est Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, known for her aggressive postures, is on the defensive after the hits her party took at the recent LS polls. She has her flaws, but praise must be due to her for the way she responded to a people’s protest over cut-money or bribes taken by local leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party while implementing welfare schemes. The protests are massive, and spread over several districts. She has ordered her men to return all the money they took or else face arrests. They are hemming and hawing, and asking questions, but hope is that the CM would be firm in tackling such irresponsible elements that brought a bad name to her politics. It must be acknowledged that such bribes are not exclusive to Mamata or TMC. This is rampant in all states and involves all political workers, including MLAs and MPs. Even Orissa is not spared from such crooks.
Notably, unlike Mamata, no other political leader has ever taken such a firm stand against corruption by his or her party members. Those in power often talk in general terms, or order an inquiry in similar situations so as to neutralise the protests, and then altogether forget about the matter. While many leaders conveniently resort to the ‘Law will take its own course’ phrase to get out of sticky situations, people at large know that the law in India never takes its own course. Our judges are the best examples of misuse of power and position. So many inquiries of this kind have not reached anywhere and are generally shams of a kind. People are taken for a ride and no purpose is served.
Mamata Banerjee’s order to return the money leaders took is thus a highly appreciable stand. The Congress party, while in power, was known to be out and out corrupt at all levels. The BJP ruled states, too, where the party lost miserably some months ago prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, had similar allegations. While fortunes changed for the LS elections since the question became ‘If not Modi, then who?’, the lower level complaints persist. That was a culture that has been inherited over long years by all political elements across the board. The BJP too, like the Congress, cannot be said to have a clean record, especially in the context of scams such as Rafale. People voted it back to power because they did not see a strong and reliable alternative. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, in his first innings, not given serious thought to checking corruption. The scenario across the country is progressively worsening. No doubt, it is the extreme greed to be rich overnight that has driven the average Indian for centuries that today it seems uncontrollable. The political types reflect the common mindset of the citizens. Given an opportunity of power and pelf, there would be very few Indians who would bat an eye before milching the system for personal benefit. We, as a nation, love to cut corners and derive benefits at the cost of others without qualms.
A reason why corruption has such a sway in public life is that the mechanisms that are in place to check corruption, like the anti-corruption bureau, the police, the Vigilance departments are themselves infested with corrupt women and men. A CBI inquiry today does not mean much. It was not for nothing that the Supreme Court called it a parrot. The agency is known time and again for being influenced by the government at the Centre to target opponents and save those who side with the ruling party. It is so with the Enforcement Directorate as well.
The spilling of beans by two top officials of the CBI, recently, about crores in bribes being taken by these higher-ups hurt the agency’s image immensely. If the Union Government is not serious about changing things for the better, the nation will suffer. If previous record is any indication, there is little to expect from the second term of the Modi government in terms of checking corruption. The suspension of a handful of senior officers, as has happened recently, did not inspire confidence. Chances are that they will fight the case and return to the ranks with all the back wages of the period they sat at home, sulking. Under the present scenario, fixing an official or politician for corrupt practices is easier said than done. When the system itself is deeply corrupt, individuals get away with their act.
Hope is that Mamata Banerjee will remain firm in her resolve to get her partymen return the bribes they took for distribution of free houses and other schemes under various government programmes. Allegations are that they took high per cent commissions in several districts, if not all. Some of them have come up with a poser to the CM, openly, as to what about a cut they reached to senior-level partymen, out of the bribes they took. It is natural to expect that all leaders at all levels should return the money. If Mamata succeeds in effecting this, this is bound to raise her stature as CM. She could very well be considered a trail blazer in Indian politics.