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Bull's Eye

India is not shining because macro decisions by the government are negated by misgovernance and corruption. These arise from the permissive and casual ...

Bull's Eye

India is not shining because macro decisions by the government are negated by misgovernance and corruption. These arise from the permissive and casual attitude towards violation of procedure that for decades has symbolised India's political culture.

Take last week's escape of Phoolan Devi's killer from Tihar jail. Kiran Bedi argued on TV that such jail escapes couldn't be prevented because documents can be perfectly forged. Therefore a system of electronic identity cards for police personnel should be introduced. The facts seem otherwise. The prison staff did not check the relevant documents. The official concerned was absent when the prisoner was handed over to the fraudulent cops. The closed circuit TV lacked a video recording facility. The command order handed over a day earlier containing the identities of the policemen who were to escort the prisoner next day had been overlooked.

But why focus just on Tihar jail? Consider the Bofors probe. Last week, Mani Shankar Aiyer with his usual verve wrote a scathing piece on the roles of Arun Shourie, Arun Jaitley, V.P. Singh and Arun Nehru in the Bofors affair and on how the truth was derailed. That's all very well. But does Aiyer honestly believe that Rajiv Gandhi couldn't have uncovered the truth had he ruthlessly followed rule and procedure?

B.G. Deshmukh in his book, A Cabinet Secretary Looks Back, writes: "Though his (Rajiv's) personal integrity was beyond doubt, there was strong circumstantial evidence that he knew the names of the recipients but was reluctant to expose them, maybe because they were of the Congress party or close relatives or friends of the family."

Are these views of a former cabinet secretary? Or those of a village yokel? How could a PM have 'personal integrity beyond doubt' and yet fail to expose the names of those who accepted bribes? This is what the Indian Penal Code says about abetment of crime: "Whoever, being a public servant voluntarily conceals, or by any act or illegal omission, the existence of a design to commit such offences shall, if the offence be committed, be punished with imprisonment."

Both Rajiv Gandhi and Deshmukh were public servants when the Bofors case occurred. If Deshmukh at the time knew what he alleges Rajiv knew, he too was guilty of abetting a crime.

India will get governance befitting a global power when administrators develop zero tolerance towards violation of law. Some politicians dream that India can be as good as America. Their vision is flawed. With good governance, India can be better.

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