Saturday, October 30, 2010

Between scam India and slum India

Byline by M J Akbar: Between scam India and slum India

It is entirely appropriate that a nation whose motto is Satyameye Vijayate should discover a metaphor for ravenous loot in a Mumbai building society called Adarsh. Greed is the new religion and all are welcome to feed at her trough. Nothing else is sacrosanct; not the highest offices in public service: Chief Minister, Army chief, Navy admiral, or top bureaucrat through whom the file must pass. If there is a flat to be stolen in a housing society sanctioned for the welfare of war widows, then every single one of these crooks is ready to cheat the blood of Kargil martyrs. Thomas Friedman did not know how many puns danced on the head of a simile when he called the world as flat and began his journey in India.

There is no shame left. It is tempting to ask whether there is an India left when most of its ruling class has abandoned every principle in its composite, vulgar commitment to theft, but hopefully India is larger than its ruling class.

Which came first, hypocrisy or greed? Tough question. I would give primacy of place to hypocrisy, since that is the cloak behind which greed flourishes. Hypocrisy is always a great temptation in a democracy, since compromise always begins in the name of either realism or service. The gap between true expenditure in an election and officially sanctioned levels is the principal propeller of corruption since it becomes the justification for taking illegitimate "donations", which of course is the polite word for bribes.

The stink of hypocrisy now permeates through all levels of authority, and institutions - like our defence forces - which cannot co-exist with corruption. They will be corrupt or a force; they cannot be both. The list of officials who stole from the Kargil dead is almost embarrassing: politicians, senior IAS officers, top defence officers. It was a rigged lottery handout.

It was robbery from the graveyard of Kargil martyrs. Those back-scratching cronies who distributed Adarsh flats between themselves should not be tried for corruption. They should be punished for treason.

But of course that is asking for too much from rulers who have become venal beyond belief. The system believes it can satiate any level of public anger with the meat of a scapegoat. Suresh Kalmadi was the officially nominated sacrifice for the putrid rape of public money during the Commonwealth Games. Ashok Chavan, chief minister of Maharashtra, will possibly have to resign because of Adarsh, unless he can, quietly, blackmail his superiors in Delhi by threatening to reveal how much cash he has been passing on to them.

We are being fooled by a clever set of manipulators in Delhi. Ashok Chavan did not become corrupt on the day media discovered that he had not only changed the terms of reference to cheat the "heroes of Kargil operation who bravely fought to protect our motherland" and then calmly stolen at least four of their flats for his family. He was corrupt the day he was made a minister in the Maharashtra government. He was promoted to Chief Minister not because he was competent but because he knew that the formula for upward mobility in the Congress, the happy combination of loyalty and corruption. When Delhi now puts on a mask of high outrage, it is only because it thinks this is the only way in which it can postpone retribution from the voter.

The voter does not live in Adarsh. 62% of Mumbai lives in slums. The distance between scam India and slum India is measured each day in the newspapers but discomfort prevents us from noticing. Even media seems reluctant to shorten this distance. While the front page of Saturday's newspapers in Delhi were full, justifiably, of the Ashok Chavan-led pillage, a small story on page 3 told of an unknown mother who left her two children, a boy, Pukar, and his sister Dakshina, outside a 'mazaar' [a saint's shrine] just outside the office of the Election Commission in Delhi, the home of the guardians of democracy. She gave her children all that was left with her, a bag with milk and some clothes, and told them she would return in an hour. She never returned. Her last trust was faith in the shrine. The children, said the temporary caretaker of the 'mazaar', Wazir Shah, cried the whole night. The children are now in a shelter.

They will learn to deal with the hungry, homeless, loveless reality that is the destiny of half of India while a thin skim ravages national wealth, and those in-between are trapped between dreams and insecurity. But will Pukar and Dakshina accept their "fate" and ignore Ashok Chavan and his fellow gangsters in the way that their helpless, nameless mother did? I hope not.


Odd Man Out said...

Jawaharlal Nehru said blackmarketeers should be hanged from the nearest lamp-post. Time to do that for the corrupt but, sadly, there aren't enough lamp-posts.

Dr. Chandra Prakash said...

Respected Sir,
You have pointed the CWG scam, and Flat distribution scam, it is only a random sample out of many scams in the list. Only the politicians are not responsible for the corruption, we are also the part of it. Because to see and tolerate the corruption is also a part of the corruption. Generally after the scam the political leaders resign from the post, but how many bureaucrat have resigned from the post?
Our bureaucrats have made such a system that they are free from any blame, they constitute the committee for the implementation of the scheme and keep them selves away from the committee. If any question is raised after scam against the scheme, they simply reply that “it was the decision of the committee. I was not the member of the committee, who has recommended the Award or the allotments.”
In one of the scheme of the central Govt., when I have enquired about my project, they have given me the information only that your project was not forwarded by the concern Institute, the local selection committee has not found your project suitable. Even if you send the petition through P.M. office, they are not suppose to give answer?
Actually we are the victims of the bureaucratic system, implemented by the British Govt. before the independence. Only the change of the name from ICS to IAS is not sufficient.
After retirement the bureaucrats became the chairman or Vice chancellor of the University, although in their life time, they were not the Academician or Professor, just they are obliged by the politicians for their service in their favour? Any body, who raised a question, he may be victimized. Hence no body protest against the system.

StarGazer said...

Nice emotive article bringing out our sheer lack of dignity self respect when it comes to acquiring wealth.
There has been a lot written about corrupt polititians and other big shots. However, this I beleive is a more deep rooted void in our moral beleif system. I would guess that most of the 'common man' who vociferously condemns and expresses outrage at the various scandals, wouldnt mind bribing a traffic cop or evade tax or any acts of financial misappropriation - in their own scales.
You have absolutely hit the nail on the head with your relation of greed and hypocrisy.
Sad ghaving to admit that we are a Greedy, Hypocritic society. The only way out seems to be a combination of stregthening morals along with taking the crooks to task.

Sanjiva Prasad said...

I can understand the depth of outrage against the kind of crony corruption that rules our political order, the latest being the Adarsh Society scam. However, I'm genuinely troubled by whether we adopt a dubious morality in condemning such cronyism. About 40 years ago, a much respected bureaucrat, who held the top job in the civil service and beyond, was honoured with the nation's (second) highest civilian award, a name synonymous with bravery and integrity in our nation's history, ensured that many of his friends and admirers got plots in what has now become a swanky south Delhi colony. Of course he did not do it for any pecuniary consideration. Would this be corruption?

Puzzled said...

Ref Adarsh Towers
If a hostile power wanted to weaken our armed forces, they would use one of the oldest techniques – weaken the morale. Deliberate acts of covert subversion, false propaganda would not have achieved this as effectively as Adarsh Towers episode has done! If not immediately, the episode will, in the middle term, shatter the morale of Indian armed forces unless some immediate corrective action is taken. This is what this mail is about.
The following link connects to an excellent article on the subject of Leadership in the Armed Forces, by Air Commodore Aslam Bazmi, Pakistani Air Force, Retired.
Classic examples of use of psychological warfare during the Second World War are found at the following, among many others:
Also pertinent is the link
This clearly states:
"The psychological aspect of warfare, whether conventional war as in Bangladesh or guerrilla war against the Naxals, is the most crucial element of success. Yet, being intangible and ill-defined, it is neither well understood nor appreciated. Raising the morale of soldiers/policemen and lowering that of the adversary is primarily the single biggest responsibility of the leadership -- political as well as military."
The latest coverage states in TOI dated 30 October 2010:
Facing embarrassing heat over their ownership of flats in the Adarsh Housing Society, built in the name of Kargil war widows, three former military chiefs — Gen Deepak Kapoor, Gen N C Vij and Admiral Madhvendra Singh—on Friday offered (Offered as in Politicians’ resignetions?) to give up their apartments.
In a joint statement, the former service chiefs said: “At no stage were we aware that these flats were meant for Kargil war widows as claimed by some sections of the media. If this be so, we have absolutely no hesitation whatsoever in returning these flats to the authorities concerned.”
The issues this whole episode now involves are:
*Loss of respect for senior officers
It shall not be long before a serving Captain or Major does not offer the traditional respect retired Generals are accorded when they enter an Officers Mess. The juniour officers are well read and well informed and would see no reason why they should do so any longer. After all, they would argue, these guys are liars with low moral fibre.
*Loss of confidence in Senior Officers tactical acumen
How much longer before a Captain or Major or a jawan asks – “If the Generals are so ignorant, fail even to assess the legitimacy of Adarsh Tower or the security risk posed by the Tower, can I trust their judgement when they send me into battle and possible death?
*Loss of trust in Senior Officers
The “Caeser’s wife” formula applies, more than ever, to Armed Forces personnel – particularly senior officers.
If a hostile country, even purely for psychological propaganda, claims ‘We have bought the loyalties of some senior officers’, why would the juniour personnel, or, for that matter, the Indian citizens, disbelieve it? The current instance, to them, shows the generals are ‘for sale’ – for personal gains!
If the matter goes into normal Indian legal loop, they, as everyone else, know that there will be stays, perhaps more falsification of documents and so on. The ONLY action that would convince the Armed Forces is razing the tower forthwith followed by disciplinary action against the Generals and all uniformed people involved. The argument that ‘This would be a waste of resources’ should not carry any weight. That loss would be a very small payment for restoration of morale.
As regards the legal hurdles, surely a presidential ordinance can be used to overcome them?

KP said...

Dear MJ,

Your post gives a voice to the frustration with the political-bureaucratic capture of the state.

Since most scandals at best are resolved with the resignation of a few tainted individuals - the underlying systemic problems remain.

I am keen to know, what you believe is the ideal denouement of this issue - if it is to set a benchmark.


StrideLimitless said...

The beuty of this post lies in discovering the role of hypocricy metamorphising in corruption. Now it is a time to go a step further and recognise the role of 'hypocricy of Faith' leading us to 'Hypocricy in Economy and Politics.' This connection is more relevant in any society valuing faith or religion the way we do. Our conscience condones conflicts like God is One but He has many Attributes, and Idol worship is prohibited by God but it is necessary for us, so that we comprehend Attributes of God etc.

If all conflicting and antithesis faiths can be true at the same time, why integrity, hypocricy and corruption can not be equally moral at sme given time??

Nawaz Sayyed said...

The ghost of bribe will haunt to our Neta Babus till their death beds and the mud of grave can only fill their greedy stomachs.

kunal said...

New year has started with old beginnings.Politics,scams & Cricket dominate r headlines again.

kunal said...

New year has started with old beginnings.Politics,scams & Cricket dominate r headlines again.