I am an ordinary citizen who reads newspapers and watches electronic news channels. For last one year my conscience has been bombarded with some big names who had been highly corrupt and were looting nation’s wealth or had been the facilitators for the loot. They must be prosecuted and put behind bars to cleanse the society of corruption. Suresh Kalmadi of CWG fame, Ashok Chavan for Adarsh Housing Society, A Raja and Kanimozhi for 2G scam, Yedyurappa for illegal iron ore mining in Karnataka, and now Sheila Dixit again for CWG. The list has ever been increasing. I wonder. I wonder why they should be prosecuted in first place and how their prosecution will help the society.
Let us try to understand what society is. Simply we, the people, are the society. We say that the politicians, the judiciary, the media, and the bureaucracy are the four pillars that carry the society. Kalmadi and Yedyurappa are being accused of having been corrupt. Agreed. How did they get opportunity to be corrupt? Firstly they were voted for, supported and elected by us, the society, to represent us in the legislature. It is not that before their election they were honest or known to be honest. They were voted for not for their honesty or integrity but for considerations such as their political affiliations, their religions, their castes, how they would be useful to voter groups, how much money they could spend or had spent etc. Whatever they were, honest or corrupt, they were before the elections and yet they were elected through a majority vote in their favour. They didn’t change colours overnight after elections. Even after elections they didn’t become OC or CM of their own accord. Someone else entrusted them with the responsibilities out of many options that could be available. The Prime Minister in the former case and the Karnataka legislature in the latter. Is it fair and just on part of the society to ask for heads of those whom it itself gave power to be corrupt? Yes, they are the culprits, but those who empowered them are the greater culprits. And natural justice would demand that they are punished before Kalmadis and Yedyurappas are punished. What happens in bureaucracy? The rogues and corrupts are given top and choice postings (doesn’t mean all top postings go only to rogues and corrupts). And when scandals strike, fingers are pointed at them. Those responsible for having positioned them to indulge in loot go scot-free.
Let us look at it another way also. What does Indian society do to people who show exemplary courage in fighting corrupt systems and attempt to cleanse the same? It treats them as pariah, kills them, or abandons them to suffer. All the four pillars, the politicians, the judiciary, the media, and the bureaucracy combine to be perpetrators or to feign helplessness when such people are persecuted and more than them their families suffer. Sh. Sanjiv Chaturvedi, the forest officer in Haryana and me are two live recent examples (there are a number of dead examples, Late Satyendra Kumar Dubey and Manjunath readily come to mind). I am not aware if any one of them has been honoured even posthumously by the State. Does not the Indian society by its actions demoralize those who tend to serve it and does it not motivate one to be corrupt? Then is it just for the same society to ask for punishment to a few caught in acts of corruption? It is not to condone their wrong-doings but society must understand and accept that it had been prompting them all along to be corrupt. We are really a strange people. We make so much noise about corruption and yet indulge in or accept corruption in our day to day life nonchalantly, and look down upon those fighting corruption from within as unwanted or undesirable aberrations. Sh. Rajinder Puri, for different reasons, through a very well reasoned article in the columns of this newspaper (The Statesman) asked the other day whether world was sane or mad. Answer is evident.
I am none but an ordinary citizen who reads newspapers and watches electronic news channels. I come across great sense of proportion our media has. I come across a channel that goes on harping about matters involving loss of a few crores of rupees for months (CWG scam), but doesn’t find matters involving running loss of thousands of crores of rupees (railway procurement scam) even worth reporting or mentioning. Clearly behind postures, the big names have their own axe to grind. No problem. But when they selectively ask for heads of Kalmadis and Yedyurappas, it causes revulsion. Since they dare not point fingers at those really responsible, the source, continuing well entrenched in their seats of power.
I read and listen to a number of accomplished leaders and legal and social luminaries giving assurances, making convincing arguments, blaming one-another, taking credit for wonderful work done and so on. While they keep themselves engaged in game of one-upmanship, I learn that out of one rupee of public money spent, lesser and lesser is reaching the public. The number of people below poverty line and that of starving or malnourished children in my country is ever increasing by millions. The heads of Kalmadis and Yedyurappas don’t help me, the society or the country as long as the above trends don’t get reversed. And I know as a result of my experiences as a common man and out of whatever common-sense I have that rolling of a few heads among lakhs deserving same treatment hasn’t reversed and will not reverse the trend. Therefore I wonder how their prosecution alone will help the society.
Without attending to basic problems, obsession with Kalmadis and Yedyurappas will be like wasting time in severing heads of Ravana as in no time other heads will prop up to take their place. And let us not deceive ourselves in hoping that basic problems will ever be attended to in current dispensation. In the words of Churchill, we have been allowing and facilitating rascals, rogues, freebooters and men of straw to lead us since independence. I tend to hope they have been more of freebooters and men of straw than rascals and rogues. Though of late those belonging to ruling dispensation have been distinguishing themselves in shamelessness in addition, through their daily utterances. The society allows these leaders to prosper and Baba Ramdevs who take up cudgels on behalf of the masses to pale away.
Gandhiji was not a fool when he compared the parliamentary system to prostitute and sterile woman hundred years ago. Having still gone for same system of governance and having chosen our leaders (leaders don’t chose themselves, we chose them) as prophesized by Churchill since independence, our finding scapegoats in Kalmadis, Rajas, and Yedyurappas will not help and will only be self-deceiving. Unfortunately, we have been past masters in self-deception all along."
PS (27/8/11): I, on the fine morning of the 24th Aug, found the above article on the editorial page of The Statesman duly edited as a special article. I did feel a great sense of satisfaction.