It is difficult to know whether the fish is drinking water or moving in the water, similarly it is difficult to know whether a person is serving society or helping himself get wealthier. The way Mr. U. Lal in last three decades has become a multi-millionaire, and that the Government did nothing, is indicative of the larger malaise in society, as those in power stay in glass houses and will not throw stones at others. What is worse is that he and his family members amass wealth and get elected by the people, for the people, and off the people. Do people believe that success matters in terms of status, power and money alone?
It does give a feeling that people don’t care how you make wealth as long as you make wealth — by hook or by crook. That’s bad, as it reflects the degeneration of society. People admire honest people, but hate to emulate them. Some retired soldiers come to me from time to time and request that their son be enrolled in the Army. I tell them to just go online and he will get a call letter along with the place where he needs to report for physical fitness, written examination and finally the medical. They look at me in disgust and tell me that they need not be told all that. They know the procedure, they want their son enrolled irrespective of the procedure, since I am in a position of authority. When I ask them how it is possible, they turn around and ask why, then, am I a General? They tell me that so and so got his son enrolled even when he had not made it in the normal way that I had suggested, and that he got through because his Sahab helped him. I am now being pitted with a go-getter Sahab and being sarcastically told that I am a nincompoop. Either I accept their judgement or try and get the boy enrolled — a catch-22 situation.
The greater question, however, is: how come the system in place is not being respected? What has gone wrong? Who is corrupting the system? Who are these entrepreneurs who, despite the system in place, are subverting the system? Why this ethical deficit and extreme form of individualist behaviour at large?
Mr. U. Lal may be a corrupt leader, but if he can get the work done for gratification or otherwise, in the eyes of the public, he is the man.
“Kanooni nahi hai. Kaam toh karta hai.“
To them, U. Lal is God. In such a situation, how can we get rid of corruption when the root cause is the people? There is something inherent on our character that we encourage corruption. As a society, we are predisposed to being corrupt. If the population does not see this as a malady, we are only encouraging people like U. Lal to amass wealth. Why blame him? As a society, we care two hoots for right or wrong, or for morality. What matters to us is the attainment of our objective. Even in the Training Academies, young cadets were once told to beg, borrow or steal. Where are we heading? Ours is one of the most corrupt societies in the world, but so was Singapore at the time of independence, and today it is one of the most corruption-free. Can we turn a new leaf as an old civilisation?
Obviously, we would not have survived these thousands of years if our society had degenerated and if we were morally corrupt. Then why this stigma of a corrupt nation that we have to live with? As a society, we admire honest people but, as I said, hate to emulate them. To us Gulzari Lal Nanda was an honest interim PM and Lal Bahadur Shastri an honest PM — both admirable, but not worth emulating as they are not in keeping with the times. As a society, we are fond of moral lectures, but when it comes time to follow them the preacher does not practice. “Yeh aadmi sab kuch kar sakta hai” is more respectable than being called imaandar, which would mean “Yeh admi bhola hai, don’t depend on him.” What is the Hindi word for this Urdu word imaandar? Any guess? Don’t tell me we have borrowed this word to enrich our literature but not character.
Just as I was penning this down came the news that Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who served as the President of Brazil from 2003 to 2011, was convicted of corruption and money laundering. They say he lived up to the old Brazilian saying, “Rouba mas faz” – he steals but gets things done. The judge sentenced him to nine and a half years in prison and yet, after receiving his sentence, Lula was defiant just like my character, Mr. U. Lal.
Lula was the First President of Brazil to grow up poor. Instead of attending school, he sold peanuts and shined shoes. In his campaign, he promised to fight the corruption, and in his tenure thirty million people were lifted out of extreme poverty. The independent judiciary took no cognisance of his achievements, however, as he and his administration had siphoned billions of dollars. Just like in India: 2G Scam, Coal Scam, Fodder Scam, Commonwealth Games and many more, haan ji, many more, but nobody has been punished like Lula. Shameful isn’t it. They are all out on bail or otherwise enjoying the hospitality of the tax payers’ money, and members of the united Opposition are busy canvassing their candidate for the Vice President of India.
Mr. Kapil Sibal, an eminent Lawyer and former Union Minister, whose party has ruled at the Centre and the States for the most number of years after Independence, has admitted that our institutions are in a state of ruin. He picks on the media, judiciary, investigative agencies, and spineless bureaucrats as institutions which need to pull up their socks for a truly vibrant, secular, corruption-free and democratic India. He feels that the building blocks of democracy are woefully wanted. Who is to be blamed if not the Governments since independence, who have failed to nurture and groom and instead have eroded the credibility of these institutions?
We must break the nexus between the crooked Politician and the crooked Businessman, if we want to be cheered like the Election Commission while munching Parle G.
The author, Lt. Gen. Sanjay Kulkarni, is a retired officer of the Indian Army.
He served as the Commanding Officer in Leh, Laddakh, and planted the first Indian flag on Siachen in 1984.
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