People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 24

June 12, 2011




Is This the Way to Fight Corruption?


EXPRESSIONS such as ‘farcical,’ ‘absurd’ and ‘trivialising’ utterly fail to capture the bizarre developments of the last week. The midnight police swoop against Ramdev and his supporters sitting on a protest at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan was the culmination of a series of deceitful compromises that the UPA government had made with this Yoga proponent. The condemnable police action, which injured many of the innocent participants, is outrageous and deplorable.


Many issues have been thrown up by these developments, and these require serious consideration. At the outset, however, it should be noted that the large public participation in such protests against corruption in high places and the government’s completely inadequate, widely perceived as insincere,  response in unearthing ill-gotten black money stashed away in tax havens abroad, is a reflection of widespread popular disgust at the rampant corruption that is being seen all around. These columns in the recent past have highlighted the need to take effective measures and substantiated this through concrete steps that must be immediately undertaken by the government. 


The prime minister later described the police action as “unfortunate” but says that “there was no alternative.” To so justify police action against hundreds of innocent people, abrogating their democratic right to protest, is completely unacceptable in a democracy. It is the government’s own doing that had brought the situation to such a pass. Today, Congress leaders portray Ramdev as having ‘betrayed’ them and of having a ‘dubious character’.  Were such assessments not clear when the government sent a high-powered delegation of four senior most ministers and the union cabinet secretary to enter into compromises with him?


Today, the government is raising the issues of Ramdev’s business deals. Were they not aware of these facts while they were making their own deals with him? Between 2006 and 2011, his business empire emerged, with 34 incorporated companies. These are the facts recorded in the files of the corporate affairs ministry. The two main trusts run by Ramdev have reported a turnover of over Rs 1,100 crore in 2009-10. He owns an island in Scotland, reportedly donated by a disciple. He offers five star deluxe AC yoga camps and the tent erected for his protest at Ramlila Maidan --- ostensibly for fighting corruption --- had many an eyebrow raised. Questions have been raised regarding the land on which his Ashram stands today in Hardwar. 


The principal opposition party, the BJP, has emerged during these developments equally disdainfully --- using Ramdev as its political mascot. A week before June 4, when the action was to begin, the RSS had sent out circulars to all its shakhas to join the Ramdev movement. The RSS’s involvement was fairly obvious from such sponsorship. Among those who were prominently seen supporting Ramdev were the RSS ‘poster sadhu’ --- Sadhvi Ritambhara --- whose incendiary speeches fed the Ramjanmabhumi movement leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Another ‘saffron’ stalwart, Uma Bharti, used the occasion to re-enter the BJP. The BJP president had formally committed his party’s support to Ramdev. Following the police action, the BJP made an attempt to appropriate the movement and organised a dharna at Rajghat in a mood of ‘gaiety.’ Clearly, for the RSS and the BJP, more important than the issue of corruption and black money, is to seize this opportunity for their political revival. However, with the track record of its state government in Karnataka on the issue of corruption, these efforts sharply expose its double standards. 


Using the popular disgust and discontent among the people against corruption in high places, both the Congress and the BJP are seeking to cynically exploit these developments to their advantage.  In the process, the all-important fight against corruption and black money is being negated. This is perhaps by purpose as both --- the Congress and the BJP --- promote crony capitalism.


Through these columns in the recent past, we have noted  how the issue of the Lokpal has been pending before the country and the parliament for over four decades now. On three occasions in the past, at the insistence of the CPI(M), draft bills came before the parliament, including the current one. However, the vexed issues discussed in this column last week continue to be used to be used as pretexts to prevent the enactment of such a law. 


Popular pressure must be strengthened to force the government to bring before the parliament an effective bill to enact the required law to curb corruption at high places and to bring back the ill-gotten black money stashed abroad. This must be done urgently and these monies must be used to provide the much-needed improvement in the quality of life of our people.