June 22, 2021
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Three Cheers!

Three Cheers!

Coincidentally, two independent pieces make substantially the same point: that things may not be as bad as they might seem. The poison coming out is a form of cleansing, not a sign of greater disease, says Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express:

...just in the last week, three central elements of India’s dirty political economy, which at first sight might seem unconnected, have arguably reached a new inflection point. Our political economy was founded on state complicity in communalism, a disregard of law and regulation by big companies, and the plunder of natural resources. But there is a distinct possibility that things may never be the same again..

The Naroda Patiya judgment was significant for several reasons. It has, for the first time, convicted senior politicians for complicity in a riot. This will send out a powerful message. As many people have pointed out, if such convictions had been achieved in the case of the1984 riots, our history would have been different...

Though seemingly unrelated, the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in the Sahara case, ordering an unprecedented Rs 17,400 crore to be returned to investors, is also part of the maturation of our system. This is the first time a really big fish has been hauled up for what, based on the court judgments, seem egregious violations. This judgment will empower regulatory institutions like Sebi, whose effectiveness has been undercut in the past by the uncertain course of the law...

Despite vicious attacks on the institution of the CAG and the controversy over numbers, there is now one incontrovertible fact. No state will, any longer, be able to dispose of mines in the recklessly casual way that they did in the past. You can actually begin something of a clean-up of this sector...

The BJP is overdoing its blockade of Parliament. But the government went out of its way to wreck the key institutional device for public reason — the committee system...

An editorial in the Business Standard makes the same point:

A complete lack of accountability on the part of the political and bureaucratic elite is, perhaps, a thing of the past. Several institutions have been visibly active in working towards bringing irregularities in the coal block allocations to light. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report created a political storm enabling investigation into possible criminality, for example.... In the CBI’s activism when supervised by the CVC, as in this case, or by the Supreme Court, as in some other high-profile cases, it is possible to glimpse the vast improvements in public accountability that would result from making the body genuinely independent of the government. If the CBI were awarded constitutional status, or the independence of appointment and functioning that has traditionally flowed from constitutional status, this new systemic solidity would be considerably strengthened...

Assertive institutions, many of which enjoy protected status, are willing to carry out uncomfortable investigations. India appears to be living through an era of unprecedented corruption. However, it is equally possible that it is living through an era of growing transparency and increasing accountability. And it seems the last people to work this out are those in power.


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