Why you must be worried about Corruption Free One Year of Narendra Modi government in office!

Every now and then, be it on social media or tea-time conversations, whenever we discuss about politics and, dare compare the previous and present Indian governments, too many still defend the Narendra Modi led government for Corruption free one year. Yes, the writer here too admires the Gujarat strong-man for India has seen no big ticket scam in what, a year. No politician has been arrested or alleged of any loss to exchequer unlike his predecessor. In short a clean, no-nonsense governance from Team Modi. But is it all or is there something which we are missing of taking note!?

You know what made such big ticket scams of Congress led UPA government come out in open and subsequently wrote the grand old party’s obituary? It was obviously media which highlighted them round the clock which in a way got imprinted on minds of masses for quite a long and never bit the dust! But was it just the media or there was something else, something more powerful, something which in a way re-wrote the rules of the game? Just imagine the state of India today if Congress had refused to spill the beans and make all information private and classified letting no information flow to the general public — devastating is the word to describe such an unceremonious move! Narendra Modi, I’m quite sure won’t have won so easily with such a “brute” majority, Congress would never have bitten the dust the way it did, the politicians who lost in the recent Lok Sabha and Assembly elections would still be sitting in temples of democracy framing rules for us had they not been shamed by information that reached the hands of general public. Experts christen 21st century as the age of Information — it’s the century which will be driven by data. If not any other part of the world but world’s largest democracy had already shown the amazing power information holds. If there was one goal which I believe Congress achieved and which holds immense need at its behest and on whose behalf one can vote some party to power then it’s the common man’s Right To Information. If my personal experience is any indicator then I have got a road before my house built which was pending since the day I remember it through RTI applications. I have heard people getting their ration cards and other certificates in record time after filing RTI queries which were denied or delayed at first place! To those who have not used RTI for any of their work and have paid bribes in one or the other way or have kept quite after seeing shambled roads and other apathies this may seem just another problem but to those who have got things done, who have seen corrupt government babus shiver at the question of requesting information under RTI, this is a big setback. To the activists who fought tooth and nail to get this law enacted this is horrible for all their sweat and blood lost in fighting for accountability in governance is at crossroads now. Not just inside but even outside our national boundaries we were praised for such a law. When this was made law, the articles in likes of BBC and NYT were heart-warming. The words were evident of the importance this piece of act holds. It was in a way mammoth power in the hands of citizens, the bedrock of a nation who were until then clueless of what their local leaders or government at large does. RTI restored the power into citizens hands; they had got a way now to know what their leaders were all up to and in single intelligent stroke Modi led NDA government has dethroned that power from the masses.

We are about to complete one full decade of the RTI Act (RTI), which was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005, and implemented on 12 October 2005. However, it is for the first time, that the crucial post of the Chief Central Information Commissioner (CCIC) is lying vacant since nine months, with the Narendra Modi government, which otherwise boasts of efficiency and transparency refusing to fill up this post, under some pretext or the other. Whatever may be the reason, if a scam ridden UPA government (don’t forget they themselves institutionalised this act!) can have the post filled for all its time since inception then there is no denying the fact that the current government is lacking something very important — Commitment in its fight against corruption. Recently in an interview to TOI journalist Madhu Kishwar who was close to Modi before elections revealed how Modi wanted to bring IAS Ashok Khemka into his PMO but how Arun Jaitley interfered. Instances as such speak volumes about how there is disconnect between Modi and his men and how the Gujarat strongman has lost his boldness in going ahead alongside his conviction. Democracy is the rule by dialogue but those dialogues must never demean the national interest. Whatever may be the reason but the important point is that the post which is important to look after how the act is faring is lying vacant for more than 9 months and nothing less.

To imagine what happens of a council without a king is not so difficult. So is a cabinet without PM. It also means that crucial and important public authorities like the Prime Minister’s office (PMO), Controller and Auditor General (CAG), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Supreme Court, High Court amongst several others, which are directly under the Chief Central Information Commissioner, are answerable to none now. Claim of corruption free one year could well be a scam free five years if this situation continues! We can then boast ourselves of “clean” government, fall prey to “clean” advertisements and elect the “clean” government again! What this “clean” government has deliberately cleaned is not corruption from its office but these constitutional institutions of their powers; the government has intelligently kept captain off the shore leaving ship clueless of its functions. And this negligence or deliberate effort as many are suspecting to be has caused the pendency of second appeals to pile up by over 100%. Isn’t that alarming given Modi’s speeches on how he intends to fight corruption?

Is the government deliberately trying to cripple the RTI act that for the first time since Independence has empowered citizens to demand transparency and exposed corruption and final irregularities? RTI has led to public shame of some stalwart politicians and resulted in the defeat of many in the recent Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections, much to the discomfort of the political fraternity. So, one cannot help wonder whether stifling the RTI act is the best option for this community. Even Congress I believe couldn’t had imagined the proportion of power this act will give in the hands of common folk who only feel powerful when elections are round the corner.

Former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi lashed out at centre for allegedly rendering the RTI “dysfunctional” by taking retrogressive steps. Gandhi referred to two “biggest dangers” to RTI, first one from the government itself which thinks that “transparency is a hindrance” to good governance and the second — a selection of Information Commissioners that has become a part of “political patronage”. If transparency becomes hindrance to governance then so be it but denying our right to information is simply unacceptable.

Narendra Modi in run up to 2014 elections talked length and breadth about transparency, corruption, good governance and much more sweet things but looks like all was just the candy to woo the disgruntled voter. What other explanation could you possibly provide when the man who spoke of corruption free India a year ago keeps constitutional bodies that are to investigate corruption headless for nearly a year? No surprise then to see no big ticket scams in a year of his government — how could it be when you have no one to look out for one! Good defence there!

I’m not suggesting Modi government is sitting on any scam but one can’t deny the same too when they vehemently keep such bodies dysfunctional for so long a time. They may be practicing governance with highest degree of sobriety but how can one be assured of it? If such is going to be the case of investigating agencies then rest assured, we have this time the most “cleanest”, “corruption-free” government for all the five years!

P.S. It’s quite interesting to note however this is the same person who lamented UPA for corruption, denying few information, or on many accounts which he himself is practising now. Looks like time flies, rulers change but their mind-set — they all remain the same — shoddy and corrupt!

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