Shock after shock

Lack of accountability

During the current regime of the UPA too many scams have surfaced. Beginning with the CommonWealth Games scam, there was the huge 2-G scam, then there has been the huger coalgate scam, and a couple of days ago, the railways scam has hit the nation. The revelations in the affidavit submitted by the CBI to the Supreme Court have complicated the matters regarding the coalgate even further. The affidavit seems to say that the law minister, Ashwani Kumar, the PMO officials and the attorney general had met earlier and some ‘significant’ changes to the report to be submitted to the Supreme Court were suggested by the minister, which were subsequently incorporated.

This is clearly a huge breach of protocol, propriety and probity on the part of the law minister and the PMO if the said statements in the affidavit are correct. The very fact that the Supreme Court has asked for a clear statement from the CBI and the latter has prima facie mentioned of some actions that indicate to interference or changes in the style of functioning of the agency are damaging enough.

But, nothing appears to shake or wake up this UPA government. In all these scams the governmental political bosses have quickly learnt a few more tricks of the trade. One of these is to go into a total denial mode. When any such so-called ‘gate’ opens up wide, just say that the matter is being studied or reviewed or investigated or is under judicial scrutiny and thus try to buy some time. In fact, the passage of time, it is hoped, will act as a public memory eraser. So, when railway board memberships are up for sale and the nephew of the railways minister is caught with cash amounting to Rs 93 lakh, the UPA’s reaction is to send a spokesperson to declare that the matter is under investigation. So, nothing can be said about it. Time can be the effective ‘Teflon’ of the non-stick political pan.

The second trick is to distance oneself or one’s ministry from the scandalous mishap. So, when the CBI ‘affidavit-gate’ opens up, the prime minister distances himself from the PMO officials’ presence at the so-called meeting. He has no knowledge of any PMO officials meeting the CBI nor does he know of the law minister meeting all of them. Like in the famous three-monkeys, “See nothing; hear nothing; know nothing; and so, say nothing.”  It is a great state to be in.

But, isn’t there some concept called the moral responsibility or conscience? Hasn’t this culturally great nation’s current crop of ‘leaders’ ever heard of it? As a nation, are we fast diving deep into moral debasement and turpitude? When a poor but economically emerging nation’s Rs 1.76 lakh crore rupees get lost in a telecom scam and even more – allegedly to the tune of Rs 4 lakh crore – get mislaid in the allocation of coal blocks, it should be a matter of great worry, woe and shame for the people who are in the top management of the nation.

Totally different

But, what we see today is totally different. None of them seem distressed or anxious or embarrassed. After all, Rs 6 lakh crore can spread over say 30 crore poor Indians at Rs 20,000 a person. It can feed the entire poor population of our nation for a year for sure. As per the yardstick used for poverty by our Planning Commission chief, perhaps, it could feed them for two years or more. But, ‘leaders’ have lost all feelings; population has gone numb. Nothing matters; nothing shocks.

The current scam of top railways positions being for sale should not be seen in just monetary terms. Then, it would only mean the currently discovered Rs 93 lakh kickback. In reality, it points to the terrible cancer that has set in the railways system. If a member of the Indian Railways board can be a ‘purchased’ position, what will it do to the safety and security of the railway system?

During the past few years we have seen rising level of accidents with heavy loss of life and limb. That our rail network needs a modern system of safety is a long forgone conclusion. Over the years, the railways ministers have mentioned the limitation of funds as an excuse. Now, one wonders if the modern equipment per se would take care of the safety needs. How can one trust a rail system to be safe when it is rife with dishonesty and bribery, where its apex level posts are also on sale? If suppose, the member (staff) or chief engineer (electrical) posts are filled by ‘purchasers’ of the posts, what improvement in either the manpower or in electrical and signaling systems can a citizen expect? Corruption would corrode the entire rail system which is the backbone of all economic activities in this country. It is a dreadful scenario.

The spectacle we have is that not only the railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal is refusing to resign, but the UPA government seems to be firmly backing him. We have a government at the Centre that has been backing all the tainted ministers whether it is law or rail or coal. The prime minister, a person who has reached the pinnacle, who should take the ultimate responsibility, has all along been busy saving his own skin. That is the sad story of this nation. Higher level values, issues and concerns have no place in today’s Indian politics and so-called ‘public service’. All the time and effort are being spent in constantly securing one’s feet of clay in the shifty ground of sleaze and greed.

(The writer is a former professor at IIM, Bangalore)

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