Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Jamila Verghese
Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

President Patil’s son also embarrassed his mother and the country by absenting himself from a state banquet in Mexico to make a side visit to Florida for a personal engagement.

Debasing the Coinage

Unfortunately, rank, status, money and muscle are placing all too many above the law.

By B G Verghese

Sahara Times/New Indian Express, 6 May, 2008

Inflation has justifiably been causing concern, fuelled by rocketing global food and oil prices. More worrying from every point of view should be the steady debasement of the political and moral coinage in India with a further downslide over the past fortnight. 

The compromise over the gross misbehavior of 32 MPs who drove the Speaker   to despair by rowdily and repeatedly bringing the proceedings of the House to a standstill resolves little. The reference of the matter to the Privileges Committee has been withdrawn on an assurance by the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition that they will cooperate in ensuring the orderly conduct of business in future. MPs claim privileges. But there is no privilege to reduce Parliament to an extravagant mockery with much unseemly drama being enacted, essentially for publicity, in the name of the “poor” and allegedly in defence of standards. MPs are mistaken in thinking they are sovereign. They are not. They are elected as representatives of the people who are the true Sovereign. And the People are disgusted by the crass misconduct of some their unruly representatives.

All parties and formations are to blame, not excluding the ruling coalition. The story of Minister T.R. Baalu’s repeated efforts to get a gas supply contract for his sons’ companies in Tamil Nadu were deplorable and his explanations specious. The statements made on all sides are unconvincing and put a premium on influence peddling at the cost of the honest and deserving. It is not enough to say that Baalu’s sons got no gas supply at the end of the day – though this too is being controverted. There was a clear and direct conflict of interest that the Minister refused to recognize and thereby demeaned himself and the Government.

President Patil’s son also embarrassed his mother and the country by absenting himself from a state banquet in Mexico to make a side visit to Florida for a personal engagement. The purpose of Presidential tours is to earn goodwill and not to indulge in free riding.

Then comes Raj Thackeray’s return to his fascist hate campaign against “north Indian’s” in Bombay. He was previously arrested for treading dangerous ground but appears to have become more defiant in his hate speech for parochial electoral gain. The text of his remarks is being examined to see if any words and phrases offend the law. This is typical of the obfuscation that goes on. The intent was clearly to mobilize lumpen Maratha-Mumbai sentiment against outsiders on behalf of some perceived higher interest of the local community. So much brazen hate speech as been so often tolerated from so many quarters that the law and governance have become effete. Consequently a climate of immunity and impunity has been developed in which mafias thrive. This sort of mischief must be firmly nipped in the bud especially with an approaching election season when divisive politics comes increasingly into play. Raj Thackeray and others of this ilk around the country thrive on demagoguery and blackmail with the threat of setting the city or state on fire if they are touched. Such bluffs have to be called and these cowardly thugs brought to book and given the condign punishment that is their due. 

Unfortunately rank, status, money and muscle place all too many above the law. There is any amount of evidence of this in every department and in every part of the country. The Supreme Court has just thrown out an appeal by Apollo Hospital, Delhi, which has been arraigned for falsifying a report on drug abuse by Rahul Mahajan, son of the late Promod Mahajan, in 2006 as revealed by a subsequent report submitted by the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory, Hyderabad. If the Apollo Hospital’s hands are clean, it should have nothing to fear.  

Another case of “status” just comes from Tamil Nadu where upper castes have built a wall to separate themselves from the scheduled castes of the village and refuse to pull it down on the ground that the wall is on their own land. This is ghettoisation and a form of hate conduct that is surely violative of the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Such episodes are daily reported from various parts of the country and constitute a grave assault on the “dignity of the individual”, a constitutional imperative. Settling such things through political palaver has something to commend it but when such occurrences recur ad nauseum the message is clear. Unless condign punishment is awarded and the law is upheld, Dalit rage will spill over in violence when it will be fatuous to blame the victims of oppression and indignity for disturbing the peace. Governments that describe Naxalism as the country’s greatest security threat should not indulge in masterly inactivity while others add fuel to the fire. 

Finally, there was the disgraceful Harbhajan-Shreesanth slapping incident, singularly unsportsmanlike conduct encouraged by months of media hype justifying “sledging” and “giving it back to the Australians”. And now that cricket, commerce, film stars, the entertainment world and speculators have joined together in a heady brew, the game has been relegated. Money and cheap publicity count for more.  

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