Farce of oaths and pledges

At the silver jubilee celebrations of the Rapid Action Force in Meerut on October 7, 2017, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh passed a snide remark at those who believe that merely taking a pledge does not transform the country. To prove his point, he added that we achieved Independence in 1947 after our countrymen took the pledge in 1942 to initiate the Quit India movement. Driven by the passion to attain freedom from despotic British rule, all Indians joined hands and succeeded in driving them out.

Year after year, our countrymen take pledges on various occasions like Anti–Terrorism Day, Official Language Day, National Integration Day and Vigilance Awareness Day, Swachch Bharat Day, and now even National Unity Day on the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on October 31, which has been lately added. But having taken the oath, none seems to remember it thereafter.

The Clean India fortnight or Swachch Bharat fortnight as it is commonly known was observed from September 1-15 this year. In the pledge taken by all government servants, they promised to devote two hours every week to voluntary labour, that they would each persuade 100 others to take a similar pledge, and several other promises as per the directives of the government. How many have kept these promises is anybody's guess.

During National Integration Day or Sadhbhavna Divas on August 25 every year, pledges are taken that everyone will work for the "emotional oneness and harmony of all people of India regardless of caste, region, religion or language" and that all differences will be resolved "through dialogue and constitutional means without resorting to violence". In reality, every effort is made to divide the nation on the basis of caste, region and religion. Communal harmony is a distant dream, if one goes by the incidents during the last few years.

Year after year, such pledges are taken by millions of government servants all over the country. Yet, no perceptible salutary effect over them has been noticed. Nor has the corruption level shown any downward slide. One still has to bribe government officials to obtain any service at all.

In the defence services, paramilitary and police forces, every person takes an oath during the Passing Out Parade, swearing by god that he or she is "duty bound to honestly and faithfully serve" in the force, and go wherever ordered "on land, air and sea" and that he or she "shall observe and obey all commands of any officer set over me even to the peril of my life."

In reality, however, the oath is more often flouted than obeyed, the only exception being in war and counter-terrorist operations when they lay down their lives for the country not just in obedience to the orders of superiors but also for love of the country. The oath is taken by placing their hands on the national flag, the flag of the Force and the scripture of the religion to which one belongs. No sooner one is posted to hard areas like the northeast, Kashmir valley or the Left Wing Extremism-affected states, every effort is made to get the order cancelled or amended to a relatively peaceful region.

Lost glory

The medical profession is not insulated from the hypocrisy that pervades Indian society either. It was once considered a noble profession. No longer. It is common knowledge that doctors and hospitals fleece patients. The large number of deaths of infants at the hospital in Gorakhpur is a glaring example. The doctors in the hospital would advise patients to visit them at their private clinics where they would fleece them. This is not confined to Gorakhpur alone, it is prevalent in government hospitals across the country.

All doctors take the Hippocratic oath at the end of their medical studies, which includes a pledge that they will "apply for the benefit of the sick all measures that are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism". How far they adhere to this oath is well-known. Greed gets the better of them, the oath is forgotten.

Our courts are fine examples of how untruth makes every attempt to overshadow truth. Witnesses rattle out lies without any compunction to tilt the verdict in favour of the guilty. The guilty go scot-free, innocents are denied justice. The judges have no choice but to go by the statements of the witnesses. Astounding is the fact that these statements are made under oath.

Our politicians are no less guilty. After taking oath in grand, televised ceremonies to uphold the Constitution, they do everything to the contrary. A good number of them with criminal records acquire positions of power that give them immunity from being hauled up for their misdeeds. Not by the law of the land or the Constitution but by the might of the politicians is the country governed. Goons go scot-free, as happened in the Alwar lynching case recently, while innocents languish behind bars. Verdicts are reversed with change in dispensation.

Taking a pledge is merely a ritual, with no sanctity attached. When pledges are taken, all employees gather at a place at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time, awaiting the top man's arrival, who after making a speech for the occasion reads out the pledge and the others repeat after him. At least an hour is lost in such rituals, thereby millions of man-hours in government offices, with no benefit drawn from it all. It would be better to just put up the pledges in the form of posters that will constantly remind employees of them.

The sanctity of oaths and pledges must be maintained at all times and at all costs. Our countrymen in pre-Independence days stuck to their pledge as they were people of integrity and truthfulness. Not so now.

(The writer is a former Inspector General of Police, CRPF)

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