LAW RESOURCE INDIA

Brazenness of decisions inherent to political governance in India

Posted in ACCOUNTABILITY, CONSTITUTION by NNLRJ INDIA on November 12, 2012

DHANANJAY MAHAPATRA IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

Comptroller and auditor general Vinod Rai recently set the political arena ablaze by saying that he was appalled by the brazenness of government decisions. He did not elaborate which were those decisions, when were they taken and their effect on the people, country and its economy. Before and during the Emergency, government decisions were inscrutable. They were taken as inviolable diktat because of the rasping repercussions it entailed to those bravehearts who opposed them publicly. This mindset allowed the political class to be brazen about decisions.Post-Emergency, public scrutiny of government decisions gained currency but brazenness seldom exited the power corridors.

A rag-tag political coalition in Janata Party came to power in 1977 mainly because its leaders served jail terms for raising their voice against excesses on people, But, could it prove anything against those who brazenly perpetrated the excesses on people?

A prime minister was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. What followed was brazen and brutal mass murder of Sikhs on the streets of the national capital and other parts of the country. Thousands were slaughtered in cold blood leaving permanent scars on the entire community. After nearly three decades, the question remains: Who got punished for that brazen mayhem?

Bofors scam was a political game-changer. On the plank of honesty and transparency, certain politicians toppled the ruling party but failed to prove anything for the next two decades about the brazenness in which bribes were paid in procuring one of the finest field guns for Indian Army. The CBI in its charge sheet gave details of what was going on then at 7, Race Course Road but could prove nothing during the trial, inviting judicial wrath. In 1993, those at the helm of a minority government brazenly bribed MPs to secure their votes on the floor of the House during a trust vote. The long arm of the law cast a shadow close to the then prime minister, but in the end did not touch him. The other conspirators also escaped.

In the 21st century, the MPs fell back on an old method – taking money for asking questions on the floor of the House. The disqualification of a MP in the 1950s was no deterrent. As many as 11 MPs faced disqualification for their brazen “cash-for-query” professionalism, throwing parliamentary decorum and their responsibilities and duties as representatives of people to the wind.If these were political brazenness coupled with complicity from the bureaucracy and investigating agencies, there were instances of brazenness in other spheres of governance.The law allowed the government to acquire land for public purposes to build infrastructure, institutions and industries. But the ‘public purpose” clause has been brazenly invoked by authorities to acquire precious fertile agricultural land only to be re-categorized and transferred to realtors for personal gain, turning a blind eye to the plight of the poor farmers and also to its ill-effects on food grain production.

Poverty and backwardness continues to haunt a large section of Indian society even 65 years after independence from colonial rule. Instead of laying out a proper strategy to alleviate poverty, the Planning Commission brazenly mocked at the poor by fixing the poverty line at Rs 32 per day. If you earn Rs 33 a day, then you are not poor! If one wants an example of brazenness in spending public funds to achieve zero result, then one need not look further than the Yamuna river. More than 18 years ago, the Supreme Court took over monitoring of steps taken by governments to make the river water potable. After three governments – Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana -spent more than Rs 5,000 crore in the last two decades, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) gave its verdict: Yamuna is a drain with not a single drop of fresh water as long as it flows in its 22 km stretch in Delhi.

These are only a few of the appallingly brazen decisions and actions of the governments in the last couple of decades. This could be the reason why people in recent times have started leveling allegations brazenly against the political class.

They have waited in vain for decades hoping against hope that the political class would fulfill the basic promise “we the people” made to ourselves – “Justice, social, economic and political”. Why has the political class or the governments failed to ensure justice to people despite they empowering their representatives with every power under the Constitution?

Probably, the political class has failed to strike a balance between power that is conferred on them and the intent to do justice. The situation reminds one of the famous saying of French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal, who had said, “Justice without power is inefficient; power without justice is tyranny… Justice and power must therefore be brought together so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.”

dhananjay.mahapatra@timesgroup.com

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