Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Crown Prince and the Masses

We say we are a great democracy. They say India is a great democracy. Are we? We have the history of having been ruled by kings and their descendents. Were we a democracy then? Our governance at the top remains same; to be ruled by the descendents in a particular family remains our fate even after 64 years of having declared ourselves a democratic republic. The pride we take in servility becomes too glaring when none other than Rahul Gandhi is projected as the next Prime Minister of India by the seasoned and eminent leaders of the largest political party of the country, Indian National Congress or simply Congress.

What is so special or so great about Rahul Gandhi that he should be projected as the Prime Minister in waiting? Is he a great orator? Is he a great thinker? Is he exceptionally talented? Has he got exceptional organizing capabilities? Is he an exceptionally gifted leader? Does he possess an overall personality to stand out in comparison to all other leaders and eminent personalities? Answer to all above and any other such question will be a loud ‘no’. On the contrary, of late whenever he has conducted himself publicly, more often he has given the impression of being a moron, specially while reading out that borrowed idea on Lokpal issue from a text written by someone else during zero hour in the Loksabha in late August, 2011. Then why should he be projected as the next Prime Minister of such a vast, populous and challenging a country as India?

Rahul Gandhi as a congressman has a peculiar worthiness which no one else (except his sister) has or can have. He was born as a son of Rajiv Gandhi who was born to one Indira Gandhi who was daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru who had become the first Prime Minister of India. In ancient and medieval times, when kings ruled, their sons, the rajkumars, were groomed to be kings and normally took over from their fathers or after father’s death. They could be capable or couldn’t be capable but none other than them would be the next king. The loyal and servile congress leaders are doing their best not only in grooming and protecting Rahul Gandhi but also in projecting him as the next prime minister of India inspite of his inherent failings. They will do their best in attributing anything good (of late there has not been much) to the vision and leadership of Rahul Gandhi and any failure to other forces. Having born in India, it is my fate to be ruled by leaders who excel each other in sycophancy and for whom sycophancy of a particular family is the greatest virtue for being the leaders in the forefront and with power.

Congress leaders do it on purpose and to serve their self-interest. Understandable. Towards that end they all accept that they have to be less capable than the members of a particular family such that they must be ruled by that family. If they are happy considering themselves as asses why should I complain? But I do wonder about the rest of the country, the billion plus, specially the educated and the intelligentsia among them, who call themselves a great democracy and yet allow themselves to be ruled by a particular family. The uneducated ones may deserve pardon in this regard. But when a large section of the intelligentsia, specially editors, political commentators, the socially elevated, the dignitaries, the film-makers, the writers et-all fall over each other in promoting the crown prince as the next prime minister of India either overtly or covertly, to me education loses all its virtue.

I feel I am a normal person. It therefore beats me how a large section among the intelligentsia of this vast country could promote or even accept Rahul Gandhi as the future prime minister. How do they face their spouses and children with this servile mentality? What does life mean to them? What do liberty and freedom mean to them? Is to be materially well-off the ultimate in life? Is a sense of servility not a curse? I am apolitical and appreciate the capability of congress leaders. But it pains to find that capability not being put to right use. It pains to find even the best among them competing with each other in the art of sycophancy. My life and experiences so far have clearly shown me that I was born in a slave country and present indications tell me that I shall die in a slave country. But I shall continue to yearn that I die in a really free country, free from feudalistic mentality. How my countrymen respond to my yearning, time alone will tell. I doubt if they would bother about an unknown Indian?

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Suddenly there are new allegations made on Baba Ramdev every other day. Anna Hazare was publicly accused of having been totally corrupt. Arvind Kezriwal is being slapped with notices for dues worth lakhs of rupees. This proves they are guilty beyond doubt. Guilty of having been born in a country called India.

The Way Forward

A write up on the recent uprising against corruption led by Anna Hazare.

The Way Forward

In the evening on Saturday, the 27th August, 2011, the electronic media headlines across India screamed ‘Victory of people’s power’, ‘Complete victory for Anna Hazare’ and more to that effect when nothing more than a face saving compromise for all the players involved was achieved. Anna Hazare himself said that it was half victory. The wise said that a ray of hope had appeared and battle had just begun. Cynics continued with their cynicism, history being on their side. Let us try to analyze the recent uprising objectively but with a positive frame of mind.

First let us try to understand the cynicism. Many patriots, their hearts filled with love for their countrymen and with anger for the unjust British regime, notably Bhagat Singh, Vir Savarkar and Chandrashekhar Azad, sacrificed their young lives for us. Mahatma Gandhi, a role model for the world even today, guided us till 1948. In post independent India, corruption became the key issue in 1974-75 and there was ‘total revolution’ led by Jai Prakash Narayan. What is the net result of those sacrifices and efforts? That many a leader thrown up by us, the people, today can easily compete with the most corrupt in the world. Corruption and injustice are all pervasive and at an all time high. History, thus, doesn’t give much hope from this popular uprising. The way forward, but, will be to learn from history rather than to get demoralized by it.

Cynicism also emanates from the fact that Jan Lokpal Bill, even as per draft put forth by team Anna, can’t be panacea for corruption. In fact, there is no dearth of institutions and laws already to curb corruption in India. If all these have failed, why proposed Lokpal also will not fail? Cynics may rightly ask. The examples of Hongkong and Singapore are given in support of efficacy of Lokpal. Not rightly. Because for one these two are miniscule states compared to India, and secondly one doubts if corruption ever would have had permeated so deep and vast in the societies there as it has in India. Anna did publicly challenge that if Jan Lokpal as envisaged by them came into being, corruption would come down by 60-65%. It is anybody’s guess. To my mind, time will prove Anna grossly wrong if their version of Jan Lokpal ever came into being. Lokpal could at best be effective in dealing with high level corruption cases. The irony is that the agitation in the end was precisely for a purpose which is farthest away from the realm of possibility –to ensure that common man’s life becomes hassle free, corruption-free and honorable (through broadening the scope of Lokpal).

If rules and laws could achieve what these are set out to, petty offenders won’t be languishing in jails for years without trial; innumerable people won’t be waiting to get information under RTI Act even after a year (having run from pillar to post) that they should have got easily within 30 days as envisaged in the law; 2G, CWG scams, and even worse scandals not taken up by popular media such as illegal and harmful drug trials on unsuspecting poor, along with fat Swiss bank balances won’t have come into existence; whistleblowers won’t be suffering victimization; police atrocities would be unheard of, and so on. An attempt to change character of a people gone base beyond imagination through the institution of Lokpal is as laughable as anything could be. One who has had a close encounter with Indian bureaucracy will readily understand what I mean to say. No doubt, there are gems of individuals adorning number of bureaucratic positions, but the collective effect of bureaucracy, the backbone of governance, manifests itself in the state of affairs country has witnessed of late. The other pillars are also not much behind.

Does it then mean that Anna and his team have been wasting energy and have been misleading the nation knowingly? Certainly not. What they have done is historical and no child’s play. To me their integrity is impeccable and selflessness is beyond doubt. They have galvanized a country of dead souls for a noble cause. This is all they have achieved since on the front of Jan Lokpal they have not accomplished much yet. But it itself is no mean achievement. It is through this creation of synergy through their hard labour that we have to find our way forward.

A question arises as to who are these people who have been supporting Anna and his cause so determinedly and so passionately, not in hundreds and thousands but in lakhs, across the length and breadth of the country. The government of the day has clearly been the adversary. Are these the same people who had voted the government to power, or the ones who had voted against the ruling parties or those who had not voted at all? I suspect a large chunk might be belonging to the last category. Whatever, thoroughly disgusted with exposure of multi-thousand crore scams on weekly basis on one hand and having to deal with sky-rocketing prices and injustice on daily basis on the other hand, it was natural for them to join the movement so spontaneously.

The uprising and its leaders also have had their share of critics. Who have been these people? First the political leaders from the ruling dispensation, they being the threatened lot. Then those who stand to gain from status quo and the present government. Quite natural. But seemingly a surprise pack have been a number of other social activists and luminaries who themselves have been and will be crusaders against corruption. It is here that the tragedy lies. All the good guys don’t combine to fight the evil. Very often, their egos, jealousy and flawed thinking come in the way. And evil continues to win.

The soundest piece of advice (I am not sure if it were original) to Anna and his team came from Mayavati in the last stages of the fast, “Fight and win elections, form government and make laws as you would like.” Why not if they have got the popular public support as was visible through media? Might is right and might will remain right whatever one may say or write. They must accept the challenge and start working on it, starting from the ensuing UP elections themselves. There is no alternative if they have to have their way, even if they needed nothing for themselves but the masses. Baba Ramdev and his Bharat Swabhiman Party may join and strengthen the cause. Other good forces also may join and do their bit. The converse is also true. If they lose elections, it would mean that people at large didn’t need them as yet and they may quit or strengthen themselves further. They have not achieved much as an outside pressure group in terms of their demands yet and shouldn’t expect to achieve much in future either.

The Lokpals and Lokayuktas are aimed at catching the culprits after irregularities or crimes have been committed. Prevention of corruption is much more desirable and is more effective in saving precious public money than running after the culprits. And various systemic structural reforms, for example in land management and public procurement, are the way forward to arrest large scale corruption. The willingness for same has to come from the political leadership and top bureaucracy who so far, to their own peril, have been impervious to the public outcry and the need of the hour.

The millions who so passionately participated in and supported the movement need not wait either for elections or for Lokpal. They can start fighting corruption at the micro level straight away by resisting taking or giving bribes. More importantly, they should combine and lend support to those around them who become victim of corruption or injustice, with same zeal and conviction with which they undertook the candle light marches and shouted slogans. If they do so, no Lokpal will be necessary to combat corruption. And if we don’t do so, any number of Lokpals will prove ineffective and helpless in arresting the malaise in present Indian society.

PS: This was also published in 'The Statesman' dated 7th Nov, 2011.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Salute

I feel proud to be an Indian, may be for the first time in my life. The way lakhs of individuals on roads have united as one man irrespective of caste, creed, religion, age, sex, profession, class, geography, and political affiliations across the nation with the conviction and passion on display in support of Anna Hazare and with the objective of a corruption free India, I salute them. As Arvind Kejriwal said after coming out of jail a while ago, "now there is a ray of hope". Still, it is just a ray, nothing more. Those who understand Indian society will understand this.

During last couple of days, I have seen editors talking bullshit (Sh. Vinod Sharma of Hindustan Times among them) and editors talking what they should (Sh. N Ram of Hindu) on electronic media. I have seen leaders from ruling party and leaders not from ruling party (Lalu ji) repeatedly making fool of themselves through their utterances, a few lawyer Ministers being outstanding in this regard. But it hurts when people call PM names and blame the government for having been dictatorial and foolish beyond comprehension in having arrested Anna and his team. Why don't people understand that PM meant it when he said his government was determined against corruption? It is for this reason they have been acting (even though appearing too foolish) in a way such that the movement against corruption gains momentum in no time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Defence of Kalmadis and Yedyurappas

About a fortnight back, I penned my thoughts in the form of an article with above title and sent to 'The Statesman' if it could find any use for it. Disappointingly, it couldn't as it seems. So I reproduce below the article/write-up as I feel it is quite relevant in current times.

"In defence of Kalmadis and Yedyurappas

I am an ordinary citizen who reads newspapers and watches electronic news channels. For last one year my conscience has been bombarded with some big names who had been highly corrupt and were looting nation’s wealth or had been the facilitators for the loot. They must be prosecuted and put behind bars to cleanse the society of corruption. Suresh Kalmadi of CWG fame, Ashok Chavan for Adarsh Housing Society, A Raja and Kanimozhi for 2G scam, Yedyurappa for illegal iron ore mining in Karnataka, and now Sheila Dixit again for CWG. The list has ever been increasing. I wonder. I wonder why they should be prosecuted in first place and how their prosecution will help the society.

Let us try to understand what society is. Simply we, the people, are the society. We say that the politicians, the judiciary, the media, and the bureaucracy are the four pillars that carry the society. Kalmadi and Yedyurappa are being accused of having been corrupt. Agreed. How did they get opportunity to be corrupt? Firstly they were voted for, supported and elected by us, the society, to represent us in the legislature. It is not that before their election they were honest or known to be honest. They were voted for not for their honesty or integrity but for considerations such as their political affiliations, their religions, their castes, how they would be useful to voter groups, how much money they could spend or had spent etc. Whatever they were, honest or corrupt, they were before the elections and yet they were elected through a majority vote in their favour. They didn’t change colours overnight after elections. Even after elections they didn’t become OC or CM of their own accord. Someone else entrusted them with the responsibilities out of many options that could be available. The Prime Minister in the former case and the Karnataka legislature in the latter. Is it fair and just on part of the society to ask for heads of those whom it itself gave power to be corrupt? Yes, they are the culprits, but those who empowered them are the greater culprits. And natural justice would demand that they are punished before Kalmadis and Yedyurappas are punished. What happens in bureaucracy? The rogues and corrupts are given top and choice postings (doesn’t mean all top postings go only to rogues and corrupts). And when scandals strike, fingers are pointed at them. Those responsible for having positioned them to indulge in loot go scot-free.

Let us look at it another way also. What does Indian society do to people who show exemplary courage in fighting corrupt systems and attempt to cleanse the same? It treats them as pariah, kills them, or abandons them to suffer. All the four pillars, the politicians, the judiciary, the media, and the bureaucracy combine to be perpetrators or to feign helplessness when such people are persecuted and more than them their families suffer. Sh. Sanjiv Chaturvedi, the forest officer in Haryana and me are two live recent examples (there are a number of dead examples, Late Satyendra Kumar Dubey and Manjunath readily come to mind). I am not aware if any one of them has been honoured even posthumously by the State. Does not the Indian society by its actions demoralize those who tend to serve it and does it not motivate one to be corrupt? Then is it just for the same society to ask for punishment to a few caught in acts of corruption? It is not to condone their wrong-doings but society must understand and accept that it had been prompting them all along to be corrupt. We are really a strange people. We make so much noise about corruption and yet indulge in or accept corruption in our day to day life nonchalantly, and look down upon those fighting corruption from within as unwanted or undesirable aberrations. Sh. Rajinder Puri, for different reasons, through a very well reasoned article in the columns of this newspaper (The Statesman) asked the other day whether world was sane or mad. Answer is evident.

I am none but an ordinary citizen who reads newspapers and watches electronic news channels. I come across great sense of proportion our media has. I come across a channel that goes on harping about matters involving loss of a few crores of rupees for months (CWG scam), but doesn’t find matters involving running loss of thousands of crores of rupees (railway procurement scam) even worth reporting or mentioning. Clearly behind postures, the big names have their own axe to grind. No problem. But when they selectively ask for heads of Kalmadis and Yedyurappas, it causes revulsion. Since they dare not point fingers at those really responsible, the source, continuing well entrenched in their seats of power.

I read and listen to a number of accomplished leaders and legal and social luminaries giving assurances, making convincing arguments, blaming one-another, taking credit for wonderful work done and so on. While they keep themselves engaged in game of one-upmanship, I learn that out of one rupee of public money spent, lesser and lesser is reaching the public. The number of people below poverty line and that of starving or malnourished children in my country is ever increasing by millions. The heads of Kalmadis and Yedyurappas don’t help me, the society or the country as long as the above trends don’t get reversed. And I know as a result of my experiences as a common man and out of whatever common-sense I have that rolling of a few heads among lakhs deserving same treatment hasn’t reversed and will not reverse the trend. Therefore I wonder how their prosecution alone will help the society.

Without attending to basic problems, obsession with Kalmadis and Yedyurappas will be like wasting time in severing heads of Ravana as in no time other heads will prop up to take their place. And let us not deceive ourselves in hoping that basic problems will ever be attended to in current dispensation. In the words of Churchill, we have been allowing and facilitating rascals, rogues, freebooters and men of straw to lead us since independence. I tend to hope they have been more of freebooters and men of straw than rascals and rogues. Though of late those belonging to ruling dispensation have been distinguishing themselves in shamelessness in addition, through their daily utterances. The society allows these leaders to prosper and Baba Ramdevs who take up cudgels on behalf of the masses to pale away.

Gandhiji was not a fool when he compared the parliamentary system to prostitute and sterile woman hundred years ago. Having still gone for same system of governance and having chosen our leaders (leaders don’t chose themselves, we chose them) as prophesized by Churchill since independence, our finding scapegoats in Kalmadis, Rajas, and Yedyurappas will not help and will only be self-deceiving. Unfortunately, we have been past masters in self-deception all along."

PS (27/8/11): I, on the fine morning of the 24th Aug, found the above article on the editorial page of The Statesman duly edited as a special article. I did feel a great sense of satisfaction.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Necessity of Conflict

I reproduce below an article 'Conflict necessary for Creativity' by Sh. Raj Kachroo from today's TOI (Times of India dt 4/8/11). A perfectly written piece of wisdom. It is also relevant to my recent posts. I would request 'good' Indians to appreciate this article.

"When M K Gandhi was thrown out of a train in South Africa he had a choice to make - either to ignore the event and live in peace or enter into a conflict and face harassment, hardship and the possibility of getting physically hurt. He chose the latter. Why? Did he not have a guru who had taught him that living in peace and tranquillity was the ultimate objective of life and the best way to achieve this objective was to avoid situations of conflict? Why did he not walk away?

The Dalai Lama chose to live in exile rather than live in peace in Tibet. He is a spiritual master himself. He preaches peace around the world. Does he not know that living in peace requires avoiding situations of conflict?

Aung San Suu Kyi did not have to stay in jail. Winston Churchill did not have to join the World War. Nelson Mandela did not have to suffer in solitary confinement. Julius Nyerere did not have to fight a war with Idi Amin. There is a long list of people who have embraced conflict despite standing for peace, otherwise. They had the courage to stand up against repression rather than submit to it.

Both the Ramayana and Mahabharata, revered Indic epics, are stories of war, not peace. Krishna did not tell the Pandavas to ignore the incident of Draupadi's humiliation in court (the Draupadi vastraharan). He encouraged them to go to war. The Gita says engaging in war to uphold truth is not a matter of choice for a warrior; it is his duty. Islam says participation in jihad is the duty of a Muslim when the fight is to uphold justice when challenged by oppression, as a way of self-defence.

Most of us are confused between conflict and the method of resolving a conflict. We assume, incorrectly, that Gandhi, as a peace-loving person, must have avoided situations of conflict. On the other hand, he faced conflict head-on. Bhagat Singh and Gandhi were both gearing themselves to deal with conflict, except that Gandhi tried to employ peaceful means while Bhagat Singh chose aggression.

The duty of a scientist, artist or professor is also to engage in conflict against repressive regimes of knowledge. Any kind of limited knowledge is a form of bondage. Albert Einstein advanced the boundaries of scienti-fic knowledge. James Joyce did the same in the world of literature. He flouted rules of writing as he saw them as restrictions on creativity. Picasso and M F Husain, for example, explored realms beyond accepted rules in visual art. Mother Teresa redefined the concept of caring. Every one of them faced criticism and controversy, yet they remained convinced of the nature of their work and the methods they used to fulfil their vision. They remained engaged.

One can only conclude from this that the people we admire and even those we worship have all rejected the existing as being adequate and have chosen to engage in conflict to expand the existing. They have redefined the purpose of our life.

The purpose of our life is not to live in passive acceptance but to engage with conflict in order to be creative. Creativity is the purpose of life. The purpose is to advance an individual soul and the collective Consciousness. The only word of caution here is that we must first settle ourselves spiritually so that we know whether a conflict is justified or not. "

An absurdly unjust society

India is an absurdly unjust society. Most of us know it. For those who don't, I share a simple experience I had today.

Today was date for hearing in CAT (Central Administrative Tribunal) regarding payment of my retirement dues by Railways. The Hon'ble judge had given certain simple directions to the Railway advocate during last hearing. He simply didn't comply with those. No reason, just callousness. What does the judiciary do? They just assign next day for hearing about two months hence. I, the petitioner, is made to suffer for the lapse of the respondent. No harm comes to respondents or any-one else.

Many of us must be coming across even worse experiences in our day to day life in this great country and we just go on accepting the rubbish.

Nakedness and Shamelessness

Generally nakedness and shamelessness go together. But there is a difference. While there is a limit to being naked, there is no limit for shamelessness. This is what present ruling party and government seem to have been trying to teach us for last one year. If we don't learn, they have to continue with the lesson. Rather than blaming them we should learn fast and tell them so. Probably that will make them discontinue their acts of shamelessness further. Good luck!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

O for Opposition; O for Obscure

While the nation, sorry, not the nation but a few among the populace worry about all round degradation in governance, the brazenness and shamelessness of the government and helplessness of the people, they fail to notice or fail to emphasize that the bigger culprit is the 'opposition' of the day. It is the fragmented and good for nothing opposition that has allowed government of the day to continue to smile all the way to Swiss banks while the nation continues to reel under anarchy and total chaos. The meteoric rise of non-political forces ( some exceptionally intelligent citizens don't hesitate to consider them as non-democratic as well; for them democracy probably ends with elected men/women of straw) such as Baba Ramdev and Team Anna is a clear pointer to an obscure opposition.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

L for Lokpal; L for Lincoln Law

At last I have come across a voice of reason in media about obsession of Team Anna with Lokpal bill. Newspaper- none other than 'The Statesman' and writer- none other than Sh. Rajinder Puri. This is what he had to say in his article titled 'Hasan Ali and Anna Hazare' and published in the Statesman dated 26th July, "More than admiration, the single minded pursuit by the Anna Hazare team to enact the Lokpal Bill has started to cause surprise. The surprise arises from the team’s obsession with the Lokpal law as its avowed goal to end corruption while the government’s continuous delay and derailment of the raging ongoing corruption cases is being virtually ignored. Increasingly, the Hazare team’s effort has started to appear more an attempt to divert attention from the current crisis than a genuine effort to fight corruption. Whatever the efficacy or otherwise of a Lokpal to fight corruption, whatever the final shape the Bill to enact the office might take, the exercise is unlikely to show concrete results before the end of this year. Meanwhile, will India continue to be drained by corruption cases that are not resolved by the government? ......................How brazen and shameless can the government get? And to what helplessness and impotence can the Indian public be reduced? Mr Anna Hazare and his team should reflect. It is futile to focus on a distant Lokpal when justice is being raped under their noses. By all means pursue the Lokpal Bill. But why ignore the brazen cover up of corruption proceeding currently?" Thank God! Commonsense does exist though very rare.

As I am educated about Lincoln Law (being practiced in USA) by Sh. Shiv Karan Singh, I feel sure that this law if introduced in India will be hundred times more potent to fight corruption than the Lokpal bill even as per team Anna's draft. In fact proposed Lokpal bill will be effective only as much as it incorporates any provisions of Lincoln Law. Lincoln Law may even be more effective in India than it has been in USA because of our inherent crab mentality. Only thing necessary will be proper and true implementation. Surely well meaning people and a nation of billion plus have simply been wasting their time and energy in pursuit of a Lokpal bill which this very day has been termed 'Jokepal Bill' by team Anna.

Monday, July 18, 2011

P for Parliament; P for Prostitute

It was hundred years back that Mahatma Gandhi had compared Parliament (British at that time) to prostitute and sterile woman, both at the same time. Still we adopted same system of governance for our country. The result is there for everyone to see. More so in last one year when we have been achieving greater heights of anarchy each passing day. Gandhiji has been proved correct beyond any doubt. 'Cash for Vote' scandal is back in the news, again courtesy none other than our Hon'ble Supreme Court. I have said enough about it already. It was perfectly expected of the govt to keep the issue under wraps. Opposition also keeping quiet for three years could indicate that they also had something to hide. But why did our great media chose not to talk of the worst scandal ever having hit the country except whenever they were forced to?

Mahatma Gandhi has been very logical while espousing the above comparison in the book 'Hind Swaraj'. Each word he said 100 years ago at the age of about forty rings true through our experiences of over sixty years of independence. While readers may like to go through the book or the relevant chapter in order to understand what Gandhiji meant, I shall also like to share my own experience with Indian Parliament and Parliamentarians. When the Minister, the bureaucracy and the media comfortably slept over the continuing leakage of about Rs. 5000 crores per anum, I brought the matter to the personal knowledge of all MPs of Lok Sabha and a few prominent MPs of Rajya Sabha through a letter to each of them. My logic was simple. Being public representatives they should bother about public money more than anyone else. They did bother. In their own way. The more responsible ones forwarded my letter to the concerned Ministry also informing me of this action. The wiser ones must have used my letter and its enclosures as toilet paper. The loot continues unabated to this day. I marvel at the wisdom Mahatma Gandhi possessed when I read Hind Swaraj. No wonder we revere him world over through our words. No wonder we abuse him world over through our actions. Hypocrisy remains our greatest characteristic. God has made us that way.

When Churchill made prophetic comments about leaders India would be having, he forgot to tell that it would be so since India were to copy British parliamentary system for its governance. What a coincidence that at this very moment both these countries are being rocked by scandals!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Let us tolerate but let us not accept

I feel tolerance is the greatest virtue of we Indians. And excess of tolerance is our greatest evil. We extend our tolerance in accepting things we must not accept and it is there that we fail as a nation. We tolerate to accept a helpless Prime Minister who publicly says that survival of his government is more important than good governance for the country. We tolerate to accept police atrocities openly on innocent citizens who pay for that police force. We tolerate to accept leaders whose only virtue is that they are past masters in licking some particular asses. We tolerate to accept leaders (in opposition) who are good for nothing but making right or wrong noises. We tolerate to accept media for whom non-issues are the issues and the real issues are non-issues. We tolerate to accept a bureaucracy for whom self-service is the greatest virtue. We tolerate to accept a judicial system which has no time frame for imparting justice.

As a citizen we must understand what we should tolerate and what we must not accept. To give an example nearer home, a relation misbehaving with elders in the family could be tolerated but a relation refusing to look after old and ailing parents or parents-in-law should not be tolerated and should be socially boycotted.

W for Whistle-blower, W for Win

Out of blue, a few days back Railway Board issued an order constituting a committee for revamping RDSO (Research Design and Standards Organization at Lucknow) and naming me as Secretary of the committee. RDSO is an organization of Indian Railways that is supposed to be the root cause for annual loss of thousands of crores of rupees in procurement I and The Statesman have been talking of. Therefore this action of the Rly Board, though belated, is a clear official recognition of my efforts so far as a whistle-blower. In Indian context it is something unprecedented and the Railway Board deserve kudos if they did it out of free will and not under unavoidable compulsions or pressure. I should feel elated since by God's grace it does signal win at last for me as a whistle-blower.

As the initial euphoria dies down, the harsh reality dawns. There will be any achievement only when corrections or improvements are incorporated in the system and as a result of those thousands of crores of public money are saved year after year. That appears too far still though seed has been sown. At present the loss continues unabated as the existing self inflicting rules and procedures continue to rule. With fingers crossed, let us pray something good ultimately comes out for our deprived country-men.

Monday, June 27, 2011

R for Rahul Baba; R for Baba Ramdev

I have grown up, like hundreds of crores of Indians, feeling that I had been breathing in a free country. But as political awareness starts dawning, it becomes clear to an average educated Indian that though legally we are a free democracy, in effect we remain a slave nation. Earlier we were slaves to the Queen, after independence we have been slave to a particular family. The fact becomes too evident in projection of Rahul Gandhi as next Prime Minister of India by the ruling political party. Why Rahul Gandhi from among 120 crore Indians? The only answer is that because he has been born in a certain family. I for one just can't understand what other specialty he possesses to deserve to be the Prime Minister of India. Acceptance of this slave mentality of the ruling party by the country as a whole for last 60 years or so amply demonstrates that we remain slaves in our heart of hearts though we may pose to be a great country with ambitions of becoming a super power.

Baba Ramdev provides perfect contrast to Rahul Baba. Here is a man who rose from his very humble belongings to be the Yoga guru for crores of poor and ordinary Indians. His service to humanity has been unprecedented as he has been instrumental in curing and imparting good health to crores of miserable patients and non-patients for free. And now he is one man, different from our self-serving and egotistic intellectuals, who understands and says what India needs. Total overhaul of existing systems and developing self-sufficient villages. And self sufficient villages as powerful political units of the Republic is what Mahatma Gandhi had in mind for the country India. Alas! while garlanding Bapu's statues all the time, we have taken a direction opposite to what he had desired us to take for our own good.There can't be any denying that Baba Ramdev has no motive other than well being of crores of deprived Indians at his heart in advocating and doing what he is doing. Yet the shameless people as we are, we are busy attaching motives to his actions and attempting to unearth his shortcomings, rather than cheering him and standing up with him. 'Why should a yoga guru indulge in politics?' we ask. This question implies our belief that politics should be left only to rascals and men of straw. And then we don't spare abusing the politicians even. What a class of people we are!

Baba Ramdev says that he represents 120 crore Indians and speaks for them. I wonder whether he knows or not that if they were to choose between the two, majority of servile Indians by far will stand behind Rahul Baba and not Baba Ramdev. That is the harsh reality of our psyche and intellectual bankruptcy.

L for LokPal; L for Lunacy

A country being totally obsessed with LokPal for last one month or so is nothing short of lunacy. There is no doubt that Team Anna are well meaning people desiring to uproot corruption in heart of their hearts. But to my mind they are erring in thinking that a strong LokPal will be the panacea for corruption and other ills, specially in Indian scenario. Quite logically it will be as ineffective as other institutions including Supreme Court (in-spite of its best efforts at times) have been so far in even denting the all around depravity in the country. Simply because power (in politics, in media, in bureaucracy) remains in the hands of rascals, rogues and men of straw and is likely to remain in similar hands for times to come considering the leaders in sight. Before I proceed further, please go through the following recently published article in the Statesman.

"Dissent, turf war undermine public procurement revamp

23 June 2011

shiv karan singh
NEW DELHI/BHOPAL, 23 JUNE: Attempts to reform the mother of all official corruption, the public procurement system, have encountered stiff resistance from bureaucrats out to defend their rent-collecting turf. With the Lokpal and black money issues generating heat, the abuse of discretionary powers by both elected politicians and unelected officials has got pushed under the carpet ~ public procurement revamp is the latest point of the UPA agenda on corruption to hit a false note.
On 16 June, after two extensions, the 11-member committee set up to recommend an overhaul of government procurement submitted its 17-chapter report. Its recommendations have been forwarded to the Committee of Secretaries for further deliberations before they will be put up to the GoM on corruption.
According to sources, however, the report has been forged in meetings that witnessed highly contentious sessions. A total of five dissenting notes have been appended to the final report. Members of the panel representing major spenders ~ Defence, Central Public Works Department and Railways in particular ~ have opposed the idea of changing prevailing procurement procedures to encourage competition in line with best international practices.
Readers will recall The Statesman has published over a dozen reports on the ruses put in place to restrict competition, inflate prices and turn a blind eye to corruption in Railways procurement, for example. The resulting losses in supply contracts exceed Rs 50,000 crore over the past 10 years. Yet, an official source disclosed, in front of the panel the Railways argued that its approval system and purchase procedures need no change! Attempts to contact Mr S Chandrasekaran, the Railways’ representative on the panel, were unsuccessful. Other major procuring departments have taken a similar stand.
When questioned about the stubbornness displayed by these departments, chairman of the panel Mr Vinod Dhall admitted to differences. “Some people feel the present system is serving the purpose adequately,” said Mr Dhall. Ms Ajanta Dayalan, representing the Cabinet Secretariat on the panel, is reported to have sided with the views of Railways, Defence and CPWD. “There is no question of friction,” Ms Dayalan told The Statesman, adding: “A system that has been working and in place for quite some time should not, for some instances here or there, be decried.”
But the panel ended its work on a sour note. Mr SC Sharma (former DG, Road Development), Mr MP Gupta (Former Additional Secretary, finance ministry) and Mr Gajendra Haldea (Advisor, Planning Commission) refused to sign the final report submitted to the Cabinet secretary on 16 June. The three members are believed to be the major architects of the report. The immediate reason for their action appears to be that (yet another) dissent note did not find place in the final report.
While resistance by vested interests and petty bickering has marked the initial stage of procurement reform, the nation continues to lose vast sums due to uncompetitive, non-transparent, and corruption-promoting procurement. Counting the Union and state governments, PSUs and municipal bodies, India spends around 30 per cent of its GDP on purchasing goods, works, and services ~ which amounted to around Rs 24 lakh crore last year. According to estimates, on average, corruption in procurement accounts for losses between 20-30 per cent of procurement value worldwide. With no unifying law on procurement, no simple procedure of making recoveries for fraud and over-pricing, shoddy planning, manifest bid and specification rigging, rampant cartelization and kickbacks being the norm, losses in India are well above average.
Even a conservative estimate of 30 per cent losses, however, would mean the nation lost over Rs 7,00,000 crore in public procurement last year, more than four times the CAG’s estimate of 2-G Scam losses to the exchequer. Such squandering of public wealth in a trillion-dollar economy continues whilst nearly every second child under the age of five is malnourished."

The proposed LokPal will hardly have anything to do with the real evil (roots of corruption) as brought out above or other lesser or greater such evils. To name a few:

1. The rotten judicial system
2. Students with 90% marks having to resort to fake caste certificates to get admission to good colleges.
3. The fleecing of miserable patients by the private hospitals and nursing homes. To get treatment in Govt hospitals will be an ordeal.
4. Corruption among authorities dealing with land and real estate.
The list could be endless.

Already there are a number of institutions to deal with the problems LokPal is supposed to deal with. Only the existing institutions have failed miserably and some people believe that LokPal will be a miracle body with miracle remedies at its command. They simply forget that if all corrupt Indians were to be put behind bars, the cities will have to be transformed into jails. "Just as we can't know when fishes swimming in rivers drink water, we can't make out when officers executing works misappropriate money." This is what Chanakya said as long back as 3rd century BC. While LokPal aims at catching the corrupt, the need is to have systems and a social structure
in place such that there is more motivation for one to be upright than to be corrupt. The present scenario in India not only motivates but urges one to be corrupt. What I am hinting at is an enormous overhaul of existing systems and may be Constitution itself. I know it is easier said than done. But that is necessary if we really want a just society and a political system to sustain that. Where there is will, there is a way. To be obsessed with additional legislation and hope for miracles as a result is nothing but pure lunacy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rascals and Men of Straw

When I posted the last blog, I never imagined what was going to transpire before next dawn. Not only the midnight swoop on the sleeping and peaceful protesters but shameless claim by the police and the governing political leadership to follow, that what had been done was right, just reconfirmed once more that in India power was in the hands of rascals and rogues exactly as had been predicted by Churchill. There have been many confirmations of this in last sixty plus years of independent India if one would bother to look for same. The continuance of those in power still implies that those in opposition are also rascals or men of straw or a combination of these characteristics. And so does it apply to those being ruled as in democracy Govt is supposed to be nothing but 'of the people'. And of course action of the government in the midnight at Ramlila Ground, New Delhi was in public interest. Just like a rapist raping a woman since he felt sure that she would enjoy the act.

There is a quote - ' Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people'. While a whole country is falling to greater depths each passing week if not day, people who matter whether in media or in government are busy discussing people and calling names. Why don't they realize that the ever increasing injustice and corruption means that something is wrong with our basic systems and drastic corrections have become necessary? It could be our bureaucratic systems, our judicial and legal systems, our Constitution or the democracy we follow itself. Or is it that they realize but won't bother as they are the ones personally gaining from the existing systems? Because after all they are rascals, rogues, freebooters and men/women of straw?

The poor citizens of India, largely senior citizens, females and children got inhuman treatment from their own police on that black night. There are protests all around, there may be some more protests and then all will be forgotten. Those responsible will have party time. Next elections are far off and public memory is known to be short. There won't be any justice for the commoners who have suffered heavy physical injuries. While talk of LokPal Bill and bringing back black money stashed abroad will continue to make headlines, every businessman or citizen will have to continue making provision for hafta or bakhshish in his balance sheet for mere survival. The crusaders will continue hogging the lime light. Nothing wrong with that. But the end result?

Or this time round things will be different? A real revolution will really commence? God's grace if it does.

Friday, June 3, 2011

R for Ramdev, R for Revolution

So are we at last witnessing an overdue revolution in India? Are we witnessing history in the making? Baba has set out to achieve the impossible considering Indian character known to us. But let us all hope that cynicism loses and Baba wins. First he gave health to the millions free of cost, the greatest service ever by an individual to the mankind. And now he has set out to affect overdue revolutionary changes in the system. Years back when I heard him first in a yoga shivir and on TV, I felt he was a true person with national pride and welfare of the masses at his heart. So do I feel about Kiran Bedi and Anna Hazare. It was natural that Haves among Haves, who have all along benefited from the corrupt systems we have been following since ages, w0uld feel scared. Hence the attempts by Digvijays (spokesman of the ruling party), Shahrukhs, Salmans and Suhail Seths to spread canards against Baba and malign him and his efforts. But hopefully they will find their faces blackened in the mirror of history. I found public pronouncement by Shahrukh of not supporting Baba Ramdev, day before yesterday, singularly interesting. I wondered who had asked for his support and what was his locus standi more than mine or yours. And no wonder that media, at least a part of it, as mouth piece of the cream among the Haves will openly or surreptitiously do its best to malign Baba Ramdev and counter his efforts.

What Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare are attempting is by no means a revolution. It is beginning of a revolution at best. And even if that happens, it won't be a mean achievement. It is the spirit of these leaders and their statesmanship that is thoroughly commendable. THE PROBLEM IS A TREE ROTTEN TO ITS WELL SPREAD ROOTS. The campaigns of these leaders are targeting a few rotten leaves, the roots remaining largely unattended. Any one who ever has had to deal with our judicial system, our bureaucracy, the land authorities or even those in position of strength in private sector will understand what I mean. If all those corrupt were to be beheaded or sent to jail, hardly any one from the civil society will be roaming free. It's because in law anyone who has taken or given bribe is corrupt. How many of us above forty or even thirty won't have taken or given bribe at some point of time? Or the demanded punishment is to be for those few who are unfortunate to be caught or is it to be for those who have indulged in corruption above a certain level? I am not sure nor those demanding or supporting this demand will be, I am sure. It is such demands, the impracticality and superficiality of these, that worries me. And demands for more laws to ensure better governance take us nowhere. RTI Act was supposed to be a powerful tool to ensure better governance and theoretically it is. But alas! authorities are treating it with disdain and one can't do much about it. The rot all around has been increasing inspite of the Act. The depth of thinking and character needed to treat the rotten roots is sourly lacking. What is required is corrections in and simplification of existing laws and will to implement the same. I can say all this with authority out of my personal experiences.

Still let us hope that revolution will at least begin at last. Honestly I shall be pleasantly surprised if it does.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam

If you were to ask any world leader whether he believed in 'Vaisudhaiva Kutumbakam', I am sure he won't bat an eyelid before answering in the affirmative. Yet they all pile arms for future use against other countries or against their own people at times. I have never come across, nor you would have had, a family where various members pile arms and ammunition for use against each other. Have we ever come across a family where some members feast and many others starve? Where food and food items are wasted when many members of the family go without food? Why should it happen on earth where every educated one will be saying yes to 'Vaisudhaiva Kutumbakam'?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Culprits

So as mentioned in my open letter to Ms Mamata Banerjee, to which there has not been any response, ultimately I have had to take legal recourse to get my pension and other retirement dues. While I am destined to prolonged suffering for trying to be a responsible citizen and public servant, I have a right to ask the nation who are my culprits. To me Ms Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Ms Mamata Banerjee - the top three most powerful leaders of the country - are my culprits, personally answerable to me. For making public proclamations and failing to act accordingly. The latter two for being the chief executives responsible to ensure due justice was done to me and for allowing my victimization. Though flags may fly at half mast when they die, they shall personally remain my culprits for ever. The Arnab Goswamis and Rajdeep Sardesais of Indian media are my culprits for not taking up the issue which was their moral duty if they were true to their profession. The Civil Society and Anna Hazares, obsessed with Lokpal Bill that will supposedly ensure punishment to and recovery from those who will be indulging in corruption in future, but not bothered about the outright mammoth loot going on right now, are my culprits - for being blind to victimization of one who dared to act in the interest of the society at large. The officers of Indian Railway Stores Service are my culprits for not standing up with me when I took up their cause.

And I am a culprit to my wife and shall ever remain her culprit.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Whistle Blowing and India

"Whistle blowing is the process by which insiders go public with proof of malpractice by, or within, large organisations or governments - usually after failing to change the matter from the inside, and often at great personal risk." This is how whistle blowing has been defined in a short and meaningful article published in the fortnightly women's magazine 'Femina' dated 23rd Feb, 2011. I find this definition confirms me as a whistle blower. This article also tells how whistle blowers in India have been murdered and threatened while those in developed countries are publicly honoured and find worldwide support. It categorically states that people in India don't support whistle blowers. That would mean that he or she will be a foolish Indian who goes all out for larger public interest. My experience and example leaves no doubt about it. The State in India does its best to persecute the whistle blowers rather than protecting them, notwithstanding public utterances to the contrary by its top functionaries. Nothing strange in a civil society that selects and elects if not rascals, the men and women of straw, as its leaders time and again. Not strange in a country where laws remain mostly on paper and yet there is always emphasis and clamour for more and more laws.

Luckily or unluckily I have neither been murdered nor have been threatened. But I have been condemned, and abandoned to perish so condemned. I find myself in a state where the earlier I die the better it will be for me. And better it may be for my family since then they will at least get my retirement benefits.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Pain

There is no doubt I have been suffering excruciating pain for last one year or so. My pain has got reflected in the open letters and some of the other blogs posted earlier. It is true that it was my own choice that I allowed myself to be the guinea-pig in an attempt to save thousands of crores of public money year after year. The pain is not that my personal well being as well as well being of my family remains seriously compromised under victimization by the establishment. That would have been too small a cost if thousands of crores of public money were saved and utilized for the welfare of the poor. That is how I felt and thought in my belligerent mood. I had felt that it would impart some real worth to my existence. I had desired for myself just to be able to survive decently while working as would be professionally correct. But alas! that was not to be.

The pain is that I have failed. The loot is continuing totally unabated. The pain is that the powerful establishment down below from the UPA chairperson to the PM, from the Minister for Railways to the Railway Board have not even bothered to think of necessary policy changes, let alone initiating those. The pain is that the 'good guys' who had set out to cleanse the procurement in Indian Railways and public procurement at large in India encompassing lakhs of crores of public money every year, and affect necessary corrections, have disintegrated as usual, having gone down as half hearted warriors. The pain is that the inefficacy of our political system, the acts of omission and commission by our top level bureaucrats, and the hypocrisy of our media stand thoroughly exposed through my example but no one is bothered. The pain is that the daylight continuous loot of such large amount of public money doesn't concern any parliamentarian or any activist of the civil society who are always taking pride in talking big. The pain is that a thoroughly corrupt people (for having accepted corruption and systemic absurdities as a way of life) headed by the fountain heads of corruption themselves are happy to pat themselves for persecuting a few unfortunate ones now and then for corruption. The pain is that the officers belonging to IRSS (a family I myself belong to) continue to accept and enjoy their existence as third rate citizens devoid of professional self respect, worse than that of a prostitute, out of fear or out of lure of the lucre. My pain is that inspite of having been well educated and professionally reasonably competent, I couldn't survive honorably in the system as I was not prepared to accept absurdities and compromise professional self respect.

To counter this pain there has been some solace. There is solace that some well meaning officers of Indian Railways, specially those belonging to consuming and accounts departments, might have become more aware through the efforts of 'The Statesman' and might act better in their limited capacity to save substantial public money in times to come. There has been solace that I didn't compromise my self respect whatever the cost be, while in job. There has been solace that for a few months I experienced a level of existence (when one sets out to sacrifice self for the larger interest of the people one loves, it is a different experience altogether) God must have reserved for the blessed ones. There is solace that I at least tried like the Yossarrian of Catch 22.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Binayak Sen Gets Bail

Day before yesterday Supreme Court allowed bail to Mr Binayak Sen. Another heartening development. The political masters made the right noises that they respected the judgment as if they had any other option. The family said they were happy and they were always hopeful. The consensus was that justice had prevailed. Had it? If there was not a case of sedition as per Supreme Court, how has been the detention of Mr Sen for months justified? Who can give him back months and years of his life wasted and suffered in jail? Won't the bureaucrats and judges responsible for this grave injustice get their promotions? Was establishment or judiciary causing his unlawful confinement corrupt? I ask this last question just to emphasize that while the civil society and the media appear obsessed with corruption (themselves being corrupt to the root), there are much graver fundamental issues that need be addressed.

Mr Sen's is not an isolated case. There are lakhs of cases where either injustice is imparted or justice is not imparted for years by our legal system. Yet being the hypocrites as we are, we continue to acclaim it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Need for Zero Based Thinking

This post follows from the last post. The disappointing developments since last post further add to the need. The egos of 'good guys' are at work and the 'bad guys' are having a silent laugh. Here follows what I wish to convey.

I am an ordinary citizen. Day after day I come across what the distinguished citizens have to say~ there is no dearth of them ~ through print and electronic media. We and they all have been educated and have grown up in a society governed by certain systems and norms for ages. So it is imperative that our thinking is also governed accordingly. Therefore every day we indulge in intellectual masturbation thinking of incremental corrections or cosmetic changes like LokPal Bill, other additional laws or institutions, more powers to this, less powers to that, hanging him or sending her to jail - in an attempt to address perceived ills of the society. We conveniently forget that our forefathers were no less intelligent or concerned and in-spite of the continuing best efforts of so many well-meaning people the things are not improving as we would have desired, rather have been only worsening for humanity as a whole - a glance at the factual data concerning haves-not is sufficient to know it. There was a ray of hope in the popular uprising led by Anna Hazare but that is fast disappearing. As expected, the evil forces are regrouping. The fissures have already started appearing among a society that had spontaneously supported the movement as one man. The politicians are feeling threatened and regrouping lest Anna Hazare capture the space they have been controlling. What amuses me no end is the fact that the people who till other day were holding the politicians responsible for all evils, are questioning their space being taken by Anna Hazare. Obviously the so called intellectuals and pillars of the society don't know what they want except for a place for themselves in the sun.

Where does all this lead us? The need is for zero based thinking - a thinking that will lead us to see what are the basic flaws that have crept in the systems , social and political norms and conventions we have been following blindly for decades and centuries. A thinking that will have well being and happiness of each and every human-being at its core, beyond all regional or national boundaries. "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" not in words but in practice. When we start doing so, we shall soon realize that very basic and totally revolutionary changes are called for in the way we think and we live. That is because the civilization, more so in recent times, has been progressing pigging-back falsehood.

The zero based thinking will have to aim at fulfillment of basic needs of and availability of basic amenities to all humans on earth. There can't be any place for a starving child, an uneducated person, a beggar, pavement or slum dwellers. It is not an impossible fantasy. What is required is only that the people who matter will so. Other things will follow. The most difficult part will be unlearning of the bureaucratic and legal systems, among other things, we have become so much habituated to. It is true that things have evolved over time for us to be as we are today. But the fact that a majority of our brethren, specially in the third world countries, have an existence we would shudder to think of does mean that things have gone wrong in the systems we have created and nurtured. If we really believe in "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam", massive basic changes will be necessary to ensure that all members of the family are well provided for and are happy.

That is if we really bother about the state of affairs in the society, in the country and the world, we must embark on Zero Based Thinking without delay. Otherwise we shouldn't lament at all about the thoroughly hopeless lives we or our brethren live and the injustice we face.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Anna Hazare- The Relevance and The Myth

For about a week now, all the electronic media and the print media have been sieged of Anna Hazare and the movement led by him. There is hardly anything which has not been spoken or written about this historic event. I shall also have my take.

It has been really refreshing to see a true Gandhian suddenly take national center stage. More reassuring has been the fact of spontaneous public support world wide in favour of his crusade, the support that kept on multiplying exponentially with each passing day. As many people put it, the dead souls had, out of nowhere, got some air to breathe. The joke of a government that we are having had no option but to bow to the pressure of the civil society. Kapil Sibal, though, did show his class once again by telling the nation that the PM and Sonia Gandhi had been magnanimous in giving in. I doubt if anything could be more ridiculous, specially in the background of the utterances made by the Congress leaders in public when the movement had just begun. The people of repute questioned the propriety of the recourse taken by Anna Hazare and many still question the legality of the demands and acceptance of same. They again tend to forget a simple thing that propriety, law or any such thing dear to these people had died a natural death in this country at least three years back, if not earlier, when 'cash for vote' scandal took place in broad daylight and the perpetrators continued to rule. Even otherwise, I for one couldn't fault even the slightest the method adopted, stand and decisions taken or the utterances by Sh. Anna Hazare. The relevance of Sh. Anna Hazare and the activists with him namely Ms Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal is historic that they could galvanize a helpless people into a very potent force and make them realize the power they posessed. If they continue with the good work and don't allow themselves to be disintegrated through rift among themselves, as egos of these people and designs of political rulers are likely to cause, people continue to support the issues to be taken up by them, the corruption within society which is so deep rooted and pervasive begins to get eroded - then it will be a miracle and these people will be worth their weight not in gold but diamonds or platinum. (Unfortunately as I write these lines, the fissures have started surfacing already. I do hope that better sense will prevail and well meaning people (Baba Ramdev in this case) will not utter unnecessarily or act in a way that would weaken rather than strengthen the movement).

The issue now being addressed is enactment of a potent law to punish the corrupt in high places. Already we have umpteen laws and institutions supposedly for the purpose. Problem has not been absence of the arsenal to deal with the malice but the use of that arsenal. Have not supreme court judges or even CJI's been known to be corrupt? Have not Presidents been known to be totally ineffective? Have not Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers been known to have continued in office through dubious means? Not being able to make use of existing laws correctly and to enact and throw up more and more laws and institutions in an attempt to overcome inherent inefficiencies and weaknesses can not serve much purpose and will largely be self deceiving. The people have come together with right spirit but for a specific cause that is just a myth. I can say so with authority out of my personal experience in last one year or so as brought out in my earlier postings. The rot is so deep rooted and wide spread now that no medicine can substitute the need for a major surgery.

Let me be clearer. I brought out the annual loss of more than Rs 5000 crores of public money and daylight victimization of whistle-blowers to the personal knowledge of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the PM, almost all members of Lok Sabha, and a few distinguished members of Rajya Sabha through a letter months back. No one has bothered and the top bureaucrats, many of them respected and considered honest, are allowing the loot to continue and the whistle-blowers to be victimised, with impunity. That too when the PM and the UPA chairperson publicly announced that whistle-blowers must be protected. In an article titled 'Pelf and Pilferage' in The Statesman about a fortnight back, Mr. Shiv Karan Singh brought out with facts and figures how leakage of lakhs of crores of rupees was taking place in public procurement in India. I doubt if anyone, including the self -patting media at large looking only for scandals, has bothered to bother. Neither will the purported Lok Pal bother as it will be dealing with cases of individual corruption and will have to do nothing in much more lethal cases of systemic corruption. And how effective can a few Lok Ayuktas be in a country of 1.2 billion where almost every0ne in position of power is corrupt and/or doesn't mind allowing corruption all around? And there are lakhs of such powerful 'corrupts' who will always be keen to bail each other out.

So what Sh. Anna Hazare and company are pursuing - tackling corruption through 'Jan Lok Pal' Bill - is a myth, but the popular uprising they have caused against corruption as such is no mean achievement.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wikileaks and India

Wikileaks struck India a few days ago with the leak about 'cash for votes' - the indulgence of Manmohan Singh govt three years back to save itself through bribing of the MPs. The reaction to these leaks by the Indian media and the politicians and the implications thereof were quite incisively summed up by Mr. Rajinder Puri through his article in the Statesman. I doubt if many people had appreciated or even now appreciate these simple but telling implications. First the media. It was clear to any man in the street who was awake that time that the UPA govt had bribed the MPs to survive for the sake of the nuclear deal. But our media was happy to ignore this greatest crime and sing praises of the perpetrators - the PM and the UPA chairperson primarily responsible because of the positions held by them - all these years, just because they defeated the no-confidence motion that time and also won the next general elections. These wins have made the ruling party believe that there is no place left for accountability in present political set up, and rightly so. This belligerence is evident in the reactions of leaders of this party including the PM himself on public platforms to scam after scam hitting the headlines. Against this background, Indian media's renewed interest in 'cash for vote' scandal after all these years just because a leak from wikileaks surfaced not only appears laughable but also exposes their bankruptcy. More so as in no time they again realized that the issue was a non issue. Game of cricket and the Cricket World Cup was to be the all pervasive issue.

Now our politicians. The purpose of politicians is supposed to be to act for betterment of the masses. I hardly find any politician visible on national scene working for the larger or national interest. Their only purpose is to nurture their vote banks by hook or by crook and to enhance their own political careers in order to enjoy or continuing enjoying power. Such men and women of straw across parties also started making noise on revelations through wikileaks. Why had they chosen to forget this issue of utmost importance? Had not JPC formed to probe the issue failed the nation? Had not the govt failed the nation on not acting to probe further on the JPC recommendations? Why were these jokers keeping quiet all these years and started dancing when a vague leak surfaced on foreign soil? Have they been such fools as not to be aware of what was happening around them in their own country?

The further leaks exposed leaders from the opposition as well to show us what our leaders were. Blame game started among leaders as to who were greater scoundrels. The people of India, all this while, continue patting themselves for being a largest democracy and a fast growing economy. They continue throwing up rogues, rascals and men of straw as their leaders and will continue doing so.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

An open letter to Ms Mamata Banerjee, the Railway Minister

I am posting below an open letter to the Railway Minister, sent to her by me. A few fundamental questions arise. Is there something fundamentally wrong in our political and democratic system through which thoroughly non-competent people come to be the chief-executives and become free to ruin and/or to loot? It remains their choice whether they feel accountable or not. There are examples galore in front of us, of A Rajas, of Sharad Pawars, of Suresh Kalmadis, of Mayawatis, of Yeduarappas and so on. Is period of five years for which such people have total power too long (if one was to misuse power which is the common tendency)? Have the checks and balances envisaged in the system failed? Have some basic radical changes rather than cosmetic corrections become necessary now? Here the open letter:

(An Open Letter to Ms Mamata Banerjee, the Hon’ble Minister for Railways)

7C, Block D, Ideal Towers

57, DH Road, Kolkata-23.

Dated: 28th Feb, 2011

Dear Madam,

I thought you were a great leader. So you are. You fought for the helpless and the deprived. You fought successfully. You always showed great concern for the poor and the downtrodden. You seemed to have a lot of promise, at least to me.

Soon after taking over as Minister for Railways, you summarily replaced chairmen of all the 20 Railway Recruitment Boards handpicking the new incumbents. The worst ever recruitment scam in the history of Indian Railways followed. That was the first lesson for you – ‘a great political leader and a great administrator/executive are two totally different things.’ But unfortunately you chose not to learn. You stated in parliament that Railway procurement and scrap disposal were plagued with corruption. You reiterated your concern in GMs conference that followed. By these utterances you made one believe that it was your priority to cleanse these areas of Railway working. But when the departmental Head responsible for these areas of working (a man of impeccable integrity) initiated action in this regard through scathing inspection report of Belur Scrap Yard of Eastern Railway and taking a professionally correct stand in a tender case for procurement of wagons in Railway Board (against your wishes?), you overnight removed him from his post in an unprecedented action against all established norms, forcing him to take voluntary retirement. Result – rendering the department responsible for annual procurement worth about Rs. 30000 crores and scrap disposal worth above Rs. 3500 crores effectively headless and totally backbone-less, with great detriment to the organization whose charge you are holding through our votes.

You had won the elections with overwhelming votes in favour of your party. You had the power. Why to blame you if in that power-drunk state of mind, you, as other leaders of your time, also forgot that you owed your power to the poor, the downtrodden. They had reposed their faith in you to administer fairly and competently and to work for their betterment. Instead of acting as a trustee that you and your colleague ministers are, you also chose to act as an autocrat, much more whimsical than any of your colleagues. Largely dedicated workforce of Indian Railways is shattered with their morale at an all time low. Self-austerity could be virtue for an individual but doesn’t help an organization that could be benefited only through good governance and positive corrective actions to plug all-round daylight loot. ‘Railway Samachar’ has been bringing out how there is total chaos in the Railways under you. Thank God, still honest, true and bold journalism is alive in India though mostly we come across nothing but sycophancy in the name of journalism, even by the renowned journalists.

I was another fool who got misguided and misled by your public proclamations. I did some hard work to bring to your notice how avoidable leakage to the tune of Rs. 5000 crores per annum was taking place in Railway procurement and how through simple corrective steps it could be plugged effectively. You and top Railway bureaucracy under you assigned it to dustbin exactly as the report on oil mafia in Maharashtra was assigned to dustbin 15 years back and remained so assigned all these years. It required an officer to be brutally burnt and killed in broad daylight for everyone including officer preparing it and the media to wake up to it. But in this case, soon enough ‘The Statesman’ brought the issue out in four parts telling the nation about loss of Rs 50000 crores in last decade, followed by a perspective article ‘Will Didi slay the Railway demon?’ Now you had to bother, at least for public consumption. An enquiry/investigation had to be ordered. You did so. However the real message was not addressed and the messenger was shot. I was transferred to a farthest location unceremoniously. Politician in you was at its very best. Publicly you were praising the reports in ‘The Statesman’ while in private you were overseeing the victimization of the officer who knowingly/unknowingly had sowed the seed for these reports. The editor of ‘The Statesman’ urged you to act against this victimization through his editorial ‘Mamata must act’ but you didn’t. Instead of slaying the demon, didi had fallen prey to it.

You had been presented with a great historical opportunity. You had only to desire and saving of thousands of crores of rupees per year in Indian Railways was there for the taking. (If your advisors couldn’t, I was always there to tell you how. But sitting at a very high pedestal, you didn’t consider it worthwhile even to meet me). That huge saving would have been just in one area of working. Madam, goodness is more contagious than evil. Your one corrective action would have inspired and activated the other well-meaning but dormant forces in the organization as well, resulting in further saving/earning of thousands of crores of rupees through stemming of the rot in the other departments. Then you wouldn’t have had to go to the Finance Minister with a begging bowl as has been necessitated now.

And who knows if as a chain-action, this goodness in due course would have encompassed the whole government that is today reeling under anarchy to the horror of the whole nation. But alas! When it mattered most, you also chose to be a part of and party to the rot (misguided by your advisers on Railways?), having promised so much the opposite.

The nation is disappointed in you but you are not bothered, feeling well entrenched through your knowledge that the poor voters of West Bengal, your political base, will never understand these things that how you had been leading a mammoth organization, the Indian Railways, to disaster. (Apart from Railway Samachar, India Today and CNN-IBN have also very recently reported that once profitable Railways are fast approaching bankruptcy during your short tenure). These poor voters having unflinching faith in you will probably be further befooled by the foundation laying and inaugurations by you and your lieutenants almost on daily basis in the state of West Bengal, and the populist proclamations being made by you as and when the opportunity is there. Or at least you and your cronies believe so.

You must be wondering who am I to dare to write to you in this way. I am simply invoking my power as a ‘citizen of India’ and Hon’ble Minister madam, you are answerable to citizens like me, more than to anyone else. So I believe. Please do note that I am apolitical lest you should attempt to dismiss this also as a conspiracy of the Left. Whatever Nira Radias, the media moguls, the corporate big-wigs, the top bureaucrats or the powerful ministers may think, the power of truth is the ultimate power. Unfortunately, in the land of Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, we have forgotten it.

I know that basic problem lies with me for which none other than God is responsible. He designed my birth in this country but didn’t equip me with faculties to be able to understand the ways of this great country. He equipped me with commonsense but not commonsense enough for me to understand that commonsense was an evil and not a virtue for bureaucrats and bureaucracy in this country. He didn’t make me comprehend how leaders posing to be too concerned for the poor could knowingly allow continuous leakage of thousands and thousands of crores of public money and why they won’t take action to stop the loot and recover the looted amount that they could readily take. He didn’t make me understand how just being a Prime-Minister or a Minister could be a virtue.

My problem is that I have not yet been murdered, a distinct possibility for one exposing the powerful cartels perennially looting thousands of crores of public money. Had I been murdered, probably you would have publicly expressed condolence to my bereaved family, and ordered payment of my dues and family pension to them. You might have also awarded me posthumously. Had I been murdered, our alert media also would have taken note of the issue at least once to give them a news item for a day or two before forgetting the continuing loot as much more important issues like eating and sleeping habits of celebrities would always be beckoning them. Probably you and bureaucracy under you are just awaiting that? Since in the meantime they are carrying on the would-be murderers’ job themselves by making my life as troublesome as possible. Of course, public awards in the largest democracy of the world have to be reserved for those in proximity with the powerful ones.

What else is my problem? Continuing huge leakage of public money in Railway procurement? It is true that every Railway officer who is aware of the issue, including the Board members, knows that the facts brought out by me are that- facts – and that the amount of leakage estimated by me is an understatement rather than an overstatement. It is true that still everyone is continuing with the policies and actions that support the loot. It is also true that you, the Minister, one person ultimately responsible to plug the loot of public money, have chosen to do nothing to save thousands of crores of rupees year after year that could be utilized for the uplift of the poor for whom crocodile tears are shed day in and day out and whose votes give our leaders the power for them to use or abuse. Still the leakage is not my major concern today. If the Railway administration doesn’t feel concerned, if the people of India, their elected representatives, the known public activists and crusaders, and strangely the media at large – all have deemed avoidable and ever increasing annual loss of Rs five to ten thousand crores to be a matter of no consequence and importance, why should I lose my sleep over it? Or how my loosing sleep could help in a country of one billion plus hell bent on proving Winston Churchill a prophet for the scathing comments by him about our future leaders at the time of India gaining freedom? I do, however, feel bad as my heart does bleed for the poor and the deprived.

But madam, my victimization has to be my concern only. And so it is. That’s why this letter. You who gave slogan ‘Maa, Maati, Maanus’, decided not to pay any heed to my representations against my victimization. You forgot I was also a human-being as you were and had a family to look after. Yes, I have to pay the price for having been born in this country. But as the concerned Minister it is you who are personally responsible, more than anyone else, not only for continuing mammoth leakage and plunder of public money, but also for my victimization first through transfer and now through non payment of my outstanding dues including salary for months, my retirement dues, and monthly pension, maintaining absolute silence for above three months now since I retired voluntarily after having given due notice. Let us not forget the inevitable. Death awaits us all.

It is true that I could seek judicial redress and in all probability I shall have to do that, but has the governance deficit, now being publicly worried about by the stalwarts of the society, to reach such a level that public servants acting in public interest are starved by the government and even for basic and fundamental things one has to rush to already over-burdened courts?

Being a poet myself, I fail to understand how the artist in you could allow the torture being caused to one having acted in public interest by the boneless Railway administration. While the Prime Minister is publicly proclaiming resolve of his government to root out corruption, administration under you is openly working overtime to root out those who have been sacrificing themselves in fighting the far bigger menace of ‘institutional corruption’ from within - the real thing in contrast to mouthing of idle words. What a way to root out corruption! The joke in the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s claims stands out.

Still I hope the poet in you will start breathing again and good sense will soon prevail. You will be able to free yourself from the clutches of self-serving and rudderless bureaucracy and resurrect the true leader in you. I do hope that you for one will prove Churchill wrong. Soon, to our delight, we, the citizens of India, will see Didi overpowering and slaying the demon!

Wishing you all the best for the coming assembly elections,

(Atul Kumar)

(Ex-COS/Metro Railway, Kolkata


a citizen of India)