Since we are now teaching our children that they can race to the top by any means that they desire, this ‘winner-takes-all’ (by any approach) attitude is actually embedding corruption in young minds. But the recent social protests have come as a shot in the arm for the current generation
Corruption first creeps in slowly and quietly into individual brains. If we look back upon our childhood days, we would know how we—or our siblings and friends—snatched from others whatever we liked, no matter who the rightful owner was. A loving and caring elder always stepped in and quietened those he could, but helplessly gave in to the more stubborn who would not stop crying until his whims were met. That was how the first software of corruption was embedded into our personal systems. We grew up with an obsession of whims and preconceived notions that gradually took command of our behaviour.
Today we have reached a stage when nothing attracts us more than figures and statistics.We all feel greedy to have more—whatever, whenever, wherever and however! After all, when you have more than your neighbour, you earn his envy. 'Life is no good unless I have an edge over others'—we seem to think even when we have enough to lead a normal life. Accumulation of assets gives us an expanse to gloat over with a sense of triumph in a world that is racing to grab more. Of course, far from being sinful, honest pursuit to earn and create more resources in life is a highly-desirable activity and ultimately it benefits society. What is harmful and dangerous for society is acquisition of resources and privileges through dishonest pursuit and machinations. Spread of such a culture vitiates the atmosphere and promotes unfair competition, rivalry and crime.
The quest to excel, however, has different meanings for different people. The fear of being left behind in the race forces us to ignore the fundamentals of life in this fiercely-competitive environment. We find parents boasting of their kids getting as high as 99% marks. Teenagers attend school, tuitions and coaching for competitive examinations with no time for societal chores, nature watch, hobbies, games, outdoor adventures and so on. Care is taken to enrol into those tutorials where the student's teacher has commercial interest. The aim is clear: to get highest possible marks, no matter how. And so we know why teachers perform perfunctorily in classroom teaching, but do their most in 'tuition' sessions out of school. Every year, we also witness how question papers are secretly fished out and sold for hefty amounts a few days prior to the date of the examination. And the malaise is no longer confined to Boards alone, it has now become a high-paying furtive business eating into the country's most prestigious competitive examinations like JEE and other UPSC-controlled or institutionally-conducted examinations. And yet, universities and colleges too joined the mad race to rake in students who are in the highest slot of the cut-off percentage set as high as 98% and, in some cases, 100%. Is the percentage of marks obtained by students the only measure of their worthiness for the institution, society and the nation? Who would look for the more vital attributes in personalities the country and society need like aptitude, vision, character, disposition towards social/national issues and so on?
The next milestone in life is career—which also is measured not so much from the job content, but from the figurative assessment of the salary package. Campus placement carries its own stress and glory with multinational companies (MNCs) offering enormous salary packages to youngsters striving to subsist on frugal pocket allowance and hostel expenses paid by parents who kept a tab on their expenses. Once in the job, they quickly develop their own networks in the corporate world and weave their way up the ladder. Notions like 'organisational loyalty' have no stopping power in their job-hopping culture to reach out for more. Terms like 'thousand' and 'lakh' no longer impact us the way they did our parents. Four figure, five figure salaries that used to be lofty heights a few decades ago have no meaning now. Now they come part in cheque, part in bundles-a happy mix of white, grey and black. Yet, the race to get more is not only continuing but becoming fiercely faster. The illicit money paid as kickbacks in the Bofors scandal of yesteryears which involved India's Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was valued at Rs64 crore, an amount that looks so tiny when compared with today's illegitimate gains of A Raja and his accomplices causing a loss of Rs1,76,379 crore ($39.33 billion) to the national exchequer.
Dreams and the castle-plans we build are enormous. No salary package is plenty enough to cater for fulfilling all our aspirations in this world, no matter how hard we work and how much we earn. Indians are objects of envy for their abilities and untiring capacity to work all over the world. Tough competition, long working hours and vagaries of hectic routine in life do not seem to deter this generation. What does deter them is when they find the undeserving has the cake and eats it too. Hard-working, sincere, ambitious and fully aware of their rights, these people get angry when their genuine dues are withheld or when they find someone who supersedes them illegally and gets 'special favours' through bribing. It pains them even more when they discover a sinister nexus where the corruption vine runs all the way from a clerk's window to the minister's table. Who will attend to your complaints of injustice in such a scenario? Tired and frustrated in a hopeless situation, people give up and reconcile to themselves to the harsh realities. Since they have money but no time or intent to get into hassles, they pay their way out with angst building in their guts, though!
Anna Hazare's arrival on the scene had an electrifying effect on this generation that had already become highly inflammable. Anna's protest fast at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan made India rise in unison against corruption—obliterating conventional lines of caste, religion and region. Full of anger, all able-bodied and daring, yet epitomes of a highly—responsible citizenry, remarkably peaceful and tolerant, thoroughly adherent to rules-the agitating masses set new standards of mass movement, showcasing a shining example of how protest rallies can be organised without needing police, causing harm to life and property or inconvenience to public so commonly witnessed in our political rallies. Patriotic songs like'Dil diya hai, jaan bhi denge, aye vatan tere liye…' and slogans like 'Vande Mataram' and 'Bharat Mata ki Jai!' rent the air boosting a new found nationalistic fervour all over India—and even abroad. India united and surging behind a fasting farmer, Anna, whose simplicity and diminutive bearing hid his enormous moral stature, simply bewildered the political class.
What is indeed reassuring is that the earning generation of modern India is still largely imbued with high morals even it is capable of manoeuvring through corrupt corridors of government machinery. Now the generation has realised the seriousness of the malaise called corruption. The cool rallying-up is more than just a silver lining in the dark clouds. However, there is a need for a solemn self-cleansing effort to introspect and change course so as to build up a mass aversion against corruption in every form. Retain the difference between fair and foul; 'sincere quest to earn more through honest, fair pursuit' and 'greed to grab and hoard by hook or by crook.'
The public outcry has been catalysed by bad governance where corrupt officials get away with arrogance, callousness and inefficiency, leaving the public largely disappointed. The politico-bureaucratic-criminal nexus has become a potent force that threatens India's national security from within. Ironically, figures and statistics in respect of this category (politicians, bureaucrats and criminals) perform quite differently when compared with those of the working masses. For example, unlike the exacting norms of admissions and job placements for the law-abiding career-oriented youth, there are no mandatory qualifications for an MP or an MLA. Also, no matter how fast the hardworking executives climb to richer returns, our politicians have devised techniques to clock a higher growth rate-faster that everybody else. For instance, the average growth rate of wealth of India's Parliamentarians was 300% as per reports recently published in the newspapers. While a manager or an engineer can be summarily fired and a military man (officer or jawan) can be summarily tried and punished, our bureaucrats hoodwink the system projecting their 'transfer' or 'suspension' as punishment for their misdeeds. Little wonder that while we often read news about transfers and suspensions, no convictions or summary dismissals come to light. In fact, the country is left to mutely watch uninterrupted ascendance of the corrupt right up to the very top. Akhand Pratap Singh and Neera Yadav both managed to reach the highest posts in their service despite their highly tarnished service records. PJ Thomas, who became India's CVC despite his baggage of corruption in the past, mentioned in his affidavit filed in the Supreme Court that all the other IAS officers shortlisted for the prestigious post had a similar tainted past.
Earlier, the criminals used to work for their political bosses. Now it seems they have become politicians themselves. Two very highly-reputed organisations, 'Association for Democratic Reforms' and 'National Election Watch', have discovered that while there were a total of 128 MPs with criminal records in the 14th Lok Sabha, now there are 162 (excluding A Raja and accomplices) in the 15th Lok Sabha. The number of crorepatis (multi-millionaires and billionaires) has doubled to 315 in the 15th Lok Sabha from 156 in the previous. Another interesting phenomenon that emerged from these analyses is that the chances of winning an election in 2009 were directly proportional to the money power of the contestants, i.e., 0.43% with assets under Rs10 lakh to 32.65% with assets over Rs5 crore.
If reward of earnest pursuit by the competent, honest and sincere citizens of the country is inferior to and at the mercy of the corrupt bureaucrats and politicians who create mountains of illicit wealth through corruption, there shall be mass resentment against the unholy nexus among politicians, bureaucrats and criminals because it is injustice and denial of fair way to the people in the world's largest democracy. Institutionalising a single authority like Lokpal (Ombudsman) on the lines proposed by Team Anna certainly appears to be a way out. Care must be taken to keep it simple, straight and free from ambiguity. Creation of different institutions to control corruption at different levels like higher bureaucracy, subordinate services, members of Parliament, Judiciary and so on will only serve the corrupt who will find plenty of escape routes in the labyrinth of institutions because acts of corruption can be—and almost always—based on collaboration spread across these categories. It is therefore logically necessary that cases of corruption are handled by a single authority having freedom to enquire and pass appropriate orders without having to refer a matter to another agency half-way through. Such a measure will only help corruption.
Post-retirement positions assigned to judges and bureaucrats are also part of corruption, because in their twilight years, they greedily survey and unfairly lobby to get appointed in such positions. It should be simpler, fairer and more effective if appointments now earmarked for 'retired' judges and officers are filled by serving incumbents through a fair selection process. They should serve and retire as per existing service norms without any extension of tenure. Even for various enquiry commissions and other agencies like the Human Rights Commission, all office-bearers should be found from those who have enough service to serve the required tenure in these agencies before superannuating as per their service rules. This will put an end to a temptation among judges and officers looking for post-retirement positions, a practice which is more of a reciprocal exchange of favours and goes to fortify the unfair nexus.
(The writer is a military veteran who commanded an Infantry battalion with many successes in counter-terrorist operations. He was also actively involved in numerous high-risk operations as second in command of the elite 51 Special Action Group of the National Security Guard (NSG.) He conducts leadership training and is the author of two bestsellers on leadership development that have also been translated into foreign languages).
Uncertainty over whether new SEZs will be eligible for tax exemptions-which are proposed to be confined to existing units in the latest draft of the Direct Taxes Code Bill-have dampened interest in the tax-free enclaves
New Delhi: The government has given more time to as many as 37 special economic zone (SEZ) developers, including Navi Mumbai SEZ, DLF Commercial Developers and Tata Consultancy Services, to execute their projects, reports PTI.
At a meeting on 19th September, the Board of Approval (BoA) headed by commerce secretary Rahul Khullar also allowed five SEZ developers to surrender their projects. The BoA is a 19-member inter-ministerial body that deals with Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and related issues.
However, the developers surrendering their projects have to obtain a certificate from the respective Development Commissioners that "they have refunded all the tax/duty benefits availed under SEZ Act/Rules," a senior commerce ministry official said.
SEZ developers, including Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and Benchmark Realty, had approached the BoA to surrender their projects.
According to an industry expert, uncertainty over whether new SEZs will be eligible for tax exemptions-which are proposed to be confined to existing units in the latest draft of the Direct Taxes Code Bill-has dampened interest in the tax-free enclaves.
Other developers that got more time to execute their projects include Raheja SEZ, Parsvnath SEZ and Wockhardt Infrastructure Development.
It has deferred the extension of two applications-Peninsula Pharma Research Centre and Meditab Specialties-as the issues were sub-judice before the apex court.
The BoA also approved three new proposals, including one for setting up a sector-specific SEZ for the petroleum and oil and gas industry in Visakhapatnam.
Regarding the revision of guidelines for power generation, transmission and distribution in SEZs, the board gave two weeks' time to the Department of Revenue for its comments.
Under the SEZ Act, SEZ units get 100% tax exemption on profits earned in the first five years of operation, a 50% exemption for the next five years and another 50% exemption on re-invested profits in the following five years.
SEZ developers, on the other hand, get 100% tax exemption on profits for 10 years, which they can choose to invoke within the first 15 years of operation.
Merchandise exports from the 143 operational SEZs in the country totalled Rs72,255 crore in the April-June period, an increase of 23% over the same period last year.
Law minister Salman Khurshid assured UK's Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke that New Delhi will put the issue on fast track and give decisions quickly. UK is one of the several countries pressing for entry of their legal firms in India
New Delhi: Indicating that the government will soon take a decision on the issue of allowing foreign law firms to operate in India, law minister Salman Khurshid today said the concerns of the Bar will be addressed before taking a final call, reports PTI.
Perhaps in his first public remarks on the issue after he assumed charge of law minister in July this year, Mr Khurshid said there were 'some concerns' which needed to be addressed before taking a decision.
"Of course there are some issues that have to be addressed. There are some perceptions that are to be addressed more than the issues. There are some concerns that are to be addressed," he said addressing a seminar on UK-India cooperation on emerging legal issues here.
Mr Khurshid assured UK's Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke-present on the occasion-that New Delhi will "put your issues on the fast track" and give decisions quickly and "decisions which have quality".
He said two of his predecessors HR Bhardwaj and M Veerappa Moily have already delved on the issue in great detail.
UK is one of the several countries pressing for entry of their legal firms in India.
The minister said the government and the Bar were equally committed "to enhance the level of our cooperation and contribution in the most meaningful way for advancement of legal services in our two countries."
Besides some ongoing court cases on the issue, the Indian legal fraternity led by the Bar Council of India is opposed to the proposed move, fearing that they would not be able to compete with their foreign counterparts.