Friday, January 28, 2011

Corruption killing honest people

India sinks in corruption and cast-ism

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

On the eve of our 61st republic day an upright officer in Maharastra was burnt alive by the oil Mafia as he tried to stop them from doing so. No officer of collector level normally travels without a few of his assistants. Additional District Collector of Malegaon Yashwant Sonawane found the Oil Mafia pilfering the oil and adulterating it. To make the case foolproof, he took video of the entire incident on his mobile phone. This resulted in scuffle and Sonawane lost his life in a brutal way. As Mumbai Mid day reported, the officer was allowed to die as none of his assistants tried to douse the flame. He fought with life for nearly 35 minutes before succumbing to burn. Can one believe such incidents where officers and Babus have taken the country for a ride. This incident should not become a tool for these corrupt officers to do away with people’s work and surround them in heavy security cordon. Though every one sympathise with Sonawane yet it does not give certificate of integrity to Indian bureaucrats who remain spineless to political-mafia class and show their spine only to the poor in the villages. Yes, the entire bureaucracy can not be blamed yet India needs cleansing from top to down. Its mindset is not changing. It remains prisoner of caste, gender bias and a corruption. A few years back a bright engineer of Indian Oil Manjunath was brutally murdered by the oil mafias in Uttar-Pradesh.

This incident has shocked the entire nation on the eve of republic day. We are already depressed with the growing unrest and uneasiness in the country. Nothing seems to be working here. When the report of Sonawane’s brutal burning came, the news channels were still busy with whether Sachin Tendulkar would get Bharat Ratna or not. It is business usual for them as they will have other stories to celebrate.

But 61 years after becoming a republic and so-called democratic country, why India is suffering and why it continue to be one of the most corrupted countries in the world. It is ironical that people in India are looking towards despots and dictators for being clean and committed even when they have seen and heard about these in Pakistan, Philippines and elsewhere. Why the situation has arisen when our friends are talking of a Tunisian replication in India. Let us discuss these issues in details.

Corruption did not erupt in India all of a sudden. Indian regimes were heavily corrupted and promoting their own family and relatives. The political system has become victim of this and the ruling Congress Party can not absolve itself from the major ills that the country face today. The Hindutva is a logical illegitimate child of Gandhian variety of politics that Congress and its various offshoots claim to follow. That corruption has a caste angle too needs to be seen in larger perspective.

In 1986, the issue of corruption in high places was highlighted by Late V.P.Singh and he faced not only false accusation and allegation that some of the top ranking editors allowed them to be used by the ruling congress in power games that time. Hence targeting the whistleblower is part of our power polity. All attempts were made to malign him and finish him politically. A fake account in his name was opened in St Kitts and the news for it was leaked through one of country’s top editors Mr M.J.Akbar. Akbar was part of congress party’s cocktail circle and later became spokes-person of the party. The reason for this was that as a finance minister in Rajeev Gandhi’s regime, VP Singh dared to raid the houses of those industrial houses who considered to sacrosanct in this country. Many new things were emerging. Ambanis, India’s most corrupted business house lobbied against it and used CBI and intelligence for its own purpose. State apparatus was playing in the hands of these powerful to lobby for them and thus reducing the state into virtual prisoner of these powers. It was also charged that VP Singh with his confident officials like Bhure Lal and Vinod Pandey were speaking to Fairfax agency to investigate the illegal money of Indian in foreign banks including the Swiss banks. The Prime Minister Gandhi shifted him to defense ministry against the public mood under the impression that India was facing severe challenge from Pakistan. There as a defense minister, he ordered inquiry into German HDW Howitzer deal and found that commission was paid. At the same point of time, news came of the Boforse Gun Deal and commission paid in it and the rest is history. Today, Congress and its most disgusting politicians may claim that this is not an issue but the fact is that Bofors caught the imagination of Indian people and the 1989 mandate against Rajiv Gandhi was a mandate against corruption. Though that government did not survive long yet the contribution of that fight against corruption made congress party virtually defensive and finished its unquestioned monopoly of country’s polity.

V.P.Singh was a hero of the Indian middle classes. He was personally honest and committed to the cause and hence people believed in him. But what happened afterwards. The 1991 acceptance of Mandal Commission Report change his acceptance in the middle classes. From an honest politician, he became one of the most hated one in Indian political scenario who must be shunned and rejected. Those who claimed to be his friends were totally co-opted by the Congress brand of secular politics which meant every thing is accepted as long as you are ‘secular’. They took people for granted and felt that ‘secularism’ is the final chord that this country wants and none is bothered about their deeds. His colleagues could not take themselves to those heights where your moral integrity and individual honesty matters a lot. They took inspiration from Congress’s family world and could not follow that properly. Corruption killed them politically and family world surrounded with their Chamchas was the last nail in their coffin.

BSP founder Kanshi Ram was an exception in this field. He kept himself away from the family and that is why not close to the charges of corruption. Even if some people might have alleged that he took money from Congress party or Rajeev Gandhi, his personal self remained pure. None of his family people could claim that they benefited from his politics and such politics gives you strength. That is why Kanshi Ram remains the idol for many of us who the others might charge as Machiavellian. Whatever he was, he never betrayed his community. The interest of his community was top in his mind. Once you are individually clean and honest, your followers will always ready to fight along with you. BSP’s cadres still remember Kanshiram and get strength from his work for the society. Politicians like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan could follow neither Lohia, Jai Prakash nor VP Singh or Karpoori Thakur for they all were known for their personal integrity despite their political successes or failures. How will you accept that Karunanidhi is the rightful heir of Periyar. It did not deter them from pursuing their agenda. It is not that there are no politicians of that kind but I am speaking of those who are supposed to be leading figures of their parties.

Unfortunately, the last 10 years, the foundation of Indian republic are under clear challenge from the corrupted. The crony capitalism promoted by the political parties particularly the Congress and BJP has resulted in complete collapse of our system. Bureaucrats are promoting linkages with Industries for their retirement benefits. Industries have controlled media and media is converting the non issues into the issues and avoiding debate on the issues of public interest. None feel shameful when Mukesh Ambani built a five thousand crore empire in Mumbai and his brother promise to create a better one in future. Whose money is this? Is there any shame? Was there any debate as why our Industrialists have no shame in claiming people’s money as their own and spending it on their shameless luxuries. Will there be a law. No, there is no question of a law on private property, say experts. Pranab Mukherjee, India’s finance minister say that the black money put in the Swiss bank can only be brought to India if the names of the people are not made public. Is it in an indirect way approval for an amnesty which Dr Manmohan Singh started several years back to legitimize the illegally begotten money by the corrupt Indian elite? Is it because there are a number of accounts belonging to Indian political class? Is it because we want to save special people from public scrutiny?

According to reports India has the largest number of sum in the Swiss bank followed by Russia but the gap between the first and second is too big and shows how India has sunk further. That this illegal money is of India’s poor is beyond any one’s doubt. It is certain the money has been deposited by politicians, industrialists, moneylenders and others like them as they know well that once they are found guilty in India, they can fly to Switzerland and its beautiful mountains without any problem and can live rest of their lives there.

The past 10 years have shown that this nexus between different groups, industrial and business houses and politicians-bureaucrats have influenced India’s policies and planning. So, nothing happened when inflation goes beyond the roof top. Our poor do not earn 50 cent a day while our leaders live in grand style. Their expenses are not questioned. They have discretionary quotas to allot public land to their friends, families and relatives. Y.S.Rajshekar Reddy started it in Andhra Pradesh and BSYadirappa is shameless in doing so and the Hindutva’s ‘soul keepers’ say it is ‘immoral and unethical’ yet not illegal. It is simply Hindutva way of defining corruption. They are calling for strike, stalling Parliament yet remain silent on the marriage of their president’s son. Where has the money come from? Can’t we do it in a simple way Mr Advani? Why our political class want to celebrate their private matter in a Raja-Maharaja style.

Corruption will not become an issue as long as it is not addressed from the root cause. A caste-ist society which is patriarchical believes in spreading the family wings. India’s corruption is basically to strengthen family control. Whether it is bollywood films, politics, industries or judiciary, it is to enlarge their families and circle to control India. You have judges coming from particular families, industrialists strengthening their families and Bollywood and Dollywood (delhi’s dirty political world) ready to fight honesty to promote their families. Political parties with immense benami land and money control will never fight against corruption as they have got ‘people’s mandate. One does not know what is this ‘people’s mandate when more than 50% voters do not even caste their vote. Most of the governments in this country and states are on less than 40% votes of the popular vote caste which actually is 20% of the votes of total eligible voters. That means most of the government in India after independence did not have the popular mandate of the people and that is the reason of their continuous negligence of people’s issues and their deep involvement in the loot of people’s resources. Moreover, when ever they want to change, they would raise some emotive issue and rise on the popular sentiments of the masses. The fact of the matter is that India’s electoral system is corrupted and it is giving rise to more corruption. There is a relative competition with the corrupt politicians who have taken their people for granted as they always felt that it is not going to be an issue. Leaders have become the ‘voice’ and ‘identity’ of their communities as if they are not there the community will be orphaned. This mindset has grown in the communities also and it has now the created the sinking feeling of helplessness and a blank future.

A country of 2 billion people can not be allowed to sink in the blank because of the historical wrongs committed by particular castes, its leaders and mercenaries. A country can not live in the baggage of past as it has to look forward. It can not be a victim of Dronacharya syndrome for ever where definition of corruption was different for different people.

Today, Lal Krishna Adavani and his fellow charioteers are seeking people’s mandate on corruption without ever introspecting on their own deeds of corruption. It is not phenomena that developed suddenly but the way our political system continued to ape the business interest, it was bound to happen. It will happen as long as our political class as a whole is prisoner of business houses, the corporate who will make it dance on their tones. The media will report according to its corporate interest. For getting rid of depression it has cricket and Bolly-wood in its kitty so there is no time for people’s issues. In fact, it is over enthusiastic about World Economic Forum meet in Devos. Hindutva’s cocktail with business and babas is well known to be discussed here. It is tragic that to fight against corruption we will depend on those forces whose basic preamble and ideology is corrupted and based on fanaticism, hatred and brahmanical racist hegemony. Public memory may be short but the facts are clear that in Parliament Congress opposed Mandal Commission Recommendation along with Advani. Lal Krishna Advani started his Kamandal yatra to counter the impact of Mandal on Indian masses and bring the asserting bahujan masses back to the Hindutva fold lead by the caste Hindus. It is beyond doubt that P.V.Narsimha Rao complimented the Hindutva by opening India’s gate for all these companies at the cost of destroying the public sector institutions to eliminate quota system.

At the World Economic Forum, Ajim Premji expressed shock of the collapse of governance in India. But he should introspect also as why the collapse. With the active participation of India’s crony capitalists, the political class alone can not be responsible for bringing us to this stage. It was logical conclusion of the dirt that we thought in the aftermath of the policies initiated by Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister and then followed as Prime Minister. These policies developed in rampant corruption by these companies. Do you think that the political parties and leaders who are selling our farmer’s land and property to private companies are doing it without any personal interest? Why are Vijay Malya, Anil Ambani, elected unopposed in Parliament. Why every political party is looking for an Amar Singh or Pramod Mahajan. Do we respect honesty really? How many of our people know about Madhu Dandwate, Surendra Mohan Karpoori Thakur, Kanshi Ram, Ram Dhan and Indrajeet Gupta. How much did media report about their deaths and their political lives?

Well, a system created to help the powerful class will always deviate from the issues and use media to over turn a mandate. Fortunately, despite all tall claims, people of India still have their own mind to vote and they voted according to their issues and priorities. I always loved what Late Kanshi Ram used to say ‘, we do not need Majboot Sarkar in Delhi but Mazboor sarkar which mean we need a weak government in Delhi and not a strong’. Congress in its second term actually proved how it has drifted from people’s issue and aspirations. Fight against corruption has to come from the above and political parties have to relinquish their family business of promoting their children and imposing on the people of India in the name of what people want. The patience of India’s people should not be tasted for long. If one slap in Tunisia can turn the entire system and brought hope in the Middle East against those despots who ruled in the name of Islam, then we are better prepared. Our people have been cheated and betrayed in the name of democracy. Where is it? In parliament or Assemblies where no discussion takes place and only unanimity is to increase their perks and salaries shamelessly. At the moment, people are not just frustrated with one particular party but with the democratic institutions themselves and that is shocking. The Hindutva want to ride on people’s aspiration and that must be curtailed. It would be worst than the Islamic despots in middle-east. So the challenge is bigger. The very foundation of our corrupt culture has to go and real democracy has to come. Political democracy without social democracy would fail Dr Ambedkar had said long back. Today, we are witnessing how our political democracy is failing as democracy is in the hands of not only corrupted but all those who have no respect for democracy. The depression must take the form of frustration only then we will be able to protect upright officers like Yashwant Sonawane.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Time for a Telengana State

Messing up in Telengana would alienate people from rest of the country

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Justice Shri Krishna Committee report on Telengana has strengthened the views of the Telengana people that it was meant to create status quo and buying time to create further confusion and depression among the people of the region. That Shri Krishna Committee could not find logical reasons for carving a separate Telengana state is quite distasteful. But what can one do with a committee of ‘experts’ who hails from state apparatus and know to ‘rule’ and ‘govern’ rather than understanding the historical demands and sentiments of the people. Of course, sentiments do not matter for those in powers as for them it is important to calculate here and there to save their governments and further their own agenda for future.

That Andhra Pradesh has been a loyalist to Congress party and important for its future is a well known fact. And it is this tragedy that has averted creation of Telengana State duly declared by home minister P.Chidambaram on December 9th, 20101 last year after a cabinet meet on the issue. After the builders and minor lobby creating ruckus in Andhra Pradesh, the government backtracked its own decision and formed a committee of ‘expert’ to maintain the status quo. The committee members traveled across the state and met a large number of people and found their assumption that the most suitable thing for the development of the region is to maintain the status quo.

Telenagana is burning again. This time, it is silence in the air but tension is visible on each face. Perhaps, the people are waiting for the Budget session of parliament. They are waiting for the government at the center to come for a final solution. It seems, the Congress party is playing a mind game and testing the patience of the people of the region. Congress is known to do no work, a typical P.V.Narsimharao style which means doing nothing means doing everything. And they are waiting for people to respond.

The important thing that has happened this time is usage of media. This self censorship from the media created an atmosphere where the local people are feeling betrayed. The same media which was broadcasting every small event nearly a year ago is keeping a low profile. The day the Commission report was out, momentum was building up and our anchors were playing great hosts. Telengana Rashtra Samiti President KCR’s son was the most visible face on TV channels explaining eloquently why they reject the Shri Krishna Committee Report. The other faces from the regions were a bunch of expert and congress politicians who are unable to express as they are dying in two loyalties – one to their people and the other to their high command. In the congress culture, high command is most important thing and hence these MPs will wait till their last breathe to wait for a positive decision from High Command. An Indian Express story narrated in details how the Congress MPs from Telenagana regions virtually wept at the feet of Pranab Mukherjee, virtually telling him that their political future would be decimated and that they have no other option then committing suicide. The congress MPs should understand better that they have better option than opposition in creation of Telenagana. Congress should understand that it may lose all the regions due to its dilly dallying tactics on the issue.

Telengana, it seems, is the most misunderstood region. Its political struggle does not appear visible outside the region. The current movement and sentiments remains in the state. It is tragic that the other parts of the country, it is becoming like a hot ‘national’ issue which is linked to disintegration of the country. Some parties and experts claimed that it will divide the country further. Then there are arguments that smaller states are not good. The other argument is that states were divided on the basis of languages and hence no further division of one language state. Many argue according to their convenience like a Bahujan ideologue who said there is nothing for us in Telengana. BJP is supporting as it is known to swim in troubled water as it has no stake in Andhra Pradesh. The Hindutva always gained from the smaller state syndrome as the faulty positions taken up the other parties.

Let us understand that there is no meaning of the explanations given in terms of smaller state or bigger state. There are big states which have failed and there are smaller states which have succeeded. States are not created just because we feel they might fail. If that were the reasons, British should not have left from India. States are created on specific movements for their autonomy and people’s struggle, socio-economic conditions, cultural differences. United States of America has over 50 states while India with such huge population has just 29 states. The states that were created immediately after independence were not always on logical grounds. If one see the logic of the work of the state than you have to scratch your head. How states were created and how their capitals were developed. Thiruvananthpuram is capital of Kerala but it is based on the border of Kerala with Tamilnadu. How can one justify such a capital? Chennai is on one side of Tamilnadu. One can visualize the distance of Hyderabad from Vishakapattanam. French scholar said that nation states are bound not by language and common religion but common history which may not be dynastic but earned through common struggle. The Telenagna people’s strength lies in common struggle against not only the autocratic rule of Nizam but also against feudalism.

Unfortunately, the entire issue revolves around the fate of Congress party in the region. One must not undermine the factor that political parties are taking positions according to their possibilities for future. When the congress decided to opt for a Telengana state last year, they were hopeful that there would no reaction against it, as has happened in other cases such as Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand state where state assemblies passed resolution in this effect. Hence the protest in coastal Andhra regions were well planned by the lobbyist to thwart the separate Telenagana dream. It is unfortunate that the politicians could go to such strength to sustain their interest. We know well that during the Uttarakhand state, the issue of Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar and Hardwar became bone of contention with Uttar-Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav continue to say they were part of Uttar-Pradesh ignoring the historic reality of the two cities. It was done to deny Uttarakhand the revenue generated from the region and compelling the center to concede the demand of the state in a truncated form. However, that did not succeed. This time too, the center has to take a decision above the party line. Once that is done, they would be able to handle all other issues.

It is well known facts that many voices for more autonomy for Indian states emerged in 1980s. The demands for autonomy with in the states also raised its head. The grievances of the people in particular states need to be looked after. Rajiv Gandhi actually started his governance with much better way as he not only negotiated in Punjab and Assam at the cost of his own party but also brought Mizo rebel leader Laldenga to negotiating table. When state were demanding fiscal autonomy, regional voices with in the states were raising their head. Gorakhaland, Bodoland, Vidarbha, Harit Pradesh, Bundelkhand are some of the logical demands coming out of part of huge states where people of one region find it difficult to travel to the state capitals. The biases can clearly be found in the state bureaucracy.

The government of India should not be very of thinking about demands for separate states. We can not impose super state nationalism on these sub regional demand. It is important that our people stop looking the sub regional identities through the prism of ‘their’ ‘nationalism. Aspiration for saving their culture, identity and most importantly quest for development and being part of it force the people to think about their own state. As we know in big state, the backward regions are looked down upon and their people have a negative image. Definitely people of Uttarakhand did not have a positive image in Delhi and Lucknow. Students from Jharkhand regions were always maltreated in Bihar while we all know what do people in Andhra think of a Telengana person. I have been traveling Hyderabad and other regions and I have found this bias among them in my conversation with them. Even an auto driver would comment that ‘they’ are ‘lazy’ people. We faced it in Delhi many time being termed as ‘Pahadi’ as if the Pahadi’s have no right to exist or live or as if they do not know any thing. Such biases exist in our system and society and hence better governments tackle that. When arguments are given about development in Telengana region by many economists and also justified by the Shri Krishna Committee report, they failed to respond how many Telenganites are part of these Development. How many of them own industries, business, schools.. What is their percentage in our services and elsewhere. These are genuine concern and can not come through the jargons of ‘we develop Telenegana for you’. Today’s slogan is ‘we, the people of Telengana will develop our Telengana. Your support is welcome.

An important point raised by a number of Dalit Bahujan ideologues is about the movement being led by the upper castes. But should that deter the demands for a separate statehood as it is historical. Secondly, Telengana’s has a very substantial Dalit-Backwardcaste-Muslim population and it is definitely not going to be the same for them all the time. Once, the new state come, these power structure will also collapse. After all, who ever thought that Mayawati would become chief minister in the holy land of ‘Uttar-Pradesh’, the main battle field of Aryavrat. After nearly 40 years of our becoming republic people of Uttar-Pradesh realized the caste identities and their importance and post 1990s, we mostly had chief ministers from Dalit-backward communities. Now, we are entering into another phase where people are becoming more inquisitive and asking more questions from their own leaders and Bihar is another example of how the most deprived revolted against the powerful.

It is therefore important for the center government to initiate a process. Telenagna will not come to peace with patch up solutions. The more delay the government do in this case, they face more problem and people from both Andhra and Telengana regions will suffer. Already, the unrest during the past one year has cost a lot to students and business in the region. Such uncertainty fuel dissatisfaction among the people and alienate them from the rest of the country. They tend to become more rhetorical and will develop more hatred towards the neighbors which need to be shunned at all cost. Two people from same regions can not be allowed to hate each other and kill each other. But this will happen as the more we delay the process, the greater would be the feeling of ‘victimisation’ and betrayal among the people of Telengana region.

One hope that the government will bring the bill for a separate state in the Parliament and stop rest the question of what is going to happen in Telengana. The emotional bondage is completely broken in the region with that of rest of the Andhra Pradesh. And it can come back to normalcy once a new state comes into being. In true democracy it is people’s will to live together. In 1882, French philosopher Ernst Renan delivered a lecture in the University of Sorbonne and said that ‘A nation is therefore a large scale solidarity. Its existence is a daily plebiscite. A province is its inhabitants, if any one has the right to be consulted, it is its inhabitants. A nation never has any real interest in annexing or holding onto a country against its will. The existence of nations is a good thing, a necessity even. Their existence is a guarantee of liberty, which would be lost if, the world has only one law and only one master.’

While Ernst Renan was defining Nationhood and hence a large number of points which he mentioned are very much relevant here in terms of sub regional identities and aspirations. The truth is that if there is a plebiscite in Telengana, it would wholeheartedly reject being part of Andhra Pradesh. A state is not a militerised notion where your demands for autonomy are met with lathiweilding policemen and army. That can never bring peace. Time has come for the government of India to grant statehood to Telengana and also constitute a second State Reorganisation Commission to look into other such demands for the state for better governance. If the solutions for people’s aspirations are in the form of policing the people by putting non political governors in the ‘problematic’ states then India will pay a heavy price for this. Political issues need political solutions and not from those top bureaucrats who have deep contempt for the people and who consider themselves as masters of the people and know only language of violence. Nothing is lost at the moment. Shri Krishna Committee report is nothing but balancing acts of bureaucrats and good for research work. It can not bring solution to the issue without granting statehood to Telengana. To hold on to an unwilling people into a state is violation of their fundamental right. It would be good for Congress party to think beyond their immediate political interest and take a decision. Prolonging the decision will only bring chaos and anarchy which in long term would be detrimental for the economy and health of the country.