Thursday, March 08, 2012

When accepting a bribe is par for the course

No wonder India ranks in the Top 10 in the matter of corruption. The additional director-general, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Chennai, was arrested yesterday for accepting a bribe of Rs 2 lakh and an iPad. The bribe demanded was initially Rs 10 lakh, then reduced to Rs 8 lakh after some bargaining. Rs 2 lakh was the first installment. All this for not taking action against somebody under the COFEPOSA Act and for not de-freezing a bank account. Here was a top government official, regularly seen on the city pages of newspapers (after a haul), involved in graft. What a shame!

So, what do we do against corruption? Anna Hazare’s shrill voice has almost died down, and Kejriwal and Co seem lost in the wilderness. Do we even have half a chance of battling against corruption? The so-called mini general elections are over. One political party has given way to another. It’s unlikely to make any difference. I was awestruck at the maddening coverage some of the television channels engaged in. Non-stop coverage for 48 and 72 hours! Whatever for? It might have been needed if there was a miracle and total change in the polity, with people with a clean slate being elected. Without a doubt, most of the MLAs elected had some case or the other against them. Yet, TV anchors and reporters were bending over backwards and cringing forwards to please. Talk about low obeisance!

For all the chatter of the Indian electorate being wise etc, the fact is it has done little to demand good governance and elect good people. After 60 years of Independence, it took a Anna Hazare to talk about weeding out corruption. But now his voice has been muffled and the poor man has hardly any energy left. The middle-class, for all its intelligence and prattle, do not bother about casting their vote. The majority who vote belong to the so-called underprivileged, for whom elections is a sort of theatre and voting just a mechanism of choosing one don or the other.

When a high-ranking official in the revenue department is bold enough to demand huge sums as bribe, post-Anna Hazare and 2G Spectrum, it is clear that the rot has run deep. Despite being a democracy, we not really become an enlightened state. And now, with a central government that is tottering yet loathe to leave, incapable of running a country, it’s only a question of time before states gain the upper hand (some have already) and the country returns to the age of the principalities.

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