Masses in Peril

Democracy without corruption is hypocrisy without limitation. From Panchayet to Parliament corruption is a way of life for thousands of political functionaries across the country. No matter whether they carry green, saffron or red flags. A whistle-blower or two, here and there, and that too in isolated fashion, cannot reverse the process. The Anna Hazare phenomenon has already become a passing reference in political discourse. After all India is not heaven on earth. Nor did Anna offer a huge breathing space in the repressive and regimented Indian landscape. For the rich and influential people ‘innocent until proven guilty’ does apply in practice. But for the poor and socially disadvantaged, they are punished until proven innocent and even afterwards.

Not a single day passes without revelation of this scam or that somewhere in the country. No morning newspaper is complete without scam news. It is difficult to keep in touch with old scams because every now and then new scams even in some unexpected quarters are getting exposed much to the embarrassment of the ruling elites.

After one year in office Modi is not in an envious position as he was before parliamentary elections, to make Congress the synonym for corruption. Now his own partymen, heavy-weights and light-weights as well, are regularly getting flak from the same Congress on multiple corruption charges. So Congress being relieved of scam load to some extent, is trying to pay back the saffron brigade with the same coin. Now all are talking about the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), also popularly known by its hindi acronym Vyapam. It is in news because Congress has found something in it to grill the beleaguered Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

Meanwhile BJP’s Madhya Pradesh unit President Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan himself became a joke when he said the other day that their Chief Minister was ‘‘as holy as the river Ganga’’. Sycophancy is a special art in Indian drama to survive politically. But Ganga is so polluted these days that health conscious people think twice before taking a ‘holy’ dip in it. Having failed to silence the opposition Chief Minister Chauhan finally agreed to handover the Vyapam scam to the almighty Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The point at issue is the 2011 Whistle-blower Protection Law in India does not even recognise the act of exposing corruption through the media, as an act of whistle-blowing. There is no safe reporting or speedy investigating mechanism to address such a situation. The proposed amendments to the Act, exempt from Section 8(1) of the Right to Information Act, including cases seen as ‘‘compromising national security’’. Freelance digital security experts Prashant Pandey and Ashish Chaturvedi obtained about 40 GB data from Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Prareeksha Mandal, i.e. Vyapam office computers in Bhopal, containing incriminating evidence against Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and his wife in the much publicised Vyapam scam. Pandey and Chaturvedi have been harassed by MP police during various stages of uncovering the details of the scam. There were nearly 10,000 fake admissions between 2007 and 2013 to medical and dental colleges in Madhya Pradesh, through fraudulent means. The Vyapam scam has so far claimed over 50 lives, under unnatural circumstances. Now they are paying homage to the dead in assembly to ease the situation. What CBI can do is open to question. And CBI in a bid to lighten burden moved the apex court to allow SIT and Special Task Force of MP police to submit charge-sheets in the scam cases. So the critics have begun to speculate the possible outcome of the entire exercise of allegations and counter-allegations over the scam.

CBI for all practical purposes serves as a tool to shield the powers that be. During the Congress rule the Gandhians utilised their services to gain political mileage. And now the BJP is doing the same whenever they are in trouble.

In Vyapam, the BJP is actually defending the indefensible by minimising the number of irregularities in admission and recruitment. As per BJP’s own admission there were only 2500 cases of irregularities out of 7 lakh admissions or recruitment made through Vyapam since it was constituted. Whether CBI probe would reveal the truth is anybody’s guess. Maybe, Congress is trying to ‘make a mountain out of a molehill’’ in view of the MP assembly poll in 2018.

What is special of Madhya Pradesh is the scale of corruption. Corruption news is a regular staple for almost all states. Cash-for-vote scandal now making waves in two Telugu states is true to the spirit of Indian parliamentary culture. Narasimha Rao bribed Jharkhandi MPs to keep his minority government in power. Horse-trading (or Donkey-trading as the late Charan Singh would like to call it) has long been institutionalised in the Indian system.

Cash-for-vote apart, what matters most at lower level is cash for job, even for a Group-D job. Now a post of primary school teacher may fetch Rs 7 or 8 lakh for ruling party touts in Bengal. Almost an identical amount or more is demanded for a job of police constable. It’s the general scenario every-where, almost in every state.

In the seventies or even in the eighties things were not so desperate. With job market for educated youth shrinking premium too is rising—it is inversely proportional. In other words it is now next to impossible for the educated unemployed coming from the lower and middle class families to compete in job market. In most cases competitive examinations are at worst farcical, compounding the agony of job hunters.

Bribe at every step in the corridors of power! This is the real face of Indian democracy. The Left is demanding jobs for the unemployed, and right to work. But what about jobs that are on auction. It’s quite logical that highest bidders with right political connections will get them. Much of the Left is intoxicated by the apparent path to power through broad, somewhat indiscriminate electoral unity—never realising the potential of mass action while taking over administering the crises of the corrupt system they are supposed to dismantle.

Vol. 48, No. 4, Aug 2 - 8, 2015