I'm forwarding this article by Dr Vandana Shiva.We,the upwardly mobile,obsess and endlessly discuss the issue of corruption. Perhaps,this article will help us in having a better perspective.
I feel that one of the major factors behind corruption is an over centralized state apparatus endowed with huge discretionary powers.The thinking behind this could be that the State was a better arbiter to mediate between conflicting interests.But the present situation is that the State seems to be more aligned with the Corporate interest than with that of the poor, the rural and the tribal. Therefore it is imperative that powers of the State be decentralized in favour of local bodies.
Unfortunately,there is no organized effort in this direction.
Despite all the despondency all around,I remain hopeful that the people of this country will not be cowed down and something good, even for the Corporates and the State,will emerge from all these struggles. In a global,wired,world,it is impossible to fool all people for all times.
I trust all of us will retain our optimism and pray for precisely this outcome.
2010 was the year of scams — 2G Spectrum, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Housing Society etc.
2011 has emerged as the year of the fight against corruption — with social activist Anna Hazare’s fast for a Lokpal Bill and Baba Ramdev’s fast to bring back black money stashed away in foreign banks.
The midnight police crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s satyagraha with 100,000 followers was yet another signal of the undemocratic tendency of the government to crush social movements and social protests.
At the same time, when Ramdev’s satyagraha was attacked in Delhi, 20 police battalions were being used to crush the anti-Posco movement in Odisha and destroy the betel-vine gardens that are the basis of people’s prosperous living economy, earning small farmers Rs 400,000 per acre.
The use of force has become the norm for the government dealing with people’s protests.
In a democracy, which is supposed to be by the people, of the people and for the people, protests and movements are supposed to signal what people want or do not want.
Listening to people is the democratic duty of governments. When governments fail to listen to the people and use force against peaceful movements they become undemocratic; they become dictatorships.
When, in addition, governments that are supposed to represent the peoples’ will and interests in a representative democracy start to represent the will and interests of corporations and big business, the government mutates from being of the people, by the people and for the people to becoming of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. The state is becoming a corporate state. And this mutation transforms democracy into fascism.
Neo-liberal economic policies have a political fallout of inducing this mutation of government from a democratic representative of peoples’ interests to an undemocratic representative of corporate interests. Not only is neo-liberalism leading to the privatisation of seed and land, water and biodiversity, health and education, power and transport, it is also leading to the privatisation of government itself. And a privatised corporate state starts to see people fighting for public good and economic democracy as a threat.
It is in this context that we need to read the repeated statements of government ministers that peoples’ protests and social movements are a threat to democracy. Social movements are raising issues about economic justice and economic democracy. Corruption is a symptom of the deepening trends of economic injustice and undermining of economic democracy.
We need to connect the dots between the diverse social movements of tribals and farmers fighting to defend their land and natural resources, the movements of workers fighting to defend jobs and livelihoods, and the new anti-corruption movements whose faces are Mr Hazare and Baba Ramdev.
Corruption is the unjust, illegal and private appropriation of public resources and public wealth, be it natural wealth, public goods and services or financial wealth. The ecology movements and tribal and farmers’ movements are fighting against the corruption involved in the massive resource grab and land grab taking place across the country for the mining of bauxite, coal and iron ore, for mega steel plants and power plants, for super highways and luxury townships.
Farmers fighting the land grab along the Yamuna Expressway were killed on May 7. While they received a mere Rs 300 per sq. m. for their land the developers who grab the land in partnership with government using the 1894 colonial land acquisition law sell it for Rs 600,000 per sq. m. This is corporate corruption.
I have just received an SMS:
* Lush Green Farmhouses in Noida Expressway
* 10 minutes from South Delhi
* Clubs, Swimming Pool, Cricket Stadium
* Government Electricity and Roads
Farmhouses of farmers are burnt and destroyed to create “farmhouses” for the rich. Farms are destroyed to create Formula 1 race tracks and swimming pools for the elite. This obscene, violent, unjust land grab is the cruellest face of corruption in today’s India.
The privatisation of our seed, our food, our water, our health, our education, our electricity and mobility is another facet of corporate corruption. In the case of the privatisation of seed, farmers are paying with their very lives. Seed costs rise and farmers are trapped in debt. Farmer suicides need to be seen as part of the web of privatisation as corruption.
The government of Maharashtra has signed memorandums of understanding with Monsanto to hand over seed, the genetic wealth of farmers’ research and the knowledge wealth of society to a seed MNC. This is corporate corruption. The government of India wants to totally dismantle the public distribution system to benefit agribusiness and corporate retail. Undermining the right to food is corporate corruption.
The appropriation of public and national wealth through bribes and black money is the third facet of corruption. It is when all the streams of the fight for economic justice and economic democracy join as one will we have a strong and vibrant movement for defending and deepening democracy. Social movements are the life blood of democracy.
The government will, of course, try its best to crush democracy to protect the private economic interests it represents. The two faces of government who most frequently make statements about social movements subverting democracy are the human resources development minister, Mr Kapil Sibal and the home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, both of whom have represented corporations against the public interest in their legal career.
They carry these corporate loyalties into their political career. They will do their very best to use every undemocratic means to crush movements for democracy and justice. Operation Green Hunt in tribal areas and the midnight crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s satyagraha are just two examples of the use of violence to protect corrupt corporate interests.
The corrupt militarised, totalitarian power of the corporate state is not democracy. Peoples’ vibrant movements fighting the concentration of economic and political power and the corrupt means used for concentration of that power are at the heart of democracy. It is people and social movements who have kept and will keep democracy alive in India.
The author is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust
Hemang Bhatt 22/06/2011 - 03:14am
Stopping Ramdevji could have been done in a civilszed way, say, give them 12 or 24 hours notice to vacate and give this notice publicly, say on TV. Then if they do not vacate then you can use a bit of force, but, beating up children and women at night?
sushant chakravarty 22/06/2011 - 02:12am
I fully agree with you that the ongoing events one after other, be it the series of scandals and then the merciless crackdown on innocent protestors. are making us bow our head in shame in front of the world. In fact we have devalued the people's right which is the most significant in the democratic setup.
We have come to such situation that we have to redefine democracy and try to find out whether democracy that exist in present context is really of, for and by the people.
According to the definition in vogue today, democracy is defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Adult suffrage plays an important role in democracy. In the name of forming a democratic government, different political and communal parties throw their hats into the election ring. Every party issues its own election manifesto to influence the people in order to carry the laurels in the ensuing election battle. Besides, different parties entice the voters through election propaganda.
Where educated people are in the majority and political consciousness is adequate, it is not very difficult for people to weigh the pros and cons of the manifesto of a particular party and to ascertain what is in the best interests of the people. But where there is a dearth of education and political consciousness, and where people fail to understand the reality of the manifesto and are misled by wrong propaganda, they cast their ballots in favour of parties whose ideals go contrary to the social interest. Consequently, parties are installed in power which go against the interests of the people.
In the present democratic system, the right to cast a vote depends on age. Suppose people get the right of suffrage at the age of 21. This assumes that all persons attaining the age of 21 have an understanding of the basic problems of the people, but in reality many people above the age of 21 remain ignorant of these problems for want of political consciousness. So the right of suffrage should not be based on age. This right should be vested in those who are educated and politically conscious. Conferring voting rights on the basis of age means that people may cast their ballots without proper understanding and knowledge, while many educated and politically conscious people are debarred from voting because of their age. This is the greatest lacuna of democracy.
The second lacuna is that in the democratic system people have to hear lengthy, insubstantial lectures which are also often misleading. Leaders have to canvass all and sundry to get votes. They have to placate thieves, dacoits and hypocrites because the latter command great voting power. That is why democracy is the government of thieves, dacoits and hypocrites. The government cannot take action against them because a government which curbs their nefarious activities cannot last long.
It is possible in a democratic government that the members or the elected representatives comprise more than fifty percent of the total number of candidates winning at the hustings while the total votes secured by their party may be less than fifty per cent. In such a condition the government is said to be of a majority party, but in reality it is the government of a particular minority party. As the government is formed by a particular party the opinion of another party or other parties is not respected in the legislature. Though all parties participate in passing legislation, bill are passed according to the wishes of the party that is in the majority. When acts are passed by a particular party, that party often derives benefit from the enacted law while the people at large do not derive much benefit from it at all.
Kapil Sibal with his articulate way will try to convince all that is wrong as right and push the Lokpal bill which suits the corrupt government and all his colleagues will help him in this misdeed. Just imagine he quotes Baba Ramdev a real heroic figure who has reinvented Yoga in our country as charlatan.
The problem with him that he has to make his party bosses happy and get blessings of Manmohan and Sonia.
We have to understand that the government is formed by a particular party, the independence of the government servants is also impaired. The members and leaders of the ruling party interfere with the work of the executive and force it to tow the party line. Under duress work is done which benefits a particular party but harms the interests of the people at large. In the democratic system government officials cannot go against the wishes of the government leaders as the former work under the direction of the secretariat which is headed by the cabinet formed by the ruling party.
In so-called democracies even the judiciary cannot function independently as the ruling party pressures judges and judicial officers. Thus judgements are sometimes delivered which strangulate justice.
Independence of the audit department, too, is indispensable for the proper functioning of the public exchequer. But owing to the pressure of the party in power, it often fails to act independently. For want of proper auditing, public funds are squandered and misused. Consequently nation-building activity is not carried out properly. A government is to govern and serve the people, but it is not possible to govern in the democratic system, for who is there to be governed?
The public are placated in order to secure votes which makes the would-be rulers unfit to rule. And the would-be rulers are themselves incompetent, immoral, hypocritical exploiters or how else would they get elected? They take recourse to devious strategies and the power of money. That is why there is no one to provide worthy leadership. And as far as the question of the people is concerned, that is meaningless in a democracy. In this system the party and the leaders serve themselves in all possible ways.
Thus, it is crystal-clear that the democratic form of government is riddled with lacunae. Without removing them it is impossible to properly run the administration of a country.
Now let us discuss some reforms to democracy. Democracy cannot succeed in countries where people are illiterate, immoral, or backward. Countries like England, the USA and France are suitable for democracy, but even these countries need to introduce some reforms.
First, legislators in the states and at the centre should be elected on the recommendations of the people at large. At the time of electing representatives the people should pay heed to their education, moral standard and sacrifice for the society etc. If the representatives are elected keeping in view these factors, they will not be guided by party interests but by collective interests. In their minds the interests of the entire human race and society will dominate, and not any class interests. They will be able to enact laws keeping in mind the prob lems of all and sundry, thereby accelerating the speed of social reconstruction. Their impartial service will bring happiness to all.
The voting rights should be vested in educated persons who have political consciousness and awareness of people’s problems. Age should not be a bar to voting right. If illiterate people are given voting rights there is the possibility of antisocial and incompetent representatives being elected.
To provide a fearless and independent ambience to the administration, the secretariat should be kept free from pressures from the cabinet. The cabinet should confine itself to legislation, the passage and passing of the budget, the implementation of its plans and policies, defense etc. The power of ministers should remain confined to the parliament and they should not poke their nose into the workings of the secretariat. The chief secretary should not be under the president or the prime minister but should act independently as the executive head. All the secretaries should work under the chief secretary. Free from cabinet pressures, every department will serve the people well.
In the present system the judiciary functions under a cabinet minister, and pressure from the minister may impair its independent functioning. To remove this defect and to ensure impartial justice, the judiciary should have the right to function independently. In no case should the chief justice be treated as inferior to the president or the prime minister. Only moralists and honest persons should be installed on the hallowed seat of justice. If people fail to keep this issue under their close scrutiny, injustice will take the place of justice.
Finally, for the proper utilization of the public exchequer, the independence of the audit department too, is a must. The auditor general should be independent of the sceptre of the president or the prime minister. Only an independent audit de partment can keep proper accounts of every department.
Thus, there should be four compartments in a properly constituted democracy – legislature, executive, judiciary and public exchequer – and all of them should be independent from one another. But in such a situation there is still the possibility of injustice and exploitation. So to supervise or monitor the function of all these compartments, the benevolent dictatorship of the board of Sadvipras(Group of honest and moral people, In this context led by Lokpal) is required so that spirituality will reign supreme.