Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lets not be an unfair society. Let’s not treat Anil Ambani and the Bhushans differently than Raja and Kalmadi......

Two incidents over the last few days show how we have become blatantly unfair in our approach to corruption. One is the entire stinking episode of the Bhushans about whom I have written earlier. The other is about Anil Ambani and the ADA group’s involvement in the 2G matter.....brought to the fore today after the bail pleas of their senior employees was rejected by the courts today.

In the case of the Bhushans, there are enough grounds to at least doubt their integrity. It’s not proven yet, but there is a prima facie case that they have taken undue advantages from powerful politicians that they obviously know so well....the charge of avoidance of proper taxes in Allahabad was serious enough. Now the new charge of acquiring land at cheap rates in Noida makes them even more seriously accused. There is also some doubt about whether they are lying or the question of whether Shanti Bhushan ever met Amar Singh or not. Considering the key position they occupy in the joint committee set up to draft the Lokpal bill, its surprising how they have decided not to step down. It’s also surprising that media and civil society is not immediately suggesting that they resign. Clearly, we are applying different standards to them than we do to politicians. If a polilician were similarly accused, we would expect him/her to immediately step down. Not so the Bhushans.

Then is the case of the senior employees of the ADA group who have been charged and have now been jailed in the 2G matter. Again, its surprising that we, in civil society, do not demand that it should be the senior-most person of the this case Anil Ambani.....who should actually be arrested. We are ok that he is spared while his poor employees are arrested. Surely, we do not believe that the decision his managers took were taken without his knowledge and active agreement? Anyone who has worked in the ADA group knows exactly how much energy and verve Anil Ambani’s impossible (not just unlikely) that he was in the dark on the issues raised. Why then has he been spared? More importantly, why is it that in a similar situation involving a minister, we would not hesitate to demand his/her resignation and even arrest him/ matter how distant the relationship may be between the minister and the level at which the crime happened? We saw that in the Antrix case. The Antrix S-band deal was an independent decision taken by had the necessary approvals of its Board. Even today, there is no case established against the deal. And yet, we were all demanding the PM’s resignation......why?

It’s sad that we have so much antipathy towards our politicians that we are willing to apply the harshest possible standards to them while sparing others who are probably even more guilty of corruption. I don’t know if anyone has ever considered how difficult it is to be a politician in this country. To get elected, you need investments.....but there is no one to fund you. Your party expects you to “raise” the funds yourself and in fact....contribute to the party’s coffers. What can you promise to those who give you the funds? Obviously, favors. This is where corruption starts. Even honest politicians have to engage in this much of corruption. Then when you become an MLA or MP, you get some measly allowances from the government to run your office and your life. You have no direct power and are in no position to return the favor to those who funded your election. So you become innovative......start “referring” your friends to the powers that be; use your funds under the MPLAD or other similar schemes for dubious purposes. And so on and so forth. Even after you are elected, it is reasonable to expect that you have to wait 20-30 years before you become part of the Executive.....where you get more powers in your hands. And you will only reach the Executive if you have demonstrated your ability to raise funds in the past and support the party in its activities. Even after you get the power, you are under constant scrutiny of media and a multitude of governmental bodies like the CBI, ED, CAG, EC, Income Tax and what not. Everyone wants a cut. Everyone wants a favor. Anyone can accuse you of anything......he/she has to prove nothing. Media is happy to play up the accusations.....all in the name of free speech. You are assumed guilty before the trial even begins.

Now if this is the kind of environment we have created in politics, then who is likely to be part of it? Clearly, for the “chaalu” type of person, politics is full of promise. If you can maneuver the levers, you can make a fortune. But if you are a clean person with only the love for public service driving you to join politics, you have no place in it. This is why none of us wants to enter politics. It’s an extremely unfair treatment that we give our elected reps. This is extremely sad in a democratic country.....a fast developing one at that.....which needs the best hands on the deck to steer it ahead full blast. If only the scum of the nation enter politics, then we are doomed as a country.

It doesn’t help to blame politicians. It helps to sort out the real issues. Start with the election process. Election funding is the starting point. Make it clean. Speeding up the judicial process is the next step. If decision from the courts could come quickly, then we can make a law that people charged with serious crimes cannot contest elections. At present, cases linger on for so long that it is impractical to enact this obvious law. We must then pay the politicians well, so that good people are attracted to politics. We must empower them so that they can make changes as required. Just like the Board of a company empowers the CEO. And please.....let’s not see all politicians as being corrupt. A majority of them are clean.....if you don’t include the election funding related bits.....Some of them are dirty, just like some private sector promoters are. Can we please have the same rules applying to both?

The real truth is that both Anil Ambani and Shanti Bhushan should be punished. Just as severely as Raja and the babus. Both of these are fully involved in whatever they are being accused of. It’s not fair to arrest salary earning employees when the promoter himself is fully involved. It’s not fair to let the Bhushans go off the hook when they conduct themselves in this manner. Let’s be’s as important as being non-corrupt....

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