(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 10, 2011
Defeat These Patrons of Corruption
BY the time this issue reaches our readers, the multi phase election process to the state Assemblies would be well underway. Polling would have been completed in Assam. The campaign would have ended in Tamilnadu, Puduchery and Kerala.
As widely anticipated, apart from local issues specific to each state, the issues of corruption and price rise are dominating the campaign. This is particularly so in Tamilnadu where the ruling DMK alliance, ably and completely supported by the Congress, is seeking to retain its government. Thanks to the DMK’s largesse in distributing freebies like colour TV sets to every family (though only 50 per cent of the households benefited from such promises), the issue of 2G spectrum scam has become a household point of discussion. This mother of all scams, alongwith many local level scams specific to Tamilnadu, has brought the issue of corruption in high places to centre stage.
Corruption as an issue in these elections, however, is not confined to Tamilnadu alone. The spate of corruption scandals that have erupted in the recent months like the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Housing Society, Antrix-ISRO, the cash for votes, illegal mining, IPL funding etc etc have reduced the Congress-led UPA-II government as being one of the worst patrons of corruption at high places. This reminds us of the timeless story of Ali Baba and forty thieves. There is, however, a crucial difference in the present situation. The forty thieves are running amok in the absence of an Ali Baba.
This has naturally led to a situation where corruption is being seen not merely as a loot of public resources at the expense of depriving a better livelihood for the vast majority of our people but there is also an awareness that such ill-gotten wealth is being put to use to corrupt the people themselves by attempting to purchase their votes through the display of money power. This process is the most brazen in Tamilnadu.
The former union telecom minister, a DMK leader, is currently in jail in connection with the 2G spectrum scam. Another DMK leader, union minister for chemicals and fertilisers, has, in what must be a unique first, sought anticipatory bail. Notorious for using money power to ensure electoral victory, this particular minister was apprehending that he would be caught and arrested. Under instructions from the Election Commission, a strict vigil has been mounted with the physical checking of all vehicles. Already crores of rupees have been impounded. In fact, the Election Commission had to move the Tamilnadu High Court to intervene to stop the transshipment of money in police vehicles. Recently, a private bus was caught when found to carry crores of rupees in a false ceiling! Such is the desperation of the DMK that it is putting into service all its creativity in trying to buy its way to victory.
Such is the collateral damage that corruption causes to our parliamentary democracy. It distorts the democratic choice of the people by seeking to corrupt the people themselves. It is not only the DMK but also the Congress party which is widely seen as the chief patron of corruption in high places that should be put in the dock in these elections.
There is also a larger issue involved. How can the country prevent such large-scale corruption. Prevention is not only a moral issue. Of course, it is gross immorality. But, such ill-gotten wealth and the illegal black money stored in tax havens abroad must be recovered and spent towards providing a better quality of life to our people. We had pointed out in these columns in the past that the amount of money looted in the 2G scam alone would have been sufficient to provide food security for all Indian families (APL + BPL) for full two years. Alternatively, this money could have led to the implementation of the Right to Education Act passed by the parliament. This would have required the spending of Rs 35,000 crores every year for the next five years, to construct new schools, recruit new teachers, make provisions for mid-day meals etc all over the country. This mega corruption is denying all this to the people.
We had earlier pointed out in these columns that the neo-liberal economic reforms have opened up hitherto unknown avenues for corruption through the flourishing of `crony capitalism’. India has no dearth of resources to provide education, health and better quality of life to all its people. Corruption, however, loots these resources depriving the aam admi of a better life. In the process, such corruption is actually depriving India to realise its immense potential.
This brings on to the agenda the crucial question of how this malice can be eliminated from our system. The absence of an Ali Baba must be filled in by an institutional framework to tackle this menace. The government and the political leadership of the country cannot escape from being accountable to the people. The criminal culpability of those engaged in such corruption cannot be absolved. The current agitation by a section of social activists is a reflection of this widely popular sentiment amongst the people. The discussions on the content of such institutional mechanism (the Lok Pal), however, must not detract from the urgency to pursue the criminal culpability in all the scams exposed so far and should not deflect attention from the need to bring back huge amounts of money stashed away in foreign banks. Needless to add, on both these counts, the guilty must be severely punished. The coming session of the parliament must enact the Lok Pal bill preceded by a well meaning widespread discussion both amongst the political parties, social activists and, most importantly, the people.
(April 6, 2011)