Saturday, April 14, 2001
S T A M P E D  I M P R E S S I O N S

Not living up to the nationís expectations
By Reeta Sharma

THOUGH both Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur are poles apart yet they have at least one thing in common. Both of them did not make use of opportunities that came their way in their political careers.

Atal Behari VajpayeeOne can understand Bibi Jagir Kaurís inability to make full use of a golden opportunity that came her way out of the blue. She was, it may be recalled, hand-picked by Parkash Singh Badal as the first women president of the prestigious SGPC. This post could have been a dream platform for Bibi to prove her mettle. She could have carved a niche for herself in politics and made Sikh women proud of her. But nothing of the sort happened. She not only came down like a punctured balloon but also landed herself in an unseemly controversy. The CBI has charged her with the conspiracy to kill her pregnant teenage daughter, Harpreet Kaur.

Bibi Jagir Kaur was in fact the first Sikh woman who was given an important position of power literally on a platter by the Chief Minister. The 75-year-old SGPC is not only known as the Sikhsí mini-Parliament but also has a phenomenal annual budget of nearly Rs 200 crore.


Bibi Jagir Kaur could have paved the way for other Sikh women to play a constructive role in politics.

Bibi Jagir KaurIt is not difficult to trace reasons for her fall. Besides serious allegations of unlawful activities, Jagir Kaur probably lacked political exposure and maturity to perceive matters in a wider perspective. For the short period that she headed the SGPC, Jagir Kaur displayed little farsight. Hence to have expected her to have made the right use of her position and power would have been like expecting the woods in the desert. I was only disappointed with her.

But what the nation expected from the Prime Minister certainly matched his calibre. However, he has let us down. When I heard his uttering, "Dal mein kutch kala hai", I assumed that he was merely being subtle. But the moment he announced an inquiry by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court into the revelations by, my face fell. I knew that our Prime Minister had lost a great opportunity that came his way to set the system straight.

The entire nation was looking up to him to deliver justice. He certainly was the tall figure among the pygmies around him. Every thinking Indian expected him to save the boat weighed down by corruption. Every Indian, educated or uneducated, ruralite or urbanite, has been affected by the cancerous growth of corruption in our system. The task of every honest person to expose corruption has been increasingly turning tough for lack of evidence.

Each state has a vigilance department to nab corrupt officials. But, so far, this department has only been able to spread its net over the likes of constables, peons or clerks. The tag holders in the IAS, IPS, and IRS are provided with an escape route evolved by the creative skills of these very people. So each time a vigilance inquiry indicted any such official, politicians quickly stepped in to shield them by (mis) using their executive powers.

The Indian defence servicesí personnel have been treated as holy cows since the inception of the service itself. In addition, the British legacy of looking down upon civilians was cleverly allowed to continue by the Indian successors in the defence services.

On the one hand, grew a caucus of bureaucrats and politicians, depriving the nation of any semblance of honest rule and, on the other hand, the defence servicesí personnel were pitiably degenerating, even at the cost of nationís security.

Our Prime Minister with his vast political exposure, maturity and understanding must have known that evidence, the keyword in our democracy, was being misused and distorted to pave escape routes for everyone who is influential. He has often talked about all of these challenges before the nation.

And today, when he was provided with an opportunity to set a trend to suffocate corruption forever, he simply missed the bus. He could have enforced accountability that has been missing with just one stroke. If only he had risen above his party and his position, he could have displayed to the nation that corruption is a common factor in all political parties, in all government offices, in all shades of bureaucracy, in every inch of the private sector. But he has let the vacuum prevail. His ordering of an inquiry in the face of direct evidence is nothing but frustrating. The majority of such inquires are only a legal stamp on the illegal escape routes for such situations.

The common man has always wondered how once-a-near-pauper politician amasses wealth running into crores in a short span. Or how a bureaucrat from a lower-middle class turns into yet another crorepati. Now his list would include Generals and countryís top politicians. Alas! Mr Prime Minister, hundred years hence when the generations of those times will analyse corrupt practices of the successive Indian governments and political parties, your name will figure only as a person who was once the Prime Minister and nothing more.