A series of scandals ! Yet Indians deny themselves all truths!
What about the special Indian traits? Our attitudes? Our character?
Why we don’t talk so much about our Indian weakness for double talk and double standards?
Each nation and culture has its own special traits, attitudes and character. US President George Bush talks and uses a language that would sound quite offensive or even not in keeping with his high office! A year ago he sounded confident and told one of his political aides: “Brownie, you are doing a heck of a job”. This became a national punch line and widely quoted in the media. Americans being what they are, whatever they do, whatever blunders they commit, go uncriticised and unchallenged. Rather, we Indians start imitating much of the Americanisms, the speech patterns and their own idioms. What is journalism’s job? One practitioner says it is to describe the world, expose and explain and interpret. Not to change the world! May be this is the job. But in the Indian context, our journalism is doing all these things and also believes it is exposing the misdeeds of politicians and also revealing the truths of what is being done by our politicians, ministers, elected representatives, the criminal-politicians nexus etc.
In India, lately, our media is doing all these things. Of course we have come to the present state with the latest proliferation of so many TV channels and the very innovative enterprises, Tehelka and now the Cobrapost, Operation Duryodhan. MPs caught in corruption. And what sort of persons get elected to Lok Sabha? And the persons nominated to the Rajya Sabha? What we don’t know of the Volcker report?
I have just now read a book review in the Financial Times. The book’s title: “Thinking Allowed: The best of Prospect 1995-2005.”It is a small magazine that devotes to serious political debates. It is about an anthology on a peculiarly British trait of self-deprecating, self-doubting and yet a very intelligent and insightful criticism of Brits’ public life, their own self-centered concerns about their own place in the post-Empire world. Only the Brits have this strength to laugh at themselves, at their many hypocrisies. Only those who know the Brits’s peculiar traits only can find out what they are saying openly and what in fact they are hiding behind such a facade of concerns for the world, or for that matter concerns of their own democracy, for the democracies around the world etc.
Anyway, the British press is still the best in the sense of their daring to expose and bring sense to many of the politicians doings. We in India are yet to mature to this level. Though we seem to be catching up faster. The latest scandals surrounding our MPs caught on camera for cash bribe, MPs negotiating for commissions from their MP local development funds and the most sensitive was the Volcker report that brought down Natwar Singh and the further investigations might bring more upsets.
One more obsession of the Brits these days, more so than from the days of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher is their own imagined special relationship with the Americans. The Americans, along with the Brits have messed up the current world situation, with their joint venture of war in Iraq for which there are not many takers in the world capitals. Thus, I find that the Americans, more so now in the current Bush phase of a series of setbacks at home, there is this paranoia about how to withdraw honourably from Iraq.
The Brits and the Americans are given much to high sounding rhetoric and much deception about their role in the world. So, one of the outcomes of the invasion without the UN’s co-operation in the war was the scandal that surfaced in the UN Oil-for-Food Programme which was managed by the UN. Thus, the many scandals that came out of the programme implicated UN Secretary General Kofi Annan too. Thus, the Volcker report came out and in which Kofi Annan was also implicated, for his son’s role.
Just now, I read in the Times(London) that this Oil-for-Food Programme was investigated by Volcker, called officially as The Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) for an ulterior motive. Just to defame the UN and its Secretary General for not toeing the line of the US in the Iraqi war. Now for Indians who have only read the media reports on the Volcker findings here is something more. Paul Volcker is” one of the most respected experts in international finance and audit. His colleagues on the IIC were Richard Goldstone, a former top prosecutor for the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Mark Pieth, an internationally renowned expert on money laundering.
Along with the revelations in the Volcker report, there are other documented reports on Indian politicians receiving funds from KGB (The Mitrokhin Archive II) and even the CIA. Why in all our politics, of the Congress and the BJP variety, not to speak of the many other regional variations we adopt this double standards?
There was the recent Sonia Gandhi interview to two TV channels. She talked on so many topics, but we, Indians avoid asking some really hard questions. Is this because we feel she is all powerful or she was foreign born? Rajeev Sardesai of the CNN-IBN in fact asked her this question. I was somehow put off by her many observations about politics in India. She seemed to me as a person outside the Indian psyche, as far as her emotional rapport with the Indian sentiments and Indian concerns. How she could have been unaware of the Natwar Singh episode, till she (the government) was forced to remove him from office? This question, honestly nagged me throughout. I couldn’t jell with her many observations.
I must confess that I was also uncomfortable with the BJP leaders’ own explanations about why their party was also not immune to corruption and other misdeeds. May be we Indians are peculiarly a people of uncertain traits, attitudes and character! I am not sure. Amartya Sen might argue (Argumentative Indian) for an Indian space for scepticism, dissent and reasoning in Indian character. I am not sure. Indians are yet to cultivate these traits yet.
The point is that corruption had now become the hottest topic in Indian polity and the two main parties, BJP and the Congress traded charges on their respective roles in the political corruption. So, it looks our system will get corrected from within, rather than the government taking the needed steps to correct the system. As Mr. N.R. Narayanamurthy of Infosys has said in a recent talk to a college alumni, corruption has now become a vested interest with our politicians and Mr. Murthy has put the bribes at Rs.26,000 crores.
Because so far in India, the big corporates are seen as hand in glove with the politicians, in fact the corporates had corrupted a good number of politicians, on both the sides of the political spectrum. So, unless the corporates distance themselves with the cosy friendships, they become Rajya Sabha members, give big donations to trusts controlled by politicians and also seen in public with the intention of showing themselves as very powerful because of their proximity with the power centres.
Political parties receive so many favours, free use of the corporate aircraft/helicopter for travel for election and non-election purposes and other vehicles etc and thus the corporates derive enormous benefits by way of policy modifications to suit their business interests. There is every indication that the Election Commission had already been tightening the rules that govern the use of such corporate “gifts” to politicians and also further the EC is tightening the rules to file court cases against those involved in the bogus electoral rolls and other offences.
It is good that the mature democracies, the US and UK too are setting good examples for us to follow. Bush had to retreat from many of his actions in recent months from opposition from the Congress and the Senate. In India such indictments are not far off. If such a powerful Natwar Singh was removed from office, who else can hope to hide himself or herself for long. The CBI itself has many cases on its file. It is only a matter of time or timing!
The Indian system, yes, has many holes for the guilty to escape but the day is not far off. In one state a Lok Ayukta is doing a fine job of catching everyday corruption. If other states also do the same kind of work, then every state can have clean and transparent governance. As of now, Kerala is considered the least corrupt. The same distinction can be reached by the neighbouring states.
From one scandals to another Indians at the present time seem to exhibit their national traits in a more and more laughable manner! The latest is the Quattrochi Bofors money defreezed by the govt. Again this PM is mum, the CBI and the Law Minnistry deny their roles!
We still remain a nation of shamelessness, insensitivity towards fellow Indians, an unconcern about own self worth. That is why we are shamelessly going on accumulating wealth through political misdeeds and are simply not ashamed of our country repeatedly being exposed one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
A day will come soon before the apex court might direct the CBI to finish the many long pending cases against politically sensitive persons. The CBI is found to be a tool in the hands of the incumbent party in power and so many of the corruption cases remain unfinished.