Monday 29 August 2011

Remember Lord Keynes, Mr Prime Minister (Sunday Guardian)

Manmohan Singh with Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj during a function in New Delhi last week. PTI
anmohan Singh may have studied economics, but he has clearly not heard of John Maynard Keynes, who claimed that "in the long run we are all dead". Else the PM would not be constantly repeating the refrain that we should all "wait" for the government to put in place genuine anti-graft measures. In such tardiness, he has got the support of the country's "recognised" NGOs. For example, Aruna Roy, and it is to the credit of Roy that she has shown herself to have the courage to be unhesitatingly loyal to be the UPA's most prominent NGO face against the Anna Hazare movement.
However, despite the exertions of Ms Roy, her efforts at discrediting the anti-graft movement seems to have led to the present effort to paint the group as being a front for RSS headquarters in Nagpur. Those familiar with the core residents of that venerable enclave would smile at the thought. After having been fed rich doses of kheer and gulab jamun during the Vajpayee interregnum, many, if not most, RSS leaders lack any stomach to battle for the principles of their movement, which is why the RSS has ensured that BJP MPs remain in the firm control of Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, two Vajpayee loyalists who are charter members of the Save the System Club. The reality is that "Team Anna" has been given oxygen by the country's refusal to give any more time to a political system that has failed to provide the people with the requisites of a civilised life since 1947, a political system that includes the BJP as much as it does the Congress.
It is a pity that Ms Roy, in her numerous television appearances, has thus far not reminded the government about some of the many laws that were passed in the past and yet not notified, or laws that were proposed (for example, in President Pratibha Patil's annual speeches to the nation) but not acted upon. None of these initiatives were proposed by Varun Gandhi or Subramanian Swamy. Indeed, the Anti-Benami law that got passed in 1988 was the brainchild of Rajiv Gandhi, who was surely never a foe of the UPA core. However, since then this excellent piece of legislation has remained un-notified, and is, therefore, still inoperative. Several other enactments and administrative fiats that could make a genuine difference in the war against graft have suffered the same fate over the years, even as the NAC continues to suggest more and more legislation in their energetic effort at civilising the natives of India.
Another issue for Ms Roy to perhaps pay attention to is the Government of India's signing a disclosure agreement with Switzerland that has only prospective effect, and which is, therefore, an eyewash. Granted that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi seems to have no influence whatsoever over the Manmohan Singh government (or else, as so many foreign diplomats and journalists have testified, she would surely have eliminated corruption in India), it seems desirable for the NAC to at the least record its disgust at such a patent means of enabling those who have salted away an estimated trillion dollars since 1947 to escape detection.
But why reach back to Rajiv Gandhi and to 1988? In 2006, the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily (who does not appear to be a votary of the RSS) suggested several anti-corruption measures in its tome on "Ethics in Governance". The Moily committee (which included V. Ramachandran of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, which is hopefully not a clandestine instrument for the RSS takeover of the government) gave several recommendations, many of which are first-class and worthy of immediate implementation. They relate, inter alia, to freeing the CBI of political bias through making it a statutory body. Amendments to the Serious Frauds legislation have been suggested. There are detailed proposals on the Lokpal and the Lokayukta, which would certainly commend themselves not only to Team Anna but to those citizens not part of the Corruption Machine that governance has descended to in India.
As happened to Ram Jethmalani in the Vajpayee period when he sought to introduce legislation that would make the judicial system in India less of a nightmare for those not privileged to have a lifespan exceeding 300 years, Veerappa Moily has been divested of the Law portfolio. And by the looks of it, for the same reason as Ram Jethmalani: for the "crime" of seeking a more transparent, accountable and speedy judicial system. But what has happened to his volume on ethics?
his is still "under study" by a Group of Ministers, who till now have presumably not found the time to even too many pages, for there has been total silence about their views on the ARC recommendations. Even Moily, who otherwise has an equable nature, felt constrained to send a letter of remonstrance to his own government in October 2010, asking about the fate of his recommendations. If he has received any reply, it is probably that the Group of Ministers has reached Page 15 (out of nearly 600 pages) and hence a decision will be taken by about AD 2067, or in roughly the same time as it takes for a typical case to get finally settled in India's superb legal system. And yet television commentators known to be close to the Powers That Be claim that Team Manmohan ought to be "given more time". Yes indeed, in case they discover an elixir that lengthens the average lifespan by several times of what it is today. Till that happens, the impatience of the rest of the population is understandable.

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