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.