Friday, May 10, 2013

Lowly Morals, Lofty Positions - Can we change it?

Karan Kharb
               India has come a long way from 1956 to 2013. There was a railway accident at Mehbubnagar in Sep 1956.  Nobody blamed the Railways Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri. Nobody doubted his credentials as an honest and efficient Minister. Nobody, not even the Opposition, demanded his resignation.  Yet, he resigned.  Nehru refused to accept it – a decision that was welcomed not only by the treasury benches but also, barring a few dissenters, by the Opposition benches. Later, when another rail accident took place, Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned again. This time, too angry with himself, he stood his ground and forced acceptance of his resignation by the Prime Minister. Addressing the Parliament on the issue, Nehru stated that he was ‘accepting the resignation because it would set an example in constitutional propriety and not because Shastri was in any way responsible for the accident.’ But those were the men of substance, leaders with morals.  
               Within a period of 57 years, we have experienced a total paradigm shift in our attitudes and sensibilities. Perched in Lal Bahadur Shastri’s heritage chair we have Pawan Kumar Bansal as India’s railway minister today. Unlike Shastri, Bansal is surrounded by strong evidence of bribery and malfeasance. Allegations against Bansal are not from private parties or individuals; these are reports and facts based on which his family members, relatives and close associates have already been arrested by the CBI. Entire Opposition in the Parliament and popular mood of the nation want him to either resign or be removed forthwith. But, he arrogantly dares, “who cares?” Nehru sobs in Shanti Van; Shastri wails in Vijay Ghat with none to take note.
Then there is the case of the country’s Law Minister meddling with the CBI investigations into another scandalous scam now known as Coalgate. The honourable Supreme Court has severely condemned the role of the Law Minister and the PMO for ‘interfering/influencing the CBI and altering’ the Status Report despite the apex Court’s directions that no Government department would be privy to CBI investigations in this case. But virtually trashing such judicial directions, Law Minister Ashwini Kumar orders CBI to not only discuss the Report but also virtually kill it because, as the apex Court has observed, ‘soul of the Report’ has been removed. And yet he does not resign, and nobody has the courage or desire to remove him! What is happening? What kind of Government is this in 21st Century India? Even backward societies in North Africa/West Asia have woken up and refused to endure corruption and tyranny any further. Winston Churchill had ominously warned the British Government in 1946 against entrusting India to “…….inefficient, self-serving, corrupt, immoral men of straw…….” No Indian Jyotishi has ever made such a thorough and precise prophesy.   
Tomorrow, unable to defend the morally and legally indefensible ministers any further in the face of mounting public outcry, even if the Government drops them from the cabinet, it would hardly undo its betrayal.  
It often occurs to me that India has been systematically sedated. Come elections and we are given booster dose of the same sedation packaged more attractively than last time. The immediate effect of this freshly administered sedation is that we suddenly climb down from the high pedestal of vital national issues like corruption, security, good governance, development, poverty eradication, health, education, agriculture and rural development and so on. We quickly align with Parties and candidates dishing out freebies, quickies, caste-based quotas/reservation – the best strategy to lure and render people powerless and dependent. Communal passions are whipped up; local rivalries are ignited and passions heightened; community strongholds are created and muscle power deployed. They have learnt how to divide us and rule; we have learnt to be easily tamed and led in divisions. Our national psyche is already so conditioned by now that no one today expects Bansal or Ashwini Kumar to tender resignations on their own volition in a morally upright righteous way. A man of high moral virtues would renounce politics and public life forever, if not commit suicide, rather than cling to chair and let sludge pour from all sides.
The performance record of the 15th Lok Sabha is dismal. To begin with there were about 160 MPs facing charged in various courts.  Today, nearly half the Lok Sabha MPs are tainted. The UPA Government is a minority Government threatened, maintained and exploited by small parties like Mulayam Singh’s SP and Mayawati’s BSP. Interestingly, in such a regime nobody feels accountable. What is more worrisome is that even the Supreme Court strictures are failing to have effect. Public outcry, rallies, fasts – all democratic efforts have failed.
General elections are due next year - may be even earlier. People are fed-up and tired of the corrupt callous dispensation. Popular anger is a force that can be harnessed and utilised to achieve far-reaching changes. There being no selfless nationalist visionary leader as yet in sight, it would be useful in many ways for all right thinking citizens to take it upon themselves to inform and sensitise as many people as possible in their sphere of contact. Prof Jagdeep Chhokar and his team [see Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch (] have made significant contribution in making available significant information – all authentic – about each contestant before, during and immediately after the election. Such campaigns could be very effective tools to inform the electorate and bring about a tilt in the public mood against the corrupt candidates who consequently stand exposed. This information campaign needs a more aggressive propagation by all of us on all types of media, say, Mobile, Internet, Cable TV, RWAs, Community organs et al. At the same time, rumour campaigns from the vested quarters will have to be exposed and fought against vehemently and immediately. Likewise, every effort to divide and polarise the electorate along caste, communal lines and mass bribing through freebies, cash, feasts must be betrayed and fiercely decried.  

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