Thursday, July 4, 2013

Pawan Kumar Bansal must now be re-instated…..

Pawan Kumar Bansal, ex Railway Minister, has virtually been cleared by the CBI. He has in fact been made a prosecution witness, which means he will assist the CBI in nailing the culprit; the real culprit if I may say. I had written a post on 5th May titled “First corruption case that looks plausible ….Bansal must quit” demanding, like many others, that Bansal step down till the inquiry was completed. Well, now that it has been, and he has not been made an accused, it’s time we reinstate him.

The opponents of the Congress will no-doubt say that this is evidence that the CBI is still a caged parrot, and that there is no way that Bansal could have got off if this wasn’t true. No one in the world can address the delusions of a disbelieving lot. But such opponents must equally answer the charge why they should not be accused of putting the cart before the horse. In other words of deciding on the case before hearing its merits?

The CBI has been on Bansal’s case like a Rottweiler, attacking him, tearing him up, feeding juicy gossip to the media and what not. It’s actions forced Bansal out of his office. It’s pursuit of the case was relentless. Many were in fact surprised by its ferocity, and wondered if the agency was “on a rebound mission” after the stinging criticism it got from the courts on Coalgate. If anything, the CBI had a lot of its reputation at stake, and making Bansal its witness cannot do much good to that – at least in the public’s eyes.

Bansal must be re-instated. Not because Bansal has been proven innocent (he hasn’t yet), but because we know that the charges were frivolous. If we don’t, then we will lose forever, the right to demand that someone accused of corruption or other crimes step down. The judicial process will take years to close. It is simply not fair that a person should be made to suffer when the investigating agency itself has virtually given a clean chit.

One of the reasons people in authority refuse to step down when accused is because many of the accusations are bogus. Politicians often file random charges against their opponents almost as part a political strategy. A strategy to malign, knowing that the person will never be able to exonerate himself fully. Even if the courts do so, the public will always retain a doubt about him. This is a known fact. Unless we break this way of thinking, no one in future will take the lead in stepping down.

Every now and then, there is a demand that chargesheeted politicians should not be allowed to fight elections. Again, if we don’t develop an honest and transparent, and most importantly time bound, system of figuring out in a “dip-stick” way whether the charges are sustainable or flimsy – even while the courts take years to decide – we will never be able to implement this vital electoral reform.

The TOI has asked some questions that the courts will no doubt need to look into. One of them is whether all this – a nephew making crores, meetings taking place at minister’s home, the beneficiary’s name being cleared purely on merit etc – is possible at all without the minister being involved. In my mind, yes. The city of Delhi is full of touts and power brokers, claiming to be close to one person in power or another. They look for connections with them, which gullible suckers would find believable. They exploit this fake closeness for personal gains. For example, the driver of a minister’s car may become privy to some bits of information, and may trade that for personal gain. In this case, the minister’s extended family was obviously close to him (they had common business interests), which is why the nephew had access to his home. Maybe the nephew even knew that the beneficiary (Kumar) was the most eligible of all, the one the minister was likely to clear for the promotion. So he exploited this information, by misrepresenting to Kumar that he was not going to make it. And that he (the nephew) could make it happen. It’s all so easy, so simple. This kind of thuggery happens all the time. Many times, people in power come to know of such things only after years. Maybe Bansal has now realized it. And that is why he has agreed to become a prosecution witness against his own nephew.

Because there are many in power who do indeed exploit their power for self gain, a belief exists that all of them do so. In some ways, this belief of ours spurs even honest people to become corrupt. An honest IAS officer (and there are scores) is forced to think “How do I gain by staying honest. The world outside will still believe I am corrupt”. As people of this country, we must be tough in demanding an honest regime, but we must be equally fair in ascertaining our facts before jumping to conclusions. Only the politically motivated can do otherwise. For them, the matter is closed the moment a charge is levied.

And for god’s sake, the BJP must stop running for cover behind the CBI all the time! The same CBI is grilling Naveen Jindal, a Congress MP in the coal case. The same CBI is also nailing the role of Dasari Narayan Rao, former MoS – coal, who belongs to the Congress. It is the same CBI that the BJP’s owns state government in MP turned to for help in solving the murder of an IPS officer. The same party’s MP Rajya Laxmi Shah demanded the same agency’s inquiry against the Uttarakhand government. So is the BJP’s criticism of the CBI just a convenient ploy to duck its own embarrassments? Just because the CBI has made Bansal a prosecution witness, or charged Narendra Modi’s cops with a fake encounter, it doesn’t make the agency’s actions suspect. Except to those who are on the opposite side of the ruling class!

The real truth is that in our own interests, we must demand that Bansal be reinstated. By doing so, we will help in creating a regime in which the accused step down, having faith that the truth will come out in quick time…..

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