“I would go to the length of giving the wholecongress a decent burial,rather than put up with the corruption that isrampant.”— Mahatma Gandhi May 1939This was the outburst of Mahatma Gandhi against rampantcorruption in Congress ministries formed under 1935 Act in sixstates in the year 1937. The disciples of Gandhi however,ignored his concern over corruption in post-Independence India,when they came to power. Over fifty years of democratic rule hasmade the people so immune to corruption that they have learnthow to live with the system even though the cancerous growth ofthis malady may finally kill it. The recent Tehelka episode
surcharged the political atmosphere of the country but it hardlyexposed anything that was unknown to the people of this biggestdemocratic polity.Politicians are fully aware of the corruption and nepotism as themain reasons behind the fall of Roman Empire, the FrenchRevolution, October Revolution in Russia, fall of Chiang Kai-ShekGovernment on the mainland of China and even the defeat of themighty Congress party in India. But they are not ready to takeany lesson from the pages of history.The history of corruption in post-Independence India starts with theJeep scandal in 1948, when a transaction concerning purchase ofjeeps for the army needed for Kashmir operation was entered intoby V.K.Krishna Menon, the then High Commissioner for India inLondon with a foreign firm without observing normalprocedure. Contrary to the demand of the opposition for judicialinquiry as suggested by the Inquiry Committee led byAnanthsayanam Ayyangar, the then Government announced onSeptember 30, 1955 that the Jeep scandal case wasclosed. Union Minister G.B.Pant declared “that as far asGovernment was concerned it has made up its mind to close thematter. If the opposition was not satisfied they can make it anelection issue.” Soon after on February 3, 1956 Krishna Menonwas inducted into the Nehru cabinet as minister withoutportfolio.
In 1950, A.D.Gorwala, an eminent civil servant was asked byGovernment of India to recommend improvements in the systemof governance. In his report submitted in 1951 he made twoobservations: “One, quite a few of Nehru‟s ministers were corruptand this was common knowledge. Two, even a highlyresponsible civil servant in an official report as early as 1951maintained that the Government went out of its way to shield itsministers” (Report on Public Administration, PlanningCommission, Government of India 1951)Corruption charges in cases like Mudgal case (1951), Mundradeals (1957-58), Malaviya-Sirajuddin scandal (1963), and PratapSingh Kairon case (1963) were levelled against the Congressministers and Chief Ministers but no Prime Minister resigned.
The Santhanam Committee, which was appointed by theGovernment in 1962 to examine the issue of corruption in itsreport submitted in 1964 observed: “There is widespreadimpression that failure of integrity is not uncommon amongministers and that some ministers, who have held office duringthe last sixteen years have enriched themselves illegitimately,obtained good jobs for their sons and relations through nepotismand have reaped other advantages inconsistent with any notion ofpurity in public life.”The following comments of Nehru on the memorandum ofcharges against Pratap Singh Kairon submitted to the Presidentof India by the non-Communist opposition in Punjab suggest hisapproach on corruption – “The question thus arises as towhether the chief minister is compelled to resign because ofadverse findings on some questions of fact by SupremeCourt. The ministers are collectively responsible to thelegislature. Therefore, the matter was one, which concerned theassembly. As a rule therefore, the question of removing aminister would not arise unless the legislature expressed its wishby a majority vote.” (Pathology of Corruption by S.S.Gill)
Thus, we find that while Nehru‟s tolerance of corruption amonghis ministers legitimized this malady, his daughter Indira Gandhiinstitutionalized it by holding both the posts of the Prime Ministerand party president. By doing so she was herself controlling theparty funds, which gave birth to the money power in politics. Thefamous V.P.Malhotra (Chief Cashier of State Bank of India) casein which he got a telephone call believing from Indira Gandhi topay Rs,60 lakhs to one Nagarwal remained amystery. Corruption cases like Fairfax, HBJ Pipeline, and HDWSubmarine deal came up since then. The famous Bofor‟s deal iswell known. Narsimha Rao was the first Prime Minister beingprosecuted in corruption charges. Cases like Rs.2500 crore -Airbus A-320 deal with France involving kickback (1990), HarshadMehta security scam (1992), Gold Star Steel and Alloyscontroversy (1992), JMM bribery case, Hawala scam of Rs. 65crore and Urea scam (1996) also came up during the period ofNarsimha Rao Government.Criminalisation of politics is another facet ofcorruption. N.N.Vohra, Union Home Secretary in his report(1995) on this issue observed:- “A network of mafias is virtuallyrunning a parallel Government pushing the state apparatus intoirrelevance. Quoting some „DIB‟ sources, he added, “….there hasbeen a rapid spread and growth of criminal gangs, armed senas,drug mafias, smuggling gangs and economic lobbies in thecountry, which have over the years developed an intensivenetwork of contacts with bureaucrats, government functionaries atlocal level, politicians, media persons and strategically locatedindividuals in non-state sector. Some of these syndicates havealso international linkages including the foreign agencies.”Against the above-discussed historical background of corruptionduring last fifty years, the only contribution of Tehelka is that theexposure has forfeited the right of the BJP to claim itself to be aparty with difference. So long the BJP was in opposition, it was
by and large known as a party with moral integrity, but when italigned with the political leaders with shady background for thesake of power, the malady of corruption infected this partytoo. Once the moral integrity is compromised it opens the door ofcorruption. Perhaps the BJP leadership deliberately went forideological compromise for capturing power at centre. L.K.Advaniput the responsibility on middle class when he reacted to asuggestion by an important ex-National Executive member of theparty against the “dubious coalition politics”. Advani reportedlysaid: “ The middle class does not like compromises and tends tobe idealistic. At the same time, it is unhappy if we lose power. Itwants power as well as ideological integrity. This is the dilemmaof the party”. ( Inside BJP by Dr. Jay Dubashi published in Timesof India dated March 22,2001). Advani might have philosophisedthe situation but he cannot escape from the responsibility for theideological compromise the BJP made for the sake of power.Corruption is an abstract term. According to World Bank report1997 abuse of public power for private gains is described ascorruption. But this appears to be too simplistic explanation ofcorruption. In fact it is a multi-faceted evil, which gradually kills asystem. A basic conflict between the ethos and system hasweakened the Indian polity. The feudal outlook of the ruling classpolluted the people‟s mindset, which judge the status of anindividual on his capability to flout the law to favour them. This isthe reason why corruption is no more viewed by people withabhorrence in Indian society. Leaders like Laloo, Jayalalitha,Sukhram and others, who are facing corruption charges,continue to have wide range of people‟s support. Transparency,responsiveness, accountability, probity in public life and goodgovernance are now only slogans. The legislature has failed tomake the judiciary, executive and even media sensitive to thecause of the common people. The failure of the politicalleadership to take a principled stand against corruption has
clouded the system to the extent that it is now difficult tounderstand whether the system is alive or dead.In the present context corruption is so much linked with powerthat our politicians have adopted a cynical attitude toward politicalmorality. Maneuvering the anti-defection law for electoral politicswith the help of both money and muscle power and other unfairmeans for the sake of power have affected the political morality ofall the political parties and as such none of them can claimthemselves to be faithful to nation in true sense. It was pathetic tosee an excellent orator of congress struggling to brush away thepast of the congress in the recent “Big fight” programme of StarTV.The collapse of the Janata Party Government (1977-80), fall ofV.P.Singh and Chandrashekhar Government (1990-91), turninghis minority Government into majority by Narsimha Rao, split inTelugu Desam Party (1994), defection of Ajit Singh with hissupporters to Congress (1993), defection of S.S.Vaghela fromBJP, maneuvering defection by Kalyan Singh to keep the BJP ledGovernment in power in UP are some of examples to prove that asizeable number of our politicians are not immune tocorruption.With Tehelka exposure, we may like to refer to our ancient lawbook, which said, “That monarch, whose subjects are carried fromhis kingdom by ruffians, while they call aloud for protection, andhe barely looks on them with his ministers, is a dead, and not aliving king.” (Manusmriti VII/143) Tehelka is simply an addition tothousands of past and present eruptions in the cancerous bodypolity of the country. Manu may not be relevant to the present century, but as humannature more or less remains same and states either in monarchyor democracy are governed by the same human beings, he is stillrelevant. License to govern does not mean license to be corrupt.
Mahatma Gandhi believed in the need for creating a socialclimate against corruption, which meant creation of anatmosphere in which the corrupt could not thrive. The need of thehour therefore, is to wipe off the tormenting system, which couldbe possible only after its thorough overhaul. For this our nationalleadership is expected to devise a political mechanism to create asocial atmosphere by empowering of people. The on going warcry against corruption, which is nothing but a mad fight toreplace one corrupt system by another is not going to transformthe beleaguered nation to a sustainable social order.Continue reading...