Corruption preponderates in our governance system and taints public life. Our nation is governed by the “rule of law” but in practice, it remains limited to being on paper only. That is why those with money power, high connections and political patronage can get off scot-free even after committing the most heinous of crimes and amassing billions of rupees, writes former IAS officer V S Pandey
Governance is all about integrity, honesty and accountability. All are essential components of the trust we repose in our elected leaders. However, presently our democracy is afflicted by myriad problems created by inept governance, all pervasive corruption and unaccountable power structures. These have arisen out of the rot in our political process which is still deeply mired in issues of caste, religion and illicit money. Corruption preponderates in our governance system and taints public life. Our nation is governed by the “rule of law” but in practice, it remains limited to being on paper only. That is why those with money power, high connections and political patronage can get off scot free even after committing the most heinous of crimes and amassing billions of rupees. There is a long history of cases of abuse of power to benefit the kith and kin and cronies of the powers that be, in our country .Barring a very minuscule minority, people involved in this gigantic web of corruption rarely get caught and punished.
Democracy is all about accountability,transparency and supremacy of the rule of law. The responsibility of keeping democracy functional rests with us, we the people . Everyone of us in the system, from top to bottom, inside and outside it -is responsible for our actions and needs to carry the burden of the present shambolic state of our democracy . Currently questions have been asked about the acts of omission and commission of several prominent politicians occupying important positions in government and political institutions. Unfortunately, instead of addressing these questions, everyone , barring a few exceptions, is busy counter accusing others hoping to confuse and divert the people with various absurd arguments. Certainly, none has succeeded in the past following this deceptive line of action. Neither is this unethical course of action going to provide any relief to those who are facing serious questions regarding their conduct in public life. The author of our constitution had forewarned us much earlier about the situations unfolding presently without mincing words. He had cautioned us regarding developing a culture of “Bhakti” towards our leaders .
Dr. Ambedkar had said” There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness.” Elaborating his argument, he quoted the Irish Patriot Daniel O’connel who had said -“ no man can be grateful at the cost of his honor, no women can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty.” Dr Ambedkar had presciently told the future generations, “ that this caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”
We have repeatedly disregarded his warning at our peril. The progress of our nation has suffered, development has been subverted and the public has been reduced to abject misery when their hero worshipping has ended with the exposure of the clay feet of their beloved autocratic idols. Consequently neither “garibi” is removed, nor “samajik nyaya” is established and the public is still awaiting elementary “vikas” in the form of food, clean drinking water, basic education and health. The people have not heeded the famous philosopher John Stuart Mill who had advised all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, not “to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions”.
Consequently the repressed public is wretched and reduced to eking out an existence on doles. It suffers for having been gullible and facilitating the creation of autocratic leaders. The famous German philosopher and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer had propounded the theory of stupidity which , according to him, is born out of a phenomenon which Dr. Ambedkar had broadly called “Bhakti” . Bonhoeffer wrote “Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease.” He further wrote “The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”
This venal culture of blindfolded masses following crafty leaders has now ominously started undermining our democratic foundations. The ‘Bhakti” towards their leaders is not only undemocratic but also extremely harmful to the very foundation of our constitution i.e. the rule of law. Frequently, this unthinking bhakti towards their leaders has overshadowed their duties towards the nation and society. It is an alarming situation and needs to be tackled at the earliest. No class or group or party in Germany could escape its responsibility for abandoning the Republic . Neither can we.
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary Government of India)