Lok Manch workers during a protest against the arrest of party president Amar Singh in Azamgarh on Wednesday. PTI
irefighters know that the best way to arrest the progress of a blaze is to create a firebreak by destroying habitation in the path of the fire. Once the flames reach that area, the lack of fuel forces them to die away. In much the same way, a few individuals are being served up to the public — almost in the manner of human sacrifices — in the hope that such a sacrifice will stanch public anger over corruption. Thus, a Kalmadi for CWG and the Kanimozhi-Raja duo for 2G, even while the investigation stalls in its forward path. That Kalmadi or Raja were the sole — or even the primary — masterminds of the CWG and 2G scams is to believe that A.Q. Khan conducted his nuclear bazaar without the help of the higher rungs of the Pakistan establishment. Of course, unlike the luckless Kalmadi, Kanimozhi and Raja, the nuclear trader is being treated like the national asset he has been.
There was an expectation that Kalmadi and Raja would spill the beans on others involved in the scam, but as yet, this does not seem to have happened. Clearly, both are hoping for the sort of legal reprieve that it has been commonplace for the affluent and the powerful (two categories that almost always fuse into a single blob) to enjoy. It is a tribute to Justices Singhvi and Ganguly — not to mention their boss, CJI Kapadia — that this has not yet taken place, despite the contortions of counsel and the (certain) efforts of the CBI to get the big fish to escape. Given the fact that senior officers in the CBI move in and out of the organization during the course of their careers, the need to cultivate politicians is obvious. Unlike the FBI, which has a permanent cadre of officers who remain with the organisation throughout their careers, most CBI officers are birds of passage. More importantly, many are hand-picked precisely for their malleable nature. While legend has it that the PMO or tangentially the Home Ministry has formal or actual oversight over the CBI, the reality is that the Boss of Bosses during the period of the NDA was Ranjan Bhattacharya, while since 2004 it is Ahmed Patel.
However, that Amar Singh is the source of such a conspiracy (cash-for-vote) is to believe that a Suresh Kalmadi could twist the governmental machinery into pretzels simply because of the immense charm that the man exudes.
After much prodding by the judiciary — which, it must be admitted, has been functioning in a manner that enables one to almost forget the fact that justice in India often takes several generations to get delivered — the Delhi police have arrested Amar Singh in the cash-for-votes controversy. Although L.K. Advani seems eager to follow Mr Singh to Tihar, this privilege has been denied to him, no doubt after an assessment of the immense benefit that his short incarceration did to Anna Hazare. By arresting Amar Singh, the Delhi police are indicating that what was witnessed in Parliament that day was no mere sting operation, but a well-considered plan to buy votes in order to rescue the Nuclear Bill. However, that Amar Singh is the source of such a conspiracy is to believe that a Suresh Kalmadi could twist the governmental machinery into pretzels simply because of the immense charm that the man exudes. Clearly, Mr Singh was functioning on behalf of others. Who? Unless he himself says, the odds are that this will never be known.
Those responsible for making Amar Singh the human sacrifice for the cash-for-votes scandal are confident that there are graveyards of skeletons rattling around in the closet of the former Samajwadi Party leader, and that he would not risk these coming to light, the way it may happen were he to spill the beans. Of course, most of these skeletons are not just the property of Mr Singh, but of his hidden persecutors as well, thereby giving them an equal stake in silence about the many unpleasant — and sometimes pleasant — activities of Mr Singh in the course of a long career strengthening Indian democracy. Public interest would demand that Mr Singh break his silence and reveal the full facts about voting that day, in the same way as it would make India a better place if Mr Kalmadi or Mr Raja were to fess up about others involved in the scams that they are now in jail for. To speak out would be an act of moral courage that would obliterate the harm done by their misdeeds. However, as yet, fed as they are by hope that they will soon be free men, both the CWG as well as the 2G "human sacrifices" are remaining silent. As for the CBI and the rest of the state machinery, they continue to keep details of misfeasance from public view.
The odds are, therefore, that the lambs will remain silent, and that higher-level participants in the scams will escape attention. However, what is working against the Business as Usual approach of the establishment is the growing public perception that the potholed roads, the wretched public schools, housing and healthcare facilities, the frequent power and water cuts and the galloping inflation are all the effect of corruption. Pollsters ask citizens whether they regard corruption or terrorism as bigger problems. The reality is that corruption begets terrorism, by making it easy for depredators to escape. Indeed, the huge size of the narcotics industry in India, and the hawala networks created by it, have served as a protective cover to groups that seek to repeatedly kill people by the use of terror as a weapon of war. The fact is that corruption is at the root of most of the problems that the average citizen faces today, which is why Anna Hazare gained so much traction.
f course, it will take more than a Jan Lokpal to downsize this virus. Most likely, the monster created by Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal will itself become corrupt, so that friends and relatives of the Jan Lokpal will themselves become as rich as friends and relatives of Finance or Home Ministers in India are becoming these days. A better way forward is to press for making the RTI far less subject to exceptions and delays, so that the entire process of government — where it involves commerce — comes into public view. The country does not just need one Jan Lokapl. It needs millions of concerned citizens, people such as the Founders of Common Cause. And, even more urgently, it needs the lambs to abandon their silence and speak out. For once, not for themselves but for the people of a country that has made them rich.