Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Greed Breed of our Leadership and Corruption

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 so affected. The nation has seen manifestation of this phenomenon in the jittery responses of the Government in handling the recent public protests against 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, it seemed going prostrate instantly conceding all his demands (some even weird!) even before he could step out of Delhi Airport. Even as their pleasantries went on, we saw a panic driven action by the authorities unleashing harsh and unprovoked police atrocities in dispersing a 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 in the Indian politics serving and scaring the greed breed of today’s leaders. No political party is happy to decry it enough except when it serves them in scoring over the opponents. Whereas political parties like Bharatiya Janata Party are quick to cash in on the rising public angst against the Congress/UPA, no political outfit has come out with open and unequivocal support for the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by the Anna Hazare - Arvind Kejriwal team nor for the measures proposed by Baba Ramdev against corruption and black money. The government is now reportedly considering declaring Jantar Mantar ‘out-of-bounds for protests and rallies’ and party spokespersons are indulging in trading cheap metaphors against each other with little concern to the real issues. ow long will the government keep running in circles to shoo away the monster of its own creation chasing it in the same circle? It is a clear case of a government running away from its people even as the people’s faith in their elected leaders is eroding pushing them to find better alternatives in cleaner and more sincere social servants like Anna Hazare. Col Karan Kharb (Retd)
Corruption is just one of many ills in our system of governance that need to be overhauled. 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. It is therefore important and urgent for the government and civil society to consider the following vital issues and expand the debate to work out appropriate systemic changes to fight corruption:
  • Referendum for the Lokpal Bill: Presently there are as many as 172 tainted MPs in the Lok Sabha and almost all have their interests at stake in the face of Lokpal Bill. No political party has yet expressed unequivocal support to the draft proposed by the civil society. Therefore, even if the Joint Drafting Committee reaches a consensus in drafting a common bill, highly improbable though, we know it will be defanged before being enacted in the Parliament. Therefore, the only way out is referendum on the Lokpal Bill controversy before it is introduced in the Parliament.
  • Disqualification: The list of our tainted MPs is still enlarging with new additions like A Raja, Kanimozhi, Kalamadi, A Maran et al. Therefore, it is necessary to debar entry of tainted candidates in the Parliament, State Legislatures and other public bodies by disqualifying those against whom cases have already been registered.
  • Fast Track Courts: Parliament and State Legislatures are becoming sanctuaries for the criminals who manage to get elected and take shelter underm different ‘immunity’ clauses to prolong cases and postpone their conviction. Therefore, cases against sitting MPs and MLAs must be put on fast track and decided within a specified period.
  • Confiscation of Assets: Our present laws permit the corrupt to enjoy the fruit of his corruption even after conviction. There must be provisions in law to confiscate assets created through corrupt practice.
  • Transparency: Anyone who aspires to enter ‘public life’ must free himself from excessive greed and fear to be of value to the public he claims to serve. Since personal conduct of public figures has a direct bearing on their performance and affects their surroundings, they must be transparent and make all information about themselves and their families on an easily accessible website.
  • Ethics in Public Life: Recently we have seen ministers and party functionaries indulging in public mudslinging at opponents in a no holds barred fashion. Our leadership standards have degenerated to obnoxiously low levels. No wonder, people are groping for better alternatives in genuine social activists unspoilt yet by politics like Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. There is an urgent need to restrain public figures from irresponsible public outbursts by instituting a code of ethical conduct to ensure no one gets away with making irresponsible accusations and foul language.
    Col Karan Kharb (Retd)
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