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Corruption Inc takes over India
Jul 28 2008

Joginder Singh

I am an avid television viewer. The only trouble with watching TV serials is that there are far too many commercial breaks. But whenever Parliament is in session, especially debating sensitive matters or a confidence motions, there is nothing to beat this live, unrehearsed and quite often extemporaneous entertainment. The high TRP ratings for last week's televised debate in Parliament proves my point. But on the other hand with televised parliamentary sessions any gimmick can become a handy tool to drive home a point.


On July 22, one has to concede that a new low -- or high, depending upon how you look at it -- was established. Wads of currency notes were waved around with three BJP MPs claiming that it was bribe money offered to them to abstain from voting. Cash-for-vote is a new phenomenon after the cash-for-question scandal. Of course, in politics, as is in any other field, winning is all that matters. Nobody remembers the runners-up.


Money and politics are inextricably linked, not only in India but everywhere in the world. Despite the protests against the use of money to stay in power, this is not something new. Indeed, the quickest way to become rich in our country is through politics. The president of the Congress in 1962 had lamented that Congressmen who were paupers had become crorepatis.


A lot of din was raised in Parliament over the alleged inducements offered to some MPs either to abstain or switch sides. The protests are all very well, but do they translate into anything meaningful or is it only a drama to show to the people that the protesting parties are better than those in power? The correct course of action would have been to apprehend the person trying to bribe the MPs and hand him or her over to the police.


One by-product of the episode has been that most parties have gone on to expel members who did not adhere to the party's stand, including the political party to which the Speaker belonged. One wishes that the same amount of concern had been shown to tackle corruption in the country.


The latest Transparency International survey, that looked at corruption in India's school education sector, specially focussing on 'Below Poverty Line' households in rural areas, has thrown up even more scandalous conclusions than what we witnessed in Parliament. Its June 2008 report says that the survey, which covered 22,728 randomly selected BPL households across 31 States and Union Territories, revealed that a majority of those who paid bribes did so for getting their children admitted to schools or for getting their children promoted from one class to another. Issuing school-leaving certificates was another lucrative business for corrupt school authorities. However, the amount of bribe was the highest when it came for allotment of hostel accommodation.


According to the report, on an average a BPL household had to pay Rs 171 as bribe in the last one year, mostly related to school education of their children. While looking at States with moderate or high corruption in the school education sector, the level of corruption in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya and Goa was found to be "alarming".


Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Assam and Madhya Pradesh reported 'very high corruption' while Chandigarh, Delhi, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Nagaland were put in the 'high corruption' category. Roughly, over Rs 880 crore were paid in bribes by the BPL families in one year.


Also, Transparency International has ranked India at the 72nd position among 180 countries in terms of corruption. It also says that "maximum corruption takes place during Government procurements". For example, when the Government buys wheat or arms, or when public sector units procure raw material. This is also extremely difficult to quantify.


Even international organisations like the World Bank have exposed corruption in projects aided by them which are only the tip of the iceberg. Regrettably, neither the masses nor the politicians feel outraged at the high level of corruption that prevails. Another survey has shown that Indians pay bribes worth more than Rs 26,725 crore every year; the actual figure is much higher.


In India, public sector undertakings are often made to sing and dance to the tune of the Ministers who are in charge. For the first time, the then Chief Vigilance Commissioner, in November 2003 complained to the then Prime Minister that six Cabinet Ministers were allegedly harassing PSU chiefs for "personal favours". The PSU chiefs had complained to the CVC. One PSU chief was reported to have said that he was asked to get Rs 20 crore delivered to his Minister's party office. When he refused to do so, he was "denied" an extension.


Despite India claiming to become a new destination for global investors, 38 per cent of over 5,400 companies' representatives, in a survey by global consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, said they were asked to pay bribe to get licences.


The people's exasperation on corruption has been best expressed by the Supreme Court, which has observed, "Everyone wants to loot this country. The only deterrent is to hang a few corrupt persons from the lamp-post... The law does not permit us to do it, but otherwise we would prefer to hang (corrupt) people from the lamp-post."


The more you read and observe about this thing called politics, the more you are likely to be convinced that each party is worse than the other. Truth is strictly optional in politics. The trouble is that laws are framed in air without consulting those who are either affected or who are charged with the duty of enforcing them. The result is that even those who are guilty are let off as they know their rights better than the ordinary citizens.


Justice Malimath, who headed a committee on reforms, says there is a need to concentrate on the rights of the victims. "The present criminal justice system has totally collapsed and is not acting as a deterrent for criminals... With the rate of conviction in criminal offences being low, there is very less risk factor for a person committing an offence. A national survey shows the conviction rate around seven per cent. So, 93 per cent get acquitted, resulting in criminals moving in the society without any stigma."
 

Sushubh

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am not a fan of P. Chidambaram. I hate him for all the new taxes we have in the system today. But he was the wrong target for the shoe. And the target was an awful one.
 
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ganesh177

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Is it becoming a fashion within journalists now ? I think this was unecessary. If we really start throwing shoes at the politicians who are not upto our expectations, then soon the shoe companies will flourish in india.
 

amish

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LOLI am not sure but I think shoe thrower on Bush got 3yrs and judgement didnt take 6-8 months.Lets see what this journalist gets and after how many years!
 

Sushubh

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i believe congress would get him out as soon as they could to generate some free publicity.they would not want him in jail with elections coming up.and bjp would be a fool to not use this as one of their weapons to target congress and their bad deeds.
 

Fiber_Optic

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^^ that would be highly counter productive, chidambaram is not just any person, he is the home minister of the Indian union,which is an institution, when some one throws shoe at him, he insults the institution. The guy who did this should ideally be sent to jail, but knowing congress they would do what they do best - nothing :ashamed:
 


Sushubh

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heh. congress could probably get chidambaram to hold a press conference 'pardoning' the dude who threw a shoe at him. practically speaking, the dude worked at a newspaper. he did not intend to hurt the home minister. it was a bad form of protest which must be punished. but the timing is bad for that. especially when congress is being mocked by its current partners with seat sharing agreements. :)
 

cool_asim

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This form of display is just not right.. he should be punished to set an example to others.. however lets see how our responsible parties are gonna handle this situation. :rolleyes:
 

cyberwiz

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apparently the dude has apologised and congress has decided not to press charges.Does this signal the start of a new shoe throwing epidemic ? If this continues very soon journalists would be attending press conferences bare-footed and perhaps only in towels? :redface:
 

sachins

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Chidambaram, this idiot english gentlemen wannabe should have just said "no comment' when the journalist asked him that question. Instead he acted like a true politician and played diplomacy with his own countrymen. Someone kick this fool out of office for me. He's no different than the other moron on the block, pranab mukerjee. For 2 months he fooled the entire country with speeches like "india has all options open" and "what did pakistan say, hmm?". Corruption party aka Congress party - fooling the country since independence.