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

The damage done to the CBI over the years is irreparable. It needs to be totally reconstituted under a new charter that guarantees the autonomy of its personnel and functioning. It must also be equipped with independent prosecution machinery.

Disgraceful Cover Ups

The Quattrocchi affair is a disgrace but, fortunately, not all cover-ups remain permanently under wraps.

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald, 4 May, 2009

The Quattrocchi cover up is not surprising but disgraceful. This has been going on from the very start and the NDA’s record in pursuing some of the guilty is not a great deal better than that of the Congress. Each government has protected its own friends and used the CBI as a cat’s paw. The reputation of the CBI, “India’s premier investigation agency”, is in tatters as weak officials have bent before scheming and dishonest superiors. The H.R. Bharadwajs and Milon Banerjis will be swept into the dustbin of history but they will have left their mark by their betrayal of the majesty of high office. The Attorney-General, a constitutional functionary, is there to give independent advice and has the right to address Parliament thus making him a servant of the people and not a lackey of the Government.

The damage done to the CBI over the years is irreparable. It needs to be totally reconstituted under a new charter that guarantees the autonomy of its personnel and functioning. It must also be equipped with independent prosecution machinery that is self-actuating so that it can act on its findings without taking partisan directions from the government of the day. The conspiracy of silence and masterly inactivity in formally announcing accession to the UN Convention on Corruption, which India has signed, shows – as in the case of police reforms – that a coalition of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats across the board do not wish to pursue graft, which has become the lubricant of (dirty) politics and dubious commerce. Activating the UN Convention would have enabled India to seek Quattrocchi’s extradition and the freezing of his bank accounts. These issues do not figure in current party manifestoes.

Fortunately, not all cover-ups remain permanently under wraps. The Supreme Court has just directed that 14 heinous Gujarat 2002 riot cases shall be prosecuted in special courts on a day to day basis under the direction of the Special Investigation Team. There had been a five year stay on these cases, on a plea that they be heard outside the State. This prayer has not been granted but the fact that the Supreme Court has assumed direct supervision of the progress of the cases under the SIT is reassuring. But why did it take five years to vacate the stay in respect of such supremely abhorrent cases that allowed prime accused to walk free, assume office, strut around and use their influence to subvert justice.

The Court has also ordered the SIT to probe the role of Narendra Modi as chief minister in aiding and abetting the Gujarat riots as charged by Zakia Jafri, the widow of the Congress MP who was vivisected and then roasted alive in one of the many gruesome acts of utter barbarity that characterised the Gujarat holocaust. And what has been the reaction? Modi’s supporters have asked Gujarat’s electorate for votes to prevent Modi from being jailed, a perverse plea that grotesquely suggests that electoral victory places those charged with complicity in murder and mayhem above the law. Modi himself has called the Supreme Court order a conspiracy against him and the people of Gujarat who have benefited from development. Development is a virtue but not an absolute value irrespective of the larger environment. Hitler too made trains run on time. Modi knows the net is slowly closing in on him.

In Lanka, the “humanitarian crisis” being forecast by Tamil chauvinists and distant international observers who would divert attention from their own sins nearer home, has proved increasingly hollow. Television footage and statements made by senior LTTE leaders who have surrendered and fleeing Tamil refugees long held hostage to provide a human shield tell a very different story. And anybody who thinks that one can make omelettes without breaking eggs must be both fool and charlatan. Wars are not happy events. Indiscriminate terror against innocents is worse. Meanwhile, the chauvinist hysteria roused in Tamil Nadu has led to a shocking attack on Army jawans that should  not go unpunished.

In J&K, the Hurriyat displayed some backbone for a couple of days by defying its Pakistani mentors’ call to boycott the ongoing elections. It then slavishly fell in line, making another of its inane justificatory declamations. The absurdity lies in the fact that Pakistan is being destroyed by the very terrorist jihadis that the Hurriyat upholds.

Finally, in West Bengal, the Left has had to surrender to irate Naxal-backed tribals in Lalgarh, a clutch of 118 villages in West Midnapore district where people have been antagonised by alleged police zoolum. The Left’s heroic rhetoric notwithstanding, emerging facts speak to the contrary. The democratic record of the Left government has been poor. Governance has systematically favoured cadres against citizens. The development record, especially HDI indices over the past several years, has been poor with West Bengal steadily losing ground as against States that were until recently behind it. A report card prepared by Bibek Debroy, citing Central and official West Bengal statistics, maps how the State is becoming comparatively disadvantaged and unable to utilise the resources provided to it by the Centre. In Kerala too the Left is hopelessly divided and ideologically unable to grasp the opportunities that come its way. Unless the Left can get out of the ideological hole it has dug for itself, its dreams of Third Front primacy will remain a chimera.

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