B S Raghavan

Applying peer pressure against graft

B. S. Raghavan | Updated on April 23, 2013

Not one Association or Union of public servants has come out with an unequivocal condemnation of corruption.

The TV channels and the printed media were last week full of visuals showing protesters against the rape of a five-year-old child thrusting wads of currency notes to the faces of police officials confronting them. This was meant to shame the police into realising the abysmal depths to which they had sunk in society’s estimation following the alleged offer of Rs 2,000 by the police to the child’s parents to hush up the case.

It was also by way of expressing the people’s resentment and wrath over the extortionate bribes, sadistic traits, use of lethal force at the slightest provocation, display of arrogance and rudeness and other forms of despicable behaviour associated with the minions of the law in India. Regrettably the Police Commissioner of Delhi, Neeraj Kumar, seems to be totally unaware of the notoriety that the police force of nation’s capital has acquired in this respect.

But I am not going to pursue that line of reasoning right now. The question that intrigues me the most is about the impact of people’s movements in general and the nature of role and influence of members of the family, relations and friends, in particular, on public officials who, to their faces, are being constantly denounced as leeches and parasites out to harass and fleece the people.

Any honourable and sensitive person would be stung to the quick by being accused of belonging to a despised group of ill-repute. But not corrupt public officials.

TIDAL WAVE OF ANGER

I was shocked to be told that even when Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption was at its peak and mammoth gatherings were demonstrating their support and solidarity throughout the country, venal officials had not stopped openly demanding specific amounts as bribes from citizens for just performing their public duty. These officials were apparently well-informed about the tidal wave of bitterness and anger that Anna Hazare’s campaign had unleashed, but they were, to all appearances, totally unfazed, telling those approaching them that Anna Hazare or no Anna Hazare, they would not waive their right to whatever their customary mamool was!

Let us come to the parents, spouses, sons and daughters and other close relatives of such people. It is certain that each of them is in the know of their waywardness. Around every corrupt official there must be at least 100 relatives and friends who are aware of their wicked ways. Some of them may even be honest, decent and good human beings at a personal level. Is one, then, to assume that they are able to stomach the odium of someone who brings bad name to his family and friends as well? How is it that while seeing, they do not see, how their relative/friend is indulging in corruption? Or is it that they did try to bring him/her to his/her senses, but failed and decided to do nothing further about it?

The Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption had made a recommendation that society must ostracise public servants who are widely suspected to be corrupt, and that they should not be given any official position or recognition by being included in any committee or public institution, or given an award or ticket for election.

NINE-DAY WONDER

The very mention of this recommendation is bound to evoke loud guffaws these days. Far from facing any kind of ostracism, persons charge sheeted for, or convicted of, corruption and other heinous offences are honoured members of the society. They even become members of State Legislative Assemblies and both Houses of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers. A few of them are reported to have received Padma Awards as well!

The Associations/Unions have much to answer for in this matter. Some years ago, the IAS Associations of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh hit the headlines by adopting resolutions against corruption and even made public the names of some corrupt IAS officers. The flutter it caused was a nine days’ wonder and has subsided long ago.

Not one Association or Union of public servants has come out with an unequivocal condemnation of corruption or exposing the corrupt among them. They do not even bother to issue any rebuttal of the widespread public perception as reflected by survey findings, articles in the media, or agitations by sections of the civil society.

Thus it is that corruption merrily flourishes without let or hindrance, and without any sense of shame or disgrace brought to bear on the corrupt.

Published on April 23, 2013

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