Introspecting The Instruments Of Governance
The emotional and angry outpour at the beastly, brutal, barbarous and savage rape of a 23-year-old para-medical student in Delhi is the manifestation of constant abuse of institutions in India, in the domains of legislature, executive and the judiciary. The degradation has exposed the country to vicious internal and external manipulations. At the root, is the insatiable criminal pursuit of power and money by not only unconstitutional but also constitutional elements. At this juncture, the failure to address the systemic collapse of the institutions will have consequences for the very survival of the Indian state.
The Colonial Curse
There are absolutely no infirmities in the very structure of governance bequeathed to us by the founders of the Indian nation-state. The Indian Constitution in its provisions, intent and appeal is the most humane, sensitive and encompassing. It embodies wisdom and features of many other Constitutions of the world. It also draws heavily from the colonial period by way of the Government of India Act 1935. The colonial framework and mindset, especially in the realms of executive and the judiciary, continues to guide the structures and attitude to governance.
A former journalist and Rajya Sabha member recounted to this author that he was appointed a member of a committee by the late Rajiv Gandhi to study the interface between the state apparatus and people at the grassroots level. After having toured rural India extensively he arrived at the appalling reality that whenever and wherever the people came in direct contact with the instruments of governance, they viewed them as enemies. A visit to a police station even now will underscore the same reality.
The focus of governance has been rapidly shifting from accountability to personal aggrandizement.
It has created new feudal classes like the ‘political class’ and the ‘bureaucracy class’, the latter includes the judiciary as well as the police. The nexus between the political class and the bureaucratic class has not only evolved because of the exigencies of power and pelf, but increasingly on account of familial affinities based on matrimonial alliances. The two classes have been subverting one-another and together they have been subverting India. This subversion has also given unprecedented impetus to the culture of ‘sinecures’ after retirement.
This unholy nexus was quite evident when the IPS officer in Gujarat, Mr Sanjeev Bhatt was seen by his wife’s (Mrs. Savita Bhatt) side when she was filing her nomination for the recent Assembly Elections. Earlier this officer was caught hobnobbing with politicians of a particular party. It is not surprising that he has not been dismissed, because the government at the center has placed primacy over the political utility of this officer over ethos of police service. Similarly, the Indian system has absolved a senior politician, with no constitutional authority, who claims to have received regular updates from the former ATS Chief of Maharastra the late Hemant Karkare. It is a blatant breach of Official Secret Act. An enquiry into the claims of the politician is imperative to hunt the truth. Nevertheless, it only exposes the politics of policing in India whose trail originates from vote-banks and elections.
Confine Police to Policing
The political class by their indulgence have allowed the politicised police officers to allow the mutuality and familial ties to be incessantly exploited at the cost of ‘law and order’ and ‘internal security’. With every passing year, the turf of the police officers expanded. Apart from the CBI, the empire extends to IB, R&AW, CRPF, BSF, ITBP, SSB, CISF, NSG and indeed the NIA. The latter, created in the wake of 26\11 has justified its existence by creating Hindu Terror. The office of the Deputy NSA, an appointment that entails deep knowledge and understanding of geopolitics and geostrategy, has also been lately invaded by the IPS lobby. If the government of the day thrives on the politicization of the CBI, it can only be adduced that with the absolute stranglehold of this lobby on the Intelligence apparatus , Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and para-military forces; the internal and to an extent external security of the country has been politicized. The country therefore should not expect a professional, impartial and dedicated police.
Enabling escape of Quattrocchi or scripting Hindu Terror can be mutually lucrative for the police officers and their political benefactors but certainly cannot bring security to the people at large. Compromise of conscience is never selective.
If the nexus between the political class and the executive has engendered nepotism and ‘crony capitalism’, the expansion of the IPS empire has been singularly responsible for politicisation of the police forces and dilution of any pride and integrity of policing. Common UPSC exam for the IAS and IPS has played havoc in this regard. The persistent but misplaced urge of IPS officers to expand their role in un-related areas in order to equal their IAS colleagues in terms of power, influence and resources has been contrary to the evolution of policing ethos.
The primary role of the IPS officers, of maintaining law and order, has taken a back seat or is considered a devalued task to be performed by lesser mortals like the SHOs. It is therefore no surprise that all ‘thanas’ function on an auto-mode in every sense. The ugly side to the hierarchical link between IPS officers and SHOs no longer remains concealed. It is primarily for this reason that IPS officers, even the greenhorns , do not carry out patrolling, leave alone at night, not even by day; as it would amount to unsettling the economic islands created assiduously by successive SHOs of respective thanas. Where the fear is political and motivation is materialistic, not necessarily to mean graft, the quality of policing is bound to be compulsion-based rather than prophylactic.
Officers bred in the culture of umpteen official vehicles and retinue of cooks and servants right from professional infancy can neither perform ‘law and order’ tasks nor contribute to the internal security of the country. The rapid spread of the Maoist menace can be attributed to the unsuitability of these officers. A few of them who have defied this general trend have made substantial difference in containing Maoist terror. The real problem in anti-Maoist operations is therefore obvious.
The news that thousands of CAPF and para-military forces personnel have questioned the system of imposing IPS officers at senior ranks and have gone to the court on this score, has largely been suppressed. The acrimony continues to fester.
The unrestrained expansion of turf for the IPS is thus neither serving ‘law and order’ nor ‘internal security.’
Acute cynicism about the quality of politics and governance in the country abets corruption and criminality in the society. It is not the competitiveness in politics that leads to public disillusionment but the desiccation of political morality and subversion of the Constitution as such. Indian experience has more than once exposed that whenever extra-constitutional authorities dominate, the democratic discourse and governance in the country gets vitiated. Extra-constitutional power-centres can only perpetuate their primacy by resorting to sleaze and manipulation, which in turn exacts heavy toll on the integrity of institutions and functionaries. The entire energy of the present dispensation has been consumed in giving Constitutional veneer to an extra-constitutional arrangement of a PM and a super PM. An extra-constitutional arrangement cannot survive without subversion of tools of governance and backing of external players.
The resultant debilitation of the Constitutional structure and political and public morality has encouraged mega scams at the higher levels, and cascading in theft, robbery and rapes at lower levels. Most financial mega-scams when exposed have spawned murders and yet the perpetrators are back in political reckoning. They continue to enjoy the respectability and indulgence of both the PM and the super-PM. Also back in reckoning is a ‘spokesman’ whose amorous exploits had gone viral on the social media. One dreads to think the consequences in case the other protagonist in the episode had secured the coveted official position. The least that the media could have done is to boycott this spokesman. The failure to do so detracts from the genuineness of the hysterical concern demonstrated in their coverage of heinous crimes. The society reaps the moral standards the institutions, which includes the media, sows.
The legislature was at its worst when some political outfits trenchantly criticized the FDI bill in Parliament and then voted otherwise. In effect it was a brutal assault on the spirit of the Constitution. Considering the majority opinion in the Parliament and in deference to political morality, the ruling dispensation could have kept the bill in abeyance. The matter however seemed to be beyond the control of the government and betrayed grave extraneous pressure, the kind witnessed during the Indo-US nuclear deal. Political outfits that are coerced or bribed to vote on a bill in the legislature in a particular way cannot be expected to partake in nation-building and countenance morality in public life. It was recently evident when a minister and his political benefactor brazenly in meetings of officials approved siphoning of ‘little’ government funds as reward of hard work. For many the ‘little’ means torrent, for the thief it may mean robbery and for eve-teasers a license to rape.
The External Factor
Nations that are wealthy are not so because they are necessarily rich in human minds and indigenous resources. They acquire wealth by destroying the economic nationalism of other countries. And economic nationalism cannot be subverted without compromising political nationalism. India’s wealth has historically allured outsiders. The scramble and competition for the Indian market has become even more vicious. It is visible in the ongoing orchestration of the Koodankulam protest against the Russian nuclear reactor allegedly by the US through some Church organizations in India. Probably the US does not want to share the fruits of the Indo-US nuclear deal with any other country. The anti-Russian sub-text in the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) is hardly concealed. The convener of PAMANE, Mr Uday Kumar has not only questioned the quality of nuclear reactor but has also castigated Russia for duping India in $ 1 bn deal for upgrade of 63 Mig 29 aircraft and the delay in delivery aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov entailing doubling of the cost i.e. from $ 1 billion to $ 2.3 billion. He and his supporters greeted President Putin’s 24 Dec visit with ‘Putin Go Back’ slogans.
Russia’s arms export to India has shrunk from 80 per cent in the previous decade to 50 per cent in 2011. Meanwhile the US has been making steady in-roads in the Indian defence market. It is pertinent to mention that in 2011 the US accounted for 77 per cent of the global arms agreements, far ahead of Russia’s 5.6 per cent. Total US arms sale in 2011 was $ 66.3 billion, an increase of 21.4 billion over last year. The dramatic rise in American arms sale is attributed to the turmoil in West Asia and the consequent vulnerabilities of the monarchies in the region.
The military-industrial complex is critical to the economies of both the countries. When it comes to the arms market, particularly in the post Cold War period, they make no favourites between India and its military adversaries Pakistan and China.
Russia has been upset by the $ 11 billion 126 multi-role aircraft deal going to Rafale of France and $ 1.4 billion Heavy Lift helicopter deal being bagged by the US. It is an irony and a sad commentary on our economic sovereignty that arms manufacturers view arms deals with India in terms of defeat and victory. They are willing to go to any extent to edge out rival countries, which includes manipulations of political and public discourse in the country.
Russia has not only been disquieted by the growing American footprints in India’s defence sector, clearly discernable by deals worth more than $ 6.9 billion and many more in pipeline; it is also disconcerted over India’s refusal to waive Civil Liability Act for Kundakulam nuclear project III, and IV. It sees an American hand in this. Further, India’s failure to secure the huge investments, amounting to more than $ 3 billion, by the Russian telecom company Sistema is seen by the Russian authorities as unfriendly act. Notwithstanding the official reason of Putin’s back injury while practicing martial art, some intractable standoff between the two countries is what probably prompted the President to reschedule his visit from October 2012 to December 2012.
President Putin’s 15 hour visit on 24 December was under cloud of diplomatic uncertainties. It was nevertheless expected that he would carry back some economic gratification. It translated into nearly $ 4 billion defence deal, which includes supply of 71 Mi-17 and 42 Su-30.
Given the controversial background to the visit, the compelling question is whether there was a design to disrupt and disparage Putin’s visit to India? The question is compelling because there is great deal of intrigue in the fact that the venue of the protest against rape was permitted to shift to the nerve center of India, i.e. the tri-junction between the North Block, the South Block and the Rastrapati Bhawan, all within stone’s throw away distance of the protestors. It has never happened in independent India. It was at this place that the protests first turned violent. Some protestors could be clearly seen to have come prepared armed with stones and placards of NSUI. There was constant grappling between the protestors to breach the barricade. If that had happened the consequences are unimaginable.
The prevailing security situation arising out of the protests was bandied as the reason for shift of venue for the meeting between Manmohan Singh and President Putin from Hyderabad House to 7, Race Course Road, the official residence of the prime minister. This is a diplomatic insult to any head of state. It relegates India to the status of ‘Banana Republic’.
The country must address the most important question, i.e. whether these protests would have been allowed at that sensitive tri-junction a day before, if the President of USA Barack Obama were to visit India? Would the Indian authorities have dared to change the venue of meeting between Obama and Manmohan Singh?
Past precedence shows that the overall security prior the US President’s visit is taken over by the US security establishment. The area is sanitized and secured some days in advance of the visit.
Who prodded the peaceful protestors to shift their venue from India Gate to the symbolic nerve center of India’s sovereignty? Was there a rival foreign power trying to disrupt or disparage President Putin’s visit? Was a part of the Indian establishment, complicit? These are the questions that need to be answered. The failure to do so will be an invitation to destabilization of the country on all emotive incidents.
The cruelty meted out to the young girl referred to as ‘Damini’ must make us look inward. This incident has exposed the fraud, untruthfulness and the insincerity of every institution that directly bears on the lives of the Indians.
We need to introspect on our leadership, political culture and instruments of governance. A subverted country is easily divided. In a subverted country disaffection can easily be triggered. A subverted country an easily be drained of its wealth, prestige, and progress. A subverted country can easily be made to feed other economies. To purge and insulate our country from this subversion, the time has come to drastically alter the systemic discourse in India.
By RSN Singh