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Mainstream, Vol XLIX, No 18, April 23, 2011

Corruption a Mere Symptom: The Disease is Unbridled Greed

Monday 25 April 2011, by Kobad Ghandy

This is another article sent by the Maoist leader, Kobad Ghandy, from Tihar Jail No. 3 (where he is currently lodged) for publication in Mainstream.

The IPL scam, the CWG scam, the 2G spectrum scam, the foodgrain/BPL/NREGA scams, Adarsh housing scam, the Satna land scam, the Citibank scam, the insurance scam, the P.J. Thomas/palmolein scam, the Yediyurappa land scams, the Prasar Bharati scam, Balakrishnan/NHRC chairman scam, the IMA Modi scam—the list is endless and growing by the day. Involved are senior politicians and Ministers, top bureaucrats, top military personnel, top media moguls, top corporate houses—all the pillars of the existing establishment. Involved are the ex-Chiefs of the Staff of the military, the CEO of Prasar Bharati, the head of the NHRC (Human Rights Commission), the head of the Central Vigilance Commission, the chiefs of the CII (Confederation of Indian Industries). The very topmost watchdog bodies appointed—vigilance, human rights, propaganda etc.—are themselves fraudsters. What protection from human rights violations and frauds can one expect from such elements? But the more the corrupt, the more servile they will be to the government, acting as a tool in their hands. How can the people of the country expect any justice with such elements at the very top? And quite obviously they will appoint only their types/cronies below them—taking the rot deep into the social fabric.

But, what is getting exposed is only the tip of the iceberg of the putrified muck underneath. The garbage consists of a gigantic Rs 28 lakh crores ($ 670 billion) of illegal funds generated every year—year in and year out. A good percentage of this is siphoned off abroad, draining the country’s wealth. During a recent Supreme Court hearing the figure stashed abroad was said to be unbelievable, that is, $ 1.4 trillion (Rs 630 lakh crores). It is estimated that the black money amounts to 40-50 per cent of the GDP (Rs 25 lakh crores). Together with this, the illicit flow of funds from India abroad increased from 0.5 per cent of the GDP in 2000 to 2.4 per cent in 2004—a near five fold increase in just four years. At a fraction of this rate of increase the figure would be at least five per cent today—or Rs 3 lakh crores.

It is this huge mass of funds generated each year that is corrupting the entire life-line of the country, draining its enormous wealth, and an important factor for the mass impoverisation of the people. With such vast sums of money being siphoned off by the rich and powerful can one expect real development of the country? Is it then not surprising that all development, and wealth creation benefit just a few and not the country and its people.

The solution is simple—demonetise all notes suddenly of Rs 500/Rs 1000 denomination and get back the illegal funds stacked in tax havens, like the Swiss banks. But, there is no will to act. The government says it has no funds; when the Supreme Court tells them to distribute grains rather than let them rot, that is the refrain; when the NAC (National Advisory Council) suggests a highly watered down Food Security Bill, that again is the refrain; when the NAC suggests a minimum wage for the NREGA linked to the Minimum Wages Act, again this is the refrain. In fact whenever any money is suggested for the poor—there is always talk of no money, growing fiscal deficit etc. But, if even a small fraction of these huge illegal funds are tapped, poverty can be removed overnight. The richness of our land, water and natural resources would see our country bloom like the Garden of Eden.

But, the arrogance of power, and a pliable media to cover up the muck is destroying our rich, beautiful country bit by bit. Let alone a decrease in corruption, which was said to be a product of the licence-permit raj, it has increased by leaps and bounds since the supposed liberali-sation.

In the 1980s there were just eight major scams including Bofors (Rs 64 crores). But, in Manmohan Singh’s tenure as the Finance Minister it sky-rocketed to 26. Now, in his period as the Prime Minister of India, it is breaking all records. According to a recent BBC poll, India is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. And ironically, the supposed upholders of the law—the police—is, according to the poll, the most corrupt of them all. Chekov’s story Chameleon would be an apt description of our police force. So, when the law ‘upholders’ are the most lawless, what can be expected? And when people who themselves are implicated in scams, are appointed as the Central Vigilance Commissioner, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, etc—to whom can the common man turn to for justice?

Where will all this end? Our forefathers, who gave their lives to free our country from British colonial rule, would turn in their graves to see the rot in our country today... More have died in farmers’ suicides, than those that died during the horrendous Bengal Famine. And even worse than in colonial rule, those who speak the truth and stand for justice are threatened and locked up; while those who loot the nation roam freely—nay, they are the pillars of society.

Today, dishonesty, fraud, deceit are the norm for those in power; truth is sacrificed at the altar of greed, avarice, nepotism and injustice. The mainline media TV channels have become the main vehicles of falsehood; politics is mostly hypocrisy and lies; and even religion has been corrupted beyond recognition to serve self-interest. Our leaders wish the nation on the occasion of Dusshera and other such festivals saying they symbolise the struggle of good over evil. Yet, what are practised are the promotion of evil and the suppression of good. Gigantic scams, loot of the treasury, etc., are ignored, nay encouraged, while service to the poor and oppressed is treated as treason.

While all swear by their respective religions, few follow their actual tenets.
The Atharva Veda clearly says that when man, ignoring the dictum of the true Vedic religion falls in the grip of greed, he hoards more than he needs and the avarice of hoarding more and more makes him snatch the rights of others—nay his own brothers—and thus he stoops to suck the blood of his brothers. It adds that avarice is at the root of all evils. Poetically put, it says:

“Earn with hundreds of hands

And distribute with thousands.”

—19-62-1

Both Jesus Christ and Mohammad fought for the poor and oppressed throughout their lives. The Bible says: “The Righteous shall inherit the Earth”, and adds: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. The Koran says: “Allah has enjoined justice and righteousness...” And of all religions the Sikh religion is the most social; portraying the epitome of all that is good and just, in selflessness, virtuous conduct, etc. as the ideal Sikh, the Granth Saheb says: “God’s riches are for all, but man tries to grab them for themselves.” And Zoroastrianism stands for purity in our values practising good thoughts, good words and good deeds—the struggle of good over evil is portrayed in the victory in the of Ahura Mazda over Angra Mainya.

All religions advocate compassion for our fellow beings. While those who run this system say they stand for one or other religion, how can they be so insensitive to the mass of our people who live on a mere Rs 20 per day? How can they ignore the fact where 20,000 farmers are being forced to commit suicide every year and 1362 die every day from accidents and suicide, where malnutrition kills 56,000 children annually in our urban slums; and where crores and crores live in hunger, disease and degradation. While proclaiming religion (to fool themselves and the rest of the world), their core values are with the devil, dressed up as angels. They may maim and massacre lakhs through their evil policies; they may incarcerate thousands (and even kill) those who stand up for truth and justice; they may amass crores through illegal means; but one fine day they will meet their nemesis.

Now let us turn to some of the major scams. As much has been said about the 2G spectrum, CWG etc., we will not touch on these any further, but the scams that snatch food from crores of hungry mouths and that involve those in the armed forces—that is, those who are supposed to be most patriotic in defending our country.

More Criminal than 2G

THE scam in foodgrain distribution to the poorest of the poor and in the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Act) and other such poverty alleviation schemes goes well beyond the 2G scam, but little is said about it. And that in the armed forces involve the very top Chiefs of Staff. Let us take a brief look at these.

1. Scam in ‘Poverty Alleviation’

The Times of India reported that the UPA’s food- grain scam could be even larger than the 2G spectrum scam—anything up to Rs 2 lakh crores. The report adds: It spreads across five countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa and Bhutan. It involves 450 class I government officials and another 800 middle and lower level subordinates, apart from some 10,000 private entities. The scam comprised the sale of foodgrains meant for the PDS system and other special schemes for the BPL—NREGA, Antyodaya Yojana and mid-day meal scheme— to private entities while in the government records it is shown as “distributed”. Just two days earlier the same newspaper reported “Central Scheme to feed the hungry in shambles”. Based on a Supreme Court appointed commissioner’s survey it was found there was fraud in every aspect of the distribution of food- grains to the BPL families. It was found that less than the quota is allocated; people pay more to the ration shop than the stipulated rate; they are given less grains than their quota; and that there is fraud in the records kept (a discrepancy between the figure in the ration shop books and that on the ration card). In other words, the poor are cheated at every step. The report added that the discrepancies were so widespread and shockingly blatant, that the survey teams thought the people were making a mistake.

Every month over 4.2 million tonnes of rice and wheat are allotted by the Central Govern-ment for distribution, through roughly five lakh fair price shops. In fact a survey alone by the Planning Commission in 2004 said that 58 per cent of subsidised foodgrains did not reach the BPL families and 36 per cent grains got sold in the black market.

Then again in a Supreme Court ruling on the gross misuse of the NREGA funds in Orissa the Chief Justice if India said: “We want action. These things must stop. The allegations are of a serious nature on diversion of funds and non—implementation of NREGA.” The report on a PIL said: “Out of Rs 733 crores spent in Orissa during 2006-07, more than Rs 500 crores has been siphoned off and pocketed by government officials.” The CJI added: “The findings of the CEFS (Centre for Environment and Food Security) are shocking, scandalous and outrageous. There is open looting of taxpayers’ money, plunder of the poor people’s right to guaranteed wage employment for 100 days and pillage of every single norm of democratic governance and administrative accountability.” In fact, as per the NSS figures in the NREGA, only 50 per cent of jobs claimed to have been created by the government, seem to have actually been created.

A study conducted a few years ago revealed that the foodgrain wastage at various stages is 9.33 per cent of production. This amounted to a massive 18.94 million tonnes, which could feed 140 crore people for one month. The government claims they have taken the country into the advanced world. Then why cannot it do such a simple task as protect the foodgrains it purchases and stores every year? And to add insult to injury, over Rs 2 crores is spent by the government to get rid of the rotten grain!!

From all this it is clear that even food meant for the starving and funds meant for employ-ment amounting to thousands of crores are being siphoned off by politicians, officials, dalals, traders, etc. who make a killing off people’s deprivation. What could be more inhuman than stealing foodgrains from a starving man’s house, knowing full well the children will go hungry and their very growth will be stunted—leading to malnutrition, disease and even death? But this is precisely what is happening on a mass scale. Yet there is no accountability, no action, little media coverage—it is a non-issue. Probably even the CJI’s scathing judgement will also have little effect.

2. Scam in the Armed Forces

The skeletons keep falling out of the cupboard. The Indian Express, January 12, 2011, reported that the Southern Army Commander has accused the ex-Army Chief, Deepak Kapoor, together with the then Union Minister (Rao Inderjit Singh) of selling one acre of prime land in Mumbai to the private builder of the Kalpataru group. The list of frauds in the top echelons of the armed forces seems to be never ending.

They seem to be acting more as mercenaries than defenders of our country. And when one reads reports not only of officers killing innocents and passing them off as Pak-infiltrators—to gain promotions—and even killing the young officer who was witness to this... one realises the rot has gone deep.

The newspapers have been bringing out the deep levels of corruption in the armed forces, with officers making money from petty purchases, like eggs, liquor, petrol, shoes... anything, to items like arms, land etc. The huge defence budget of the taxpayers’ money is being looted left, right and centre. And not a word is raised as this is supposedly to go to defend the country. Let us then take a look at just a few scams which have come out.

In 2006, a Major General was court martialled for making Rs 10 lakhs through the sale of liquor. In the Northern Command Rs 1 crore was made in egg and tent purchases. There was also the Rs 5 crore fraud in the purchase of milk powder for the Siachen jawans and the Rs 1 crore fraud in the purchase of clothes for them. Then there was the Rs 1 crore fraud in purchasing sub-standard shoes. Seventytwo officers are under inquiry for the illegal purchase/sale of arms at the Rajasthan border.

The list could go on and on, but the most criminal was when 328 jawans are reported to have died on the Siachen glacier when they were sent water instead of petrol. And even greater ‘patriotism’ was shown when vast amounts were made in the purchase of sub-standard coffins for jawans killed in the Kargil war. And now even greater patriotism is being shown by the three ex-Army Chiefs of Staff who have cornered flats meant for the Kargil widows. In the Adarsh housing scam flats in Mumbai’s prime location, Colaba, were cornered by top military officials, including ex-Army Chiefs, Deepak Kapoor and N.C. Vij, and ex-Naval Chief Madhvendra Singh. The flats, valued in crores, were given for a pittance.

In the Eastern Command, for the first time ever, orders have been given for the court martial of two Lt. Generals and severe criticism of a Major General in the Sukhna land scam.

Besides these that have come to light, little is known about the huge commissions on the millions of dollars worth military purchases. Except for the Rs 4000 crores commission said to have been taken in the purchase of Barack Missiles, HDW submarines etc., and the Bofors deal, not much else is yet known.

Such high levels of corruption at the top echelons of the armed forces not only shows utter contempt for the ordinary jawan killed in the battlefield but also scant regard for the huge amounts of the taxpayers’ money utilised. With the government all set to purchase over $ 100 billion (Rs 5 lakh crores) military equipment in the next few years, even at a mere five per cent kickback rate, a gigantic Rs 20,000 crores of taxpayers’ money is likely to be siphoned off. And yet the Supreme Court is told, the govern-ment has no funds for foodgrains to the poor!

Military columnists have been waxing eloquent about their patriotism, accusing others, but are now surprisingly silent regarding their nefarious deeds. Here too these scams are not exceptions; they are more the rule... One can expect more skeletons falling out of the cupboard, with the stakes so high.

Scams and ‘National Interest’

THE foodgrains and armed forces scams should be treated with the utmost seriousness as the former impacts the lives of crores of our people, while the latter has a direct bearing on what all is being perpetrated under a hawkish national security policy with the blessings of the US and Israel. To gloss over them, as the politicians and media are doing, will have serious repercussions for the future.

But not only these, others too have a bearing on the larger interest of the people. Take the Rs 70,000 crore CWG scam. Not only the reports of gigantic corruption, but also falling bridges and roofs, incomplete preparations, filthy accommo-dation with cobras popping up every now and then, and finally a Games played to empty stands. We showcased a rising ‘Super Power’ of corruption, fraud, incompetence and inefficiency. The fraud and nepotism had been going on for five years under King Kalmadi and his close circle of cronies, but not a word was raised until it all came out in the open on the eve of the event. Yet till today, Kalmadi has not been touched. After all, he was given three to four months to cover his tracks before the inquiry was appointed by the PM, and even longer before being questioned.

Take the case of the 2 G spectrum; we see the story repeated. Here the time gap was even longer—two years. Again action was only taken after the CAG report and the Supreme Court’s strong stand. The embarrassment of the ruling UPA Government was so telling that even after a whole month and more of total paralysis of Parliament suddenly out of the blue emerged the new Telecom Minister with the revelation that there was no fraud at all. That the new incumbent in the Telecom Ministry has been a practising senior lawyer in the Supreme Court and to expect such a frivolous assertion from him shows the seriousness with which the present government is seeking to curb corruption as is being claimed by them notwithstanding the fact that the Opposition has something different to say. Many a discerning journalist has already commented on the patent falsity of the Minister’s statement.

We have seen all other scams also ending up the same way, whether it is the Rs. 950 crore fodder scam, Rs 4000 crore stock market scam, Rs 7000 crore Satyam scam, Rs 45,000 crore stamp paper scam, etc. etc. At most some smaller fry may get implicated.

For those standing up for justice and the real interests of our country, they are harangued by the corporate media, viciously attacked, thrown into jail; while such criminals who rob the country, destroy its people, have, at most, ad nauseum enquiries continuing and most get off the hook or are soon granted bail. Take the recent case of the former UP Chief Secretary, Neera Yadav, and the Flex business chief—they were arrested after 15 years for the fraudulent allotment of 28,000 sq metres of land in NOIDA in 1994-95 and were immediately released on bail. Now even the CWG scamsters have been released on bail—courtesy the CBI.

Then take the case of P.J. Thomas involved in defrauding the exchequer of Rs 23 crores in the 1991-92 palmolein import scam; who also happened to be the Telecom Secretary at the time of the 2G spectrum scam. And then he is appointed the Chief Vigilance Commissioner—to keep vigil against fraudsters!! Probably, they go by the logic that it needs a thief to catch a thief! In spite of strictures by the Supreme Court, he continued to be in his office till late last month when the Bench comprising the CJI put their feet down asking the government to dismiss him on which the Prime Minister had to finally tell Parliament that it was an ‘error’ on the side of his government to have appointed such a tainted bureaucrat as the CVC.

It is a similar story with the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, the CEO of Prasar Bharati and a host of other bigwigs. The list is endless at all levels of power and authority. When the rulers of this country on and off at the drop of a hat evoke the bogey of national interest cutting across party lines, each trying to outsmart the other, it comes off as a cruel joke on the people of this country. And one needs to ask the question: whose ‘national interest’ is, after all, this gangrene of corruption serving?

Yet, this is not all. These illegal transactions are probably a small fraction of the ‘legal’ frauds taking place. A handful of these have come to the light on the Radia tapes. In this, government officials/Ministers give huge concessions to business for underhand dealings. This could be in the form of cash, gifts, commissions, payment abroad, etc. This takes place at the topmost level right down to the lowest petty official. This is treated as normal, like the ex-CII chief, Tarun Das, casually mentioning the Minister taking 15 per cent on all infrastructure projects. Such frauds linked to power and pelf in crude relationship with business/finance and the media have come to light in the wake of the CWG and 2G spectrum scams and Radia tapes.

In the meantime eight RTI activists have been killed while the PM is seeking to dilute the Act.

‘Legal’ Frauds

THE line between illegitimate loot and ‘legitimate’ robbery is indeed thin. Where one ends and the other begins is difficult to tell.

Take the worst ever massacre in India—25,000 killed and five lakh injured, many seriously. The perpetrators got away with paying a pittance as compensation with not a single person arrested for the holocaust. In the Bhopal gas ‘tragedy’, as they call it, it is anybody’s guess that Union Carbide and its new avatar, Dow Chemicals, would have bloated the government officials with money to get off so lightly. But, everything at the outset is legal, including the massacre, so much so that we have stopped calling it murder and it is commemorated every year as a ‘tragedy’.

Then take the aviation sector where the scandal would be no less than the 2G spectrum. Here private airlines have been allowed to flourish while Air India has been pushed under. To make matters worse the government has used Rs 2000 crores of the taxpayers’ money in 2010 to help Air India survive. Also the privatisation of the major airports and their seven-star structures would result in huge flow of money from the contractors to the authorities (that too largely built by the user-development funds paid by passengers). Some of this also came to light in the Radia tapes.

Then there is the case of the Punjab Government giving away Rs 20,000 crores as ‘legitimate’ tax concessions to the Laxmi Mittal group for their energy projects. If the concession is of such vulgarly humungous volume, then one can possibly imagine the magnitude of the kickbacks! Further, we have the grand tax holiday of the tune of a whopping Rs 81,000 crores for Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance and higher rates for their gas project, with the media (a la Vir Sanghvi) decorating up the issue as being in the ‘national interest’ (as exposed in the Radia tapes). Well, this is also very much within the ‘legal’ realms of loot and plunder! For the uninitiated, what Vir Sanghvi meant by ‘national interest’ was high gas rates for the public and whopping profits for Mukesh Ambani.

So also are the secret MoUs signed with mining interests by the Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand govern-ments supposed to be legitimate. Madhu Koda’s Rs 2000-3000 crores, earned in just two years, is an indication as to how much the Chief Ministers of these States would have raked in. But all this is no scam. Only recently did the Modi Government boasted of signing away Rs 15 lakh crores in MoUs... but why are these agreements done in so much secrecy and not made public? Everyone knows that the RIL with their huge projects in Gujarat pays barely two per cent tax—depriving the Gujarat Government of revenue, but, no doubt, filling the coffers of the Modi clan.

The moot question is: how many crores of funds passed from these business houses to Ministers and bureaucrats in order to get through these lucrative deals, and how much money have the governments been deprived of? The government hesitates to implement the NAC proposals on food security and NREGA, creating the bogy of the ballooning fiscal deficit. But, such huge amount of revenue is given up without batting an eyelid. It is a shame that India has the lowest public expenditure on health care in the world (0.94 per cent of the GDP) resulting in about four crore people being pushed into poverty every year. But, still the government says it has no funds.

So if we put together these ‘legal’ frauds and the illegal scams, one can just imagine the vast sums being diverted from benefit of the vast sections of the people into private coffers. Both results either in the generation of the black economy or in funds stacked in tax havens abroad. One would like to point at the criminal silence of the corporate media who would otherwise get hysterical against those opposing such loot in the interests of the masses of poverty stricken people.

Media and Manufacture of Public Opinion

EVEN before the Radia tapes exposed the deep nexus between the corporate bodies and politicians with their counterparts in the media, P. Sainath had brought to light about the crores that flowed to the media barons during elections, where de-facto advertisements for candidates were passed off as news items. Neither did the Election Commission take any action on the candidates nor did the press bodies pull up these newspapers. Any audit of the accounts of these newspapers would throw up the discrepancies.

And then the Radia tapes exploded the nexus. Not surprisingly, they were all silent on these aspects of the exposure. In the telecom scam, TV channels like Times Now were said to be working for AT & T and Sunil Mittal, while Reliance utilised channels like Headlines Today and senior editors of newspapers. For instance, the top media honcho of the Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi, was exposed to have written verbatim what Radia dictated (on gas pricing) on behalf of Mukesh Ambani. Also, other top journalists have been shown to be party to corporate lobbying.

Not only did the newspapers black out these Radia tape exposures on their role, a newspaper like the Hindustan Times, in its December 5, 2010 issue, wrote a whole page article trivialising the corruption issue. Their argument had surpassed all sense of profundity when they made this preposterous claim that as a large section of the population was involved in corruption there was no sense in making an issue out of it! Of course, they forgot to say that the fountain-head is at the top and the trickle-down effect is to be seen in corruption, not GDP growth rates. If the same corporate media had made a song and dance earlier about corruption as a product of the “license-permit raj”, now they had made a full circle when they stooped to the level of shamelessly insisting that corruption “is one of the rungs on the ladder of economic growth”.

Now one can understand why the corporate media have planted lies against me and other such progressive people, at the mere dictation of the government/police—as though they are news items. There is little difference between such plants by senior reporters and the scoops promoting candidates in elections for a fat under-the-table payment.

Today, the line between paid ‘news’ and real news is thin. For the common man it is difficult to make sense in the maze of sensation and hype. It is therefore not surprising that the corporate media/TV are the main vehicles of promoting the most degenerate culture and values, where the common man (90 per cent of our people) have little place and the worst values of greed, avarice, quick money, self-interest etc. only find a place. Glamour and the lives of the elite is all they crave for, with utter contempt towards the poor and for those who stand up for justice and truth. Falsehood is their food; their God is Money; they can sell their souls for a few dollars. It is they who create the public opinion that allows corruption to thrive, exposing only when there is a clash of interests, and some powerful lobbies feel deprived. There is some sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Nature of the Disease

IF corruption is a mere symptom, what then is the disease? What is it that makes a man snatch a morsel of grain even from a hungry child’s mouth? What is it that allows him to betray the country and its people and sell its rich natural wealth? It is nothing but unbridled greed, avarice and ruthless self-interest. The country be damned, let alone the people, not to say about my neighbours and relatives—instead I must gain, prosper, acquire more and more. And if that requires trampling over hundreds of others, nay lakhs of people—so be it. Humanity can rest in peace, principles can take a walk, brotherhood has become passé and religion has become the tool of the crooked and the nefarious.

And this insatiable appetite to accrue more and more seems to be a bottomless pit. For today money means power. And more the power, the more the money can it attract—a vicious cycle of corruption, power, nepotism and greed.

Today even ideology does not free people from this syndrome—whether religious or communist. Religion has in fact itself become a source of money and power; and as for Communists, the best of socialist revolutions have been sacrificed for the sake of worst forms of money-making self-interest. The first revolution in the world, the Russian Revolution, has degenerated to the worst possible mafia state. In an article that appeared in The Hindu, January 13, 2011, it has been shown that mafia groups de-facto run all counties, indulging in rape, murder and loot with full protection from the local police, prosecutors and government officials. The same can be seen of Communists in power in the States in India.

Selfless service to the country and her people is true patriotism; serving oneself at the cost of the country and her people is at the inevitable danger of the peril of all. Robbing the treasury through commissions, cuts, tax holidays, diversion of public funds for the poor, or, outright scams, acts to destroy the great natural wealth of the country and the lives of its people. And when greed knows no bounds and when the media gets part of the booty to cover up the grime, the nation has reached the depths of depravity. One cannot agree more with the recent statements of the Supreme Court (January 19, 2011) which talked of the “plundering” of the country’s wealth. Speaking on the huge amounts of black money stashed abroad, the judges said: “It is simple theft of the nation’s money. We are speaking of a mind-boggling crime...”

Of course the bulk of the common masses are simple, straightforward people. Yet, even when they come closer to those in authority/power (even petty) they begin to emulate their masters. No doubt people want a comfortable life; that is the minimum a country should assure its people. The overall wealth generated even today is sufficient to give people a decent life; but the bulk is siphoned off.

The ordinary citizen of our country is getting fed up of the rot all around and particularly in the corridors of power. Their patience is being taxed. And having to face the harassment of corrupt officials, day in and day out, their pent up anger is growing. But for a change to come about there is need for a new renaissance where the values of honesty, simplicity, straight-forwardness etc. are allowed to flower. A counter-culture needs to take wings drawing in the vast sections of the middle classes (particularly its students and youth) who are the opinion-makers—the rest of the poor masses will easily imbibe it. A few months back, on January 14, the third Anuradha Ghandy Memorial meeting commemorated a person who was the epitome of such a value system. The values she and such others represent, can act as a living example for others to emulate like an oasis in this desert of evil.

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