By – Arup Baisya, written for Pragyan, A quarterly academic Journal, Tinsukia College.
The oligopolies and their hangers-on are up in arms to dismantle the system of constitutional democracy and the people with their increasingly loosening grip over the system have upped the ante and started coming out to the streets. Only a move from a ‘democracy deficit’ to ‘democracy surplus’ through a process of severing the linkages of the system with the forces of globalization striving with a neo-liberal drive can only lead us out of this crisis. But for this, we have to pause, ponder and position ourselves to organize new initiatives and thoughts. New characters other than ‘Sandeep & Nikhilesh’ of Tagore’s ‘Ghore-Baire’ from among the social-groups who remained the object of Tagore’s narration, along with rejuvenated & invigorated ‘Vimalas’ can be the torch-bearer of new dawn out of the crisis of darkness.
Aristotle ranked historical writing known to him as philosophically inferior to poetry and tragedy, in view of the anecdotal particularism of such storytelling accounts of events & circumstances in tune with the original Greek term of history - “istor” – which means “eye witness”. But the ancient art form cannot be compared with a modern branch of social science like history. With the advent of the concept of dialectical materialism, study of history becomes a tool to understand the development of human civilization and to form our vision to open a discourse on any social phenomenon. As corruption is a social phenomenon, it needs to be viewed from historical perspective.
In Webster’s dictionary, we get the general meanings of the word “Corrupt” from which corruption is derived as (1) Changed from a sound condition to an unsound condition (2) deteriorated from a normal or standard. Though giving or taking bribes falls on the second category, it is to be judged within the ambit of general definition, especially when corruption at high echelons unveils the unholy alliance of politicians, bureaucrats and corporate giants. Anti-corruption movement in
gained momentum in recent times after Radia Tapes revelation which is the
recorded conversation of the corporate honchos and other stake holders with
Neera Radia, the owner of the corporate lobbyist company VCC. There is an
element of doubt that the ministers and the high officials have been bribed
with huge sum of money by the spectrum –beneficiaries. There is no denying
the fact that the bribing the politicians, parties and the high officials by
the business-houses for getting Govt. largesse is rampant in our system.
The huge fund required for contesting election is raised by the political
parties from big business houses and thus become obliged to serve their class
interest. Conversely, to install their party of choice at the helm of affairs,
the dominant class supports them with all resources to ensure the victory of
that particular party whom they have funded. But this kind of funding is in
addition to the ideological hegemony of the dominant class over the society
established through the existing relation of production and controlled through
the existing structural and functional systems, and as such this dominant class
is called the ruling class. So if we consider the definition of the word
“corrupt” as “giving & taking bribe” in the larger continuum of change from
sound to unsound condition or deterioration from normal or standard, this type
of pre-election funding is accepted as normal or standard by the society where
we don’t find any hue & cry to a great extent or a public debate in
mass-scale. One such example can be cited if we turn the pages of history of
“Mundhra Episode” where the first finance minister T T Krishnamachari and
reserve bank governor Rama Rau had to resign at the instance of PM Jawaharlal
(the Socialist!) for TT’s pursuance to impose regulatory measure and for
moulding monetary policy to channelise hot money of private usurer capital of
Mundhra and his dominant block of business towards state controlled industry (source
: EPW). In Indian society, this bourgeois practice is not as full blown, open
and legally recognized as in other society like American. This practice in India is a
tacit understanding of ‘give
& take’ and under-cover lobbying. But in Asiatic society, especially in
India, the ideological hegemony of the dominant class over the society also moulded
the social mindset to accept the spending of public money by extending Govt.
largesse to the religious institution in exchange of their blessings towards
particular politico-bureaucratic formation. This servility towards religious
authority is the continuation of our civilizational historical past and is
intertwined with perverted path of capitalist development under primarily
direct and later indirect colonial set-up. The caste formation peculiar to
Indian civilization is a class at a primitive level of production, a religious
method of forming social consciousness in such a manner that the primary
producer is deprived of this surplus with the minimum coercion. The religious doctrines
that are so venerated by Indian Castes, minimized the need for internal violence,
thereby leading all social manifestations of the class-struggle in India
into religeo-philosophical channels of expression. In this sense, opined
Kosambi, caste is the negation of history, so that it is not in the least
surprising to find that Indian literary tradition has virtually no historical
sense or content. ( Kosambi : stages of Indian history). The servility
towards religious doctrine and religious amassing of wealth as expropriator has
been retained by the popular classes from their traditional past, as this
popular classes was the Sudra who could not be manumitted. Manusmriti 8.414
tells us explicitly : ‘Even if released
by his master, the Sudra is not freed from servitude : if (servitude) is his lot by nature, who can
remove that from him?(Kosambi : On a Marxist approach to Indian chronology). India
So, at all these levels mentioned above, the society does not recognize it as corruption, as these are considered as normal or standard.
The first reverberation in the Indian Society was the Gujrat’s Navanirman movement that subsequently turned into a popular anti-emergency (Indira-fascism) upheaval under the leadership of Joyprakash Narayan and then after the eighties we witnessed V P Singh’s anti-Bofor-scandal stir that resulted in the change of guard at the centre with new dispensation and subsequently culminated into Mandal – Kamandal conflict. Now again at this juncture, we are witnessing the anti-corruption movement under the leadership of ‘team Anna’. ‘Team Anna’ is very meticulous when they state “the latest draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India(CAG) on hydrocarbon production showing contracts and the transfer of officials to Reliance is only the latest of the mega scam to surface in the country. The breadth and depth of corruption in
from the country’s plunging ranking in Transparency International’s global
corruption survey. Corruption has come to affect every citizen in the country.
Bribes have to be paid for ration cards, passport, building permits, and for
doing even normal business. Street vendors and rickshaw pullers are forced to
pay bribes for exercising their fundamental rights. Villages are forced to pay
bribes for getting their wages under NREGA or for any other entitlements in
other schemes. High-level corruption is plundering the public exchequer,
distorting Govt. policies, and creating criminal mafia, which has come to
dominate all institutions of power. Low-level corruption is making life
impossible for common citizens”. (Source
: The Hindu, 20 June, 2011) India
The exploits of Mundhras in Nehru-era looks like kindergarten staffs compared with the achievement of their present successor. The high-level corruption is increasing leaps and bounds with the increasing accumulation of capital in few hands globally as well as nationally. When other India is starving and dying with mal-nutrition, when real India in the villages & shanty-towns is witnessing resurgence of killer diseases in epidemic-like situation, shining India cannot enjoy their pelf & perks disregarding the conspiracy at the diktat of IMF-World Bank to show very low number of BPL – people with a rat-eaten & sluggish PDS to feed them with a view to transfer the bigger slice of public exchequer for serving corporate world. Along with other means, huge black money is also generated continuously through the holes in the PDS system. If this money is piled up at a place, the mundane & rustic Indians will definitely feel dwarfed in front of this currency’s peak. In an empirical study on the transfer of Black money from
during the period from 1948-2008 published in EPW, April 9, 2011, Dev Kar
estimated that a total of $ 213.2 billion was shifted out of India or about 17.7% of ’s GDP at end-2008. India
All these show what was within our system in a rudimentary stage during the transfer of power from British colonial master has now grown to a big banyan tree spreading its branches horizontally and vertically to all spheres of lives. What appeared to the people as the “bags of wool” have now turned out to be packs of wolves in sheep’s clothing. The high-level corrupt-bandwagon in the present day has the skills in financial manipulation and sophisticated tool of self-aggrandizement in their arsenal to continue their corrupt practices in meteoric speed.
But the moot question is when the society recognizes this as a corruption i.e. deviation from standard or normal so that we can hear a social cacophony. Or conversely, what does it indicate when society recognizes this and makes it an issue. At the time of Jayprakash Narayan, there was a systemic crisis that ended up with the promulgation of emergency that was defeated by the people’s upheaval under JP’s leadership. During V P Singh’s time, it indicated another phase of systemic crisis that ended up with a transition from overwhelming upper-caste hegemony in the system to a loose conglomeration of various caste groups. The post-reform period is also the very beginning of the erosion of the edifice of our state-structure based on constitutional democracy. The neo-liberal order of the present era of globalization is not compatible with our constitutional system of surveillance, regulation and control. It’s a crisis that has been emanating from a situation where the neo-liberal forces are innovating various sophisticated tools to dismantle the existing structure without any stable alternative structure in sight. Corporatocracy without state-control is giving no solution, rather creating new conflict zones with food riot, land riot, ecology riot in tandem. Lokpal Bill is for introducing another institutional structure to contain the erosion of the constitutional democracy. But the cracks within our systemic-structure are so wide and deep that mere tightening of the nuts & bolts cannot rescue it from its collapse.