Confrontation will harm Parliament, nation

These are not happy times in India and it looks as if it will take quite a while for it to recover from what is certainly a crisis it has allowed itself to slip  into.

The crisis has brought out not only the way the political system has been mauled during 63 years since Independence, but also it has bruised the conscience of the nation.

The Constitution and political system the founding fathers of the Republic  left behind is often blamed by the chatterati. The fault,  however, may not be of the Constitution, or the system, or the stars — but of the men who have been fiddling  with the values enshrined in the constitutional scheme  for their narrow, petty ends across the land.

This is evident from the way vital organs of the State – Parliament, the judiciary and the executive – have fallen in public esteem.  And no political leader, whatever the political affiliation, is making a serious effort to stop the rot, which is affecting the health of the nation.

Parliament, which represents a nation of over a billion people, who are keen to see a better future in their lifetime, is lying paralysed, almost dysfunctional.

The worthy members sitting on both sides of the divide do not know how to resolve the crisis by talks, or a give-and take approach that is always of help in a democracy.

Consensus among political parties is essential in a democratic polity. What we are seeing is however, a sustained attempt to create an atmosphere of confrontation that can spill over from Parliament to the country.  Unchecked, it will have serious consequences for the country and the political system,  or whatever is left of it.  The resultant tensions will add to the people’s agony.

The 2G guilty must be punished, but the JPC is not the only way to get the truth out of the government on the scam. Properly made use of, other ways can also be effective. One of them is that the Public Accounts Committee, which is headed by a senior BJP leader, should be entrusted with the task.  A no-confidence motion on the scam can also be moved in the House in the current session. But not to let Parliament discuss it and to force daily adjournments of the House by raising a ruckus cannot be regarded as service to Parliament.

It has been seen from experience elsewhere in the world, that the moment a parliament loses public respect as an institution, it loses its legitimacy.  The Hon. Members need to ensure that Parliament continues to enjoy public confidence.

Not much can be said about the executive branch’s performance during the last 60 years. The so-called “Steel Frame” has become  corroded to the bones. Senior bureaucrats at the Centre and in the States have developed cosy relationship with unscrupulous politicians, just to share the cake. Greed is cementing the nexus and breeding corruption.

Scores of officers of the babudom, IAS, IPS and others services  are facing criminal trials and there are others who ought to be proceeded against,  but the people tend to believe that nothing will happen to anyone.

In most States, the administration is distant, callous and unresponsive. And the people do find that the rich and the influential are able to find their way through the corridors and the red tape, while others are kept at bay.

Over the years, the judiciary’s image has also suffered.   Most people, who thought that it is their last hope, no longer think it can dispense justice to them and in time. This is mainly because of the long delays, high costs, frequent adjournments –which are often managed– and  corruption.

Justice S P Bharucha once said in a public statement that 20 per cent of judiciary was corrupt.  That was years ago, and you have to take into account the cost of the rise of the index of inflation.

None else than the Attorney General of India, C.M. Vanahavati pointed out in the Supreme Court  the other day how difficult the judiciary will find it to apply the criterion of “impeccable integrity” to judicial appointments. His brief was of course to defend the controversial appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner.

The judiciary is rightly jealous of its independence and the people also have a high stake in it. But it pre-supposes that it is prepared to guard its freedom from encroachment by the Executive, Parliament or those with the power to buy justice or influence in several courts in the country.

The reports from various high courts and the subordinate judiciary should have caused greater concern at the apex level than it has. The Supreme Court should have been listening to the woes of the common people who daily have to knock the kacheheri’s doors only to go home disappointed.

That some wrong men were allowed to come to higher judiciary and it has had no way to tackle their greed is amply illustrated by the two cases of Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran of the Karntaka High Court and Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court, have been sent to Parliament for impeachment, because the Supreme Court itself  could not weed the rotten apples out.

And now we will have to see the irony of a Parliament, which  itself is writhing in a disfunctional state, is supposed to decide the fate of the two errant high court judges who have been in the headlines for wrong reasons.

And now a section of the media, which has been boldly reporting and commenting from the sidelines and acquiring a sort of moral superiority a watchdog likes to enjoy, is also earning  public sneers for the inclination of some well-known names to become facilitators in the games the politicians and big business are used to playing.

The people who do not seem to be worried are the illustrious members of the big businesses for whom the current state of the political system is a matter of discussion at  cocktail time. Even some of the respected names, who have often bragged about the social responsibility of the business, have been caught in the Niira Radia tapes. They reveal an extra-curricular interest Niira Radia and her illustrious  client has taken in the induction into the Union Cabinet last year – of none else than A Raja —the source of much trouble to the Government, Parliament, the judiciary and the media.

The malaise is much deeper than a JPC will be able to tackle.  The moral fibre of the nation has become weak and there is no one around to check its daily attenuation.

– The Tribune, December 1st, 2010