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Nov 27, 2010, 07.06am IST, C P BHAMBHRI
Institutionalisation of corruption

India has always been plundered - first by medieval warlords; then by the British; and now by ourselves , which, like a self-goal , is by far the most hurtful. What else can you call it but plunder when our former four-star generals are accused of appropriating apartment spaces intended for war widows? Or when judges are accused of stealing from the provident funds of class IV employees? Or when academic regulators are arrested for graft?

In a democracy, political leaders lose their credibility, even legitimacy, if voters develop a perception that their elected representatives are abusing and misusing power for self-enrichment and engage in crass favouritism. Verily, even democracy will gain a bad name in the process. People were stunned when Ratan Tata said recently that a minister of aviation had asked him for a bribe for a routine permission to expand Tata's project of airlines in collaboration with a Singapore company.

Then came the 2G scam and the mindboggling amount of money involved in it. Clearly, the erstwhile minister of telecommunication, A Raja, had flouted every rule, regulation and procedure by distributing telecom licences to companies and individuals on the first-come-first-served basis, instead of auctioning them in the open market through fair bidding.

Ironically, the decision to appoint Raja as telecommunications minister was taken by DMK supremo M Karunanidhi, not the Prime Minister. Hence, every leader of every party in a coalition government is a party to the malfunctioning and malgovernance at the Centre. Corruption in one party-led government is appropriated by a single source of power but in a coalition system, every partner claims a share in the spoils of office. Is it fatalistically determined that corruption in public life will increase in the age of coalition governments?

Similarly, Karnataka chief minster B S Yeddyurappa has been playing a cat-andmouse game after it has been established that he misused his authority for land-grabbing . Yet, the BJP can't remove him from office because of votebank considerations. Post-Nehru governments in India have not been able to punish the guilty ministers or chief ministers because resignation is not a punishment enough to prevent the gross abuse of power. The acts of corruption by public functionaries take place quite regularly because there is no effective deterrence to nail the culprits. Raja or Ashok Chavan or even Yeddyurappa will continue to pollute public life because even after their exit, they enjoy the protective umbrella and patronage of their respective parties and leaders.

Veerappa Moily has publicly stated that the mounting electioneering expenditures are responsible for the rising level of corruption . L K Advani, on the other hand, has consistently pleaded for the public funding of elections to cleanse the body politic of corruption . What is conveniently forgotten in the debate is the point that politicians have themselves converted the electoral process into an ugly competition of money power.

Further, it has been suggested that the quantum of corruption has increased by leaps and bounds because every partner in a coalition government operates as an 'empire within an empire' and every political group separately accumulates funds by exercising power. Is it any wonder then that that every partner in a coalition government stakes claims to the ministries where more money can be milked through kickbacks?

Every chief election commissioner has attracted public attention to the pernicious role that 'money power' plays during elections . However, every party has seen to it that autonomous institutions like Lok Pal and Lok Ayukta that could expose and curb corruption in public life have been reduced to the status of paper tigers.

Every major political party, national or regional, is dominated and controlled by a family or extra-constitutional authority like the RSS. The supreme or real controllers of a party machine also need immense financial resources to distribute favours to their political favourites in these private political shops. The loyal party men know it quite well that their leaders would take care of their financial needs during their political career.

As a consequence of this, corruption spreads like a tornado in public life, smashing the normal procedure-based system of governance in democracy. India cannot remain an exception to this rule. The credibility of the CBI or the Central Vigilance Commission as autonomous watchdogs has been eroded because politicians cannot allow these agencies to bring out the skeletons in their cupboards. In fact, there are more incentives in our system to shield corruption: why should a civil servant oblige a minister without getting a share of public funds for his own private family purposes?

Corruption in pubic life can be uprooted only if the guilty are punished and the fear of the rule of law acts as a deterrent among politicians and bureaucrats. For this to happen, we need speedy trial and justice dispensed by agencies autonomous in letter and spirit - agencies that operate without any fear or favour of the politicians. During his time as the PM, Jawaharlal Nehru had showed us the way by removing every minister who had been tainted with the charge of corruption.

We have to follow this route of inflicting heavy punishments on public functionaries involved in loot and plunder and confiscate their property and freeze their bank accounts.

Comments (8)

Ellamayyan (Tiruchirappalli)
28 Nov, 2010 09:38 PM

Corruption has become a way of life. The nexus between criminals and politicians has been highlighted but the nexus growing uncontrollably which are leading to tyrannous political power centre where law of the country is simply watching helplessly most of the time. Politicians proclaiming following Gandhian and Nehruvian principles and their followers simply given up them for the sake of Power and post at centre cannot and will not do any good to poor voters. Honest and poor Citizens will be treated like a beggars and spineless. And they also cannot do anything before the muscle and money powers. Only thing is all God irrespective of their religions whether they are Hindu , Muslim , Christian, Sikh, Jain and Buddha or any other Gods can only save them. The article is very nice. Fifth column or Opposition parties are never succeeding to bring any reformation in Election procedure. Where and when will the ugly connection of politician and money power with corrupted people in higher posts and their musle powers come to end? Let us all simply cry for the changes since we only voted them to power. Like in some of the western country, we the voters should have choices to withdraw them when they found indulged in corrupt practices.Here should be only Islamic, Chinese type rule to bring corrupted people for punishment.

Venkataramanaiah (Hyderabad)
28 Nov, 2010 09:34 PM

Thanks BhambhriOn the issue of corruption,Mr.Abheek Barman (TOI)also opined that the opposition is spending more time on the issue.what is the role of opposition in a democracy?When government is spending lot of time on very old issues like blast cases and CBI leaking information to the press selectively and media giving dis-proportionate coverage ,what else opposition will do? The question of mis-governance and corruption are as old as our independence day.Corruption has entered every where from the subtle aspect to the gross aspect of our society.The prime ministers,chief ministers,chief justices and other constitutional authorities are mute spectators and victims of circumstances.The rulers /politicians over the years have created institutions around their families.The primary family interest is national/state interest.Postings and governance are done accordingly.Now talking of eradicating corruption all of a sudden is a joke.People have become used to it.”Yedha Raja Thadha Praja”. People are given moral licence to be corrupt. So if corruption has to be eradicated or minimized and if proper governance has to come in place, a second independence movement has to come. In this direction MATERIALIST SPIRITUALIST MISSION TRUST has done substantial theoretical work and can become a guidance.
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C.Venkataramanaiah BE(Gold Medallist),MBA(IIM-B,74-76)

prashant (India)
28 Nov, 2010 09:07 PM

Most of the politicians are shameless crooks and the citizens know this very well........we will have to live with this for the ages to come......gone are the days when people used to join politics to 'serve' the country........

khalil (mumbai)
28 Nov, 2010 12:46 PM

The politicians and bureaocrats of India deserve the penalty. they Must be hanged until death.

pavitra (Raipur)
27 Nov, 2010 07:46 PM

I doubt your merit for choosing the worthy articles and comments.Can you speak up the purpose of above article which is merely a orderly description of the events.Is this enough to eradicate the corruption and correct the politician.I do not believe that you are not in receipt of such article which suggest what is to be done by the public at this moment. I suggest to my country men to BOYCOTT socially the politician,who carries corrupt and bad image.Do not wait for court verdict.

Anand (mumbai)
27 Nov, 2010 05:02 PM

I think our politician are passionate to exploit public. For weeks everyone was talking about common wealth scam and now none of news paper speaks about it. All is now concentrated on 2G spectrum and real estate scam. I beleive common wealth issue should also be included in the article besides that i agree with the author completely.

Vedantham (Bangalore)
27 Nov, 2010 04:39 PM

This is India - This is Democracy in India. Unfortunately, these legislators are not ashamed of their criminal conduct and shamelessly they point out that other politicians are also corrupt. Do they have any concern for the image they are giving to the outside world in respect of India? Quite often, I feel that we should have Islamic rule, where the criminals are beaten black and blue in front of public. This will send clear message that government does not tolerate criminals in public life. Shame Shame Shame for the entire country. Nice article indeed!

Ananth (Manipal) replies to Vedantham
27 Nov, 2010 08:54 PM

Islamic justice in practise seems reserved only for the poorer people of that faith. What about the recent case of the Saudi prince who murdered his personal servant over a small disagreement ? British law MAY take some action ageist him as it happened in London; in Saudi Arabia he'd have gone scot-free as no one would dare complain against a Royal prince. These are the equivalent Royals of India; they will go merrily humming their way to their (Swiss) or other secret banks while a fer Lower Division Clerks and Class IV employees are caught for petty corruption: so this IS a form or Indian version of Islamic justice after all !

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