Monday, January 10, 2011

Spectrum Scam: Unfair blaming of Privatisation.

Whether its a vernacular communist blogger or a journalist at brazenly left wing "Frontline" the smug attitude of blaming "capitalism", "privatisation", "neo-liberal economic policies" is in vogue. Lets forget for a moment quibbling over the scale of corruption or that even corruption took place.

Just today Tom De Lay the former majority leader of US House of representatives was sentenced to 3 years on charges on money laundering. Recently the very powerful congressman Charlie Rangel was censured on the floor of house for not "reporting" some income (it was considered shameful and Rangel hung his head). Paula Jones, a literal nobody, filed a lawsuit alleging misconduct by the President of US (Bill Clinton). Clinton sought exemption from court appearance saying he was busy functioning as President. The court would have none of it. Clinton was asked to appear before a grand jury. His testimony, completely unedited, was released to the public. Businessmen and lobbyists have gone to jail serving punitive sentences for illegal activities. Rigas, Enron CEO's, Jack Abramoff. Governors, Congressmen, Senators have all felt the sting of law in US.

Contrast the above with India. Laloo Prasad made a mockery of CBI cases. Mayawati holds darbars. Mulayam Singh Yadav is in a class of his own. Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi, Yeddyurappa all have made the courts and corruption cases look like badges of honor. The Ex-Chief Justice of India did his best to keep his own office outside the purview of RTI act in the name of preserving respect for judiciary.

Where politics and money meets corruption is almost inevitable. However what differentiates a mature capitalism like US with the crony capitalism of India is the overall system. Indian constitution framers in their infinite stupidity made it impossible to prosecute a sitting legislative member. This was amply demonstrated in the attempts by Swamy to seek permission from then TN governor Channa Reddy to prosecute Jayalalitha. Reddy's party was in alliance with Jaya. To prosecute a PM you need the president's approval. Good luck with that. When Jaya was acquitted in the TANSI case it shocked the country. Try to criticize that judgment without inviting the draconian pressure of "contempt of court".

The parliament has history sheeters, rapists, thugs, murderers, MP's get elected sitting inside Tihar jail. MLA slaps a vice chancellor. Judge issues warrants for payments. Then there is the beaurocracy. Just today Dinamalar published a news item showing how a disabled couple wailed at a government office to get ration cards. RTO offices, Government secratariat, Hospitals, PWD, Universities, NOTHING absolutely nothing in India is beyond the pale of brazen corruption.

In a country like this its a shame to even talk about "spirit of law". Manmohan Singh defeated in LS polls then gets duly elected to RS from Assam, a state which he probably never visited until then. The cabinet, according to the constitution, is to be formed on the advise of the PM. In reality the PM is given no choice thanks to allies who want "plum" portfolios. In a country where there is no rule of law its idiocy to think about the spirit of law.

Would any Indian want to go back to the days of MTNL holding monopoly over telecom? When questioned in the parliament about how dismal phone service is the cabinet minister C.M.Stephen retorted "telephone is a luxury not a necessity" (India:From Midnight to Millennium by Shashi Tharoor pg 167-8). Cell phones have revolutionized how farmers, rikshaw-wallahs, auto-drivers, millions of poor people earn. The ministry of agriculture is now telecasting an ad touting "Call centers for farmers", the farmer is depicted with a cell phone. This could not have happened with MTNL. I still remember the telecom strikes that would cripple the country causing loss of thousands of crores. Is that what we want to go back to?

A government that has enshrined legally doling out favors engenders a culture of bribery and corruption. The housing scandal that is rocking the TN government is purely a government sanctioned corruption. A system where MP's can allot gas stations, housing flats, school admissions (yes that too), licenses for industries etc etc has completely corrupted every soul of India. Voters are bribed legally (color TV's) and illegally (cash for votes).

Banks were nationalized to provide easy access to capital for the poor citizen. What was reality? Banks are used like cash cows to bribe the voter with promises of loan write offs. From the days of Janardhan Poojary's loan mela's to Karunanidhi's waiver of Rs 5000 crores nationalized banks were milked under the aegis of political patronage. What is worse this culture has encouraged citizens to take loans and wait for reckless politicians to waive it during elections. A culture of irresponsibility. The Indian Bank scam highlighted how politicians, legally sanctioned, used their privilege of providing loans to ruin a storied bank.

Lack of transparency at all levels in government, an over burdened outmoded legal system, corruption eating into every organ of the society like cancer are all far more responsible for this and more scams to come than capitalism or privatization.

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