develop their own networks in the corporate world and weave their way up the ladder. Notions like ‘organisational loyalty’ have no stopping power in their job hopping culture to reach out for more. Terms like ‘thousand’ and ‘lakh’ no longer impact us the way they did our parents. Four figure, five figure salaries that used to be lofty heights a few decades ago have no meaning now. Now they come part in cheque part in bundles – a happy mix of white, grey and black. Yet, the race to get more is not only continuing but becoming fiercely faster. The illicit money paid as kickbacks in the Bofors scandal of yester years which involved India’s Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was valued at Rs 64 crore, an amount that looks so tiny when compared with today’s illegitimate gains of A Raja and his accomplices causing a loss of Rs 176,379 crore (US$ 39.33 billion) to the national exchequer.

Dreams and castle plans we build are enormous. No salary package is plenty enough to cater for fulfilling all our aspirations in this world no matter how hard we work and how much we earn. Indians are objects of envy for their abilities and untiring capacity to work all over the world. Tough competition, long working hours and vagaries of hectic routine in life do not seem to deter this generation. What does is when they find the undeserving has the cake and eats it too. Hard working, sincere, ambitious and fully aware of their rights, these people get angry when their genuine dues are withheld or when they find someone who supersedes them illegally and gets ‘special favours’ through bribing. It pains them even more when they discover a sinister nexus where the corruption vine runs all the way from clerk’s window to the minister’s table. Who will attend to your complaints of injustice in such a scenario? Tired and frustrated in a hopeless situation, people give up and reconcile to the harsh realities. Since they have money but no time or intent to get into hassles, they pay their way out with angst building in their guts though!

Anna Hazare’s arrival on the scene had an electrifying effect on this generation that had already become highly inflammable. Anna’s protest fast at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan made India rise in unison against corruption – obliterating conventional lines of cast, religion and region. Full of anger, all able bodied and daring, yet epitomes of a highly responsible citizenry, remarkably peaceful and tolerant, thoroughly adherent to rules – the agitating masses set new standards of mass movement show-casing a shining example of how protest rallies can be organised without needing police, causing harm to life and property or inconvenience to public so commonly witnessed in our political rallies. Patriotic songs like ‘Dil diya hai, jaan bhi denge, aye vatan tere liye…’ and slogans like ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ rent the air boosting a new found nationalistic fervour all over India – even abroad. India united and surging behind a fasting farmer, Anna, whose simplicity and diminutive bearing hid his enormous moral stature, simply bewildered the political class.

What is indeed reassuring is that the earning generation of modern India is still largely imbued with high morals even though they are capable of manoeuvring through corrupt corridors of government machinery. Now they realise the seriousness of the malaise called corruption. Their cool rallying up is more than just a silver lining in the dark clouds. There is though a need for a solemn self-cleansing effort to introspect and change course so as to build up a mass aversion against corruption in every form. Keep the difference between fair and foul; ‘sincere quest to earn more through honest, fair pursuit’ and ‘greed to grab and hoard by hook or by crook.’

The public outcry has been catalysed by bad governance where corrupt officials get away with arrogance, callousness and inefficiency leaving the public largely disappointed. The politico-bureaucratic-criminal nexus has become a potent force that threatens India’s national security from within. Ironically, figures and statistics in respect of this category (politicians, bureaucrats and criminals) perform quite differently when compared with those of the working masses. For example, unlike the exacting norms of admissions and job placements for the law abiding career oriented youth, there are no mandatory qualifications for an MP or an MLA. Also, no matter how fast the hardworking executives climb to richer returns; our politicians have devised techniques to clock a higher growth rate faster that beats all. For instance, the average growth rate of wealth of India’s parliamentarians was 300% as per reports recently published in the newspapers. While a manager or an engineer can be summarily fired and a military man (officer or jawan) can be summarily tried and punished, our bureaucrats hoodwink the system projecting their ‘transfer’ or ‘suspension’ as punishment for their misdeeds. Little wonder that while we often read news about transfers and suspensions, no convictions or summary dismissals come to light. In fact, the country is left to mutely watch uninterrupted ascendance of the corrupt right up to the very top. Akhand Pratap Singh and Neera Yadav both managed to reach the highest posts in their service despite their highly tarnished service records. PJ Thomas who became India’s CVC despite his baggage of corruption in the past mentioned in his affidavit filed in the Supreme Court that all the other IAS officers shortlisted for the prestigious post had similar tainted past.

Earlier, the criminals used to work for their political bosses. Now it seems they have become politicians themselves. Two very highly reputed organisations, ‘Association for Democratic Reforms’ and ‘National Election Watch’, have discovered that while there were a total of 128 MPs with criminal records in the 14th Lok Sabha, now there are 162 (excluding A Raja and accomplices) in the 15th Lok Sabha. The number of crorepatis (multi-millionaires and billionaires) has doubled to 315 in the 15th Lok Sabha from 156 in the previous. Another interesting phenomenon that emerged from these analyses is that the chances of winning an election in 2009 were directly proportional to the money power of the contestants, ie, 0.43% with assets under Rs 10 lakh to 32.65% with assets over Rs 5 crore.

If reward of earnest pursuit by the competent, honest and sincere citizens of the country is inferior to and at the mercy of the corrupt bureaucrats and politicians who create mountains of illicit wealth through corruption, there shall be mass resentment against the unholy nexus among politicians, bureaucrats and criminals because it is injustice and denial of fair way to the people in the world’s largest democracy. Institutionalising a single authority like Lokpal (Ombudsman) on the lines proposed by Team Anna certainly appears to be a way out. Care must be taken to keep it simple, straight and free from ambiguity. Creation of different institutions to control corruption at different levels like higher bureaucracy, subordinate services, members of Parliament, Judiciary and so on will only serve the corrupt who will find plenty of escape routes in the labyrinth of institutions because acts of corruption can be – and almost always – based on collaboration spread across these categories. It is therefore logically necessary that cases of corruption are handled by a single authority having freedom to enquire and pass appropriate orders without having to refer a matter to another agency half-way through. Such a measure will only help corruption.

Post retirement positions assigned to judges and bureaucrats is also part of corruption because in their twilight years, they greedily survey and unfairly lobby to get appointed in such positions. It should be simpler, fair and more effective if appointments now earmarked for ‘retired’ judges and officers are filled by serving incumbents through a fair selection process. They should serve and retire as per existing service norms without any extension of tenure. Even for various enquiry commissions and other agencies like Human Rights Commission, all office bearers should be found from those who have enough service to serve the required tenure in these agencies before superannuating as per their service rules. This will put an end to a temptation among judges and officers looking for post-retirement positions, a practice which is more of a reciprocal exchange of favours and goes to fortify the unfair nexus.

Greed Breed of Indian Leadership

Greed and fear are powerful human emotions, most misjudged though. However maligned these two might be their significance in shaping human behaviour cannot be ignored. And they are as desirable as they are despised. Curiously, absolute absence of these two intrinsic evils – call them so if you wish – of human nature will rob the individual of his prudence and useful social conduct. When responsibly handled these emotions enable us to add quality to life – others’ and ours – as life moves on in the civilised world. If evidence was needed in support of this fact, it flows straight from the universally preached and practised business principle: ‘highest returns from lowest investment’. It would be foolish in any corner of the world to practise the opposite of this principle: give more, take less.

Ironically, corruption springs straight from this theory. What we seldom acknowledge is that we are all corrupt in varying measures. It would therefore be utopian to expect total extinction of the evil called corruption. There has never been an era in human history – Ramayana and Mahabharata periods included – when corruption did not exist. Why we are crying against it today is because it has crossed our affordability limits. Secondly, the role of ‘fear’ has altered. Instead of inducing caution and fearfulness in the mind of the exploiter, it has now gone in reverse mode and seems to add an awesome, fearsome dimension to his position. Gone are the days of ‘under-the-table deals’; it is blatantly open and an over-the-table business now. Public ambivalence on such dealings has only encouraged the perpetrators of the evil because they are patronised by the same people who envy and hate them in private. Politics in India has become the most lucrative business with fastest rise in fortunes. As reported recently in newspapers, rise in wealth of our politicians averaged 300% or more depending upon the ‘capability’ and ‘capacity’ of the leader concerned within a period of five years as evidenced from the affidavits filed by MPs/MLAs. Who will not like to win over (or buy out) a pliable bureaucrat, judge or a politician willing to intercept and change the course of justice to favour their benefactors – be they from governmental hierarchy, cronies from fraternity or an interested ‘party’ from the public? Those who can pay can make the otherwise callous police and local administration move and act in their desired manner. Unlike other necessities of life, sex and money influence people in more curious ways – the more you have, the more you will want. Lust is nothing but excessive greed, which can drive you mad like it happened with the Home Ministry bureaucrat, Ravi Inder Singh who was arrested in November 2010 for selling state secrets in return for favours in sex and cash.

Fear can often lead to panic, which ultimately hampers decision-making abilities in individuals and establishments headed by leaders and officers under panic. The nation has seen manifestation of this phenomenon in the jittery responses of the Government floundering in the deluge of scams and peoples’ ire against government corruption. First, the Government thought Anna Hazare was too tiny to deserve its attention. Later, when the nation rallied behind him in remarkable spontaneity, it scurried to appoint a joint drafting committee with a duly notified time frame to draft and legislate the Lokpal Bill as demanded by the ‘civil society’. Again, it made a mockery of statecraft in dealing with Baba Ramdev – first, senior ministers went prostrate before the Baba conceding all his demands (some even weird!) even before he could step out of Delhi Airport. Even as their pleasantries went on, we saw police pouncing on the most peaceful, harmless gathering in the sleepy hours of night at Ramlila ground in Delhi. Statecraft having been abandoned, witchcraft has taken over.

Corruption has now become Frankenstein’s monster of the Indian politics. No political party is happy to decry it enough except for scoring over each other in their routine ‘holier-than-thou’ frenzy. While the opposition is seen angry over scams holding the highest in the government, the Prime Minister, responsible for misdeeds too, no political outfit has come out in open and unequivocal support for a strong, powerful and effective anti-corruption institution like Lokpal as proposed by Anna Hazare’s team. Shockingly again, a jittery government is again trying to throttle people’s peaceful protest by denying Jantar Mantar to the most peaceful protester free India has ever seen – Anna Hazare, even as numerous other rallies/meetings are being allowed during the same ‘ban’ there.

Even the orthodox societies are fast evolving and adjusting to new realities. India, already well poised to lead the world, is hindered and threatened not so much by Pakistan or China but by its very own enemy within – corruption in high places. No doubt, Pakistan sponsored terrorism has hit us seriously enough in the past. But the menace of terrorism has also found a great ally in rampant corruption right at home. With India topping the world with her share of black money ($ 1546 bn) more than the total of the next four countries - Russia, UK, Ukraine and China ($ 1056 bn) in the list of black money hoarders in Swiss banks, Indian terrorists have enough to support them at home. Don’t we hear politicians cry foul every time police or the army raid and arrest suspects? Not only the Batla house raid by the Delhi police, even the most blatant, daring Mumbai attack that is more ominously remembered as 26/11 to liken it to the 9/11 World Trade Tower al-Qaeda operation, found vociferous, if shameless, political support very much at home! First, it was AR Antulay who, then holding a ministerial portfolio in the Manmohan Singh government, suggested a hand of ‘Hindu Zionists’ in the killing of Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare (Times of India, December 18, 2008). Lately, the Congress general secretary, Digvijay Singh has been shooting from the hip like an errant constable running amok, blaming the RSS and Hindus for all terrorism in India!

Whole world watched on 22 July 2008 how MPs were waving wads of currency notes in the well of the house screaming and complaining how they were bribed to vote in favour of the Manmohan Singh Government or abstain during a trust vote required to prove majority after the Left parties withdrew their support. The government survived through a murky horse trading in the Parliament. Recordings of a ‘Sting operation’ carried out by a leading TV channel (CNN IBN) captured these ‘horse trading meetings’ and ‘cash transactions’ which were shown to Parliamentary Committee constituted to enquire into it. The Lok Sabha Speaker asked the Delhi Police to enquire into the affair. First, the Parliamentary Committee report (not unanimous though) said they did not find enough evidence to pronounce anyone guilty. Now, after three years of investigations, the Delhi Police in their interim report says they found no evidence pointing towards ‘guilt of any politician’! Despite the glaring evidence people saw about the entire episode, if police or any other investigative authority absolves the culprits, it is an insult to the people of India.

Corruption is a secular pursuit. Politically too it cuts across party lines and converts enemies into friends and vice versa. Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party (SP) was in the opposition but only till the ruling UPA government had a comfortable majority. The moment the Left parties withdrew support, they not only jumped in the bandwagon but also went out of the way with the cunning and innovative skills of Amar Singh to garner additional support by poaching MPs from other Opposition parties. And we are the proud people of the largest democracy of the world! Perhaps, if the Guinness Book of Records wanted a page on world’s most corrupt and shamelessly audacious leaders, I see no worthwhile challenge in the world and we shall win hands down.

Corruption – India’s Enemy within

‘Breaking enemy’s will to fight’ has been a military doctrine practised by warring nations for centuries. The mechanics of achieving such strategic long term goals are always covert, indirect and innocuously camouflaged to be inserted into the mainstream of the targeted nation. In Indo-Pak relations, it is particularly significant because having suffered successive defeats and even its dismemberment at India’s hands in its short history, Pakistan’s leadership, especially the military, has realised that the option of waging and winning a conventional military war against India will be disastrous. Even covert attempts by Pakistan to encroach upon and occupy mountain heights in Kargil in 1999 were not only beaten back by the Indian Army but also invited widespread international condemnation. This adverse equation can, however, change to Pakistan’s advantage if India’s fighting potential and will is weakened by different means from within. Fortunately for Pakistan, this is now happening!

State of Defence Preparedness

Discontent in India’s Armed Forces, world’s second largest, has been growing over the last few years. Reassuring explanations of the top brass notwithstanding, the malaise has amply manifested itself in the increasing cases of suicide, fratricide and indiscipline at junior levels, and officers of ‘colonel’ level rank who constitute the spine of our armed forces, are queuing up for voluntary retirement – despite 6th Pay Commission’s dubious largesse. There is still a deficiency of about 15000 officers in the Armed Forces. Officers. Even the 2.3 million strong military pensioners feel cheated by the corruption ridden dispensation. The resentment is so intense that they are returning their medals en-mass and joining Anna Hazare and other Satyagrahis in their crusade against corruption and resultant administrative callousness all over. A long held military suspicion now turning into belief is that the top political leadership and bureaucracy are too busy in their self-serving pursuits to think of vital national interests.

At a time when high-tech Indian brains are in the forefront everywhere in the world; Indian industry tycoons have acquired world’s multi-billion dollar companies; and indigenous manufacturing infrastructure is providing our exports a competitive edge, our own Armed Forces remain humbly dependent on imports for their major war-like requirements. Who is perpetuating this dependence on others? Obviously those who have tasted blood in the kickbacks in military hardware deals and those who wish to break India’s will to fight. Being overly dependent on other countries for crucial war like equipment, India is compromising its sovereignty and freedom to express free opinions in the international arena even though it aspires for a global role. In times of war, this ‘dependence’ on others can become a serious handicap because the ‘providers’ can wrest strategic initiatives and coerce us to fight or negotiate on their terms.

Enviably, tiny countries like Israel have developed their defence industry to such an extent that besides enhancing their self-reliance, it is also raking in sizeable revenue and expanding their area of influence through crucial exports. A sizeable part of India’s military hardware today comes from Israel too. An overview of ‘powerful nations’ of the world reveals that their power is not the economy (OPEC), it is the military (US). It surprises no one that despite a devastating economy meltdown, thanks to her military might, the United States has continued to be No. 1 Power in the world.

Dance of Democracy!

Unabated spate of scams, each bigger than the previous, inundating the media everyday reinforces this belief. The initial list of 154 tainted MPs in the present Lok Sabha has been expanding and now has more high profile additions with the likes of A Raja, Kalmadi and Kanimozhi lodged in Tihar jail along with their corporate cronies and senior bureaucrats. Some more from the ‘honest’ Prime Minister’s cabinet appear to be in the pipeline and may join them in due course. The labyrinthine judicial process, however, helps to unite all the stake-holders in crime who cobble up formidable nexus. Little wonder that we have not yet seen a powerful politician or a top bureaucrat finally convicted in our post-independence history.

Vital issues like national security, military preparedness and defence allocations are glossed over in the Parliament without attracting any serious debate or proposals from treasury and opposition benches alike. Issues that cannot be used as tools to score mileage over opponents – party or leader – do not evoke any interest in our political circles unless an issue holds out promise to gain from like the Congress overdrive to win over the agitating farmers UP’s Bhatta Pasraul by blowing up non-issues through dangerous lies only to be later refuted by the National Human Rights Commission.

In spite of Election Commission’s efforts, our electoral process has got so vitiated that we end up having ‘elected representatives’ with less votes cast in favour and more against. Also, thanks to money and muscle power, elections are highly risky and unaffordable if you are an un-sponsored contestant. It is simply logical that disillusioned and frustrated, the masses are seeking alternatives to farcical democracy by aligning with anybody who holds promise to deliver them from the malaise of bad governance. Little wonder that radical crusades like Maoist/Naxalite movement today hold sway over 40% of India. And the violent threat is only beginning but menacingly expanding and making inroads into newer areas from Bengal to Andhra Pradesh and from Chhattisgarh to Maharashtra. Lessons learnt from terrorism in J&K and insurgent movements in the North East have gone unheeded. By now we should know it too well that growing alienation of people from their own governments holds an open invitation to our external adversaries who are ever ready to invest in terms of finance, material (weapons, accessories, explosives etc) and ideology, and push their war effort through eager proxies already up against their own government.

Strategic Bankruptcy

In the recent times, the government has appeared running from pillar viz, reacting on a crisis to crisis basis with no long term strategy to solve existing problems or to envision and forestall future threats. Bankruptcy of statesmanship stands exposed through Government’s jittery reactions, be it the incongruent manner in which its top ministers and Delhi Police dealt with a yoga guru and his peaceful gathering at Delhi’s Ram Lila ground or the way they first bend to form a joint committee and invite Anna Hazare to work out an effective Lokpal Bill bestowing co-chairmanship upon the Civil Society’s nominee and later questioning Team Hazare’s representative credentials!

While there is a stubborn stand taken by the government representatives at the joint committee against inclusion of the Prime Minister in Lokpal’s jurisdiction, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed his willingness and no-objection to such inclusion. Emerging from his self-induced hibernation, the Prime Minister, during his inter-action with media, expressed his helplessness and pitiably confessed that he did not have a ‘magic wand to control prices’. On the issue of Lokpal he said, ‘Lokpal is no panacea to prevent corruption.’ Contradictory statements and confessions of helplessness emanating from the highest echelons of the government only betray the chaos and disarray within. The government is floundering to come out of the deluge of scams and has little time to think of bigger issues like national security, public welfare and holistic development. Obviously, people’s confidence in the system of governance is waning.

Emasculation of Nation’s Moral Fibre

It is not for nothing that Pakistan is pumping tons of fake currency notes into India. Rampant corruption in India provides the enemy an ideal environment to insidiously infect and weaken the nerves of our nation. Obviously, it is so much easier for the enemy to infiltrate deep into the systemic government network through pliable power centres and influential lobbyists willing to work at a price. The enormous size of black money stock-piled outside the country has every potential to be utilised to influence government decisions to service vested interests at the cost of our national interests. Inside the haloed ambiance of the Parliament our 'honourable' MPs have betrayed their fallibility for cash on more occasions than one whether it was to raise a 'paid queries' or to sell their vote to keep a weak government from falling in a no-confidence motion. There is no dearth of money that can be mobilised to win over individuals, parties and organisations with a view to emasculating nation’s moral fibre so completely that it shall slowly but surely disintegrate and wither.

In a parliamentary system where Madhu Koda (of multi-crore scam fame) became Chief Minister of Jharkhand despite being a lone MLA without a Party, only worse can be feared if the likes of him gang up to form a pressure group in the Lok Sabha where he is one of the 154 tainted MPs today. He may well be aspiring to be India’s Prime Minister one day. Terrorists, communal enthusiasts and shady businessmen from within and enemies from outside would be more than willing to invest in helping pliable leaders and officials to redeem their aspirations. As for the bureaucracy, corruption has become so risk free that complaints of malfeasance no longer deter any one even as career progresses unaffected despite adverse remarks in the service books or pending enquiries. As confessed by the sacked CVC PJ Thomas in his affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, all the nine senior IAS officers empanelled with him had tainted past and yet were approved to hold top government positions as secretaries. With the political leadership is so greedy and bureaucracy so pliable, contracts and licenses can be procured even for the ineligible provided you are prepared to pay handsomely as has been seen in the G-2 Spectrum and CWG deals. If they could manipulate and sway Indian government decisions to have their way, will any cost be too much for Pakistan or China vis-à-vis expenses and stakes involved in the option for war?

In a micro-chipped cross-culture environment when younger generation watches corrupt officers and politicians prospering through crime with impunity, the evil of corruption turns motivator and inspires many more to join in. Efficiency goes for a toss yielding way to callous performance as is manifestly evident in the performance of our police and civil administration all over the country. Honest and efficient officers are exceptionally rare – and, hunted and harassed for their integrity, they are the endangered category on the verge of extinction. This is an era of paid editorials, paid justice, paid ‘darshan’ in temples, paid ‘ghost’ employees and so on. This is how corruption destroys character of a nation and society!

Home grown Security Risks

With dhan-kubers like Hasan Ali at home why will our terrorists depend only on Pakistan now for funding and support? Mentors and fund providers are readily available indigenously aplenty. Daud’s investments in Bollywood and other businesses like airlines, telecom, cricket and benami/pseudonym deals is no secret. Even judges have found corruption a lucrative pursuit. There have been cases of privileged clients extracting judgements made to order from courts and we have a horde of tainted judges including retired CJsI who shamelessly cast aside their honour and dignity for an easy buck. With character of our leaders, bureaucrats and judges having degenerated to these levels, on what grounds do we believe they will protect and promote our national interests?

Let us not be fooled by the much hyped economy boom. Wealth, like beauty, in the absence of credible power to defend and retaliate, can be a serious liability that could tempt the greedy and leering goons. Is it not already happening in the oil rich countries? Divisive forces within are already taking their toll in India too. For instance, caste based reservation initially conceived as a social leveller has led to infusing more bitterness in the society driving even the higher castes to agitate and demand their pound of flesh in the loot.


A new phase of ‘future wars’ is lurking around. To start with, these future wars in our context might be unleashed clandestinely through benign looking social organisations and schemes patronised by the powerful – you know who! The current Indian scenario is just perfect for the enemy to deliver the final blow. WikiLeaks exposes have already shown us how some foreign powers and lobbyists have coerced the Indian government to accept their diktats as to who should be assigned particular portfolios in the central cabinet and who should be kept out! Are alien powers already ruling India through remote control?

People know that even a strong Lokpal will not be a ‘panacea’ to wipe out corruption instantly. Yet, an effective Lokpal is the first but most needed step to hold the descent. Comprehensive reforms that can make civil administration, police and judiciary accountable, people friendly and responsive have been lip-serviced enough. So are electoral reforms and much awaited modernisation of armed forces. We have delayed action enough and must act now before it is too late.

Arrogance of Power is Killing Democracy

Manish Tiwari on 13 June 2011 said, “Our democracy faces its peril from the unelected and the unelectable….” Pranab Mukherjee labels Anna Hazare a tyrant! Used to politics of mudslinging, the Congressmen have persistently indulged in accusing Team Anna Hazare to deflect public focus from the Lokpal debate. With the earlier allegations like the fabricated CD and plot registration against Bhushans falling flat, they now want the people to believe that Anna Hazare is working for BJP/SS and not for the masses. Only the corrupt, not the democracy, should feel threatened by these mass movements. Democracy is the people, not the Government.

And let it be understood by the arrogant in positions of power that democracy is not their personal domain or, as Barkha Dutt aptly put it recently in an HT write up, ‘a members-only club’ where no ‘unelected’ citizens would have any right to play a role. If that were so, shall we assume that Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose and the entire galaxy of our freedom fighters got away with their sins and, given his philosophy, Manish Tiwari would have prosecuted them for being ‘unelected tyrants’. There is a dire need for such people to introspect and explore for a paradigm shift in their outlook.

Given below are 10 observations that will help us analyse Government perceptions vis-à-vis ground reality on various aspects concerning present turmoil on India’s current political field:-

1. No other Democracy in the world has an unelected Prime Minister but India, the world’s largest democracy has. In such a scenario he could as well say, “our democracy faces its peril from its people…’

2. No other Democracy in the world has its PM or President as silent and as invisible as India.

3. No other government in the civilised modern world receives orders from an extra constitutional authority (10, Janpath) as obsequiously as does the Indian Government.

4. No other government in civilised world is ever seen staggering indecisively and so clownishly as our very own Government. First, they made fun of Anna Hazare, then, terrified at the overwhelming tide of humanity in support for Anna Hazare’s call, the stubbornness of the government caved in and formed the Jt Drafting Committee for Lokpal bill. Unable to answer questions raised by the Anna Team, Pranab Mukherjee calls him a tyrant! Next, the top foursome of the government lay prostrate before Baba Ramdev whom they would beat two days later. What kind of ‘Democracy’ is it; and who is destroying it?

5. No other Democracy in the world has as many as nearly a third of its Parliament (Lok Sabha) (162 plus Kalamadi, A Raja, Kanimozhi and more like Maran, Chindambaram etc in the pipeline) facing criminal charges (ranging from trespassing to murder) which is more than 26% increase over the previous Lok Sabha’s record. There are 9 ministers in the central cabinet facing criminal charges including one for ‘theft’. (As per National Election Watch, 76 MPs are involved in serious criminal cases. A total of 522 cases against MPs are pending, 275 under serious IPC sections). What more would you add, Mr Manish Tiwari, to imperil Indian Democracy?

6. As per combined survey (‘International Perception of Corruption’) by world’s highly reputed independent institutions like World Bank & IBRD, Bertelsman Foundation, World Economic Forum, Global Insight and Transparency International Berlin, India ranks at 87 with countries like Albania, Jamaica and Liberia at index of 3.3 (out of 10) – continuously falling from 3.5 in 2007 and 3.4 in 2008 & 2009.

7. No sane system of governance other than a heartless tyrant would unleash such brutality over a most peaceful bhajan singing congregation of innocent men, women and children as was done in Delhi’s Ram Lila ground in the late night hours on 4/5 June 2011.

8. As per media reports (Times of India Ahmedabad, dated 8th June 2011), India not only tops the list of nations having tons of black money stashed in Swiss banks but its cache of black money there ($ 1546 bn) is far more than the combined total of next four countries in the list of black money deposits namely, Russia, UK, Ukraine and China ($ 1056 bn). Contrast this with our poor farmers committing suicides, hapless pregnant women delivering babies at hospital gates and destitute tribal masses fed up with the callous administration finding solace under Maoist rebellion.

9. No other government can boast of so many scams as the UPA Govt.
10. Only DMK seems to be ahead of Congress (so far, at least) in the corruption race – so what if some have crash landed in Tihar Jail!

However, these are merely the facts of reality, not what Manish Tiwari and Pranab Mukherjee would like to believe. They, like their other colleagues in the government, are obviously passing through hallucinations and illusions. In Anna Hazare, they are seeing a heavily armed warrior – ‘a tyrant’ – at the head of an angry army of India’s masses charging ferociously straight into them. The scenario reminds us of Wordsworth’s adolescent thief who was fleeing with his stolen boat but felt the hilltop behind was chasing him so menacingly that the farther he roved the bigger the shadow loomed over him. The more the government tries to shoo away the Lokpal and anti-corruption uproar, the more vigorous becomes the public outcry against corruption. Indian politicians could not have had more decent and loving enemies than Anna Hazare and his candle wielding masses or Baba Ramdev with his devotees practising abstinence and yoga. Arrogant governments in West Asia and North Africa are facing more violent and destructive uprisings. We have a choice to change peacefully.

While anxiety of those in power is understandable, they cannot avoid the problem by facing in the other direction. The tide is unstoppable. The people deserve and demand an effective Lokpal to rein in rampant corruption and they shall have it either with your cooperation or the tumult will crush authoritarian arrogance and install people’s choice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Rising India or a Chaos in the Offing

Karan Kharb

On the day of terror blast at the reception counter of Delhi High Court on 07 September 2011, India’s Prime Minister bravely declared from his Race Course Road residential Fort, “……we shall not succumb to terrorism” although he did not labour to explain how India is safeguarding itself from ‘succumbing’ to the menace of terrorism. Elsewhere in Delhi at the same time, his Home Minister was, however, was nearly giving in and succumbing since he openly admitted exposing the government’s underbelly to the terrorists saying, “….we cannot prevent terror attacks….there is no way….”. The terrorists must have celebrated and played this statement over and over, besides circulating it to all their budding buddies ensconced in safe houses within India or in terror schools in Pakistan.

Ah! What a splendid playground we have laid out for the terrorists. Nowhere else in the world would terrorists have the luxury of first rehearsing live blasts on real targets and then executing their plans with such ease and impunity as was done in the case of Delhi High Court on September 7. Yes, the initiative being always with the terrorists, it is possible for a determined terrorist to carry out his mischief, but only rarely. The fundamental job of a professionally sound intelligence agency is to reach out to the hatcheries of terrorists and factories or couriers of their tools so that they are able to pre-empt the terrorist preparations at the inception stage. Terrorists will always need tools and facilities like weapons, explosives, conveyance, communication, safe house and logistic support including local guidance. Prior reconnaissance of the target area and escape routes, post-strike surveillance, damage assessment and efficiency of the police and security agencies in cordoning the area and evacuating the casualties etc are some of the activities that the terrorists will continue to indulge in directly or indirectly even after the blasts and massacre. Our intelligence agencies are, however, made up of officers and subordinates picked up at random from various departments on deputation without much thought to their aptitude or expertise. Most of them find such assignments ‘dry’ and call them ‘punishment postings’ with little incentive and a high risk rating.

There are a number of serious questions that must be answered in the interest of national security. Why was there no follow up of the previous blast a few months earlier at the same spot? Why were the CC TV cameras not functional and who bears the responsibility for their being dysfunctional? Who are responsible for delayed police reaction and poor evacuation of casualties? Why was their no immediate pursuit of suspects? Are our police and intelligence agencies adept and equipped enough with the modern electronic intelligence systems for speedy link up and generating artificial intelligence? Sadly, the police officers and constables on the scene looked simply as shocked and clueless as the shocked hapless public there. When will our police and systems tune up to professionally match up the challenges they are facing? Who is accountable for all the wrongs that are happening without a respite in our country? Who is in control? Why has the government virtually abdicated?

Despite the security environment so uncertain in India, for a while it was soothing to hear that the Indian economy was on an upswing even as the western world was sinking in an economic meltdown. Even an ordinary Indian felt proud on every news of great achievements by Indians – techies, entrepreneurs et al. Happenings like the Tatas acquiring Jaguar or Lakshmi Mittal acquiring world’s largest steel company Arcelor and other success stories added colour and gaiety to the euphoria . The common Indian – aam admi – is now realising that he is there merely as an audience to clap and cheer while the goodies of India’s growth are shared by those already floating in affluence. Aam admi’s songs in the praise of an emerging India make him look like the proverbial Abdullah diwana in begaani shaadi. The following fact sheet proves it.

Our government finds it easier to explain away the problems of the masses without getting overly worried about. Recently electricity tariff was hiked even as RWAs all over Delhi cried against the unjustifiably excessive hike in rates. Justification given by the Delhi CM was that the hike was to avoid loss to the discoms as if the excessive burden on people’s pockets would be their gain! Next comes yet another wave of petrol price hike – 12th straight jump in just 18 months. Reason? It was becoming commercially difficult for the Oil Companies to meet their rising costs. Instead of making them compete and advance, the consumer is loaded with the responsibility to propel them paying from his pocket.

Price inflation is shooting up unabated in a strange manner – sacrificing interests of the aam admi and bringing added comfort to the economically well-off. LCD TVs, laptops, digital cameras, luxury cars, hotel tariffs – almost the entire luxury inventory is becoming cheaper even as those buying these comforts wouldn’t care much about ‘prices’. In sharp contrast to this, the vegetables, fruit, milk, oil, medicine, electricity, water and food – all so vital and necessary for sustaining human life at the lowest end of the society – are shooting up beyond poor man’s reach. Ironically, it is all happening at a time when India has world’s famed economist in the Prime Minister’s seat aided by a highly experienced finance minister and yet another man of great international reputation at the Planning Commission. Yet, they have proved to be so ineffective in safeguarding the genuine interests of the largest segment of India’s population.

Even before the UPA-2 government came to power, Mr Manmohan Singh had expressed his concern about the alarming level to which corruption in government departments had risen in the country. Yet, the Prime Minister of world’s largest democracy and a booming economy expressed his helplessness from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15 August 2011 saying that his government had ‘no magic wand’ to tackle the menace of corruption. Next day, a farmer soldier of yester years, Anna Hazare, took it upon himself to tackle the evil making hunger his invincible weapon and power. And lo, even the unwilling government started moving within a fortnight.

It is sickening to see the leaders on whom the nation has bestowed the authority and power to lead this country in such pathetic, callous or helpless state. The Prime Minister has publicly confessed his helplessness against corruption, the Finance Minister has confessed his against price inflation, and the Home Minister has now raised hands against terror attacks too. At a time when people and civil society groups are demanding greater accountability, we find authorities shamelessly audacious in justifying their failures and inaction. Recently whenever it rained in Delhi or Mumbai, roads became canals with no drainage system functional despite huge money spent on (or siphoned through) them. Thanks to our accountability practice, the culprits do not even take note of who is watching and reporting about their misdeeds for they know life would be as usual day after onwards. In the worst case scenarios of ‘punitive action’, they are deft enough to meander through an odd transfer or suspension and get back to where one would wish to be. Harsher administrative actions, though existing in service statutes, are never invoked by the superiors for fear of being exposed themselves.

Are our ministers disoriented in their vision and perceptions? Yes, it appears so. Otherwise why should a brilliant Home Minister like P Chidambaram publicly express his helpless in preventing terror attacks? What message is he sending out by expressing the government’s weakness and vulnerability? By implication, his ‘confessed inability’ serves to boost up the morale and spirit of the terrorists to take bolder initiatives hence on. On the other hand, such helplessness emanating from the highest authority is bound to induce a sense of despondency among the police and security forces. It could destroy their confidence and morale while they need to be always motivated, confident, swift and efficient to handle crises with professional zeal and finesse. It was also strange that the Home Minister quoted the US experience saying that even that country continued to suffer casualties from terror despite their war against the menace in Iraq and Afghanistan. One would wish the learned home minister knew that there has not been a single terror attack in the post 9/11 United States whereas the FBI and state security apparatus have often pre-empted nipping the terror attacks in their inception stage. How disappointing that despite attacks on our Parliament House, Red Fort and repeated blasts in Mumbai and Delhi, our intelligence agencies refused to wake up from their slumber even as David Hadley and his accomplice Rana were surveying and recording vital data for the ISI to plan Mumbai 26/11 and more future terror attacks on the vitals of India.

Further, if our learned home minister has the alacrity to have the US as a role model in dealing with terrorism, he must know how ‘Operation Geronimo’ was conducted to hound out Osama bin Laden from his ‘safe house’ in the heart of Pakistan. Osama bin Laden was unarmed and, as per reports, wanted to surrender to the US Navy Seals during the raid. But the US commando shot him in the forehead from a point blank range. A government that espouses human rights and preaches legal process over summary executions not only killed an unarmed Osama bin Laden but also wrapped his body and dumped it in the Arabian Sea for the sharks to devour the remains of the world’s most wanted terrorist. This was to foreclose the possibility of any mausoleum coming up on his grave if his body was left behind to be buried. Now contrast this with India’s stance in dealing with those who had the audacity to attack the Parliament House, symbol of our national prestige and authority. The Government is timidly avoiding carrying out sentences awarded by the Supreme Court against nation’s enemies like Afzal Guru and others despite their having exhausted all legal recourse open to them including review petitions and mercy petitions for grant of clemency to the President of India. Are we waiting for someone to call us from Kandahar or Peshawar to release and deliver Afzal Guru there in exchange of Rahul Gandhi or a handful of other pricy Indians?

Rather than improving our own systems, training and accountability standards, we seem to have outsourced intelligence to the US as is clear from our frequent whining over why the American agencies are not informing us! As if the CIA and FBI bosses should be reporting to the Indian Home Minister. Nevertheless, it was the US intelligence agencies that informed us about how and where the Mumbai 26/11 attack was planned. But who will tell the worthy Home Minister that the country is not asking him about our casualties in the battle fields of Siachen Glacier or in a direct armed conflict on Indo-Pak borders. Our gallant soldiers will fight and even sacrifice their lives because they are face to face with the enemy. Even the police and unarmed citizens will fight and chase if only you could pre-warn them about when and where the threat is coming. But letting our unsuspecting people fall easy prey to the terrorists in the heart of national capital repeatedly is certainly a sign of inefficiency, weakness and unpardonable callousness.

It is crucial for a rising India to address its inner ailments and enforce stringent accountability norms to ensure that ‘omissions’ and delinquent conduct in performance are summarily punished. Unless we do so, we heading towards a chaos.