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MAKE THEM PAY

Over the last month, television channels and some newspapers have been filled with stories that are mostly irrelevant to readers and viewers. They have no serious intent or substantive content. They do not tell of the scams plaguing the country or the world, nor give any insights into what positive changes the new government is planning to bring about in the light of all the promises it made. Over the years, many journalists lost their credibility by living off ‘doles’ from the babus from almost every ministry as well as from politicians with their own agendas and scores to settle. They had become mere ‘conduits’ with high pay scales, and had ceased to find out and present honest, truthful information. They would no longer cross check and verify the material they collected or conduct enough interviews to get both sides of a story. Journalism, as we once knew it, had ceased to be.

Media houses are identified with the views held by their owners, and the journalist, much like a tutored robot, has become a tool in the hands of his or her bosses. They are bound to deliver the message that is given to them, regardless of what the truth might actually be. They are forced to do away with good journalistic practices. It is rumoured that the incumbent government is taking measures to prevent the leakage of information from the ministries. This may be a good thing because very often much of the news that was ‘leaked’ would be lopsided, telling only half the story. This was done with the intention of muddling, and perhaps covering up, the core problem. These tricks were played by the babus in order to benefit themselves and to promote half-truths in the hope of gaining the favour of powerful leaders.

Reality check

Momentarily stunned by the restrictive measures put on them — they have not yet had enough time to figure out how to return to their old, indisciplined ways — the bureaucrats are in office on time and are actually working. This is the right moment for the government to attempt to restructure a corroded system, and to take a look at all the unnecessary perks and privileges that these bureaucrats get. For a start, babus must be forced to pay the same rates for the electricity they consume in their homes as other citizens. They must also pay full rates for the petrol they use, regardless of whether they are going to work or out for dinner. They must hire gardeners to tend their lawns and not have the freedom to use help from the horticulture department of the government; they must stop renting out the ‘servants’ quarters’ attached to their official residences because it is unlawful to do so; the illegal extensions that they have made to their homes must be demolished; and office peons must not be used as ‘bearers’ for parties at home after office hours. The babu must be jolted into reality and then made accountable for the job he has been entrusted with. India will salute the government if it shows this respect to ordinary citizens who actually generate wealth.

Exploiting the citizen while allowing failed bureaucrats to get away with anything is no longer acceptable. The politician, at least, is compelled to go out into the field every five years to win the confidence of the people, unlike the babu. It should be mandatory for all members of parliament to return to their constituencies when the Parliament is not in session, and work with the people who elected them. If this were to be enforced across the 500-odd constituencies, then true change would take place. All parliamentary ‘committees’ can be made up of Rajya Sabha members, and these should be compact and functional. They should be made accountable and all decisions should be implemented in a time-bound manner. Was not this the sort of prompt governance that was promised?