The missing magic!

MSingh’s I-Day speech was quite revealing. And his statement in Parli, most enlightening. So, if after 64 years of freedom, corruption is at an all time high today, it is only because he did not have a magic wand to check it, or so says Singh. Of course, the nation knows that he would have done precious little even if he possessed one. Some Rasputin appears to have put this idea of a Magic W in the UPA psyche because I remember Sonia too wanting one recently.

Let us wish MSingh luck in his search. And let’s wish ourselves even more luck that if at all MS finds his MW, a cabinet colleague or his boss does not pinch it when he is not watching, which is most of the time. In which case it is understood this honest man can’t be blamed. But then, whoever told him that a M Wand is the need of the hour? In fact, lesser objects in his possession could have saved this nation a few lakhs of crores. To name a few, honesty, the highest and most powerful Constitutional post, a sworn duty towards the people, prevelant laws against corruption, due diligence, elementary common sense, essential vigilance, economic eminence etc were all absolutely at his command. A very minimum exhibition and timely exercise of these could have easily done the trick. By the way, if magic is the route, why not make P.C. Sorcar the PM? Aah Mr MSingh, the problem is not the absence of a Magic Wand but the all pervading presence of your party’s Hand!

The statement stressing the supremacy of Parli in ‘drafting and making laws’ was honestly ridiculous. First, ministries, expert groups etc, rarely Parli, draft laws. Parli only approves them, sometimes with, most often without, discussion, which passes under the lofty theme ‘making laws’. For, quite obviously very few of the five hundred odd wise men who supposedly ‘make laws’ know what laws they are making! Still, let’s concede Parli makes laws though the apt phrase is ‘Pass laws’. Now, is it then breaking its own laws when they are amended? Where does the urge, need or provocation to amend a law come from? The opposition parties inside the House for one. And either the courts, public, activists and interest groups, all of which reside outside Parli. The laws made by Parli are therefore not ‘supreme’ either in its own confined domain nor in the larger, wider realm of people of which Parli is ‘merely’ a representative. The moment a ruling regime which is running Parli insulates itself from the poeple under the guise of its supreme right to ‘make’ laws, it actually loses that right. The purpose of law is to protect the people, not their tormentors. For instance Emergency was imposed under the law of the land! And we know what it did to the people. Clearly, Parli and the party that ‘passed’ Emergency through its superior status stands condemned by humanity and history! Of Parli ‘law makers’ in jail for breaking laws, the less said the better.

A test of a law is its effectiveness. The PM of the land himself has conceded, rightly or wrongly, that nothing less than a magic wand can erase corruption. That’s quite a candid admission of the ineffectiveness of the current anti-corruption laws at his disposal. Again, another test is implementability. This has two aspects. First, is the legal will. Whether it takes its own course or not, the law of the land has not caught up with a single corrupt politician to date, at least none of the known super suspects! The second aspect is political will. Listen to Singh’s soulful song in Parli that day: ‘We are determined to provide a government that is transparent, accountable and responsive at all times and determined to fight corruption’. Read again. And again. Transparent? Accountable? Determined to fight corruption? The embedded Sardar joke played at huge expense to the nation will emerge plainly! How hollow and hypocritical can honest men get!

And ‘responsive’? A sincere, sensible and sensitive regime would have read the writing on the wall long back. Anna, Baba etc may be the poster boys of the current anti-corruption campaign, but 2G, CWG etc predate them by months or years. This is not a sudden upheaval but the manifest culmination of a potent tsunami gathering silently deep in the psyche of every angry citizen. In any case, MSingh & Co knew better about their own and their colleagues’ wheelings and dealings. They should have easily guessed that the fooling game was up. This would have imparted some humility and fear which in turn would have provoked some restraint. Instead, it is plain arrogance and denial personified by Sibal, PC and the rest of the cabal that is on parade. So, convicted murderers’ necks will never meet the noose; corrupt politicos will have all the time in the world to cover up their deeds; ruling elites will unleash all possible tricks to defend their turf; Princes alias PMs-in-waiting will break the law passed by a ‘superior’ Parli: Still, a very ‘responsive’ government busy searching magic wands will not hesitate to use the rough end of the stick in godspeed to deter a peaceful movement of unarmed, not-so-powerful civilians that has virtually the entire country involved! The PM needs to wipe his glasses and look beyond Anna H.

For that matter, the current upsurge itself runs the same risk. Anna has done his bit. But it is everyone’s torch. Also, the drama of last month and this week seem centred more on rights to fast or protest while corruption and Lokpal have moved away from focus. We can always fast somewhere for something but vis-a-vis corruption the iron is hot and it is now or never. It is not often that you have a government caught red-handed and on the mat. The rulers must not be allowed to just grant permission for fasts and get away with graft.

Also, while the rulers’ specific objections have suffered due to their own lack of personal credibility, a close reading of both the versions does indicate that there are valid concerns on both sides that are hard to reconcile. I would say the debate has not even begun! Amendments to whatever Lokpal Bill is salvaged and passed will be a common occurrence and as law it might well become the pet political football in the Parli arena. Again, even in a democracy, law is only as good as the one who wields it. So too with any institution created under the Constitution. Today’s activists may be straight, well-meaning ones. But in creating an all powerful Lokpal one must take into account the prospect of it falling in the hands of a mad monster or a honest humbug. Or infiltration by the very elements it seeks to protect us from.

After all, decades later, we will still be electing only fallible humans to Parli, not gods!

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Jawahar T R