About two decades back, though extremely concerned about huge corruption in every walk of India’s life, I used to think that India had already hit the rock bottom and there was only one way it could go from there – up. Then Rwanda happened, in a small country with just about six million population, the Hutus, making two thirds in numbers, butchered one million of the minority Tutsies. It was closely followed by the Serbian Christians unleashing all sorts of cruelties on the Bosnian Muslims. I found that these countries were far below India in terms of adherence to universal social values. But perhaps even they did not make the bottom because by that time I had figured out that there was no bottom in the pit. Countries and civilisations have a natural tendency to fall and they keep on falling unless a strong upward force is continually applied on them by their peoples.
India’s recent fall has been very pronounced, scam a day seems to have become our staple diet. The latest to be discovered among the long list is the Rs.35,000 crore food grains scam in the state of Uttar Pradesh from 2004 to 2007, when Mulayam Singh Yadav was the state’s chief minister and his brother, Shivpal Singh Yadav, his agriculture minister. Millions of tonnes of food grains were diverted from the public distribution system, mid day meals and other social projects to the market and a substantial part even illegally exported to Nepal and Bangladesh. Some persons had approached the Allahabad High Court to intervene to stop the loot and it did by sending notices to the state governments and also in 2005 and 2009 to Manmohan Singh’s central government but could not shake them out of their slumber. Now that the scam, which some people say could be as big as the GDP-scale 2G spectrum scam, is out in the open, sanctimonious statements will be issued by all whose inaction and complicity made it possible in the first place that the guilty will not be allowed to go unpunished, that no one is above the law, and a comprehensive inquiry by the ubiquitous CBI will be launched. Sometimes, I wonder how many simultaneous inquiries of this nature and spread the CBI can manage without compromising the quality of its investigation, particularly when its record for ultimate conviction is already nothing much to write home about.
Diversion and theft of food grains on this massive scale could not have been possible without patronage from the highest echelons of the state government and active involvement of hundreds, perhaps thousands, at all levels of the state’s bureaucracy, including police. Even the central government can not escape its responsibility; it had failed to come to life despite the High Court’s notices. With so many, including big wigs, involved and culpable, I will be highly surprised if anything worthwhile is allowed to happen in this case unless the civil society and people of India build up sufficient pressure on the state and central governments and sustain it not for months but years. It is our tens of thousands of crores which were looted by crooks and criminals in the garbs of politicians and bureaucrats and it is we who must keep pressurising the governments and the criminal justice system to ensure that the guilty are made to cough up their ill-gotten gains and do long terms in prison.