Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Politicians as freeloaders

Ever heard of any ethics law in India? Here the president of the main opposition party BJP can get away with a statement that his party's chief minister in Karnataka could have acted immorally in allotting denotified land to his own kin but it was not illegal, where the prime minister has a cabinet colleague who in his previous stint as the chief minister of the state of Maharashtra was found by the Supreme Court to have illegally favoured some usurious money landers related to a legislator of his own party to poor farmers who had borrowed from them, as a punishment the court imposed a fine of Rs. ten lac on the state, not on the former chief minister. And compare this to what has just happened in the the state of New York. There, the governor, a directly elected chief executive of the state, has been fined $62,125 by the Public Integrity Commission for accepting, in contravention of the state ethics law, five free tickets to a popular baseball game in 2009 from the New York Yankees, which had commercial dealings with the state.

What is remarkable is not only that the Public Integrity Commission chose to punish such a senior public official for a transgression considered laughable in India, where ministers, legislators and bureaucrats think it is their birth right to ask for and get all sorts of freebies from those having business with the government, but also that it took it only one year to decide the case in. In our great democracy, if at all, such a case would take about fifteen years and then another five years because of an appeal to the High Court followed by one to the apex court.

When will the Indians learn that the United States has been the world's greatest power for about three fourth of a century not just because of its scientific, technological, economic and military prowess but also because it is, by and large, a law abiding nation where howsoever high you might be, the law would still be above you?

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