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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Talking of Ethics in an era of Scams

by Karan Kharb
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Ethics, morals, principles, honesty, sacrifice, patriotism.... blah blah.... The more these expressions are traded, the more stink the discussion kicks up. Our politicians - demagogues all, orators few, patriotic none – have polluted these words so much that their very mention now triggers more suspicion than inspiration. Time was when people would be jubilant and voluntarily throng the lawns in front of Red Fort every Independence Day. I recall how as schoolboys we had kept awake all night and eagerly squatted there in early nightly hours only to have a closer glimpse of Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru, whom we treated like an angle from the celestial world. Leaders of that time looked too lofty, too pious, and too other-worldly! A touch or a handshake with them was a gift one cherished to preserve for life!
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That genuine eagerness for darshan of leaders evaporated from the public long ago. Corruption has divested today's leaders of the aura and charisma that once captivated masses. Now politicians have to resort to ingenious ways and weird means to muster up a gathering by luring crowds from slums offering them free transport, food packets - some even offer cash allowances to show-off their ‘impressive following.’ And then on mikes they blare ".......ham Hindustan se garibi hata ke rahenge; minorities ka hanan ho raha hai, reservation dila kar rahenge; Matribhumi par sankat hai - apni jaan par khel jaenge..." By late evening they disperse to get-together at Park Hotel to analyse and celebrate 'media coverage' on their performance.
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Rampant corruption has opened easier ways for criminals to find entry into state legislatures and Lok Sabha. As many as 153 of our sitting MPs today are involved in criminal cases already registered, 54 of them in serious crimes including murder! No wonder our corrupt leaders are becoming more daring and do not shy away from dishing out explanations like "....my action may be immoral but it is certainly not illegal". If you thought that was an individual politician's view-point, now look at the audacious argument from the Government in the Supreme Court: ‘impeccable integrity’ is not an eligibility criterion for appointment of CVC! (Vahanvati’s argument in SC refers!). It obviously implies that it would be perfectly in order to appoint men of compromising integrity, purchasable character and even those charge sheeted like Thomas to hold high constitutional offices. I agree. In an era of Andher Nagri Chaupat Raja, Chor banenge Thanedar! If you can manipulate, hoodwink or work your way through machinations, your records can be dumped. The moral: "Nothing succeeds like Success!"
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The Indira Gandhi era would perhaps be better remembered as an era of political-bureaucratic intrigues. Corruption has to be integral to intrigues. This way corruption grew in the politico-bureaucratic power circles rapidly with every successive government and politicians patronising the evil covertly because it paid them dividends. Even judges found corruption a lucrative pursuit. Today we have a horde of tainted judges including retired CJsI who opened up their pants for a quick buck! With ample evidence against, some of them are facing possible impeachment too. And yet they are so brazen and shameless that we still find them not only sticking to their chairs but dispensing ‘justice’ too! What a shame!
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Over the years when pillars of governance started falling apart under the weight of corruption, India became a fertile land for crime, communal hatred and terrorism to flourish. Bureaucratic inefficiency and callousness also grew up as natural hedge to protect all evil and ward off any threat.
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Even as pessimism was enveloping the nation, people pinned all their hopes on one symbol of national pride, which they believed to be infallible in character and integrity – the Armed Forces – the ultimate mighty power of the nation! A universal belief the masses harboured in their minds was that if everything else failed, our Armed Forces would effectively save the country and do them proud even if sacrifices were called for.
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Alas, our generals too have today shattered that last hope of our people. Two lieutenant generals have been court-martialled. Some are awaiting their trial. Three former Services Chiefs have been indicted for their involvement in ‘Adarsh’ scam. Some more Courts of Inquiry are said to be in progress against senior officers suspected to be involved in cases of corruption and moral turpitude. What is even more shocking is that none of the senior commanders is facing a case for being defiant, taking a stand, refusing to bow or disobedience. They have exposed their shallow character by compromising on star qualities like integrity, honesty, uprightness and much clich├ęd ‘officer like qualities’. They have undoubtedly betrayed the faith of the nation and brought us all shame.
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I do empathise with many honest friends, excellent leaders in high positions in the Indian Army today. But, sorry friends, even though I will always be proud of you all and my profession, your sacrifices, your reputation and your command on people’s hearts have been brutally ruined by a few greedy generals. It is shocking that they – all men of negotiable character and easy virtues – managed to reach such lofty heights successfully hoodwinking the system all the way up! You will have to suffer and endure the public suspicion this breed of greed has injected in people’s minds about today’s higher military leadership. I cry as I stand on the wayside watching you carry the Cross on your shoulders with Jesus’ serenity and poise. I salute you for doing your best to preserve and nourish whatever is left of our military honour!
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Imagine the mental turmoil the budding officers passing out of the IMA would be going through when they hear the reviewing officer repeat the IMA credo in the backdrop of recent scams:
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“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first – always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last – always and every time!”

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It will certainly sound most ill suited, hollow, phoney and blatantly hypocritical in a scam-humming environment. We are quick to blame the British for ‘looting’ India without giving them credit for giving us systems of governance we find irreplaceable even after sixty four years of Independence – our dislike for them notwithstanding. They brought together plundering bands of our local chieftains and built up the Indian Military into institutions of national pride. What an irony that we find General Chetwode’s exhortation thoroughly genuine, more patriotic, more nationalistic, more Indian than our own even today!
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We need to learn our lessons afresh! May be some strong detergents and acid are required for purging the system. Sooner the better.
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Regards,
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Karan Kharb

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