Citizens' Issues
Sovereignty and integrity of India in peril

Karan Kharb, chairman of Turning Point India and a retired colonel, writes an open letter to India’s high offices, on the situation that democratic India is in, and requests to take some early measures

Karan Kharb wrote the following open letter to the Supreme Court of India, the Chief Election Commissioner of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the chiefs of all the three wings of India’s defence services. Earlier in August this year, he wrote an open email to the prime minister and Ms Sonia Gandhi, highlighting problems faced by retired defence personnel.

The latest letter draws attention towards the severity of internal and external pressures that democratic India is currently under, and urges the offices of high rank and order, to take some immediate steps towards improving the situation.

Respected Sirs,
1.    At the outset, I appeal to your magnanimity to kindly pardon me for impropriety, if any, in addressing you collectively like this. Collectively, you are the vision providers, navigators and powers who can save our democracy from collapsing. At a time when public confidence in the government institutions is waning fast, you are the institutions and authorities that still command people’s confidence and hope.  

2.    I am bringing before you the issues and proposals that have been debated and deliberated for months by mature, experienced and highly responsible men and women of our society. Therefore, very humbly and most hopefully, I would request you to please mull over these submissions seriously and, more importantly, initiate pragmatic actions to purge and provide a fair, transparent, honest, efficient, and people friendly democratic system that has been devoured by corruption and divisive forces of self-serving politics. Sovereignty and integrity of India have never been in a more perilous state.

3.    Fully conscious of the pressure on your precious time, I shall be as concise as possible in conveying to you what we consider “aspirations of a distraught nation”.

The external threat scenario
4.    India is the only country in the world that has two of her major neighbours, both nuclear powers, with a history of wars and continuing animosities and suspicions—frequent peace and friendship initiatives notwithstanding. China, aspiring for global leadership, is befriending India’s closer neighbours like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and even Nepal while their faith in India is dwindling. In her quest to encircle India, China is steadily expanding her influence in the Indian Ocean and Asia Pacific. In the west, the scene is even more worrisome. Attacks by the al Qaeda-Taliban terrorists on Pakistan’s high security installations have become more audacious and frequent, the latest being on Kamra air base, believed to be storing nuclear warheads. These attacks have laid bare the vulnerability of a beleaguered Pakistan which is fighting a losing war on many fronts besides its ongoing asymmetric war against terror. Tussle between the judiciary and the executive, resurging Islamist movements, rampant corruption and a failing economy with an Standard & Poor’s (S&P) debt rating lowered to “CCC plus” which is among the world’s lowest—all add up to make Pakistan more shaky and unstable. For India, a weak, strife-torn, unstable Pakistan is more dangerous than a strong, prosperous and stable Pakistan for obvious reasons. The vital question, however, is how prepared we are to play a proactive role in either eventuality.      

The domestic scenario
5.    Rise of sectarian/divisive politics: Divisive politics is flourishing with utter disregard to the constitutional safeguards as gangs like Shiv Sena and MNS brazenly go on the rampage every now and then driving away non-Marathas from Mumbai. Raj Thackeray has the audacity to issue Fatwas to ban Hindi TV and banish all Biharis from Mumbai. In Mumbai again, a group of demonstrators raise Pakistani flag, destroy the “Amar Jawan Jyoti” and set vehicles and public property afire even as the police watched mutely. What is even more shocking is that the government lumps it all so meekly and helplessly! At the national level, the politics of caste-community based quota, subsidy, and reservation has destroyed harmony and created rival groups within the society, while the poor—the so-called ‘beneficiaries’—still languish in perpetual poverty that spreads beyond caste boundaries. Rather than empowering the impoverished, the quota regime has only promoted ‘dependence’ of the needy. Hordes of foreign nationals continue to infiltrate illegally into India from Bangladesh and neither the state government of Assam nor the Centre seems to know how to tackle the problem which recently erupted in violence taking toll of several lives and rendering thousands of people homeless. As if that was not enough, Indian citizens from the north eastern states were hounded and targeted in metro cities as if they were aliens in their own country. The very idea of India as a nation is under threat!

6.    Probity in public life abandoned: Falling standard of probity among politicians is the bane of Indian democracy today. Assets of MPs and MLAs quickly multiply into hefty fortunes, in many cases recording a staggering 100% to 1,000% growth even when there is no visible source of honest income. The CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) revelations in 2G, CWG and coal block allocations have exposed how forthcoming our politicians and bureaucrats are in compromising their integrity and character for quick personal gains. Some have surpassed limits and fallen to the bottom of moral depravity and, shockingly, even the law has been slower and softer on the likes of ND Tiwari, Gopal Kanda, Mahipal Maderna, Abhishek Singhvi and so on. MPs’ affidavits perused by the National Election Watch (NEW) revealed that more than 162 Lok Sabha MPs including some ministers are facing criminal cases in courts of law. Of these, 76 are involved in serious crimes like murder, rape, dacoity, cheating, kidnapping and so on. Sadly, the number of tainted MPs has been steadily rising—there were 128 in the 14th Lok Sabha while now they are 162 in the 15th Lok Sabha—despite public outcry for Lokpal and repeated recommendations from India’s constitutional authorities at the highest level. Here is the evidence of stubborn inaction:

(a)    The Election Commission of India recommended as far back as 1998 that “candidates with pending criminal cases should be debarred from contesting elections.” The Commission had to reiterate it in 2004 but without any effect.  

(b)    The Law Commission of India similarly proposed in 1999 an amendment/insertion of Section 8B of Representation of People Act, 1951 that would make candidates facing charges by a court of law ineligible to contest elections.   Yet, no effect!    

(c)    The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) also emphasised in their Report submitted in 2001 that “Any person convicted for any heinous crime like murder, rape, smuggling, dacoity, etc should be permanently debarred from contesting for any political office”. Going a step further, the Commission also proposed that political parties giving ticket to such candidates should be “derecognised forthwith”. No effect, yet again!

(d)    The Second Administrative Reforms Commission in its final report submitted in 2008 lent support to the Law Commission’s proposal for appropriate legislation to debar candidates with criminal background from entering legislatures.  To no avail whatsoever!

7.    Corrupt, callous governance: In its Corruption Perception Index of nations for the year 2011, Transparency International pegs India at level 95 recording a drop 11 notches below her previous year’s position among 178 countries of the world, a score that is far worse than countries like Morocco, Grenada, Zambia, Sri Lanka and many others in the category. Enviably viewed as one of  the world’s fastest growing economies (BRIC), India’s growth story is annoyingly diminishing having already slid from 10.6 in 2010 to 7.2 in 2011 and may “collapse to 5%” this year as cautiously admitted by prime minister Manmohan Singh himself at the Planning Commission meeting on 15 September 2012. The logjam in which the government is struck is so strange that the UPA partners, who should be supporting the government, are criticising its policies and moves more bitterly than the opposition to extract more than their pound of flesh. At the core of all these negatives lies the official corruption which is tearing through the skies. Widely criticised domestically as well as globally for manipulating poverty statistics, our Planning Commission put 32% of India’s population below poverty line (BPL) whereas the World Bank puts it at 42%. Evidently, subsidies, reservations and populist projects like MNREGA and other poverty-alleviation schemes have ended up enriching only the corrupt officials, local politicians and touts at the cost of targeted beneficiaries. Misappropriating public money and perpetuating poverty in such a regime has become a lucrative business of the politico-bureaucratic nexus. Unconcerned about the rising public ire against official corruption, Sushil Kumar Shinde, the home minister of world’s largest democracy disgraced it when in reply to a query from the press on 15 September 2012 in Pune he said, “earlier the Bofors was a talking point. People forgot about it. Now it is coal. This too will be forgotten”. A live example of how corruption destroys moral fibre of the nation!

8.    Systemic paralysis: Bureaucrats are on a “pens down” mode reportedly because they hesitate to take decisions for fear of getting caught as if honest working were so risky and no longer possible in government departments! Accountability has disappeared from the system. The state of crucial public utility services like government hospitals is horrific. Government schools are no better than cattle sheds. People fear police more than they fear criminals. Self respecting citizens no longer risk going to police stations to seek help because they find it easier to settle scores directly with the criminals than be exploited and insulted by police with no positive result in sight. No complaints against their rogue behaviour scares any government employee for, thanks to the shared booty of their ‘collections’, the boss would do no more than placate the complainant and hush up the matter to the delight of his delinquent subordinate. What has happened to the system that demanded efficiency, punctuality and fairness in official performance? The idea of Lokpal dates back to 1969 when the bill was first passed in the Lok Sabha. Since then no other bill has been debated as much in and out of the Parliament. Teeming multitudes of humanity at Delhi’s Ramlila grounds for once forced the Parliament to adopt a “Sense of the House” resolution favouring adoption of the Lokpal.  The agitation was called off, and so was the Lokpal bill.    

9.    The coalition sophistry: Coalition governments have made a mockery of democracy. Political parties that contest elections by rousing public passions against each other as avowed enemies trading abuses and allegations, suddenly have no compunction in forming unholy alliances with those very rivals soon after elections. This is grossly unethical, against the will of the electorate and, therefore, against the spirit of the constitution too. This is like gangs coming together to form a “Mafia group” rather than a ‘government’ which they would manoeuvre to serve their narrow interests rather than peoples’. It must, therefore, be incumbent upon parties to first form an alliance and decide on a common manifesto on which they intend to contest elections as partners so that the voter knows what kind of a government he is electing. Also, it is no secret that MPs were sold and purchased to save fledgling coalition governments twice on the floor of the Lok Sabha—the Narsimha Rao government in 1993 and the Manmohan Singh government in 2004. In the existing constitutional dispensation, it is possible for an otherwise insignificant group of legislators or even an individual to conspire with one of the rival groups in an evenly divided House and topple or alter a coalition government to arrogate unusual power and authority to themselves—a scenario that would be grossly against the mandate of the electorate, yet constitutionally permissible. We know how an independent MLA, Madhu Koda, now in jail for amassing an illegal wealth of Rs4,000 crore, became chief minister of Jharkhand in 2006. In the present coalition, the prime minister has himself confessed that he is working under “coalition compulsions”, implying that the government does yield to blackmail and coercion from partners for its survival. This compulsive stranglehold of coalition partners has been the primary factor in paralysing the government. By implication, such governments last as long as they serve vested interests of partners; public service is incidental. Having messed up almost an entire monsoon session of the Parliament without transacting useful business, the government is now frantically huddling to take “bold decisions” on FDI, disinvestment and other controversial issues on the sly even many UPA partners are left fuming.   

10.    Official neglect hits military morale:  It is now indisputably known that the military personnel and ex-servicemen were given a raw deal by the 6th Central Pay Commission, not to mention of the woes given by earlier pay panels. A large number of petitions and appeals filed by aggrieved ex-servicemen against the government decisions stand disposed by the Armed Forces Tribunal, high courts and the honourable Supreme Court in favour of the petitioners asking the government to grant remedies in each case. Yet, the bureaucratic red tape has not permitted justice to reach the aggrieved parties including serving soldiers. The result is that the mounting resentment has taken a toll on the military morale which has recently manifested in some very disturbing happenings in some military units deployed in sensitive operational areas. Spilling beyond breach of discipline, these incidents became mutinous confrontations defying chain of command. It is a different matter though that the top military brass shall go to any extent to allay doubts about military’s morale and battle worthiness because in military ethos it is disgraceful and un-soldierly to be demoralised. Even a dying soldier would boast of his “high morale”. India’s military might is the last resort to deal with the most complex and dangerous threats—internal or external—when all else might have failed. There is no alternative to maintaining the Armed Forces fully motivated, satisfied, well equipped and well cared for so that they deliver desired results. Unfortunately, petty considerations like inter-service parity, inferiority or superiority and one-upmanship are over-riding national interests and, in their effort to negate the uniqueness of military’s role and structure, the bureaucrats have traditionally viewed military as their rival in service status. This hostile mindset has always pulled down the soldiery in India by making the government give them less than they deserve. Throughout the world, military enjoys distinct privileges, status and prestige which are officially bestowed upon the soldiers in the form of badges of rank, insignia, uniform, ‘standards’ and banners—all that distinguishes them from the rest. It is in everybody’s interest to make soldiers proud of their profession and beloved of the people they die for. There is an urgent need to arrest the fall of military morale and restore their dignity and motivation before it is too late.


Conclusion
11.    There are a host of reforms awaiting enactment of appropriate laws like Lokpal Bill, Whistle Blowers Bill, Electoral and Political Reforms, Ban on entry of charge-sheeted individuals into the legislature or public offices, confiscation of illegally acquired assets of politicians and government officials, Judicial Reforms and Judges Accountability Bill, et al are unlikely to see the light of the day under the existing system.

12.    Peaceful agitations, recommendations of commissions and statutory bodies, and even directions/strictures and observations frequently passed by the judiciary have failed to improve the situation. The law minister derisively scoffed at the peaceful mass agitation saying, “Ramlila happens every year; what’s the worry?” Equally scornfully, the home minister also echoed the government attitude when he said, "earlier the Bofors was a talking point. People forgot about it. Now it is coal. This too will be forgotten."

13.    The message is now clear: Non-violent Satyagraha is no more than a carnival that can go on for eternity or dissipate. The danger of such apathy and arrogance is that people will become restive and take to violence. Simmering resentment is mounting throughout the length and breadth of the country and forebodings of anarchy are very much perceptible.

14.    It is in this backdrop of harsh realities that we consider it highly expedient that bold action is now needed to save the country from anarchic times ahead. It might be unconventional, some might view it even ‘unconstitutional’ too, but would it really be so if the honourable Chief Justice of India, the CEC, the CAG and the chiefs of the Armed Forces sat together and discussed the vital national issues that are not getting resolved by any other democratic mechanism? Indian democracy is yearning for your guidance today.

15.    While we suggest no specific plan to India’s most enlightened brains and custodians of public faith, we would certainly beg you to act collectively, resolutely and effectively before it is too late to introduce a course correction in our governance and facilitate the country’s advance to peace, prosperity, power and glory. Your intervention can save India from going the Libyan, Egyptian or Syrian way.  

With best regards and lots of hope,
Karan Kharb

(Col Karan Kharb 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) widely known as ‘Black Cat Commandos’. He conducts leadership training and is the author of two bestsellers “Made to Lead” and “Lead to Success” on leadership development that have also been translated into foreign languages).

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COMMENTS

SuchindranathAiyerS

4 years ago

I see India to be well past entreaties and exhortations!

nnsachi

4 years ago

Why has the Colonel ignored mentioning the growing Naxal menace ?

Neel

4 years ago

Looks like a call to Chief Justice, CEC, CAG and the chiefs of the Armed forces to enact the Jan Lokpal bill. That is, no need for the criminal MPs to pass their own death sentence, you do it for them !

Neel

4 years ago

Looks like a call to Chief Justice, CEC, CAG and the chiefs of the Armed forces to enact the Jan Lokpal bill. That is, no need for the criminal PMs to pass their own death sentence, you do it for them !

REPLY

M G WARRIER

In Reply to Neel 4 years ago

It is not just about Jan Lokpal Bill. And a legislation cannot take India out of the present mess. If enactment would have saved a nation, our Constitution would have protected us!

drsharmilaraopn

4 years ago

The conclusion of col.saab's article is you are invited to the funeral of the sovereign democratic republic of India, which on investigation is a suicide,

PPM

4 years ago

when India is being ruled by foreign mercineries like Manmohan singh and Sonia Rajiv, India can not expect anything other than this.

Aditya Singhal

4 years ago

Well written, well intended...but given the status of affairs, not sure if write ups are sufficient enough!

Rajat Bhatia

4 years ago

Excellent well written and I hope it gets the attention it deserves from Indian citizens who love their country

M G WARRIER

4 years ago

Moneylife deserves a special thanks for giving space for giving vent to feelings like this. Let us not get into details. The underlying frustration of a senior citizen about the state of affairs with particular reference to decay of governance must be addressed. The ‘open letter’ approach is the right thing. This is a wake up call for all of us. Let us take in that sense and let us not try to ‘fix’ anyone. Let the leadership-those in charge of leading government, those in charge of the four pillars of democracy- introspect and come out with suggestions for improving governance.

Ajit Singh orders suspension of top officials at AAI for graft

A CBI inquiry had found these top officials allegedly involved in committing irregularities and favouring a particular company in awarding ground handling services contracts at Chennai, Kolkata and other airports

 
New Delhi: Six senior Airports Authority of India officials have been suspended after a preliminary probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) found them allegedly favouring a private company while awarding ground handling service contracts at some airports, reports PTI.
 
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has ordered immediate suspension and initiation of major penalty proceedings against AAI Executive Director (Commercial) LL Krishnan, DGM Finance RL Saran, Additional GM (Commercial) S Basu, DGM (Operations) Arun Mehan, DGM (Operations) PK Chadha and GM Ravi Verma, a Ministry statement said.
 
A CBI inquiry had found them allegedly involved in committing irregularities and favouring a particular company in awarding ground handling services contracts at Chennai, Kolkata and other airports.
 
The Minister has also ordered filing of FIR against Prem Bajaj, MD of Bhadra International India Ltd, retired AAI ED (Commercial) RV Narayanan, retired AAI ED (Finance) AK Dubey and others for manipulating, forgery, criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy and corruption, the statement said.
 
The AAI officers had allegedly made certain deviations from the commercial manual in the Notice Inviting Tender (NIT) while awarding contract for ground handling services at Chennai and Kolkata airports so that Bhadra International India Ltd was benefited, the CBI probe found.
 
The officials had deliberately incorporated the term "tie-up" arrangement in the eligibility criteria as stipulated in the NIT to make Bhadra International India Ltd eligible in joint venture technical agreement with Novia International Consulting APS for participating in the bid process.
 

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Sensex, Nifty may continue to move up: Monday Closing Report

Buy at dips. Uptrend on Sensex, Nifty may continue unless the previous day’s low is broken

 
The market closed in the green for the ninth day in a row on optimism from the government on the reforms front and the RBI’s 25 basis point CRR cut today. Today’s upmove helped the Nifty close at the highest since 26 July 2011. We see the uptrend continuing, subject to the index holding itself above the previous day’s low. The NSE saw a huge volume of 100.10 crore shares, the highest since 27 February 2012, and the advance decline ratio of 850:597.  
 
The market opened on a positive note following the government’s move, after the market closed on Friday, to approve foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, aviation and cable TV and DTH sectors. Markets in Asia, which were in the green in morning trade, also supported the gains in the local market.
 
The NSE Nifty opened 54 points higher at 5,632 and the BSE Sensex surged 156 points to start the day at 18,620. The market hit its intraday high in initial trade itself with the Nifty rising to 5,652 and the Sensex scaling 18,715. Capital goods, banking and realty stocks were in demand in early trade.
 
However, profit booking ahead of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) policy review saw the benchmarks paring some of their gains. The market continued to drift lower despite the central bank cutting the cash reserve ratio (CRR) rate by 25 basis points to 4.5%. The reduction will lead to an infusion of Rs17,000 crore into the system.
 
Selling pressure in FMCG, IT and healthcare sectors pushed the market to the day’s low in noon trade. At the lows, the NSE Nifty fell to 5,586 and the BSE Sensex retracted to 18,481.
 
The indices were range-bound in post-noon trade as the key European markets opened lower on fresh concerns from Spain and Portugal as the two nations witnessed protests against spending cuts.
 
The government’s move to initiate economic reforms and the RBI’s CRR cut helped the market notch gains for the ninth day in a row. At the close, the Nifty gained 32 points (0.58%) to 5,610 and the Sensex climbed 78 points (0.42%) to settle at 18,542.
 
The broader indices outperformed the Sensex today. The BSE Mid-cap index surged 1.14% and the BSE Small-cap index climbed 1.13%.
 
Among the sectoral gauges, BSE Realty (up 6.21%); BSE Capital Goods (up 3.74%); BSE Bankex (up 3.24%); BSE Power (up 2.19%) and BSE Oil & Gas (up 1.95%) were the top performers. The losers were BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (down 3.66%); BSE IT (down 3.18%); BSE TECk (down 1.86%) and BSE Healthcare (down 1.81%).
 
Eighteen of the 30 stocks on the Sensex closed in the positive. The top gainers were Jindal Steel (up 5.99%); ICICI Bank (up 5.39%); State Bank of India (up 5.36%); Larsen & Toubro (up 4.35%) and BHEL (up 4.30%). The major losers were ITC (down 5.48%); TCS (down 5.03%); Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (down 4.30%); Hindustan Unilever (down 2.76%) and Infosys (down 2.67%).
 
The top two A Group gainers on the BSE were—Pantaloon Retail (up 19.04%) and HDIL (up 13.58%).
The top two A Group losers on the BSE were—Hexaware Technologies (down 5.94%) and IPCA Laboratories (down 5.60%).
 
The top two B Group gainers on the BSE were—NCC (up 21.04%) and Man Industries India (up 20%).
The top two B Group losers on the BSE were—JPT Securities (down 13.25%) and Rishiroop Rubber (down 11.53%).
 
Out of the 50 stocks listed on the Nifty, 29 stocks settled in the positive. The key gainers were Reliance Infrastructure (up 8.34%); IDFC (up 6.87%); DLF (up 6.76%); Bank of Baroda (up 6.65%) and Jaiprakash Associates (up 6.04%). ITC (down 5.57%); TCS (down 5.37%); Dr Reddy’s (down 4.03%); BPCL (down 3.30%) and Ranbaxy Laboratories (down 2.95%) were the main losers on the benchmark.
 
Markets in Asia closed mostly higher on the back of the recent moves by central banks across the world to boost growth. However, stocks in China settled lower after private data revealed a decline in home sales following the government’s restrictions.
 
The Hang Seng rose 0.14%; the Nikkei 225 surged 1.83%; the Straits Times gained 0.27% and the Taiwan Weighted climbed 0.31%. Among the losers, the Shanghai Composite tumbled 2.14%; the Jakarta Composite lost 0.04% and the Seoul Composite declined 0.26%. 
 
At the time of writing, the key European indices were down between 0.20% and 0.57% and the US stock futures were trading with minor losses.
 
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of shares totalling Rs2,833.72 crore on Friday while domestic institutional investors were net sellers of stocks amounting to Rs688.80 crore.
 
Pharma major Wockhardt today said it has received approval from American health regulator to market Lansoprazole, a drug used in treatment of ulcers, in the US market. Lansoprazole is the generic name for the brand Prevacid, marketed in the United States by Takeda. The stock tanked 4.17% to close at Rs1,280 on the NSE.
 
Reliance Power today said its 4,000 MW Sasan ultra mega power project in Madhya Pradesh has been connected to the national grid. The project is now ready to draw power from the grid to provide start-up power for the first 660 MW unit which is nearing completion, the company said. Reliance Power jumped 6.35% to close at Rs87.10 on the NSE.
 
Tech Mahindra on Monday acquired 51% stake in Comviva Technologies for Rs260 crore. According to the agreement, Tech Mahindra will make an upfront payment of Rs125 crore towards the stake acquired and the balance Rs135 crore will be paid over a period of five years. Tech Mahindra declined 0.73% to close at Rs904 on the NSE.
 

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