M A I N   N E W S

The stink of corruption
By H. K. Dua

Are we living in an age of democracy or naked kleptocracy where rulers at different levels steal the nation’s wealth and live at the cost of the people? The question is not of definitional concern. Vital issues concerning the democratic rights of the common people and rapacious tendencies of the ruling establishment are involved.

On Friday last week, The Tribune published a list of 18 IAS officers of Punjab against whom serious vigilance inquiries are pending. Another eight members of the so-called steel frame that governs the country are facing criminal charges.

And as many as 10 IPS officers, including three directors-general of police and an additional director-general of police, are facing court and criminals cases, inquiries and investigations.

These lists of the IAS and IPS officers were submitted to the court of Justice H. S. Bhalla in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in one of the many such cases that often come up for hearing in the courts these days. It is not an exhaustive list of the tainted bureaucrats of Punjab or officers in uniform. Mr Justice Bhalla’s court may get another list the state government has to willy nilly submit later this week.

It is quite likely that many of the listed officers will ultimately come out of the proceedings going on against them without blemish. But it is also likely that not all those who do not figure in the list are free from contaminating influences.

For most people the publication of the list of the illustrious came neither as a surprise nor as a shock; for them the misuse of power in the government is part of their daily experience, particularly at the point where they come into contact with it.

Nor is the phenomenon confined to the state of Punjab. The people across the country are putting up with the stink of corruption. The working of the executive branch of the state alone is not affected by corruption; it has also spread over to other wings of the state.

The respect of Parliament and state legislatures among the people is increasingly going down, mainly because of the conduct of a few MPs and MLAs inside the august chambers and their extra-curricular activities outside.

That an AIADMK MP had to be sent out from the Rajya Sabha amidst noise and disorder over charges against a central minister last week is a familiar story in the state legislatures where much disruption caused in the House has roots in the charges and counter-charges about sleaze and politicians’ greed. Because of the errant behaviour of a few, the legislature branch and the laws it enacts have begun to deprive them of a moral authority they ought to enjoy normally in a parliamentary democracy.

Where Parliament and the executive fail them, the people turn to “kachehri”, their last hope. Their experience with the judiciary is not that happy as it ought to be.

Justice delayed itself amounts to contempt of the entire judicial process. And those who are able to influence the course of justice by bribing or clout — a phenomenon not uncommon at the lower and some high courts — are essentially sullying the image of the judiciary.

Local citizens very well know who is an honest judge in the town, and who lacks integrity. The problem in states is much worse than what Justice S. P. Bharucha visualised some years ago when he stated that 20 per cent of the judiciary was corrupt. Media cannot report much that is happening in the judiciary in the states because of the rigours of the Law of Contempt, but despite good intentions at senior levels, not all is well with the state of judiciary.

Corruption, like cancer, has spread far and deep into the body politic and no one in power knows how to tackle it. There is marked unwillingness on the part of the leaders of most political parties to even look for a cure. Too much familiarity, or expediency, has tended to create a sort of atmosphere of resignation, possibly acceptance.

“It is the done thing,” is one reaction among those who go along with the system. It could be rationalisation or sheer indifference or complicity. “Why bother, nothing happens even if you protest to let out your steam,” is another kind of reaction that smacks of helplessness and resignation.

When corruption prevails, smart alecs stand to gain, while the vast majority of the people become its victims. Corruption helps the rich and the enterprising, not the weak, who have to daily go through the cruelty of an inequitous and unjust order it breeds.

The system is not cleansing itself of the festering sores corruption has caused. Such major scandals as fodder purchase in Bihar or the Taj corridor project, or the enormous Telgi stamp scam are still to be followed through. There are many more lying buried deep within the government offices. The money is taken away, politicians get re-elected, become ministers or chief ministers — ostensibly to serve the people.

Obliging bureaucrats are waiting in the wings for the politicians to comply with their wishes. The nexus between the politicians and the willing bureaucrats is stronger than ever before.



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