Should we not have a law to punish politicians for breach of trust?
DHANANJAY MAHAPATRA IN THE TIMES OF INDIA
The great Indian political factory has never failed to spring surprises on the common man. But the giant anaconda shaped garland made up of Rs 1,000 denomination currency notes has surely caught leaders by surprise. They are surprised not by the number of notes in the garland, for they have seen similar amounts being donated to their parties by industrialists, but by the ingenuity of the explanation about the source of the money — a token of love and affection to the “beloved leader” from dalits who are the poorest of the poor. A vast section of poor still live below the poverty line and survive on ration irregularly distributed through a system that stinks of corruption. He could hardly have seen a single note of Rs 1,000 denomination not to talk of possessing and then donating it. Did the wisecrack say the common man and his brethren donated these seemingly uncountable number of currency notes to their “beloved” leader? Political leaders getting elevated to the status of demi-god is nothing new in India, a practice abhorred by none other than the greatest dalit leader, B R Ambedkar. But, that is a little later. For, the common man deserves first mention. The common man, since independence, has been handing over the keys of governance to politicians thinking these merchants who sell dreams would one day make these a reality for him. Mired in those dreams, he continues to endure hardships which have become intrinsic to his life with unfathomable resilience. How else could one explain his silence when prices of food articles and sugar went up sharply? Why did he ignore an important politician’s teasing comment — no one would die if he did not consume sugar? But the moot question is: Should politicians be allowed to continue selling dreams to the gullible common man? Politicians have business interests in almost every kind of industrial activity — from slaughter houses to sugar factories, from mining to money lending. The contrast between wealth of the politicians and plight of the common man is starker than day and night. There is not yet a law or a legal machinery which would fasten liability on a politician who reneges on his election-eve promise. Defeat in the next election for non-performance is no punishment. It is just a consequence. Why should politicians who trick the common man to hand over the keys of governance on the promise of bringing them prosperity be not punished for breach of trust? Most politicians do not appear to even know the basic amenities which a state must provide to the common man? It was crystallised nicely by the Supreme Court in 1983 in the Bandhua Mukti Morcha case [1984 (3) SCC 161]. It had said every citizen was guaranteed under the Constitution to lead a dignified life, which included “protection of the health and strength of workers, men and women, and of the tender age of children against abuse; opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity; educational facilities; just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief”.
“These are the minimum requirements which must exist in order to enable a person to live with human dignity and no state — neither the central government nor any state government — has the right to take any action which will deprive a person of the enjoyment of these basic essentials,” the SC had said. There has been improvement but Jawaharlal Nehru’s `Tryst with Destiny’ speech in August 1947 still remains a reminder for politicians. He had said, “The service of India means the service of millions who suffer. It means ending of the poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.” After more than 60 years, millions still continue to suffer. Nehru probably forgot to put a deadline for achieving the goals. Now, a few words about growing culture of worshipping of political leaders by sycophants who react violently to criticism. Cautioning against it, Dr Ambedkar in November 1949 had prophetically said, “Bhakti in religion may be road to salvation of the soul, but in politics, bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and the eventual dictatorship.”