COMMENT POLITICS SOCIETY
By Prem Chandran
FACED WITH THE danger from Corona Virus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to declare a lock-down on the nation for three weeks – and we’re currently through the thick and thin of it. Strange situations require stranger remedies. Well. What of another virus, a canker in the system, the judicial system of the country, that’s? What was stated, and in an open and deafening manner the other day, was that the judgments in the nation’s top court – the Supreme Court – are sought to be manipulated by a lobby of a few. And who made this public, is what makes it more deafening; the recently retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
What solution does the Prime Minister have to check this and kill the virus afflicting the nation’s justice dispensation system? For now, the PM and the entire lot of elitists in the good company of the English media are silence personified. They simply dismiss what they heard as a bad dream in a hot summer’s night. Because, everyone who’s someone here is part of a larger racket that’s bleeding India’s systems to their virtual ruin. Yes, there are some lone voices who have sprung up, that too to the defence of these suspected racketeers or, rather, to belittle Gogoi: by arguing that ‘we have heard this before’, and that there’s nothing new to it.
At another level, the self-appointed crusader of public interests straddling the corridors of the Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan, is busy building a case against Gogoi, via the leftist media, as he’s likely piqued that the racket got exposed. He has much to say against Gogoi, but he craftily sidesteps the central issue, or what the retired judge had to say about the apex court. For quite some time, Bhushan is going round and round; and not reaching anywhere. There were times when he fancied he could outwit or run down Arvind Kejriwal. The hoi polloi laughed him out of court. India has its army of pretenders.
When Indian judiciary takes the stand that it should be above criticism, this premise also enjoins on it a greater responsibility – to rise above board; to avoid creating situations of embarrassment to itself, to the nation and to its people. Prashant Bhushan should know that howsoever he tries and paints the ex-CJI in the red, Ranjan Gogoi is not going to be a cast-away. The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court acquitted himself well on many counts. Gogoi faced some allegations, which, looking back, and from what he has stated now, could also mean a frame-up. Who were behind this? Gogoi has stopped short of calling a spade a spade. The good thing about the Gogoi saga, then, was that the Prime Minister perhaps understood what was what.
It is no small matter that a just-now-retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court came up with a charge as explosive as this: that judgments are sought to be manufactured at the prompting and pushing of a lobby of seniors at the apex court who kept acting as a pressure group. They, it is projected, wanted to have a finger in every judicial pie. This breaks the well-established concept of justice delivery in India. Why should a lobby at the Supreme Court intervene or interfere with the judgments being delivered by judges who are not part of their “scheme of things”? Fairness and impartiality of the judicial system are called into question.
If Prime Minister Modi, who has been given the brief to shape the destiny of this nation for an extended period of 10 years through two terms in office, is not mindful of what he has heard now about the goings-on the apex court, an argument can simply be that he’s not the right kind to lead this nation of one billion plus – whose destiny is reposed in his hands by the Indian electorate not once, but twice. If a leader cannot set things right in a matter of such a long haul in the capital, and ends up with minor shows as in Kashmir, Balakot etc, are we here to sing paeans of such a PM?
Question could be, why is Modi silent when faced with such serious issues – the cankers affecting the well-being of this nation, its judicial system, for instance? What of the much-talked about judicial reforms? Or, what of a national judicial service through which meritorious young men could become part of India’s judicial system, to shape it in a better way, as CJI Bobde has proposed of late?
Modi failed India on many fronts. When he won the polls in 2014 on the promise of ending scams and corruption, there was hope in the air. In the past about six years, however, he’s proving himself to be no different from the Prime Ministers of the past – mostly from the Nehru clan, which has proven to be a synonym for nepotism and corrupt practices, be it in the running of a party or a government. The Bofors, the Coal Scam, the 2G Spectrum, the CWG, the VVIP helicopter scam, and the unheard of other scams; rather, a scam in every government project under the UPA rule, ditto, especially when Sonia Gandhi presided over the destiny of the nation with a pliant prime minister on her side.
Hope was that Modi would be different; that he would have a long-term vision of the future of this nation; that he would discipline the wayward bureaucracy known for promoting the evil of red tape and bent on widening the scope for loot of public money. So much so, today, even at a lower level, the three-tier panchayat system is increasingly proving to be three-tier system for politicos and bureaucrats to loot public money and line their pockets. A cut from every deal is the well-accepted norm, with the ruling and the opposition sides hand-in-glove with each other. Any wonder if the country is going to dogs?
Under Modi, for one reason or the other, India is failing to strengthen itself. Despite his best intentions, the system let Modi down. Bureaucrats with their loyalty fixed on the previous regime might have taken his government for a ride. Investigations against corruption, against P Chidambaram and the like, failed to gain pace. What, in six years? CBI and ED are going round and round. Those who headed them were themselves in the shadow of suspicion. It was a smiling Chidambaram who walked out of Tihar Jail, a sad commentary on our life and times; his jailed son in tow. Chidambaram knew the system can’t touch him. There are wheels within the wheels. There are the Trojan horses within each system to subvert it from within.
The way forward for Modi was to have the better of the systems, use his muscle power to discipline the wayward bureaucrats, put fear in the minds of those who are hurting national interests and stalling progress. Modi sat as a spectator to all these worsening scenarios, and failed to wield the stick. When Modi blinked, the elitist crooks played around and sought to pull his legs. Putting on a coat in Delhi’s harsh summer does not necessarily add dignity to their character. They are what they are. Yet, that did not prevent them from barking at every turn from their plush interiors. Their obsession was to put a spoke into Modi’s wheel, keep fighting for elitist fads — like more freedom and liberty for citizens, a free for all even for illegal Bangladeshis out to mess up with the situation here – and whip up sentiments of the minorities. Fish in troubled waters, that’s.
A leader should lead from the front. He cannot afford to cover under pressure. History will record whether Modi as PM did any good to India, or whether he warmed his seat, paid salaries to government employees, built a few bridges here and there, as every government would do, and then closed shop – without taking a step further and acting in all seriousness. RSS agenda does not stretch beyond things like Kashmir, the ‘idea of Bharat’ and cow protection. It has its intellectual limitations. It lives in the past, unmindful of the world around it. A PM must grow beyond such obsessions. India presented before Modi the PM a wider canvas. That canvas mostly remains blank. He is found wanting in action.
In these challenging times, India cannot afford to have a prime minister as a status-quoist to his boot. Awesome are the challenges before him and before the nation. There is the need for long-term planning, and there’s the need for quick-fixes too. A PM as the leader of the nation must take matters forward by clearing the hurdles in his way. His word should be law, irrespective of whether or not democracy and its apologists give him such a freedom.
When Modi fought and won the elections, he won the trust and confidence of Indians. Those who seek to put a spoke in his wheel, the self-appointed conscience keepers of the nation based out of Delhi’s frolicking circuits, the Katjus, the Bhushans, the Yechuris never ever won even a ward election. They sit on judgment because the India’s racket called the elitist media have a fancy building their images. If the system stands in an elected leader’s way, the choice before him is to change the system; not hesitate and take a step back. If Modi is not able to change India in ten years’ time, he can’t change it at all. Somebody else will fill the gap; but precious 10 years would already have been lost by then.
A pre-requisite for India’s fast-paced progress is to rein in the vested interests –like those who swindled Indian banks of the order of billions; those who took huge loans through fraudulent means, refused to repay, and scooted from the scene. At one time, the estimate about the non-performing assets (NPAs), or bad debts, or debts by willful defaulters, the men who have the means to pay back but would not, was of the order of Rs 10 lakh crore. Whose money was it anyway?
Banking institutions are faced with serious financial odds, one after another. Precious money in the exchequer which came in from the taxes we paid to the nation through our nose was being looted right and left. There was no momentum in effecting a turnaround because the system gave a long rope to the looters. Courts stood in the way because this law or that law was there to protect the evil-minded marauders and poachers of India’s financial institutions. Who helped these sharks? Who other than those who ran governments and those who ran India’s regulatory bodies like RBI? Those who looted India clear are today heroes and those who lost their hard-earned money are principally India’s fools, the common folks like us, the middle class and the tax-compliant multitudes. This was an India that Narendra Modi had inherited as Prime Minister.
Sooner or later, the question will be, what has Modi done to modify the scenario? If he could not do a thing, as is widely perceived, dignity demands that he made a clean breast of it, and also make it clear as to why he could not do what he was supposed to do. As the adage goes, where there’s a will, there is a way. What Indian leaders lack is the WILL to PERFORM. Blah-blah from public platforms keep them ticking. Most of them surface with a culture of street-smartness; they have a deficit of brain power or vision for the future. Their only obsession, from prime ministers to chief ministers today, is to please the people through raining of sops, so that they can hope to win the next polls too. Note the fact that even Covid has presented them with such an opportunity. Free food, for instance, not just to the poor and the distressed, but to the well-tended and well-heeled too! Whose money are they squandering, anyway?
On the other side, fact is that the exchequer is constantly under strain. No money even for essential requirements. So, when Pakistani soldiers from across the LoC are opening fire from hi-tech, sophisticated guns, Indian soldiers return the fire with rusted and antiquated guns. The results were there for all to see in the past few years. email@example.com ==IHN-NN
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