Saturday, January 8, 2011

Our lost moral universe

There is no sign that “our shrinking moral universe” will stop shrinking any time soon. Politicians and bureaucrats, even Nityanandas and Kalmadis, do not betray the slightest sense of shame although the earth is littered with the debris of their sins.

See what happened when the Bofors skeleton rattled again in the cupboard. Every Indian knows that it was the first big kickback case in India and who paid the moneys and who received them and who were the middlemen. The blatancy with which the CBI and the Congress establishment manipulated the handling of the case only confirmed what everyone knew – that the highest in the land were directly involved.

This time the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal reaffirmed the evidence and said that the privileged middlemen, including the most privileged Mr Q., owed taxes to the country for the bribes they took. And what did the CBI do? With awesome coldbloodedness it asked the court to close the case against Mr Q. The Congress establishment wept like angels over the persecution of the innocent.

Actually the Congress's only decent argument is that non-Congress governments were in power for long but did not pursue Mr Q. Which is true. And which only leads to the conclusion that there is honour among thieves. They help each other out, in times of need.

It is typical of the moral collapse of Indian politics that the BJP cried foul about Bofors corruption while paying no heed to its own. It out-Congressed the Congress when it brazened out the Yeddyurappa scandals. Its grand Brashtachar Virodhi Mahasangram, a “national campaign” against corruption, left Karnataka out of it – as if Karnataka did not belong to the nation.

Maybe it does not. Nowhere else in the nation do we see an open mandi for MLAs and panchayat members as there is in Karnataka. Within 24 hours of the zilla panchayat election results coming out last week, the BJP opened its bidding. The ignominious Bellary Brothers had suffered an important setback when they failed to capture the local panchayat. No problem. At a campfire celebration arranged by the mining lords, Congress winner Nagaratnamma announced that she was joining the BJP. Patriotism, of course, not money. With that Bellary panchayat was back in the capacious pockets of the Reddys.

So what are elections all about? Our lay belief is that people choose a person representing a party. If people's choices are subverted by subsequent buyers and sellers, why go through election processes in the first place? Why not let the candidates go to the mandi and sell themselves to the highest bidder? The BJP has turned that into its official policy line anyway.

The same amoral approach prevails in other fields as well. What a shame that a freshly retired Chief Justice of India should suddenly find himself in a sea of family scams? Credible evidence about his immediate family members amassing wealth is bad enough. Worse is Justice Balakrishnan clinging to his post-retirement post. Several of his brother judges have publicly appealed to him to help protect the dignity of the judiciary by stepping down until his name is cleared. But he takes no advice. What makes people like Balakrishnan and Vigilance Commissioner P. J. Thomas give up every modicum of self-respect and hang on to office? Human nature is truly mysterious.

One thing is sure. We can no longer claim 5000 years of civilisational heritage. Our post-Emergency heritage has wiped out all that was before it. In Kosala, as Kambar described it, “None were generous as none was needy; with no liars around Truth never needed to speak up; no learning stood out as all were learned”. In Brashtachar Virodhi Bharat today, all are needy yet none is generous; Truth speaks up but liars shout it down; no learning stands out as all are unlearned.

We are a blot on the fair name of Kosala, we have no right to talk about its capital Ayodhya, and we have badly let down its king Rama. We are not even ashamed.