Posts Tagged ‘ Corruption Scandals ’

Politics of Lok Pal Bill

It is a pity that the corruption debate in ‘Incredible India’ has been hijacked by competitive politics in the country. We are indeed ‘incredible’. We have worked really hard to prove Sir Winston Churchill, right, about his observations, when the matter of the independence of the Indian Subcontinent came up in the British Parliament. 

Churchill as Leader of Opposition in House of Commons of the British Parliament was visibly upset about the demand for Independent India, and the reasons for that are given in this extract of his speech – “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber and men of straw. They are Brahmins who mouth and patter principles of Western Liberalism. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air and water would be taxed in India”.

These words from 1947 in hindsight, are prophetic. While Indian politicians and the rich have stashed away black money, estimated anything between $500 billion to $1.5 trillion, outside the country, successive governments have been bundling to pass the Lok Pal Bill – an ombudsman organisation, an independent body similar to the Election Commission of India, envisaged 42 years back. The fact remains that the manipulative self seeking politicians and bureaucrats have not only failed to pass meaningful laws against corruption and have made the ones that are passed, virtually ineffective.

But when the plundering reached benchmark levels, we have had middle class messiahs, who declared ‘war against corruption’. Remember T N Seshan, the garrulous Chief Election Commissioner whose inspired fear among the politicians and awe among the middle classes in the mid-1990s. Seshan’s efforts did see a reduction in overt election expenses, but within a few months of retiring as CEC, he attempted to beat the netas by joining them. In 1997, he lost the Presidential Elections as a Shiv Sena candidate while in 1999; he lost by over 1.8 lakh votes as the Congress-backed candidate against L K Advani in Gandhingar. Twice hurt, Seshan eventually retired to a quieter life in Chennai, embraced by Rotary Clubs but forgotten by the vast multitude of his countrymen.

And today we have Anna Hazare, the Gandhian who has lead a lot of non violent protests against corruption in Maharastra, Padma Bhushan awardee of 1992 for his efforts in establishing Ralegan Siddhi as a model self sufficient village and now leading the movement to enact a strong anti-corruption act – the Jan Lok Pal Bill. On 5 April 2011 when Anna decided to exert pressure on the Government of India and go on a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar, it became a ‘made for television’ moment, artfully choreographed between the World Cup and IPL so as to gain maximum eyeballs. But unlike the 1990 Seshan moment, when there was no ‘round the clock television’, the Anna Hazare movement instantly had the legitimacy from the television addicted cheering middle classes.

The middle class anger had been ignited further by the sudden exposure of a rush of mega corruption scandals from the 2G spectrum to the Commonwealth Games. The nation was stunned by the realization that strutting VIPs were in fact plunderers. And perhaps murderers were not far behind if the unfolding drama of the ‘suicide’ of Bacha, Raja’s aide, is any indication.

With people’s disgust with corruption now out in the open, the well-accented television appearances by Congress leaders, was not helping. The principal opposition party, the BJP, grouping in the dark after being routed in 2009 General Elections tried to prop up Yoga guru Baba Ramdev in order to hijack the Jan Lok Pal movement.

But not drawing inspiration from the public mood or taking reformative action, the UPA Government unleashed a systematic campaign to counter the growing popularity of Anna Hazare, employing everything from high-decibel propaganda to clandestine investigations by intelligence agencies. Baba Ramdev backed out and retreated to his ashram in Haridwar. The Government also lined up the Brahmins, the suave Kapil Sibal and the cynically suave P. Chidambaram, to discredit the people’s movement.

Every well meaning Government would have taken the opportunity to take inspiration from the candlelight marches and social media networks campaigns but the UPA Government and the so called ‘Mr. Clean’ PM Manmohan Singh let that historic opportunity of engaging the middle class with public life, slip bye.

Every learned Indian citizen acknowledges that the Lok Pal Bill drafted by the Government and the Anna Hazare team has flaws. The UPA Government initially shied away from a public debate. The debate became further trivialized on inclusion of Prime Ministers Office/ Judiciary under Lok Pal or not. Then the impatience and distrust with each other ultimately turned the debate into an ‘all or nothing’ debate between the Government and the civil society group.

An omnibus Jan Lok Pal as envisaged by Anna Hazare group for sure is not going to end corruption, neither is the farcical Lok Pal Bill passed by the Union Cabinet, yesterday. The Lok Pal Bill is just a defensive feint enough to get by the public anger. The UPA Government sure will now hurry the Lok Pal Bill through in both houses of Parliament, flouting all rules of propriety and transparency, without engaging in a debate or even perhaps voted unanimously by politicians of all hues.

But by passing the Lok Pal Bill, under the compulsions of narrow party politics and to protect the mighty and powerful, the bull-headed Government may have snubbed the civil society out of the way (or so they believe) but the fact remains that in their attempt to defend against ‘outsiders’ trespassing into the law-making prerogatives of an elected Parliament, the lawmakers of the country have further alienated the middle class and ensured that they remain ‘outsiders’.

But there is still hope. Hope comes from relatively toothless Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde could do to the powerful Karnataka CM B.S. Yeddyurappa. 

Middle class activism in India is yet to mature to develop the momentum and self-belief to go beyond constantly searching for messiahs /demi-gods, who will slay the political demons of our time. The rage may be real, the desire for change may be well-intentioned, but am still not sure if it can really transform society unless it goes beyond the clever sound bite, or the ‘mera neta chor hai’ slogan. The Government of the day and the once to come, am sure will realise that hope and aspiration of youth energy, blocked by inertia and curruption, will lead to revolt. If not now, at a later date.

Video: Copyright with YouTube &

Interesting Snipets : Courtesy Wikipedia

The first Lok Pal Bill was introduced in the Indian Parliament by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969 but could not get through in the Rajya Sabha. Subsequently, Lok Pal Bills were introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008, yet they were never passed.

The current version is a diluted version drafted by Pranab Mukherjee (Finance Minister), P. Chidambaram (Minister of Home Affairs), Veerappa Moily (Minister of Corporate Affairs), Kapil Sibal (Minister for Communications and Information Technology) and Salman Khursid (Minister of Minority Affairs). It allows for setting up of a Lok Pal and frees it up to investigate and prosecute MPs and higher bueaucracy without being shackled by official sanctions, but it doesn’t give it complete autonomy either in selection process or its administrative and finiancial control. It excludes the PM from its purview and just hives off all the rest no protection to whistelblowers, no state Lokayuktas, no mechanism of checking corruption in judiciary and midle bureacracy, and a seriorly ill thought out grievance redressal mechanism.

The Jan Lok Pal Bill was drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and present Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist) along with the members of the India Against Corruption Movement. The draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within 2 years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lok Pal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without government permission. It wants to protect whistleblowers. It wants to create a super-structure of high-integrity individuals to curb and prosecute corruption among MPs, highrer bureacracy, lower bureacracy, clerks, peons, police, every government department and project, the judiciary and the PM. 

Foot Note : Not that I agree with Churchill. India has produced more strong and calibered leaders than the whole Western world put together. But I just would urge every Indian to remember the statement by Churchill in the British Parliament when you go to exercise your franchise the next time. That is, if you do 🙂

Cricket Betting : Bain of the subcontinent

When the Television across the globe broadcast the footage from Britain’s News of the World in which Mazhar Majeed, a 35-year-old British property developer and sports agent, give details of when three “no-balls” would be delivered by Amir and Asif during the Test match at Lord’s that ended yesterday, there was anger and outrage in Pakistan.  The bookie claims Pakistan Test Captain Salman Butt to be the ring leader.

This is not the first time that Pakistan cricket has been embroiled in such a controversy.

It was way back in 1979-1980 when Pakistan were accused of throwing matches on their tour of India. Pakistan players were also accused of throwing their semi-final against Australia in the 1987 World Cup. Those allegations remain unsubstantiated.

But charges naming individual players surfaced in 1994 when Australian players Mark Waugh, Shane Warne and Tim May alleged that Pakistan skipper Salim Malik had approached them to bowl badly and lose the Karachi Test.

Then in 1998, Wasim Akram resigned as Pakistan skipper after bowler Ata-ur-Rahman had accused him of offering the bowler Rs. 3 lakh to bowl waywardly against New Zealand. The same year Rashid Latif accused Akram, Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Ijaz Ahmed of fixing matches.

Year 2000 became the World cricket’s year of shame, when the Delhi Police charged the late South African Captain Hansie Cronje of fixing his team’s ODI series against India. As if taking a leaf out of Delhi Police’s book, the Pakistan Cricket Board, instituted a one-man judicial commission that found Salim Malik and Ata-ur-Rahman guilty of fixing matches and recommended life bans for the two. The commission also noted that Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed should not be allowed to captain Pakistan in the future. The same year, South Africa Cricket Chief Ali Bacher said he had been told by former Pakistan Cricket Board CEO Majid Khan that two matches involving Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, against India and Bangladesh, were fixed.

Then there was a period of five years when Pakistan cricket seemed to be getting back on track, but again in 2006, Pakistan cricket was hit by a controversy during the tour of England. Angered after being accused of ball-tampering and penalised five runs by umpire Darrell Hair, Pakistan forfeited the fourth Test against England at The Oval after refusing to take the field in the evening session on day four in protest.

But early 2010, again, the clouds of match-fixing began to hover again over the Pakistan team. In January after Pakistan lost every match during their tour of Australia, the PCB and ICC Anti Corruption Unit launched investigations. The PCB enquiry saw Mohammad Yousuf, Younus Khan, Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan banned while Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Kamran Akmal, were fined and placed on probation.

In the scandal which came to light now the television footage showed Amir, who was named the Pakistani Man of the Series, bowl two of the no-balls by stepping comfortably beyond the crease, prompting pundits to comment on the unusually clear nature of the infringements. But other events predicted by Majeed, such as an over in which Butt would deliberately fail to score a run, failed to materialise. The Scotland Yard team is investigating the case took statements from Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Kamran Akmal.

The former International Cricket Council President Malcolm Speed said that the game’s governing body could seriously consider suspending Pakistan. All eyes are on the new ICC President and ‘Indian’ Sharad Pawar but the response of the Indian public is one of glee.

It was indeed funny to watch Indian TV commentators spoof at the Pakistani system, questioning them of letting off errant palyers like Akram,  Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal etc in the past, forgetting that our own Ajay Jedeja (who is a star commendator in one of the popular TV channels), Mohammed Azarudin, Vinod Kamble were also accused of the same crime in the past. None in the media spoke about Miandad making Dawood a ‘sambandi‘ then or even now. The rotten state of the gentleman’s game was for everyone to see then, but it looks like whole world, India as a cricketing country, Board of Control for Cricket in India and our star players, are in a state of denial.

The Pakistani players, some of them in their late teens and early twenties looked like amateurs in the betting arena. Indian players probably could give a lesson or two these armatures. Thanks to Lalit Modi, IPL and the likes, our players  have perfected the art and we in India play at a very different scale of match-fixing.

Video : Copyright News of the World & YouTube

World’s Longest Traffic Jam; Great Stall of Superpower China

Recently crowned the world’s second-largest economy, China now has the dubious distinction of spawning the world’s longest traffic jam. Baffled by the bumper-to-bumper gridlock, the Chinese government has mobilised hundreds of policemen to clear the 100-km (60 miles) long stretch of the Beijing-Tibet Expressway, riddled with vehicles for 13 days, with the pile-up almost reaching the outskirts of the capital.

Experts say the mega-jam on National Expressway 110 would take atleast a month to clear. But unlike India there have been no reports of road rage, and the main complaint has been about villagers on bicycles selling food and water at 10 times the normal price.

 The pile-up of trucks brought traffic into China’s capital to a grinding halt and is directly attributable to China’s voracious appetite for energy and automobiles. And it was created by a surge in trucks carrying coal from the province of Inner Mongolia to the suburbs of Beijing, where power plants continue to suck up and incinerate millions of tons of the black rock. China still relies on coal for 70% of its energy demands and most of that coal travel on roads connecting mines in the nation’s hinterland to its eastern ports.

Last year Inner Mongolia surpassed Shanxi province to become China’s biggest coal supplier. A shortage of railway capacity connecting Inner Mongolia to port cities such as Caofeidian, Qinhuangdao and Tianjin, where coal is shipped to power plants in southern China, has forced suppliers to rely on trucks to feed the power plants around Beijing. The roads overloaded by coal trucks damaged the highway roads and pavements which necessitated maintenance work. Since Aug. 14, due to road maintenance and extreme congestion, China’s Expressway 110 has become a big parking lot.

At its current pace of consistent GDP growth for last 30 years, some analysts believe that China’s economy could overtake the US by 2020. But this incident has raised questions about whether China’s infrastructure is adequate for handling the growing number of cars and trucks added to its streets every year.

In 2009, China with its fast-expanding middle-class, overtook the United States to become the world’s biggest car market and now in 2010 China seems to be building another Great Wall. It’s just that this one is made of cars. So much for the Superpower debate going on in Indian television’s after Ragahav Bahl’s book – Superpower? The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise.

Photo : Copyright with Telegraph