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Where lies the Blame?

Arvind Verma

Indiana University Bloomington, USA


(BiharTimes)The end of the year 2009 brings some sobering thoughts about the state of affairs in India. While there are signs to be optimistic and belief that the Indian establishment is pursuing progressive policies to alleviate the travails of the people there are many indications that things are going horribly wrong too. In particular, the health of the criminal justice system is so alarming that the country is unlikely to come out of the morass in the near future.

Ruchika’s molestation and subsequent abuse by her tormentor, no less than a senior police officer himself, perhaps illustrates this sorry state as no other example. The major details of the case are well known beginning with her molestation, complaint to the police establishment and the inquiry that found SPS Rathore guilty of molesting a child. What remains unclear is the reason why the then DGP RR Singh who held the inquiry and found prima facie evidence of criminal conduct could still not follow the due process. He could have instituted a FIR that could have to prosecution and punishment to his guilty subordinate. RR Singh, as we know decided to play safe and submit the report to the government recommending registration of a criminal case. As the head of the police department and responsible for investigating all cognizable cases in his state it seems strange for this DGP to pass the buck and not discharge his responsibilities. Similar is the case with Duggal the Home Secretary who, as one responsible for the administration of Home Department could have taken the decision at his level. Yet, he too simply passed the decision to the politicians. Who are very often blamed political interference in the work of police. They are a party to the politicization of bureaucracy and invite politicians to control decisions that are really within their purview.

The politicians of course have their own games and priorities and so the poor girl and her family are openly harassed and intimidated while Rathore keeps getting promoted and acquires a police medal for meritorious service also. It is beside the point that this service included sending goons and subordinate officers to assault the family members and have her brother tortured at the police station and implicated in false criminal cases. Her suicide is but one of the several tragedies falling on the family that somehow courageously pursues the case against Rathore. Finally, at the intervention of the court and investigation by the CBI, after 19 years a judge holds Rathore guilty of molestation and slaps a ridiculous fine of one thousand rupees and simple imprisonment of six months. SPS Rathore walks away with a smirk on his face that perhaps turns the wheel around. The media finally wakes up from its long slumber and begins highlighting the injustice perpetuated by the system. Now all skeletons come out and we learn about the horrible victimization of her brother who was entangled in eleven false cases of vehicle theft, paraded in public and tortured at Rathore’s behest. This humiliation to the younger brother perhaps drove the young girl to commit suicide and forced her family to flee from Rathore’s jurisdiction. The media and many citizen groups have adopted this case and criminal cases are at least being registered against Rathore for his shenanigans. Perhaps, justice may still be done.

Nevertheless, this is not a triumph of any sort for it leaves many questions unanswered. Why is it that our bureaucrats and politicians are so powerful that they think that they can get away with anything? In a civilized democratic society with the most powerful judiciary in the world one would expect acknowledgement of the supremacy of law. Some omission and miscarriage of justice occur in any system but why is there such blatant disregard for the due process in India? Why is there no mechanism to ensure that those entrusted with the administration of justice are held accountable for their action and negligence? Why is it that in a democratic society the police are not held answerable for their misbehavior and misuse of force? What kind of organizational structure prevails that permits a person like Rathore to climb to the top and be decorated with medals? Why is it that even a change in ruling alliances, turnover amongst politicians still does not ensure that tainted officers do get cast aside, even temporarily?

Perhaps to understand these issues it may be useful to turn to some other news items that have recently surfaced. An 86 year old politician who unabashedly carried the shoes of Sanjay Gandhi is exposed in a literal sense. That he has disgraced himself, his family, his party and his office is beside the point. He is not the first or unfortunately the last such person who will hold a prominent office in the country. Politics is an exercise of power and sustained by distribution of perks of office. Disgruntled or defeated followers have to be accommodated and the Governor’s office is a major prize of this category. Therefore, it is naïve to think that such an office holder will set an example of being the first person of the state. ND Tiwari was of course only enjoying the rewards of decades of loyal, obsequious service to the Family. He must have been surprised to find that simple pleasures of life could land him in trouble. His sex-escapades are unlikely to deter similar aspirants to public offices. Official perks, lavish lifestyle, rich food, wine and women are the reasons for seekers of high offices and this exposure is unlikely to prevent perverts, criminals and the disgraced from ascending the chair in some Raj Bhavan.

The next event is the election of Sibu Soren as Chief Minister of Jharkhand. A person charged with murder, corruption and sheer opportunism can still attain the high office of an important state suggests another reason for India’s malaise. The political class has reasons for taking liberty with law and democratic norms. There is no shame in aligning with either the corrupt or those mortified publicly. Indeed, there is no need for high principles and ethics in political action. There is no fear of being held accountable for words or deeds. Whatever may have been the past it is the future that is most important and so without any qualms BJP will support JMM; former BJP Chief Minister Marandi will align with Congress that in turn will support DMK even after dismissing it once for anti-national activities. When almost eighty percent of elected representatives are crorepatis there is no surprise that Madhu Koda is caught with mere 300 crores and more. It is unlikely that much of his ill gotten wealth will ever be recovered and now that his wife has been elected despite being a beneficiary and possible accomplice to his corruption, it is certain that he too will be back in no time. When goondas like Raj Thackeray can openly have people beaten up in the biggest metropolis of the country; subdue a person of the stature of Amitabh Bacchan and still win elections in a developed region of the country then clearly nothing about the political culture or behavior of its members should cause any surprise or consternation.

In a democracy the will of the people is the basis of governance. Citizens select their representatives to implement policies that benefit the majority and help expedite development. Constitutional safeguards, independent institutions along with a liberal, plural diverse social environment helps in maintaining checks and balances and provides everyone with an equal stake in the system. Rules ensure that the majority does not bulldoze the minority and more significantly the policies are implemented in accordance with the basic guiding principles of the state. The enforcement agents and policy makers are held accountable for their actions and omissions by independent institutions, vigilant media and determined judiciary. India has also these mechanisms and has practised electoral democracy for the last sixty years despite serious challenges. However, the system is unable to meet the expectations of the founding fathers and principles that form the bulwark of this nation. The fault lines are everywhere and signs of breakage are visible even to the blind.

There are also a plethora of recommendations to address these problems for the solutions are not difficult to find. What is difficult to understand are the reasons why citizens continue to stand in long queues and deliberately cast their votes to the very people who deceive, exploit and harm them. Despite knowing the corruption of Soren, Koda, Lallo, Mayawati, JayLalita and many others; despite witnessing the mayhem caused by Raj Thackeray, Mamta Bannerjee and others; despite knowing that many like Modi, Advani, Tytler have blood on their hands and should be behind bars; if citizens still vote for them then clearly everything that has been described above will follow. If votes are cast for reasons of caste, clan, and religion then there should not be any questions about corruption, brutality, criminality, illegality and indifference to civic democratic society. If Indian citizens continue to elect pretenders, sycophants and crooks to rule over them then certainly they should not expect good governance. They should not protest when Ruchika is molested and Rathore smiles as he sends his goons to beat up innocents in the lock up. Only a determined effort to elect clean politicians who provide public service and follow the rules can address the problems confronting the nation today.





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