Television programmes in India seem to suggest that everyone in public life has wilfully beaten the system by bending the rules to generate wealth. The view that comes across the footlights is that politicians, administrators, businessmen and women are all in the wrong. However, there has not been one leader who has taken on the onerous task of rewriting the laws that are redundant. These laws belong to another age when the ‘ruler’ was a colonial despot operating within a framework that humiliated the ‘native’. Later, the ‘command economy’ and its mechanisms repressed individual enterprise. The Indian entrepreneurial spirit was pulled in different directions and was tied up by laws that were no longer relevant. India was being suffocated. The people attempted to find ways to do business and develop their skills and ideas in an unfortunate environment where the administrative and legal systems and the operating manual had failed them.
Driven by profound frustration, India began to ‘beat’ the system. Enforcers of the redundant laws and their political bosses did not radically overhaul the operating manual to restructure the fundamentals. The divide between the ruler and the ruled got magnified. Corrupt practices ensued. The new mantra seemed to be to ‘manage’ the ruler and his babu. India descended into ‘crony capitalism’. It is incomprehensible that highly qualified leaders did not mastermind the rewriting of these debilitating and insulting laws. An answer needs to be found for this. If there is none forthcoming, let us have some timebound action on that front to alleviate the horror that has been bestowed upon this great civilization by the sheer misuse of democratic mechanisms by a careless leadership that has been assisted by a small coterie of the rich and privileged.
The political and administrative classes that rule our lives in every possible way are sending out all the wrong signals. India aspires to be second to none. Why are we being consciously held back? Why are we being forced to regress? Why are we being chained to archaic regulations? Why is integrity and transparency not celebrated? Why is the ordinary entrepreneur being compelled to resort to dishonesty because the system encourages corrupt practices? Why is it so difficult to change the system? Why has the will to govern and to take on challenges disappeared from the face of India? Where is the celebration of change and growth, of wealth and happiness, of comfort and dignity? Why is India protecting abject mediocrity in every aspect of socio-economic and political life?
Corruption is rampant in India because the system and those maintaining it accept and endorse debilitating mechanisms and processes. Those who have the mandate to alter the base are unwilling to rock the boat. Instead, they go for the individual who remains ‘unprotected’ by colonial and command economy laws. In India, the honest are guilty till they prove otherwise in the court of law. Often the ‘accused’ dies before the final hearing. Those protected by the mere fact that they are employees of the government are never exposed or dismissed for indulging in malpractice, corruption and faulty governance. They become wealthier by the day while those who work hard to generate wealth for themselves and the sector they work in are harassed for tasting success.
The hypocrisy is quite sickening. On the one hand, governments and leaders speak of the need to liberalize the economy. Yet, at the same time, those making legitimate profits are being reprimanded for doing so. The globalized world has written India off as an equal, for the moment. Who will bell the sleeping tiger?