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Baba Ramdev’s Crusading Zeal

Updated: June 18, 2011 11:48 am

Baba Ramdev has thrown the gauntlet by announcing to sit on fast unto death in Delhi on June 4. Now it is to be seen as to what strategy the government hammers out—whether it remains in its deep slumber by sticking to its obstinacy for not bringing back the black money parked in foreign havens or is made to submit Baba’s demands. However, if one is endeavouring to document Baba Ramdev’s fast in the capital, he would likely confront contrasting images—of multitudes enthused and galvanised by one sanyasi Baba’s passionate fervour, his almost single-handed ability, given the indications, to bring the government to its knees. Baba Ramdev’s campaign would connect all the patriotic people of the country and unite their voices, making it the first time since JP movement that anyone has been able to mobilise support on the issue of corruption. For, the common man’s anger over rising corruption has reached feverish levels. Besides black money worth thousands of billions of rupees being stashed away in foreign banks, the UPA-II government’s reign is being dubbed a “season of scams”, as it includes the alleged theft of billions by officials behind last year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi; billions of revenue lost in the crooked sale of 2G scam; and over $40 billion stolen in Uttar Pradesh alone from schemes subsidising food and fuel for the poor. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that recently the country’s anti-corruption chief was forced out, well, over corruption! Corruption is the most virulent when crises everywhere threaten the very existence of the society and the faith in life is shaken. It has always been there like leech, but when the system grows weaker and the boat flounders, it gets bolder and drains its victims of the last drops of their blood. The older the system, the weaker it grows and fails to solve the riddles of life that grows more complex everyday. So men lose faith in it and let it drift down. At this point, corruption takes over and plunges the entire society.

            In this backdrop, in a move apparently displaying its seriousness in dealing with black money, the government on May 28 constituted a high-level committee headed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman to examine ways of strengthening laws to curb generation of “illegal” wealth, prevent transfer of such funds abroad and devise a framework for recovery of unaccounted assets. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pulling out all the stops on June 1 sent four of his senior ministers to meet Baba Ramdev so as to persuade him to withdraw his agitation. However, the reaction in many circles to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cryptic action about the need to tackle corruption in public life could be seen as one of cynicism. It could be even derision in a few others. Like the proverbial statement regarding the weather—something that everybody talks about, and there is little that one can do about it—there is an all-round sense of resignation in the country that is very much of a tragedy. Knowing the man as we do, however, it will be unfair to dismiss the Prime Minister’s commitment as one solely meant for the gallery. His anguish over the current abominable levels of corruption in the country might seem genuine, but what raises doubt over his integrity is the fact that he himself has accommodated in his government persons whose reputation is unsavoury, to put it mildly. For, the money parked in safe havens in foreign banks abroad is tainted; it is a drain of wealth from the country; and the sums involved are large. Not surprisingly, the issue of money stashed away by India’s rich and powerful in numbered accounts in Swiss and similar banks is periodically raised, provokes controversy and then enters a period of hibernation. It is revived periodically for a number of reasons. Most often, the transfer of money to Swiss bank accounts involves a violation of tax, foreign exchange and/or other laws of the country, and therefore is illegal and morally repugnant. In addition, the sums involved are not small. Furthermore, these reflect surpluses that can be used to finance much-needed development initiatives in the country, but are now being kept idle abroad to facilitate illegal accumulation. Their existence is symbolic of an elite that places self before the nation. Therefore, public agitation has become a necessary exersise. However, constant friction between the government and society will not yield any significant result. Hence, a solution should be worked out by ensuring Baba Ramdev —and the people of the country that very soon a comprehensive mechanism will be chalked out, so that violations of law that permit accumulation of such wealth abroad are investigated, the offenders prosecuted and the money brought back and directed towards pushing growth and improving welfare. Morality apart, equity demands that the rule of law should prevail.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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