Monday 28 September 1998

MNC Bashing: Playing Chicken with the Economy

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

Lizards have a trick of shedding their tails when in danger. The
animal chasing them gets diverted by the wiggling castaway,
and the lizard escapes. In like fashion, instead of pursuing the
terrorist monster threatening the land, the Hindutva champions
are getting diverted by a wiggly "tail" of an issue—Kentucky
Fried Chicken. Not that one should blame them, it is less
dangerous to attack two pieces of chicken on a plastic plate than
to, say, organise anti-terrorist demonstrations in Sopore or

Those familiar with the hygiene conditions in Delhi’s
eateries—and obviously Madan Lal Khurana is not one of
them—may wonder why KFC was shut down rather than given
an award because only two flies were found in its New Delhi
outlet. Most of the rest have a larger number per square foot.
More importantly, by making Delhi—and India—an international
joke, the Hindutva crusaders should be awarded the Nishan-e-
Pakistan, having furthered one of the primary objectives of the
Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of derailing the developing
economic ties between India and the US. ISI strategists fear that
should such links develop, a lobby could form in the US which 
would reverse the traditionally pro-Pakistan tilt of the State
Department and the Pentagon.

This is not to deny the fact that the Clinton tilt is responsible
for KFC'S woes. It is no coincidence that after more than four
years of economic liberalisation, only during the past year has
there been a surge in anti-MNC (specifically anti-US) sentiment.
This is the result of the US policy towards New Delhi and
Islamabad, a policy which is about as ”non-aligned" as Cuba’s
was during the period when the USSR was still around. Pakistan
is given critical defence equipment but not India. Islamabad can
arm and train terrorists to wage a war against this country, but
India should not protest. Abdul Ghani Lone can meet key US
officials who, if Lone is to be believed, encourage him to break
up the Indian Union, but Altaf Hussain, despite avoiding any
talk of secession from Pakistan, is kept at arm's length lest
"Pinky" (Benazir Bhutto) minds.

And yet, despite the Clinton administrations bias, opposing
KFC and other US companies because of Clinton’s military help
to Islamabad makes about as much sense as the 1928-33 line of
the German Communist party that the Nazis and the Social
Democrats were "not antipodes but twins". Thanks to this
policy, much of the time of the comrades was spent in breaking
up socialist meetings and in abusing the SPD in the communist
press. Helped by this internecine war between their two biggest
enemies, the Nazis came to power in 1933 and promptly liquidated
both the socialists and the communists. By punishing KFC and
other US companies operating in India for the misdeeds of the
Clintonites, our Hindutva warriors are antagonising the one
force in the US powerful enough to end Washington's love affair
with Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s stengun-wielding "moderate

An investigation into those leading the Chicken War would
show that most have visited the US several times, and many
have children studying there. Barring a few, the lifestyles of most
of them are elitist. Is it to cover this up that they rant about
chicken and flies? It is one thing to demand a "level playing
field" for foreign and domestic industry, another to seek to ban
external competition totally. Such an approach does not take
into account the strengths of local brands. In fast food, for
example, it is highly unlikely that brands such as Nirula's can get
affected by KFC’S entry—unless they are killed by their owners
themselves and are sold out to the foreign competitor, like
Thums Up was. Indeed, brands such as Nirula's have the
potential to go international, just as Taj and Oberoi have already
done in hotels. Crusaders like our chicken fighters may not,
however, appreciate this.

Where India scores over Pakistan is in the fact that it is a
liberal, secular democracy. In the Narasimha Rao era, one of
many beneficial changes is the fact that government is no longer
regarded with awe. Whether in the print media or on celluloid—
as films such as Oh Darling Yeh Hai India exemplify—even the
'PMji' is getting a taste of the lampoon. By their ISI-style
fanaticism, the Hindutva chicken fighters are attempting to wipe
out the difference between a tolerant India and a bigoted

Yes, there are major threats to Indian security. For this,
antidotes need to be found through the development of defence
systems, not by protecting our intestinal tracts from harmless
chemicals. Lest we forget, the one factor that will keep this 
country from becoming another Bosnia is economic progress.
And the antics of those with flies on the brain is threatening this 
progress almost as much as the ISI fanatics are. 

Thursday 24 September 1998

Rescue Bid if West Agrees

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999) 

National Security Guard commandos are on stand-by in Kashmir
ready to go into action in an effort to free the four surviving
Western hostages. However, the government of India is waiting
for a "go-ahead" from the United States, Britain and Germany,
before launching the operation. A high level source connected
with the effort to get the hostages released said that "our priority
is not to score political points, but to get the hostages released.
For this we are following a policy of wide consultations with the
Western countries involved and transparency in our actions", he

Home ministry sources say that Pakistan is the key to getting
the hostages freed. They can claim that Al-Faran "was
continuously in touch with Harkat-ul-Ansar, which is controlled
by Jamiet-ul-ulema Islam of Pakistan". This was why Maulana
Fazhur Rehman, a supporter of Pakistan prime minister Benazir
Bhutto, came to India in July end "after admitting that he had got
three telephone calls from the abductors". The Maulana's mission
failed, according to home ministry sources, because "he was
insistent that at least three Pakistani prisoners Sazad Afgani,
Nazrullah Langryal, and Massoud Azhar, be released in exchange
for the hostages". Interestingly, the abductors of Kim Housego
as well as those who kidnapped four foreign tourists in 1994 had
also demanded the release of the very same prisoners. An official
involved in the debriefing of the escaped hostage John Childs
and a Kashmiri guide who had been with some of the kidnapped
tourists revealed that both were clear that "of some two dozen
kidnappers, only one spoke in Kashmiri, roughly half seemed to
be Pakistanis and the rest Afghans".

Indian negotiators in touch with the abductors said that "our
message to them is simple; killing the hostages will harm your
cause, free them and you can make your way to Pakistan". They
confirmed that there was "no question of releasing any of the 
terrorists demanded by the kidnappers", adding that in the
Rubaiya Sayeed case, in which the V.P. Singh government
released hardcore terrorists in exchange for the then home
minister’s daughter five years ago, "India has paid heavily for
this deal".

While officials in the home ministry appear hopeful that
"behind-the-scene" pressure by the Western countries on Pakistan
and Pakistan financed secessionist groups in Kashmir will help
to have the hostages released, the counter insurgency experts are
sceptical. They pointed out that "releasing the hostages means
that the Pakistan hand becomes clear". Rather than this, it suits
Islamabad to prolong the crisis, thereby keeping Kashmir in the
international spotlight. They further pointed out that Islamabad
gains by the drying up of tourism in the Valley and the
consequent extra hard-ship to the local people. A senior Indian
official claimed that messages intercepted from across the border
clearly specified that "political leaders, government officials and
foreigners should be kidnapped to bring the Kashmir situation
to the attention of world media". Indian officials are however
hopeful that "because of the policy of transparency, there are few
takers for (Pakistan foreign minister) Assif Ali’s lie that India
was responsible for the kidnapping". They say that "unless
Western powers openly call a spade and demand that Pakistan
forces the Harkat-ul- Ansar to handover the hostages, the crisis
is likely to get prolonged.

When asked why a commando operation has not yet been
launched, the counter-terrorism experts pointed out that "unlike
buildings or aircrafts which are enclosed spaces, the hostages are
being held in the open, thus the element of surprise in a raid will
be missing". They repeat that the "decision whether or not to
launch a raid has to come from the three Western countries
involved, namely US, Britain and Germany". They added that
"as of now all the three countries are still trying to use their
influence with Pakistan to get the hostages released".

Thursday 17 September 1998

Autonomous Airwaves - Getting the Picture Right

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

"Have any colour car you like, so long as it is black", said Henry
Ford to customers of his Model T. So long as the company had
a monopoly in its price-quality range, sales were brisk. Once
competition revved up, they crashed. Some civil servants resemble
Henry Ford. Steeped in memories of the Imperial Civil Service,
when there were no pesky legislators or irreverent journalists to
worry about, many officials equate public good with their
personal opinions.

No Surprise
Which is why it came as no surprise when Jaipal Reddy replaced
the tyranny of the PMO and the information and broadcasting
ministry with that of a Prasar Bharati board that evidently
believes it has been given the divine right to force-feed the rest
of us with its standards. India Today carried an interview with the
new CEO of Prasar Bharati, in which the retired (and now
retreaded) bureaucrat has been admirable in his candour. "I
have to decide". If anything conflicts with his standards," it will
be thrown out without ceremony". Clearly, the information and
broadcasting ministry's views on democratic functioning are not
far removed from what they were during the Emergency.

Media pundits groan about the malign influence of proprietors
who cut into press freedom by dictating the direction and
content of writing. Clearly, there are publishers who believe that
what they and their social group like must necessarily be similar
to what the (somewhat larger) markets of their publications will
appreciate. However, there are at least as many editors who
routinely churn out views at variance with theirs, and who seek
to convert their publications into vehicles for their idiosyncrasies.

Quite a few newspapers and magazines have folded up as a
result of having been in the hands of such "activist" editors for
too long. Of course, it is a difference matter that many publishers
are attracted to such characters in the same way as damsels are 
said to swoon over ”strong" men, an attraction that seems to last 
long after their publications begin to nosedive. 

Clearly, the new Prasar Bharati team feels the same way. Just the 
as officials sometimes dream (and act) as though they were on 
horseback kicking the natives, our commissioners are acting as 
though Cuba or China are the proper models to follow. That and 
the glorious examples of the "civilising" of the aborigines in 
Australia or the native Indian communities in America. Both 
were taught that their own cultural inheritances were inferior 
and needed to be replaced with “advanced" models. In the same 
way, the new Prasar Bharati team reportedly feels that such 
"rubbish" as Indian mythological serials should be trashed. 

Programmes based on Indian mythology cannot be considered
religious epics. In fact, mythological stories should be taught to 
every Indian child. The kind of "secular" mind that condemns 
such works is the same one that pushes communities into the 
arms of fundamentalists. Some more of such policies and the 
VHP will expand several times as a reaction. Hopefully, the new 
Board will soon realise that its job is not to enslave the 
professionals who are working in All-India Radio and 
Doordarshan but to give them the freedom to make decisions. 
Even the CEO should intervene only by exception, when  
suspected breaches of taste or integrity take place. The country
has come a long way from the patemalism of the Nehru family.
After reading Satish Gujral, one realises how very close the 
Gujrals were to the Nehrus. However, hopefully this does not
mean that the political style of the dynasty will be followed.

The Nehru family, thanks to its western upbringing, made
secularism a bad word among those Indians not fortunate
enough to have studied in Europe. The best bulwark against
fanaticism is Indian tradition, as expressed in its literature and
mythology. Should the reported thinking of the new masters of
DD and AIR be correct, then classical dances and music may be
next on the chopping block, because both are staples of temple
festivals. Instead of such models of "secularism".

S. S. Gill and his commissioners need to allow fully the reflection
of local talent. After all, the taxpayer has paid for DD and AIR.
She has a right to programmes which she finds pleasant and

New Team
Next, the new Prasar Bharati team should unshackle radio and
television from the government’s grip, and give Indian companies
the right to uplink and to freely generate radio and television
programmes and air them. Should foreign companies be given
permission, they should commit themselves to airing India-
generated programmes on their international networks for fixed
time slots. The syncretic traditions of this land will thus be
beamed to other regions. The new team—and this includes the
CEO—comprises people of experience and integrity. Hopefully,
rather than micro-manage, it will ensure that it itself becomes
irrelevant by truly freeing the airwaves within the parameters of
the law. 

During the past few years, competition to the state-owned
media has emerged in television more than in radio. This process
needs to be taken further, so that the diversity of India is
reflected in its broadcast media as well. Had those in charge of
administering the country ever taken a break from living off the
exchequer and attempted to run even a pan-shop using their
own funds, they would have realised the value of capital. Sadly,
few “public servants” have such an experience. As a result, they
are cavalier when it comes to spending other people’s money.
PILs get filed to block project after project, and few object. These
days, the legal system is seldom used to obtain justice. Most
often, the motive is to delay. And hence the numerous stays and
adjournments. It should be mandatory for the judge to be told
how much a stay is costing the country in terms of wasted
resources. Were this to be done, the eagerness to grant them may

Best Service
One can only admire the judges who believe so passionately in
this country that they feel that it is feasible to set in place
improvements that even rich countries cannot afford. Thus
orders are sent out to close down hundreds of units in the
expectation that jobs will easily be available in cleaner enterprises
elsewhere. Dams that may—in the absence of the development
of nuclear power—help bridge the shortfall in power are halted
in mid-construction so that environmental interests are satisfied.
Strangely, many of our Greens lead very comfortable, even
luxurious lives, in the most tony colonies complete with polluting
refrigerators, air-conditioners and automobiles. However, the
rest of us have to pay the price of political correctness in the
shape of ramshackle infrastructure. Yet, no serious attempt has
been made to ensure that private funding can be given the
conditions to flow freely into key infrastructural areas such as
roads, power, ports and communications. 

Mahatma Gandhi talked of the daridra narayan. Before framing
policies or judgements, those living off the exchequer need to The
work out the impact of their decisions on the honest taxpayer. 
They may then find that several of them are the wrong ones. 
They may also find that the best service they can do is to create 
systems that ensure that they are no longer needed. 

Tuesday 8 September 1998

India-Pakistan Talks - Keep your Fingers Crossed

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

Judging by their quick adoption of the military line on India-
Pakistan relations, it appears that politicians in Islamabad are
once more letting slip an opportunity to make their country a full
democracy. This will entail the curbing of the powers of the
unelected President and Chief of Army Staff, and closing the
shop of the Council for Defense and National Security, a thinly-
disguised cover for military preponderance in Pakistan’s decision-
making machinery.

Once the euphoria generated by his landslide fades, Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif will find it difficult to implement an
agenda designed to restore power to the elected representatives
of the people. This will open the door to his second dismissal a
couple of years hence.

The significance of this for India is that concessions are
possible only to a Pakistan that is fully democratic. As in the case
of Bangladesh, where India could make major adjustments to
Dhaka’s point of view only after the India-baiting regime of
Khaleda Zia was defeated, Pakistan cannot expect similar
treatment unless it gives concrete evidence that the generals no
longer dictate policy. Otherwise, as took place after Tashkent
and Shimla, concessions made to Islamabad will be used by the
authoritarian forces for their consolidation against democratic

Nepal is an example where a tough line by India helped the
collapse of the authoritarian order. It was only after his much-
reviled blockade that Rajiv Gandhi witnessed the transformation
of Nepal into a genuine democracy. Similarly, the generals and
the feudals in Pakistan - with their dream of a chain of terrorist
states owing allegiance to the ISI - need to be made aware that
until their country becomes a full democracy, it cannot be treated
as one. This is where Siachen comes in.

There has been a lot of comment about the "uselessness" of
defending Siachen. The US ambassador to India, Frank Wisner,
has spoken movingly about the need to avoid losing precious
lives in maintaining an outpost in the region. However, if
Siachen is so "useless", why are Islamabad and Washington so
keen on an Indian withdrawal?

Perhaps it is because of two reasons: (1) Siachen gives the
Indian army the ability to interdict supplies along the Karakoram
Highway, and (2) the post gives an observation platform to
watch over the activities taking place on the road, such as
supplies from the ISI to rebels in Xinjiang. While Pakistan will
want to snuff out the first, the US would be bashful about
revealing the extent to which the ISI is useful in its strategic
games. Thus the coming together of both countries to preach to
India about the "insignificance" of Siachen.

Unfortunately, New Delhi has to take a more hard-headed
view of realities. So long as Pakistan continues to arm and
support insurgents in India, the conditions for an Indian
withdrawal from Siachen will not be met. Such concessions can
be given only to a friendly Pakistan, not one that continues to
follow the dictates of its generals in relations with India. To take
the Bangladesh example, now that she is out of power, Khaleda
Zia has admitted to helping insurgents in the Northeast of this

Oddly, the "anti-terrorist" chancelleries of the west have
failed to respond to this admission of guilt, even while they send
messages of support to representatives of "Khalistan".
The letter by US Vice President AI Gore to a known ISI-
financed lobbyist, in which he talks of "Khalistan", has been
sought to be dismissed in this country as one more example of
the sloppiness of the US bureaucracy, However, this is of a piece
with statements that the CIA has "not yet" uncovered hard
evidence of Pakistan-China missile supplies.

Rather than rush to accept conspiracy theories about
insurgencies in India, it would be more sensible to accept the
premise that AI Gore’s office has about as much knowledge
about the internal situation in India as a gorilla in the New York
zoo has.

The third hypothesis is that the letter was, in a sense, paid
for by hefty contributions by ISI fronts in the US. Certain
politicians such as Dan Burton are known to be getting hefty
sums from such groups, so it may not be a surprise if some major
contributor to the Democratic party was behind the Gore reply.
However, contrary to the belief in Pakistan, the US has very
limited capabilities to influence a government in Delhi to make
concessions that would enrage public opinion and lead to
impeachment of those making them. Thus the efforts of
Washington to repay the ISI for its services against Iran, Russia
and China by making New Delhi make strategic concessions will
come to naught.

Indeed, thanks to the ISI, a pattern is becoming clear even to
the Chinese in the activities of fundamentalists in Chechnya,
Kashmir, Shiraz and Xinjiang. Despite efforts to disrupt India-
China ties by revving up activities of Tibetans on foreign
payrolls, it is unlikely that the process of normalisation will slow
down. Hopefully, New Delhi will wake up to what is going on
in the "Buddhist" retreat of Dharamshala and ensure that those
who are being instigated to violence are told to pipe down or get

Unlike transient ties, a mature relationship comes about
when both sides acknowledge current realities and adjust to
them. While the opinion of launching a war to wrest back POK
from Islamabad may not be realistic, neither is the expectation
that US or other pressures can make India agree to the Pakistan
agenda on Kashmir. In case Islamabad is willing to "agree to
disagree" on Kashmir, the way can be opened for measures that
will benefit it substantially, such as enhanced exports to India
and full participation in the CIS-Iran—India economic linkage.

New Delhi, while refusing to make strategic concessions to
an Army-dominated Pakistan, should announce unilateral
concessions on trade, culture and other fields, to signal to the
Pakistani people that the desire is for reconciliation. The final
objective must be a friendly western border, hopefully with a
united Pakistan, or with the successor states in case Islamabad
continues to bleed itself to collapse by its ISI wars.
The minimum condition for even a Siachen agreement is
proof of complete cessation of the ISI's war against India. The
condition for peace is that both sides accept the present borders
and unitedly defend them.

The bluntness of Dewie Gowda on Kashmir is preferable to
the prevarications of the Rao period, the flipflops that convinced
Pakistan that a democratic government in India would, in effect,
blow itself up by surrendering the unity and integrity of India.
To say that suicide by India is the price of friendship, as the
generals in Pakistan argue, is a tad unreasonable.

Monday 7 September 1998

Nuclear Neo-Racism - Ending Technological Apartheid

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

After 500 years of domination over the earth, the Caucasian races
are finding it difficult to adjust to a universe in which the lesser
breeds challenge their supremacy. The first blow was struck in
1947 by India, which forced out the British through non-
cooperation and a no-tax campaign. Finally, the colonisers had
to accept the inevitability of withdrawal in an environment in
which fewer and fewer local quislings obeyed their orders.
Indian independence from British rule ignited a firestorm against
European colonisers, which led to their withdrawal from most
colonies by the 1960s. Today, only a handful of entities such as
Diego Garcia and the Falklands remain under western suzerainty.

Turning Point
However, of the four white supremacist immigrant countries, 
only one has thus far come under a genuinely multi-racial
administration. This is South Africa, where Nelson Mandela’s
emergence has ensured a fairer share in both power and wealth
for hitherto-colonised races. The other three countries still retain
administrations dominated by Caucasians; moreover, they have
put in place immigration regimes that prevent a sufficient inflow
of citizens from Asia, Africa and Latin America. These countries
are Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Just as South Africa
once was, they need to be the target of an intemational campaign
to ensure that their racial mix more correctly reflects international

It is not a coincidence that it is the Australians, New
Zealanders and the Canadians who served as the shock troops·
for the Caucasian races recently when 'low-caste' India matched
’high-caste' technology, and had the gall publicly to demonstrate
it on May 11 and again on May 13. The rhetoric used by these
three countries brought back memories of a century ago, when
the intellectual progenitors of the Axworthys and the Downers
were inventing justifications for the continued exploitation of the
'lesser' breeds.

Sadly for such individuals as Jamie Rubin, who made
disparaging remarks about Indian leaders, the world has changed
somewhat since the first half of this century. If India'; accession
to freedom on August 15, 1947, marked a turning point in
international relations, then so did the two rounds of tests in
May this year. Pokhran-II showed that a country that had been
starved of access to sophisticated technology by the US and other
western powers, could by its own efforts catch up to them.
Unlike the "Pakistani" bomb - which is a China-created device
and whose detonation was intended to help persuade India to
retrace its path of technological advancement - the Indian nuclear
and missile programme is indigenous. Not accidentally,
"international opinion" (which is how the BBC describes the US-
UK perspective) tacitly condoned the decades of Sino-Pakistan
collaboration, while continuously striving to force India to "cap,
roll back and destroy" its nuclear and missile programme. 

Should a genuine non-proliferation treaty get negotiated -
one that blocks transfer of strategic technology between borders - 
India can be expected to sign up. However, it cannot accept any
slowdown in its drive to become a technological superpower.

The more the United States, the United Kingdom and other
countries try and impose an international caste system that puts
India in the role of Ekalavya, the greater will be New Delhi’s
motivation to challenge the policy of technological apartheid. In
this, Beijing can soon be expected to become an ally, as also the
fiercely nationalistic post-Yeltsin Russia that is waiting to be
born. The Gulf and even Pakistan can in course of time be
expected to sign up, as can the peoples of countries that were
former colonies. Within South America—notably in Mexico and 
Brazil—there is a new pride in indigenous culture.

Racial Tolerance
This is the strategic alternative in the event of the Caucasian
powers attempting to destroy the Indian economy—and with
that the country’s unity—through sanctions. However, there is
no doubt that this is a less attractive alternative than a strategic
alliance with the democracies of the western world. Western
society today is very different from what it was during the
colonial era. Extensive travel and generous immigration policies
in much of Europe and the United States have resulted in a
change in societal attitudes. Despite the skinheads, the dominant
mood in major western countries such as Britain, France and
Germany is racial tolerance.

Even during the struggle against colonial oppression, many
of the most active participants were themselves Caucasians.
Annie Besant, Madeleine Slade and others come to mind. Today,
that liberal trend is slowly elbowing out the racists, though in
some sections of the media, attitudes of caste superiority remain
strong. Media commentators, however, are not half as offensive
as Robin Cook or Madeleine Albright, both of whom evidently
believe themselves to be schoolteachers ordering around a
cowed set of truant children. Thanks to such "diplomats", the
western world may forfeit as an ally a country that is the Mother
Civilisation of the West’s cultural inheritance.

Far-reaching Results
However, there is an Indian saying that there can be true
friendship only between equals. If President Clinton truly feels
that nuclear weapons are an abomination in the emerging
century, he should initiate steps to follow his own advice to
India, and unilaterally destroy the US strategic arsenal. It is
ludicrous to hear the president of the world's most weaponised
country preach abstinence, just as it is to hear the BBC fulminate
against "immoral" India, when they have yet to mention that
Britain (who perhaps faces a strategic threat from France) is a
nuclear-weapon state, and therefore as culpable. Should the
western powers continue their current tirade against this country,
then New Delhi cannot be blamed for turning away from
cooperation with them to a policy that returns to its anti-colonial

The events of the coming years will have incalculable
consequences on the future international balance of power, for
they will determine the strategic direction taken by an India that
will inevitably take its pride of place in the international order.

Sunday 6 September 1998

Widening the NEt - Bringing a Corrupt Elite to Book

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

India’s miserable performance in athletics reflects the national
tendency to lose steam after a good start. After the initial burst
of enthusiasm and energy, we tend to peter out and the final
result is usually dismal. This situation obtains in corruption
investigations as well. As numerous infructuous enquiry
commissions have shown, an unwillingness to concentrate on
crucial issues and delays in investigation often lead to the
punishment for graft being merely some bad publicity.

Lok Pal Bill
That the political class in India is unwilling to stem the flow of
cash in its own direction has once again become clear from the
draft Lok Pal Bill. Instead of protecting the citizen from venal
politicians, the present draft Bill will serve to gag the media and
enable wrongdoers in government to avoid accountability by
directing enquiries into other more convenient channels. As the
hawula and other scams have shown, unless there is constant
media and judicial scrutiny of cases, these will become
progressively more diffused and finally die out. Public opinion
needs to be mobilised to ensure the framing of laws—and the
creation of institutions—that can lessen, if not destroy, official

In this campaign, winning a few battles—such as sending a
Sukh Ram into custody for a few weeks—is not enough to win
the war. Only a system of checks on the political and bureaucratic
elite can do this. The main thrust should be targeting the top
echelon because corruption flows from that level to others. If the
highest level of the administration is seen to be honest, the rest
will follow suit contributing to a better regime. This was evident
in Kerala during the time (1969-77), for example, when C.
Achutha Menon was chief minister. Or, look at a wider all-India
example. Government functioning was far more honest and
transparent during the short period (1964-65) of Lal Bahadu
Shastri than it was subsequently. However, a Menon or a Shastri
are rare. And, after full-fledged "family rule" began in the 1970s,
such people foimd it almost impossible to get anywhere in durbar
politics, where what matters is to catch the eye of the ruler
through sycophancy. Small wonder then that politicians are
resisting the efforts of the Election Commission to democratise
their party structures.

Defining the political and the bureaucratic elite for purposes
of legislation is easy. The "political elite" comprises the presidents
and legislature party leaders of all recognised political formations,
both at the central as well as state level. It also includes all past
and present cabinet ministers, again at both the Centre and the
states as well as all current MPs, and MLA/MLCs. The
"bureaucratic elite" comprises all those whose salaries come
from the state exchequer and which exceeds a total of Rs. 10,000
per month, (all inclusive). This includes public sector officers as
well as those from the administration and the police. Needless
to say, this definition also includes the spouses and the children
of those listed. The judiciary and the armed forces will also need
to develop systems to identify and punish the black sheep within
them. The new legislation would cover all their actions from the
period they enter into its scope.

Apart from a Lok Pal rid of the opacity and toothlessness
patent in the current draft legislation, the CBI needs to be vested
with the same level of autonomy which the Comptroller and
Auditor-General and the Election Commission enjoy at present.
This new CBI should have as its mandate investigations into
charges involving the political and bureaucratic elite. Cases
involving smaller fry should be devolved to other organisations
set up for the purpose. At present, rather than concentrating on
major cases, the CBI has got far too much on its plate. It is no
surprise, therefore, that it has been unable to frame chargesheets
on time in several cases, thus leading to the accused being let free
on bail. Were the CBI to concentrate only on involving those at
the top, or those where the loss to the exchequer is computed at
over Rs. 100 crores, such delays would hopefully not occur.

Special Tribunal
However, investigating agencies by themselves are as useless as
water without irrigation canals to take it to the fields. The
existing criminal justice system—clearly designed for a population
the size of the British Isles—would not be able to take the burden
generated by a campaign against high-level graft. It needs to be
supplemented by a system of special tribunals which will try
such cases. These tribunals could be modelled on, for example,
the land boards set up by the Devaraj Urs government in
Karnataka during the 1970s. These boards had wide powers and
strict limits on appeal procedures. As a result, decisions were
taken and implemented speedily.

The experience gained since the investigations into the Jain
hawala case shows that there is a lack of coordination between the
key investigating agencies, in particular the CBI, the Directorate
of Revenue Intelligence and the Enforcement Directorate. In
order to investigate cases involving the elite, or those where the
loss to the exchequer exceeds Rs. 100 crores, a coordinating
mechanism needs to be set up so that information can be pooled
and duplication of work avoided. Contrary to the intentions of
the framers of the present draft of the Lok Pal Bill (which is to
prevent media scrutiny), there is need for constant monitoring
by the media of the activities of these watchdogs, so that they
themselves do not fall prey to corruption. Given that India is by 
and large a functioning democracy, the best guardian of public
standards is a citizenry kept informed by an alert press.

Two Gifts
While the British enriched themselves during their uninvited
sojourn in India, their crimes were mitigated by two gifts that
they—perhaps unintentionally—left behind. These are the English
language and the system of parliamentary democracy. Both have
resisted the efforts of Indian goons and cultural fascists to banish
them. Thanks to the two legacies, over time a vigilant press and
judiciary have also emerged that have combined to carry forward
the present drive against corruption. In particular, the present
Supreme Court has ensured its place in history by taking the lead
in bringing the mighty who have transcended the law to book.
However, an institutional framework needs to be created to
ensure that this achievement is permanent.

Only sustained public pressure can shame the political class
into setting into place systems and procedures that would deter
a member of the political or the bureaucratic elite from becoming
corrupt. A start has been made by the forced arrest of Sukh Ram
for possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of
income. However, the politician from Mandi is not the exception
in his class, but the rule. Those in authority, however, should not
be allowed to escape by making scapegoats of a few like Sukh
Ram. The net needs to widen so that it covers the activities of all
those who have held prominent positions during at least the past
ten years. Narasimha Rao and Sukh Ram are not the only
politicians to have bent the rules. Many of those now leading the
wolf pack against them are no less guilty. At present, the "drive"
against corruption has all the orderliness of a Roman arena
where the crowd screams for the fallen gladiators to be
despatched. Such frenzy needs to be replaced with the putting
into place of new systems designed to identify and punish graft
and misuse of office.