Friday, December 30, 2011

Painful journey of Lokpal in 2011

The year 2011 ends and what a what a way it ends for the Indian democracy. If there are a few words to describe this year, they would be corruption, anger, arrogance etc. But entire thing can be summed up in one or two words as Lokpal Bill. Never possibly in history of India would a bill would have seen such a wide variety of reactions (with possible exception of Hindu Code Bill). Let’s look at the journey this year to understand what went wrong and who the real culprit is.
Act 1 – Indulging Anna team
Early this year when Team Anna sat protesting at Jantar Mantar, Congress tried to indulge him to erase public memory and reduce anger over 2G and CWG. Hence they hurriedly formed a drafting committee with govt and Team Anna. They completely ignored the political class. No members of other parties were part of this drafting committee. What better way to show your utter contempt of Parliamentary Democracy?

Act 2 - Games with Anna
After side lining the Parliament and other political parties, Congress started the process of taking team Anna for a ride. The drafting committee could not come to a common draft as government was non-committal on many fronts. This was the stage where Team Anna saw through the Government's lack of intention on Lokpal Bill.

Act 3 - Abuse and misuse
When the drafting committee failed to conjure a proper bill, Congress tried its old games of abuse and misuse. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari fired the first salvo by questioning Anna Hazare's personal integrity. Digvijay Singh as usual joined the slander game with his trademark effectiveness. Post the abuse came misuse. Anna Hazare was arrested and ironically taken to same jail as Kalmadi, Raja. If this was a joke, it was so cruel it backfired. But Congress wasn't listening. Having curbed Baba Ramdev's protest with an iron hand, Congress was sure of repeating it with Anna Hazare. It misjudged the people's mood completely.

Act 4 - Pitching Parliament vs Anna
After it was forced to release Anna from Tihar, Congress tried to use speeches of some supporters of Team Anna. They tried to change the contour of the movement as being Team Anna vs Parliament. While Congress was right that many Anna supporters were undermining the Parliament, they forgot that they had started the process of undermining of Parliament. Congress in a bid to provide a 'halo' to its Yuvraj Rahul Gandhi, allowed the Anna protest to carry on for few days. Finally it allowed a discussion on Lokpal only after providing a chance to Rahul to try for a 'game changer'. Sadly the game changer was as much a damp squib as the player. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha then got Anna to break his fast after making some commitments.

Act 5 - Farce at Standing Committee
Once Anna's fast was over with commitments from the Parliament, it became necessary for the Standing Committee to provide a strong Lokpal Bill. But Congress members had different thoughts. They went back on issues such as CBI, inclusion of PM, inclusion of Type C and D employees. Most of non-Congress members and few Congress members gave their dissent note. The height of cheating was when Standing Committee called an emergency meeting with extremely less notice after telling members that the sessions were over. They pushed their side of contentious argument in the bill and presented a half baked, weak Lokpal to cabinet.

Act 6 - Playing the Religion card
Now that the world knew about Congress's fraud at the Standing Committee, Anna decided to fast again from 27th Dec followed by a Jail Bharo stir. Congress compromised a bit on contentious issues and got cabinet approval. But it had already made a plan to scuttle the bill by using friends like Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav. They started the dangerous divisive game of reservations on religious basis. Everyone knew this was unconstitutional but Congress just played along. BP protested that reservations in a constitutional body (as wished by all) would be dangerous for the country.

Act 7 - The internal sabotage
Once the bill was brought to the Lok Sabha, Congress used it's friends in RJD, SP to create chaos. While the bill was passed, it did not get constitutional status as government fell short of 2\3rd mark. 12 Congress MPs were absent including some loyalists of Ahmed Patel. Yet Congress wanted to blame only BJP, which had consistently said that while it was all for Lokpal being a constitutional body, it was against the constitutional status for such a weak bill. All indications showed internal sabotage of Rahul's wish.

Act 8 - Assault on democracy
Now that the Congress had egg on it's face in LS, it faced the uphill task of passing it in RS where numbers went against them. Though LS had passed the bill on 27th, Congress wasted whole of 28th on procedural issues and made no attempt to bring the bill for discussion and vote. It used the time to negotiate with allies and other parties but failed as TMC hardened its stand. Finally when the bill came up for discussion on 29th, the house was delayed due to absence of the PM. Later at night, when S S Ahluwalia and Sitaram Yechury asked the Speaker what happens if voting does not happer till 12 midnight, the speaker brushed their concerns aside. Meanwhile most channels were talking of a disruption plan being worked out between Congress, SP and RJD. Exactly the same thing happened. Government now buoyed by failure and hasty end of Anna's fast in Mumbai, was ready to do anything to either stop the bill or shove its own preferred version. First disruption as RJD MP Rajneeti Prasad who tore papers (as Congress MPs tried their best to act as shocked. Instead of tackling one rogue MP, RS speaker adjourned the house for sometime inspite of knowing that midnight was approaching. BJP MPs sat quitely without getting provoked by barbs of various Congress ministers and MPs. When the clock neared 12, BJP leader Arun Jaitley expressed BJP's willingness to sit all night for the bill to be passed. But by then the Vice President and Speaker of RS had made up his mind to act like a Congress slave . Amidst the matchfixing, the bill was deffered indefinitely.

The entire sequence of this journey shows complete shamelessness, arrogance, penchant for cheating all and a disdain for democracy that Congress always had.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Land of Elite

Last few days there have been a series of articles saying how and why Narendra Modi cannot be and should not be made the PM. I wondered if this was just ideological disdain for Modi. If it was just disdain in terms of ideology, I am sure the writers, thinktanks, media barons (all now called The Elite in this post) cannot ignore the good he brings to the table. So naturally it is more than just ideological disdain. Then I looked at history, from 80s till today. Realised that there is a blanket dislike for any politician who was born and brought up in an average family in any far-off village or town. Such a person was an outside for these elites till the time he or she does not use his mass appeal and charishma to break into it like Atal Bihari Vajpayee did. Others like Advani, George Fernandes, Sushma Swaraj and many others have not been so lucky. Smallest of their error was magnified to manifold and achivements underestimated. The phrase 'benefit of doubt' is reserved only for the Gandhi family or the politicians who owe complete loyalty to Gandhi family or those from the charmed circles of the metros or from an established political family. Let's take some examples to expose the prejudice of the elite.

1. Just around the time, Mayawati was taken to the cleaners for the mega money garland, similar thing had happened in Maharashtra. President of Maharashtra Congress Manikrao Thakre was openly caught saying how much money he demanded from the CM and other ministers for a rally of Sonia Gandhi. Later at the rally in Wardha, Sonia Gandhi congratulated Thakre for 'arrangements' and patted his back. The same set of 'elite' who cried as if hell had broken loose in Mayawati's case did not utter a word against Sonia Gandhi though both Mayawati and Sonia were guilty of same crime. Just because Mayawati was a Dalit woman not born or married to a royalty? Or because she dared to dream of a place supposedly reserved for the Gandhi Family?

2. This has been long debated hence will be brief. The amount of flak Narendra Modi received for 2002 is multiple times more than what Rajiv Gandhi got for 1984. I have seen people like Vir Sanghvi defending Rajiv but absuing Modi.Again question is why? Just because Modi was a tea-stall boy who made it big and now threatens the Gandhi monopoly? Or because he is an OBC who has scored over all other administrators in terms of good governance?

3. The uproar that we heard when Yeddiyurappa was named in a scam and the relentless pressure that brought his downfall is completely missing when it comes to the far more corrupt deeds of Sheila Dikshit or Naveen Patnaik. Just because he was a rank outsider, a typical rural man with no pretensions to be a city slicker?

4. The set of elites who who sniggered at anyone who questioned the secrecy over Sonia Gandhi's health had no qualms about cracking jokes on Nitin Gadkari's surgery because here was an unknown man (for them) who has taken over a national party and is proving a credible opposition today. Just that fact that he came from a small city in Maharashtra and never hid his discomfort with the air kissing and hypocritical ways of the metro circles, meant he was an outsider and hence can be mocked.

5. R R Patil at the worst can be called an inefficient Home Minister. At no point can he be called a corrupt one. Yet he has drawn more criticism and ridicule from the elites than Prithviraj Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh who are equally inefficient and definitely corrupt in latter's case. R R Patil is a small village boy who made it good. His kids study in a public school in his village and RR can barely speak decent Hindi or English. And hence the mockery?

6. Let's see the list of CMs who are currently darlings of the elite (no pun intened). Prithviraj Chavan, Omar Abdullah, Sheila Dikshit are some names that come to mind. But a look at their performance and you will see they don't stand a patch compared to Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar, Raman Singh when it comes to governance. Yet, you will rarely see articles or shows critical of the darling CMs while others are either bashed or ignored

There are many such examples. The point is why such disdain for people from ordinary backgrounds, unknown families and not the so-called higher castes.

India is growing and with that aspirations of people are also growing. And aspirations do not discriminate on basis of family, caste, religion, region or language. We can no longer have a mentality that only some family., some people and some caste can rule India. It is an absolute insult of democracy to have that mindset.

I do not know if any elite would read this post. But if you do, I would be glad to see you prove me wrong with your counter views or atleast you can introspect on whether you are strengthening democracy or weakening it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Let Gujarat be

For long I have resisted the temptation of writing on this subject because a lot has been spoken and written about it. But today as the SC puts the wheels of justice back in place, I might as well pen down by thoughts gathered over these years.

Godhra 2002 and the riots after that were a blot on society just as Sikh Genocide of 1984 or Mumbai riots or Neyveli, Meerut, Bhiwandi, Bhagalpur riots or ethnic cleansing of Pandits in Kashmir. But the fact also remains that this incident has drawn more attention that all other cases of violence in India put together. The skewed attention matrix does draw suspicion to the political and social interests' behind keeping the wounds open.

No discussion of a riot can be complete without understanding the social dynamics at work behing it. Gujarat has seen the maximum number of riots in post independence India. Right from 1967 till late 80s, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat were waylaid by bloody riots every year. Ahmedabad in particular used to witness riots on every Jagannath Rath Yatra. The underworld of Gujarat for long was controlled by gangsters like Latif who enjoyed open political patronage from then Congress governments. This changed in the period post 1990. Congress lost power to JD and BJP alliance. Contrary to the popular belief that Advani's Rath Yatra was divisive, in Gujarat it actually united the otherwise highly fragmented Hindu community. It started the period of Hindus asserting their religious identities. First glimpse of this aggressiveness and anger against local Muslim community (mainly because of the belief that Latif and gangs troubled Hindus the most) was seen in 92 riots. In a way, Gujarat for long was on a tinterbox of Hindu anger and that exploded in 2002. It was also the period when anti-Islamic sentiments were at the peak due to 9/11 and other local reasons mentioned below.

India was out of a bloody war with Pakistan. Kandahar hijack was fresh in public memories and the Parliament attack had happened just a few months ago. The subsequent deployment of the forces on the India-Pakistan border meant there were not much forces to be used within the country at times of an emergency.

After the incident at Godhra happened, it is well-known that Gujarat did ask Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra for additional forces and those states refused the plea. Is it sheer coincidence that all the 3 states were then ruled by Congress? The delay in deploying police and other forces led to the riots spreading across the state except for some parts of Kutch and Saurashtra. Though this can't be a justification, it also means that administration or the ruling class was not hand in glove with the rioters. At the worst, it shows administrative inefficiency and nothing more. But to call these riots a genocide is unfair. 11,000 rounds were fired and most of those killed were Hindus. So in no way was the administration trying to shield the majority community. Also one can rioting happened from both the communities and hence high number of deaths on each side. Figures have no emotion nor any bias and they just tell you the sad story as it was.

Once the riots were over, the long road to recovery meant 3 things - Legal Justice, Political Justice and Reconcilliation. Narendra Modi did the right thing by dissolving the assembly and calling for fresh elections. Only the people of Gujarat had the right to say then if they believed their leader was a murderer or not. Once that was done, he set on to the path of rebuilding Gujarat and confidence of its people. Today that is showing results. Muslims in Gujarat as far more in the mainstream (socially, economically) than most other states. The inclusive development of the state has ensured that the community which languishes in despair in other states is living a life of dignity and prosperity in Gujarat.

Coming to the critical issue of legal justice. Of all riot cases in Indian history, Gujarat riot cases have seen the fastest trials anc convictions. Many of it even before activists like Teesta came to fore. Compare this to 84 where no chargesheet too was filed and hardly anybody has been convicted. Or with Bhagalpur where justice took nearly 2 decades. Congress-NCP government in power for nearly 15 yrs after Mumbai riots have not pushed for legal closure to the cases. More than 4000 cases registered and nearly 25000 people were arrested and brought to trial. More than 40 cases have already seen convictions. This cannot happen if the state is trying to prevent justice. Also point to note is that those arrested and facing trials include politicians both from the BJP and the Congress. Process of Justiceujarat riots cases has been the most unbiased and the faster in the country till date.

For long Narendra Modi has been suffering at the hands of those who believed that justice has to be subservient to their instints and beliefs only. By readily co-operaitng with the probe agencies he has shown his willingness to confront the blot and come out clean. And by ensuring the smooth reconcilliation process he has ensured that hurt feelings of a community are healed.

Now it's only good for India if the vested interests let Gujarat be.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anna Protest and more

Since most people do not like to read entire blogs and love to quickly pass judgements. Here is quick one on my stand. I do not support Lok Pal Bill presented by the govt, neither do I support Anna Hazare teams draft of Jan Lok Pal (and yes I have read both). I do agree corruption has to be killed and feel there are other ways of doing it alongwith a Lokpal which is neither lame nor draconian. I completely support Anna's right to protest and fast. But I do not support the self righteousness and holier than thou attitude of many of the protestors. Hamam mein sab nange hain.

If the nation has come to a standstill it is mainly because of the events in last one year where India has seen monumental corruption and absolute breakdown of governance. The government has been criminally arrogant and remarkably stupid in its handling of the crisis. To start with they indulged Anna to such a level that they decided to ignore Parliament and other political parties in the drafting process. They undermined the authority of the Parliament and today they accuse Anna Hazare of same. Well, Anna Hazare is not answerable to the Parliament and nation but this government is. After the indulgence came the show of utter ruthlessness and arrogance in form of midnight crackdown on Ramlila Maidan injuring women, children and old. They took it to the highest level by resorting to undemocratic methods to prevent Anna Hazare from fasting. They muddied the waters further by personal attacks, insults and namecalling. If there is a case study on stupid governance, this has to be it. Add double standards to that and you get an unmanageable crisis. Govt needs to stop treating NAC as a holy cow while reasing other civil society as commodities. It needs to ensure that henceforth Parliament is the supreme law making agency in the country and no Anna or NAC will be allowed to change that.

Coming to the Lokpal Bills. There is no denying that India needs a strong Lokpal Bill. But as the name says it has to be a Pal of the Lok (people). Which means the Lokpal can neither be draconian nor it can be a lame duck to be misused. Both the drafts, Govt and Anna Hazare team, have many loopholes in them. While Govt draft is completely useless in terms of its jurisdiction, it also has all probabilities of misuse due to the nature of formation process. On other hand, the Jan Lokpal is so rigid that it can suffocate governance and development. One has seen the negatives of activism overreach. So what needs to be done? Well to start with, there is a need to bring in the PM, Ministers, Bureaucrats, MPs under the bill but keep Judiciary out as it can hamper justice deliverance. On the other hand, care has to be taken to keep strategic decisions like security, defence out of the ambit for obvious reasons. The formation of the Lokpal has to be done taking executive, judicial class in confidence. Govt cannot have singular right to dictate the members of Lokpal. CJI, Leader of Opposition have to be a part of the selection process.

But will the Lokpal Bill in itself solve all the problems? Answer is a resounding a NO. What is needed is a series of reforms in form of police reforms, judicial reforms, elecoral reforms and citizen reforms to end the menace of corruption, These are needed to remove the red tape, the delays in decisions, corruption in courts, delays in justice delivery system, criminals in Parliament and overall systemic changes needed. While the first three are debated, I will speak about the last one and that is reforms in citizen behavior. No longer can people be allowed to be morally and financially unethical or unbothered about corruption and just abuse political class. Citizens have to exercise their voting rights sensibly and also ensure clean behvior themselves which means no giving bribes, being whistleblowers, no faking bills to save taxes and abiding by law of the country.

India is at the crossroad. How each pillar of democracy behaves will decide which path we take.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is Jaitapur Congress's Nandigram in Maharashtra?

As they say history repeats itself if you don’t learn from it. Maharashtra government and specially Congress seems to be learning it the hard way in Jaitapur. Maybe because they did not learn from the mistakes Left Front made in Nandigram and Singur. Whatever the mistakes they have committed, it surely has put Coastal Maharashtra on a volcano ready to erupt. And sadly one family has lost its young son.
Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant was touted as one of the biggest achievement of the state. JNPL is a new proposed 9900 MW power project of Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) at Madban village of Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra. It will be the largest nuclear power generating station in the world by net electrical power rating once completed.
On December 6, 2010 agreement was signed for the construction of first set of two third-generation European Pressurized Reactors/Evolutionary Power Reactors (EPR) and the supply of nuclear fuel for 25 years in the presence of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. French nuclear engineering firm Areva S.A. and Indian state-owned nuclear operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India signed this multi billion valued agreement of about $9.3 billion. The supporters of the project point out to the growing needs of the country in terms of power. They also point out at the economics and environmental safety of nuclear power generation. The local support for the project mainly came from Narayan Rane, Ex-CM of Maharashtra and currently a minister in state cabinet. The local residents of the region were promised employment opportunities as well as increased market value of land. The land acquisition saw the landowners being paid amount much more than the market price,
With everything seemingly in place for a smooth start of the project, what has happened in last few months that the region is seeing a popular upsurge? Why are the local residents up in arms against the project and refusing the economic temptations doled out to them? The answers can be found out in the arrogant manner in which the whole project is being pushed.
When the first signs of trouble and revolt were seen, the government tried to tone down their anger by increasing the compensation amount. The government could not understand that the opposition was because of various reasons like impact on the marine ecosystem which will impact the main occupation – fishing, of the region. The concerns were more on environment and livelihood than on compensation. The government completely failed to read the situation. In the entire period, government and Congress thought it was prudent to rely on the judgment and ground reports from Narayan Rane. They relied too heavily on his long standing political career in the region. This is where the government faltered majorly. Not only was he reading the concerns wrong but he was also resorting to arrogant strong arm tactics which further infuriated the locals. In Jan 2011 when the CM Prithviraj Chavan visited Jaitapur, the local residents were prevented from voicing their grievances. People opposing the project were kept away from the meeting venue by force. So the CM had no clue about the anger in the local communities.
The Fukushima disaster in Japan acted as a catalyst in increasing the opposition to the project. The coastal belt of Maharashtra falls in Seismic Zone 3 which is Moderate Risk Zone. Post Fukushima the concerns of similar accidents in the JNPL and its impact on people and area around too had to be considered. While the environmental studies conducted so far have showed that no danger is expected, the local anger is over the manner in which studies were conducted and the institutes doing the study. NEERI (National Environment Engineering Research Institute) is one of the main organisations doing the study. The reputation of this agency was badly hit during an oil spill at Mumbai coast in 2010. Neither were they able to control the after affects of the spill but for a long period they were in dark about the hazards of the spill and ways to control it. Also the public hearing of the environmental concerns done in April 2010 was found flawed because the report was not shared with most of the local residents around. Though Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh immediately after Fukushima agreed to reconsider the power plant at Jaitapur, very soon he did a u-turn.
There are few more questions which need to be answered by the Government of India and Government of Maharashtra
The approval for this project was given a week before the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. While giving the approval, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh did mention that some of the environmental risks have been ignored while giving the nod from his ministry. He mentions strategic and economic reasons behind such a move. The question to be asked is what was the pressure or strategic impact of this project? Was the Indian Government under international pressure to give a go ahead? Is this a valid reason to take a confrontational approach with the local residents and not spend time in explaining the project?
The technology being used in the nuclear power plant has so far been untested in the world. The only place where it is under process of being built is in Finland. The project in Finland too has seen tremendous delay and has faced many technical and environmental hurdles. Is it wise on part of Indian Government to risk a region to a technology which is not yet proven?
The PM Manmohan Singh had put his personal prestige at stake for the Nuke deal. At that point he had mentioned about India needed additional 45,000 MW of nuclear energy to meet the demand. Many scientists like Dr Gopalkrishnan, ex- Chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board have raised questions on the PM’s assessment. Also why has the government tried to strangle all other traditional means of power generation? Why is there a blanker ban on coal generated power plants? Is the PM under pressure from the US and other vendor countries to buy technology? Instead of a few high impact plants, why is government not looking at plants with smaller capacities distributed across India?
If we see the chain of events, we can see that the government in the state has tried to subvert the process of explanation and been blind to people’s doubts. They have tried to shove the project down people’s throat. If Dr Anil Kakodkar could explain the project to Maharashtra Assembly and Council (where the main supporters of the project including the CM were caught sleeping), what was stopping them from a similar engagement with the local residents.
Does India in general and Maharashtra in particular need some power project to overcome the power crisis? The answer is a resounding yes. Being a layman who does not understand atomic energy in great detail, I will excuse myself from commenting on the merits of nuclear power and JNPL. But being a resident of the state, I will surely say that if government had been less arrogant in it’s behavior and been more accommodating to dissent, we might not seen the loss of life in the police firing 2 days back.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Why am I not rejoicing today

Some are calling it 15th August revisited and some are clling it awakening of new India. Congratulatory messages and smses from people who suddenly have found their ‘conscience’. But as an aspiring young leader, am I rejoicing? No, I am not. And I have my reasons not to rejoice.

To start with, let’s look at the entire movement against corruption. Today Anna Hazare is the face of India against Corruption and treated as if he has already won the war against corruption. One question to ask is was this a fast against corruption or was it a fast just to push himself and his team on the Jan Lokpal Bill Draft Committee? If it was a fight against corruption, why was no action demanded on people already accused yet free like Sheila Dikshit, Kalmadi, Pawar, Vilasrao, Kanimozhi etc? Why did Anna agree only when the government gave him a commitment to pass the bill in June and allowed him to nominate people from the so-called ‘civil society’. I will not get into details of the people nominated or their ideologies or even their dirty acts at some times. But I am forced to ask if only the people nominated make a ‘civil lot’. Where is the inclusivity that these ‘civil society; members love to ask for every time? Why no woman in the committee, why is the committee feudal with a father – son duo in it? Do these 5 represent the voice and wish of entire India? Why is no attempt made to take views of all those common people who joined the movement?

There is also a larger constitutional question. How are we in last few years allowing unconstitutional bodies to frame policies and laws? It started with the National Advisory Council. NAC’s regular turf war with Manmohan Singh and his ministers has ensured that governance goes into a cold storage. The state of inertia hurting Indian economy today is because of this turf war. Now do we want to create one more entity made up of similar activists and put further brakes on development? This is not to say that India does not need a law which will allow complaints against PM and his group of ministers. We need a law which is strong enough to punish wrong doers at higher levels. The Lokpal Bill passed in LS during Vajpayee’s time ensures the above. The new demand is to let the social activists be a part of this entire process. It also creates a Frankenstein. The porposed Jan Lokpal Bill can be extremely draconian if used used with an agenda. This is fraught with dangers as ‘civil society’ in India is still at best a bunch of politically motivated good speakers who push their masters and funders agenda. Also there is a tendency seen in this group and that is to take a view which does not agree with the majority class or caste. Not that majoratism is the way democracy should function but to always act as if majority is wrong is also dangerous. So while the Lokpal Bill as per what NDA had passed should be the starting point along with necessary steps to keep it out of government pressure and control. The immediate need of the hour is to strengthen the existing institutions and bring it out of government pressures. A movement is needed to ensure sanctity of the CVC, CEC, CBI etc. It’s the undermining of these institutions that has led to rampant corruption and corrupt going scot free. On its own passing Lokpal Bill will not solve the problem. It will need comprehensive set of reforms at all levels to ensure that agencies create work efficiently and in an unbiased form.

So while I would thank Anna Hazare for a couple of things. One is to bring the fight against from a political domain to the social domain. So far only the opposition parties were leading this fight against the corrupt UPA. For the first time, the society also joined in. Another aspect to thank Anna for is that his movement ensured that Congress does not escape under the fog cover of WC win and Indo-Pak thaw. It ensured that post WC, the focus is back on corruption and the government’s inaction on it. But at the same time I am not rejoicing because no major breakthrough has been made yet. What Swami Agnivesh and Arving Kejriwal are showing off as victory is nothing few unconstitutional, unimportant crumbs. As long as the process of punishing the guilty of CWG, 2G, Dewas-Antrix, Cash for Votes, Wheat Scam does not move towars logical finish, the India against Corruption is just a nice dream to have.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nation at the crossroads

“Tu idhar udhar ki baat na kar, yeh bata kafila kyun loota”. This is the question Sushma Swawaj asked PM Manmohan Singh in the Parliament recently. And when she asked it, she was echoing the sentiments of millions of Indians who are pained at where we are. When the team of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the country from Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the nation was on the threshold of marching into an era of prosperity, happiness and positivity. And its just country misfortune and UPA’s abysmal governance that we need a World Cup victory to rejoice over as something positive in an otherwise negative period. If the nation introspects, it will find the answers. There are many reasons but the biggest reason is the apathy of the great Indian middle class which has brought us to this stage. It’s denial to be a part of the political solution (intentional or stage managed) made it blind and deaf to continuous reminders from likes of L K Advani since 2007 that things are going worse. Starting with mismanagement of anti-terror policy to withering away of the economic growth and now to the menace of corruption, warning signs were always there but both the government and the public ignored those. The result is UPA back in power with higher degree of incompetence, graft, arrogance and unaccountability. So when the second part of the above couplet says “Mujhe rahjaano se gila nahin, teri rahbaari ka sawaal hain”. Here the question is asked not only of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Congress, UPA but to all those who ignored the warning signals in 2009 and brought the country to these crossroads.

Anna Hazare, the grand old man of Maharashtra, is now in Delhi replicating his Maharashtra model. He has successfully fought corruption at all levels in Maharashtra. Now he is on a hunger strike at Jantat Mantar in Delhi against the rampant corruption in the government. He is supported by a number of activists, celebrities, professionals and people from all walks of life. It’s a welcome movement and one has to support it. The anger against the non-stop spate of graft issues is building up the anger of the nation. But there are some dangerous signals coming out of this movement. One of the dangers is people with dubious credentials joining this crusade. One already saw likes of Om Prakash Chautala and Pappu Yadav trying to hog llimelight in this fight. Next is the presence and support from the so-called ‘civil society’. When you have people like Swami Agnivesh, Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander support Anna Hazare, you wonder if this all is becoming a setup. These people are the ones running the government by proxy. If Sonia Gandhi is the remote control, they are the batteries. If they cannot fight corruption inspite of being in the system, nation should think twice before trusting them. They have the power, mandate and support of NAC chief Sonia Gandhi to formulate policies to stop graft. Why haven’t they been able to do so till now? If Harsh Mander and Aruna Roy were so concerned about probity in life, why have they not objected or resigned against the shameless corruption of the PM, the cabinet and his allies? Under no circumstances should they be allowed to hijack the movement. If it happens, it will be a repeat of anti-terror movement after 26/11. Instead of making government answerable their aim is to tar every party with same brush. Nation must distinguish that in BJP, a Bangaru Laxman or Yeddiyurappa is an exception but for Congress Sheila Dixit, Vilasrao, Ashok Chavan, Tarun Gogoi, Jaipal Reddy, Suresh Kalmadi are the rules and not just exceptions. So how much ever, the civil society tries to turn the movement to “sab chor hain”, the national agenda should be to remove the corrupt systems put in place by the Congress part y and make it pay for all the corruption of its own and its allies.

One of the main demands of Anna Hazare is Jan Lokpal Bill. Before we say that Jan Lokpal will be the solution to all the corruption problems, there is a need to understand the pros and cons of it. There is no denying that this country needs systemic changes mainly in form of political reforms, judicial reforms and police reforms. But we also need social reforms and corporate reforms. The corruption is so deeply etched in the soul of the society that just countering political corruption won’t be enough. Society too has to introspect and answers some bitter questions. Hating politicians is dangerous since it creates a political vacuum which is always filled by someone who we don’t like. There are institutions like CVC, CBI, and CAG which act as watchdogs against corruption but if they have failed, it is due to political interference as we saw in the case of appointment of CVC Thomas. The current government has systematically corrupted or destroyed institutions like CVC, CEC. Imagine that an ex-CJI faces serious charges of graft and government still relies on him to become National Human Rights Commission chief against all opposition. So even if Jan Lokpal is accepted, there is no guarantee that Congress will let that institution remain pure. So need of the hour is not another institution but a strong resounding punishment to Congress for its rape of the existing institutions. One more thing worrisome about Jan Lokpal is the demand to include members of ‘civil society’. Now this is fraught with dangers mainly because such ‘civil society’ is nothing but a brigade of arrogant charlatans who just push their master’s agenda. One has to find the right checks and balances before finalizing the Lokpal Bill. And this needs a through discussion not just outside Parliament with the jholawalas but also with the members of the Parliament.

As the nation tries to find its way out of the current situation, there is a tendency to create apathy at various levels against anything political. This is a danger to the democracy. The middleclass is already so apathetic that any increase in it would be the death knell of the democracy. The only way to bring change is by increased participation in the political process. Not all is negative. If one looks at the clean governance Gujarat has provided. Recently a study done by an IAS office for WB showed up Gujarat as being the place where corporate did not have to bribe the government. Look at the new laws in Bihar and MP where they have passed laws to act against erring babus. For all its negatives, Karnataka remains the only state where Lok Ayukta is free and fair and same time has been given powers and is not a toothless wonder. All is not lost and all that we as citizens needs to do is to forget diversions like caste, secularism and vote for clean governance.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

.. for Manmohan is an honest man

Friends, Indians, countrymen, lend me your ear (or should I say eye)

I come to bury Democracy, not to cry over it
Not all men have the courage to live and die with conviction
Manmohan Singh rules sitting on the corpse of the Democracy,
So let it be with Democracy ... The noble Dr. Manmohan Singh
Hath told you he has never done anything wrong:
That he did not appoint the tained CVC,
And I wish we had questioned Manmohan Singh years ago ...
Here, under leave of Manmohan and the Congress,
For they are an honorable lot
So are they all; all non-corruptible people

Come I to speak when integrity of head of nation has been questioned...
Multiple times on 2G and CWG:
But Manmohan Singh says that he has done no wrong;
And he is an honest man….

He hath brought many ministers like Raja, Vilasrao, Kamalnath, Pawar,
To gather monies, his party and allies have filled their coffers with
Does this Dr Manmohan Singh look so clean?
When the people needed answers, Manmohan Singh gave helplessness:
A Prime Minister has to be made of sterner stuff
Yet Manmohan Singh says he is no to be blamed;
And Manmohan Singh is an honest man.

You all did see that on the sacred floor of Parliament
Manmohan Singh and his men bought and sold MPs like cattle
They bought votes and subverted media to stay in power
Yet Manmohan Singh says he is not to be blamed;
And, sure, Manmohan Singh is an honest man.

I speak not to disprove of whatever Manmohan Singh had done in past,
But here I am to speak what I do know now.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
But now what makes you mourn that love for him?
O my mother nation! You are held ransom by vested interests,
Manmohan Singh and his men have lost their reason…. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Democracy,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Note - For the uninitiated, this is a remake or a rehash of the original "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech by Mark Antony from Julius Caesar. Tried to adapt it to the current act of treason from a so-called clean, honest, gentleman PM. Its time nation asks Manmohan Singh "Et Tu, Dr Singh"

Friday, March 18, 2011

Unaccountable Governance

Today India faces a trust deficit and the person who comes to mind is an extraordinary gentleman called Morarji Desai. When Morarji Desai government went into minority, someone in his cabinet prepared a list to be given to the Speaker and the President. The list contained some names who had not yet declared support. Morarji Desai immediately took responsibility for this and said he would retire from public life. Such is the character needed to lead in a democracy. Does this not make Manmohan Singh look like a pygmy? Anything comes up and he says he does not know. Be it 2G scam or CWG or CVC appointment or the latest re-release on cash for vote scandal. He and Sonia Gandhi have hid behind a media created halo and escaped any kind of accountability.

Like never before India has a weird form of governance today. The person who is the PM has no authority and shies away from taking accountability on anything. He has a super PM who enjoys all the power but is never questioned. Then his cabinet is full of members who he hasn’t himself chosen as he had to practice ‘coalition dharma and so his cabinet colleagues are answerable to their respective leaders and fight amongst themselves. Then there is super kitchen cabinet which forms the policies for the government but has no constitutional authority. The NAC as the kitchen cabinet is called is a group of Super PM Sonia Gandhi’s ‘Kitty Party Friends’ and they have been given the power by her to overrule the PM while drafting the policies. Does this in any way sound like a democracy to you? Where does the accountability here lie and who will take the whip if anything goes wrong? No answers whatsoever from the ruling dispensation. Look at this funny irony. While NAC credits itself for bringing in Right to Information to improve transparency, NAC and Sonia Gandhi both are out of the purview of the RTI.

Accountability of the various institutions is the strong base on which a democracy thrives. And being accountable is a trait that is generally held by individuals or a group of such individuals. It is not a trait which can be thrust upon any person. So if accountability is not a value which an individual or an organization possesses, there is no way that it will take responsibility for any action or inaction. If this is someone who proves this in recent times, it is Indian PM Manmohan Singh. But it would be unfair to blame him alone for this because lack of accountability is an organizational disease in Congress. Except a few exceptions like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Madhavrao Scindia, rarely has one seen Congress leaders taking responsibility until and unless it is thumped on them from the High Command which is the Gandhi family.

If we go into history and see the early years after India’s partition, one can see how Jawaharlal Nehru ran the government like a dictator and surrounded by his coterie. Hardly anyone in modern India would have messed up on various policies as Krishna Menon but never was he questioned nor was he removed. Even after China debacle, when opposition asked for him resignation, Nehru used the old trick of ‘I would resign too’ to blunt the resignation demand. It’s just sad that India never got to learn the lessons from Nehru and Menon’s mistakes as they thwarted attempts for facts to be brought up. Jawaharlal Nehru in his entire tenure was averse to taking blame for any mistakes. Infact as one of his biographer Walter Crocker’s said in his books – Nehru was averse to answering questions from colleagues and subordinates as he thought they could not match up to his intellectual levels and he had no time for fools. What Nehru did not realize was that such feudal arrogance in initial days of Indian democracy would set a bad precedent.

The precedent that Nehru set was followed by Congress at times with more stubborn and arrogant behavior. Indira never apologized to the nation for the murder of democracy and the excesses the countrymen faced during the emergency. She went about her PMship with a total disdain for counter questions or oppositions. She went on creating Frankensteins like Bindranwale, illegal Bangladeshis and corruption but she never felt the need to tell why was she doing what she was doing. When confronted her answer was always “Foreign hand trying to destabilize India”. Stalwarts like Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee all were at some or the other point in time called Foreign Agents by the Congress just to silence opposition.

Then came her son Rajiv Gandhi who possibly broke all the records in Parliamentary democracy by lying blatantly in Parliament. When confronted by the corruption over Bofors, Rajiv Gandhi lied in the Parliament that any kickback was paid. His bluff was soon called by brave journalists’ like Arun Shourie. But the man never felt remorse for lying to the Parliament. Nor did he ever feel remorse for presiding over the largest genocide this country has seen post partition. He infact justified it in his famous words about the tree and earth shake. Rajiv Gandhi carried on his activity of subverting constitution with a dangerous mix of communal politics. Be it Shah Bano case or the elections in Assam and Meghalaya. He tried to alter the Indian constitution on basis of religious vote banks. And he did that by riding on a brute majority. Who can forget his actions of IPKF or the dreaded rigged elections of Jammu and Kashmir? There was a scope for course correction or introspection in his politics and policies.

The curse continues today with Sonia Gandhi ruling India but without any form of accountability to either people of India, parliament or to constitution. The indications are that her son Rahul Gandhi is keen to continue the same trend by his continuous refusal to take up ministerial post but by constant meddling in important affairs of the ministry. How long will India have to play slave to such feudal mindset. When will the patience get over and tough questions asked of the Nehru Gandhi parivaar? Will we continue to remain a colony even after 6 decades of independence? The choice is with the people. Raise your voice and ask uncomfortable questions, answers for which have never been given to you so far.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Weakening Social Democracy

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of USA once famously said “Democracy is not so much a form of government as a set of principles”. So true and when the same principles come under strain, there is no governance and finally no democracy. While India proudly calls itself the 2nd largest democracy (or the largest in terms of populace) in the world, India has had to face many such threats to its principles. If in 70s the threat came in form of corruption, lack of accountability, nepotism and dictatorship, the threat in later decades came from rise of separatist sentiments and rise of religious and casteist fundamentalism. The latest threats have been on principles of social harmony and concept of India as a nation and all Indians as citizens.

Never was this threat as obvious as in the month of January 2011. The last ten days of Jan 2011 showed such events unfold that one wondered if they are just aberrations or slowly becoming the rule in this country that preaches social harmony and worships Motherland.
When Maulana Ghulam Vastanvi became the VC of Deoband, there was a sense of happiness not only in Muslim community but outside it too. Maulana Vastanvi is seen to be the moderate and progressive face of the Muslim community and this was highlighted across the spectrum when his appointment became public. His work in field of education, especially in modernising education, was seen to be a revolutionary. So when he took over charge at Deoband, one felt this might bring change the largest educational institution for Muslim students, which has been mired in controversies over fatwas and at times outdated views. But suddenly Maulana Vastanvi has to face music from Deoband, other Muslim clerics and also the media and so-called civil society. What did he do to warrant a complete negative reaction and calls for his removal? Why did media treat him like a culprit inspite of his achievements and wish to take the Muslim community forward? Well, Maulana Vastanvi in an interview after his appointment said that “while law should take it’s own course in case of Gujarat riots, it’s time Muslim community moves on and sees the development made in Gujarat which has benefitted the Muslim community in a large way.” What was wrong with this statement that everyone suddenly started gunning for Maulana Vastanvi? To a rank outsider, this statement is a mature statement which augurs well for the community and the country. Well, it seems disappointing that a section of the country is not ready to move on though the people of Gujarat specially the Muslims have moved on and reconciled with Narendra Modi and Gujarat government. Is it not pure bias to ignore the fact that Gujarat Muslims are the most progressive, prosperous and educated than their community brethren from other states. Is it a crime if someone states this obvious fact? While the fate of Maulana Vastanvi’s resignation will be known only after the Shura meeting on 22nd Feb 2011, just the fact that his statements have generated so much anger in the community is disturbing. It seems a section of the Muslim community, clerics and leadership aided by the pseudo-secular elements do not want the Muslim community to come out of it’s ghetto identity. They might as well have a radical, dyed in the past Maulana lead their students rather than a person who has shown how progressive education benefits the cothe mmunity. This is a danger sign to the democracy and social fabric. When you have one section of the society which has not progressed at a speed comparable to other sections, anger will grow and hurt the country very badly.

Another event which took place the same time was one concerning judiciary. Recently Supreme Court upheld the life sentence given to Dara Singh for the murder of Graham Staines and his two minor sons. The murder was a gruesome act and it got the punishment that it deserved. While upholding the earlier sentence given by the High Court, Supreme Court also went into the circumstances and the background of the dastardly act. As an observation the court also said "It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone's belief by way of 'use of force', provocation, conversion, and incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other." In no way does this remark condone the act done by Dara Singh and others. All it says is that conversion is a stigma and a problem one has to identify. Immediately the Christian communities and the civil society were up in arms. Noise was generated about how SC was justifying Staines’ murders when the fact was far from it. A few days after the judgment, the SC expunged the observations. Brings us to the question – Is it communal to question the act of conversion? Isn’t it a fact that conversions are causing tremendous strain to the society especially in tribal India? If questioning and opposing conversion is communal, then Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekanand and Mahatma Gandhi all stand guilty as communal. Why is the Christian community not stopping their evangelists, their clerics from indulging in this heinous crime? Conversions and opposition to it has seen a lot of bloodshed in the past and double standards in addressing the root causes will only increase the violence. We cannot have a society wherein Swami Paramanand’s gruesome murder has to be ignored and at times even welcomed (A Christian cleric Father Emmanuel of Delhi on Times Now actually stated that Swami Paramanand was murdered because of his ‘communal activities’). Lack of tolerance towards the views of judiciary from a community is not a great sign for the democracy.

As the proverbial last straw on a camel’s back, the final act of endangering our democratic principles came in form of the high-handedness with which Central Govt and State Govt of Jammu and Kashmir behaved with fellow Indians and patriots to stop the Ekta Yatra and hoisting of tricolor at Lal Chowk. When was the last we heard, trains being stopped and made to return under cover of darkness? When was the last your bags were checked and were having Tiranga was an objectionable act? When was the last young men and women had to face lathis for having tricolor in their hands? Ever heard of a country where Leaders of Opposition are under arrest on a National Day? Sounds like emergency? And all this use of force and preventive measures for what? To stop hoisting of Tiranga at Lal Chowk in Srinagar. Constitution allows anyone to hoist the national flag anywhere as long as it is not infringing on someone’s private property. And Lal Chowk is as much a part of India as Chandni Chowk in Delhi or Nana Chowk in Mumbai is. But under pressure from separatists like Yasin Malik, the Omar Abdullah government not only buckled but went one step ahead in playing appeasement politics. And appeasement of whom? The group of people who take pride in showing Pakistani flags and hoist them at Lal Chowk at every possible opportunity. Many were injured and arrested as the Central and State government resorted to extra-constitutional methods.

When seen alone, the above three incidents look like small incidents in overall picture of democracy and governance. While the episode on Dara Singh judgement is about lack of tolerance and contempt of judiciary, the Vastanvi episode is a clear case of someone’s right to speech being questioned and the Tiranga episode is an infringement on right to national identity and right to visit any part of India lawfully. But when you put all the three together, we get a picture where radicals in minority communities are encouraged by government, so-called civil society and media to violate the spirit of our constitution and insult the basic tenets of democracy. This is a danger in the longer run and can destabilize the country if steps aren’t taken to stop it right now.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The age of digital intolerance

A storm has been brewing on the digital world specially the twitter for a long time. What would have started as a one-off case is now being seen more as a pattern. Actually not even a pattern but a methodical madness. It's been seen increasingly that people from the so-called 'right wing' have been getting into ugly scraps with media people, analysts and others. Some call this group as Internet Hindus and others call them RSS Storm Troopers. I object to both because both are highly biased and grossly generalised. So let's call them Right Wing Twitterati for simplicity.

B Raman, ex-civil servant and one of the leading analysts in the country, recently wrote this piece after his showdowns with the RWT - . Why has the digital world come to a point where a senior person has to write such an article. Let me make it clear that one ideological grounds, I have nothing common with him. I disagree with most of his analysis and am sure he too would never be comfortable with the ideological spectrum I represent.

It;s not only about B Raman but Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Ranvir Shorey, Nikhil Wagle and many others have had their fights in the past. To be honest many of them actually enjoy provoking and then crying 'victim'. If you actually see the tweets from some of the people mentioned above, you will realise they have indulged in greater intolerance and provoked people. And when people have responded, they have gone on to brand the reaction as right wing attack. While I have no love lost for any of the people mentioned, I do feel that the RWTs are giving them a chance to brand them. If one stops for a minute and thinks, one will realise that Manish Tewari has been one of the most abusive people on the twitter. But his language was never questioned and nor was it called the Slave Brigade Crusade. Why the double standards on same problem? The people who are the Crybabies have to introspect and answer that. People like Sagarika, Wagle, Barkha, Nidhi should also respect the digital medium. On TV they were the kings and the queens, people had to lap up whatever they offered. But on digital world, they are nothing more than commoners. So when Sagarika calls someone a right wing jerk, she sould be ready to be called a media concubine. Similarly if Barkha questions someones integrity, she has to take the Radia potshots and Barkha should remember that the first case of online intolerance is creditted to her. No guerilla warfare please. Its the crazy internet jungle.

Coming to the RWTs, I have always maintained that RSS suffers the most from its fringe elements because already biased media loves to potray the loonies are the rule rather than exceptions. In one twitter exchange with Nikhil Wagle I asked him if he thinks RSS is all fanatics or would he also recall people like Atalji, Nanaji Deshmukh, Bhideji, Rambhau Mhalgi.. all great thinkers and people with extraordinary integrity. When RSS has lakhs of such noteworthy people, why should we give our opponents the chance to strengthen their biases and remember us only for anarchy? RWTs have to understand that you never win an argument by shouting, you win it by sheer strength of your content. Arun Jaitleyji famously says if your message is powerful, no one will ignore it. So rather than getting personal or abusive, letshave the right amount of ideological conviction and reason in our tweets. As far as frustrations and anger over biases goes, I will use one of the lines I like in life - Gussa badi kameeni cheez hain, sahi waqt pe istemaal hua to kamaal nahin to sirf bawaal.

And what do I tell to people like Mr. Raman or Sagarika or Barkha or Nikhil Wagle? Well, just one thing, the RWTs are not some aliens. They are a passionate, patriotic bunch of our own people. We talk about Aman ki Asha and Global Village but if we cant co-exist with our own people inspite of ideological differences, then we all are equally intolerant. And it wont be long bfore this intolerance reaches the real world too.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yes for Tiranga

Very rarely has a 26th January been watched with the such anticipation. And why not? This year the Republic Day is watched not for the show, the pomp and the dazzle in New Delhi but the action in far -off Lal Chowk in Srinagar. Isn't it a tragedy that the day when India celebrates it constitution, some youth will be facing police and their water canons, tear gas shells, lathis, maybe bululets too, just to exercise a right which Republic of India gives them. And the right is to hoist Indian Tricolour at any place on Indian soil as long as it is clean and respectable towards the flag.

Media has ,as always, gone ahead with its own biases in lambasting BJP and its youth wing for the Ekta Yatra. But no body so far has questioned why has BJYM taken out the yatra. The answers are not too far to find out. In last few years, Kashmir valley has been held hostage by an unholy nexus of seperatists, media and social activists. They at no point of time have lost an opportunity to spit at India or anything remotely Indian. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Arundhati Roy, Gautam Navlakha, Barkha Dutt, Nidhi Razdan are some of the people who seem to be running a campaign against Indian interests in the state. And in each occasions, the government of India has been surrendering. Be it during Amarnath Land Row or the action against stone pelters or troop reduction or the removal of AFSPA. The continous kid glove treatment to the seperatists in valley has not gone well with the other population of the state. That's why you saw unprecedented crowd at the Kashmir conclaves organised by BJP. More and more nationalists forces are slowly realising the dangers of seperatism. They have been wanting to enter the mainstream but have been held back by a handful of seperatists. This yatra is to connect the rest of India with this nationalist part of the state.

And this is precisely why the J n K government as well as Central Government and the seperatists are afraid of this yatra. Imagine a CM who sat silent when Srinagar burnt or was under stone fire, now spewing fire and wanting to stop the yatra. The yatra is to tell him , not to take the nationalist side too lightly.

Looking at the slew of steps taken in recent past, one thing is obvious, you will face no fire if you are a seperatist and want to spread anti-India venom. This and recent statements by Pak diplomats on how Pakistan was close to a deal with the UPA government, one can imagine Government at both central n state giving major concessions to the seperatists. This yatra is also to warn the government from any such surrender. This is precisely the reason, first voice against the yatra came from seperatists leader Yasin Malk. After he protested, NC, PDP and Congress joined the fracas to further their bogus secularism.

In current scenario, it would be prudent if the governments do not indulge in competetive seperatism and allow the youth to hoist national flag at Lal Chowk, the same place where seperatists furled Pakistani flag during recent strife.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Corruption, Institutions and Congress

31st December 2010, Income Tax tribunal passed a long pending order nailing the people (including Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi's close friend O Quattrochi) who allegedly received kickbacks in more than 2 decade old Bofors case. This was the apt end to the year 2010 which for India could easily be called the Year of Scams and Inflation. And ironically the institutions who should be the guard and the watchdogs against corruption are turning out to be the failed pillars of democracy.

Corruption has always been an issue in India since independence. Old timers do talk about how then Finance Minister was forced to resign when allegations of corruption were made against Krishnamurti in 1950s. Then PM Nehru had to face pressure and criticism from leaders across political spectrum including his son in law Firoze Ghandy. Then came the era where Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi made corruption a part of routine life in Indian society. Aided by the license raj and the brute majority that Congress enjoyed, corruption found its way right from the corridors of governance to the common officials on the ground. It took a massive movement by Jayaprakash Narayan alongwith RSS to awaken the entire nation to the dangers of corruption and nepotism. For the first time, Congress looked beatable in Indian politics.

But lot has changed since then 9including method and scales of corruption). In later years, Indian democracy found a few new institutions to work with existing institutions for a clean governance. Alongwith the courts, now we had CVC to keep a vigil on various departments. Media which played a stellar role in the Bofors corruption campaign gained more teeth with infusion of 24 x 7 TV channels. Common sense would have said that with this corruption should have come down.

But the year 2010 has clearly showed how corruption instead of reducing has taken epic proportions. Adarsh scam, CWG scam, 2G scam, the daylight wheat robbery, the sugar scam, Lavasa and many more were unearthed in the year. While involvement of ruling politicians was a given thing, these scams brought in new players right from media Tzars (and Tzarinas) to corporate head honchos to lobbyists to bureaucrats to defence forces to judges to vigilance office. For a moment it seemed, this was a well-oiled unit given protection at the highest level.

If one looks at it closely, it seems Congress has learnt a lesson or two from its Bofors and Narsimha Rao days. While it was as corrupt then, it also used to be regularly caught on the wrong foot because of the various institutions mentioned above. So one guesses that when it came back to power in 2004 as UPA 1, it made a systematic process to weaken the institutions. A case in point is the misuse of CBI in last 6 years. The only case where CBI was seen to be swift was in the Amit Shah where it acted as if it was under pressure to treat a state Home Minister like a petty pickpocket. Compare that to the lethargy shown in CWG or 2G scam. One has been hearing daily since 2 months on how Kalmadi, Raja, Radia etc will be caught in a day or two but nothing has happened. The slow pace has helped the accused to ensure papers are not found easily. Same CBI has been periodically used against Mayawati, Laloo, Mulayam for political benefits at time of crisis. While no one had any doubts about CBI being a Congress pawn, recent IT Tribunal notings make this fact known universally. If an institution is facing a crediblity crisis, the government in a normal circumstances would ensure a person with impeccable credentials is brought to lead it and that means the person is selected by those who have set high standards or integrity. But this is not what Congress did. They brought in Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commisioner. Thomas faces charges in a graft case in Kerala and is also under scanner for his tenure in Telecom Ministry when 2G Scam happened. his appointment was against the wish of Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj. Why this departure from a regular practice where CVC has to be selected with approvals from PM, Home Minsiter and Leader of Opposition? Now the same tainted CVC was given the task to select the new CBI Director. The entire episode shows that Congress is keen to kill the neutrality of investigating and vigilance agencies for fear of being caught red handed.

If there have 2 institutions on whom Indians have place greatest faith, it is the court and the media. But Congress has ensured that these two are made an integral part of their Loot India campaign. Ex CJI Balakrishnan is one person who sat over some of the most controversial economic and business decisions in his tenure. The doubts raised by his colleagues and ex- CJIs on his behaviour and integrity are serious. The fact that his kins have increased their wealth manifold during his tenure is enough to make any person smell a scam. Add to his kin's involvement with a political party and it clearly raises questions over his political neutralilty too. Rather than making such a person leave public life and enquire against him, the Congress in centre has gone ahead to make him the chairperson of National Human Rights Commission. And media is silent in all these acts of ommision and commision. Similarly Congress has ensured many retired and tainted bureaucrats are given such positions after their tenure is over. Ramamnand Tiwari and Subhash Lalla in Maharashtra are similar examples of tainted babus getting plum posts after retirement. Its like asking a thief to keep a vigil on his theft and others wrong doings too.

So far there were a few whispers about the mainstream media being a party in crime with the Congress but the leaked Radia tapes proved that they are a part and parcel of the government and the party. How else can one explain renowned journalists like Vir Sanghavi and Barkha Dutt lobbying for the man who is said to have been the kingpin of the 2G scam? If media is not doing its job of being a watchdog, where can a common Indian look to.

Many skeptics will ask "but how will this affect a common man". Well, this affects the common man the most. Imagine the money Indian economy lost due to 2G and CWG scams. The same money could have been used for schemes for those below poverty line or to reduce the pressures of inflation. The food inflation which is making 2 meals a luxury for a poor man could have been avoided had the government and its institutions not allowed the wheat, the sugar and now the onion scam to happen. Every paisa that is taken away in an act of corruption is a paise on which the aam aadmi has the first right. But this has gone missing to PM Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi or the "PM in waiting" Rahul Gandhi.

But all is not lost. The fact that, inspite of most institutions not playing their part fairly, so many scams were unearthed and the government was pushed to the corner to explain, is heartening. This means that there are elements in media, bureaucracy and judiciary which are not ready to be the slaves of the Gandhi dynasty and care for the country. It is time where people of this country have to revolt against the tenure of corruption which has made life impossible for a common man.