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THE HAND OF GREED

The scams that have plagued and shamed us over the last many weeks continue to hog headlines, and spokespersons of the ruling dispensation continue to defend the indefensible, giving explanations that carry no weight whatsoever. Lines are being blurred between scams and political lobbying, despite the fact that both issues are clearly different from each other. Careless interpretations have damned many individuals who got caught on the sidelines, thereby distracting the people’s attention from the more fundamental issues and from those who have manipulated the system for their personal ends. This is the usual trick that is deftly applied when some select players need to be protected for political reasons.

The time has come to streamline the norms and rules that guide businesses, thereby making the professional space clean and conducive to doing good business. We cannot afford to be a nation that demands and endorses corruption. Even if we put aside the more complicated spectrum scam and focus on the simpler businesses in the service sector that generate a large chunk of the national revenue, the complex web of permissions required manages to create endless entry points for bribery and corruption. For example, if you are initiating a medical project of a charity hospital, there are 211 permissions that need to be sought. A pay-off is required with each to get the project moving, even though the application is legitimate and all the papers are in place.

Find a cure

Setting up a hotel or resort in India should be a promising proposition, given India’s layered and special past. But it is an excruciating and thankless exercise. Once you get your no-objection certificate to construct a hotel, you have to file separate applications for electricity and water connections, as well as for a fire-hazard clearance, a bar licence and so on. At each point, a hand is stretched out demanding a bribe. This is unacceptable in circa 2010, particularly since the prime minister is emphasizing the desperate need for a rapidly ascending rate of growth. We will never be taken seriously as an emerging economic power unless we learn to conduct business with honesty.

Even as I sit in a remote district of western Rajasthan, endless text messages blink on my phone, announcing that A. Raja’s diary has been discovered in the raids, that two Union ministers are possible recipients of his pay-offs, that bureaucrats and journalists are involved as well, and that no ‘names’ are being leaked.

In sharp contrast to this kind of greed and horror lies a verdant desert after an unprecedented monsoon, something that generations of desert dwellers have not witnessed. But, for the first time, these people are realizing the scale of the betrayal that the rulers of India have perpetrated on them and on this benighted nation.

Two years ago, in the same area, the roads were smooth and well-maintained and the small hamlets and towns comparatively clean. Today, the roads are patched up with layers of tar. This is a typical example of a jugadh solution that symbolizes the corrupt mindset of the Indian administrator. Why does India allow this insult upon its person? Why do we as a people permit our rulers and administrators to get away with the complete lack of accountability? Why cannot the few — perfectly civilized — elected leaders not see what is afflicting this country and attempt to find a cure? Why this callous neglect?

Someone needs to rise, speak out and commit himself to the cleansing, revival and rejuvenation of our national ethos of collective responsibility — something that was instrumental in the liberation of India in 1947.

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