The greatest disappointment, verging on shame, has been the abuse hurled by elected representatives on the sanctum sanctorum of our democracy, the Parliament. India had had it good not that long ago. There was an intangible sense of hope and aspiration laced with tangible growth and change. The euphoria was short-lived. The scandals that have plagued this government, led by an honest prime minister, baffles the mind and infects the imagination. All of India, rural and urban, is appalled.
In 1957, on December 16, initiating the debate in Parliament on the famous Mundhra scam, Feroze Gandhi, the husband of Indira Gandhi and the father-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, said, “… a mutiny in my mind has compelled me to raise this debate. When things of such magnitude, as I shall describe to you later, occur, silence becomes a crime.” Here is a crucial lesson to be learned: we must bring morality back into play. The people of India are being insulted with ‘silence’ on all critical issues that plague their lives.
When one recalls the first few decades post Independence, one is reminded of the pride and hope in the future that my generation felt. We looked to our leaders as icons who embodied our aspiration to become a confident and self-reliant nation. As the world changed, India too began to change, but very slowly. In the process, it lost momentum. Had the ‘reforms’ been introduced in the 1960s, we would have been in a very different place. Tragically, India began to get corrupted within the frame of the command economy and the newer bureaucracy saw an opportunity to control and regulate, usurping power. This rapidly descended into the strangulation of all enterprise. A creative people and an energetic nation were compelled to stagnate, suffocated by frustration, as a bungling babu killed initiative at every level. Regulation that came with the colonial regime continued to be inflicted upon a liberated people. Benefit was for a few, particularly for the political and administrative classes that grabbed privilege, denying it to those who worked at generating wealth.
The restructuring of the economy, albeit haphazard, created more corruption because there was no radical overhaul and rewriting of the laws that govern India. The dependence on government and the babu’s clearance — a no objection certificate — for all social and economic activity brought India to a grinding halt, leading us into shame and humiliation. The largest pool of human skill and creativity in the world was being systematically assaulted with faulty governance. The political and administrative classes, the privileged and the powerful, have been chipping away at our civilizational foundations. We have been coerced into becoming corrupt as a people since the ruling class has forced our hand — clearing nothing, holding back every NOC without an illegal exchange of money. The lawmakers and those mandated to enforce the laws have broken the law with impunity to make money.
This polluting disease has many simple remedies. There has to be a political will to administer the drug and the leaders have to stop themselves from being led by the nose by their babus as well as be prepared to lose the gaddi for doing the right thing.
That spirit of politics has, alas, died. The calibre and quality has diminished. The intellectual acumen and ability to engage on issues that affect us all have become a distant mirage. It is unimaginable that the prime minister cannot see what has happened under his charge. It is equally impossible to comprehend why he has not acted firmly to introduce administrative reform, transparency and accountability, regardless of what may be the consequence of his actions.