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Shifting goalposts and double standards – new mantra of governance

Nov 07, 2012

A crisis is simmering as erosion of good governance creates a serious dent on the democratic fabric of our nation. The enormity of the problem is so intimidating that one can only scramble for solution.

Harsh Jaitli

Nonetheless, it would be too naive from our side to remain silent on these, we need to understand the various dynamics happening in and around us.

The method and purpose with which a State exercises its power is a clear indication of its uprightness and moral integrity. Further, it is a time tested and self-evident principle that standards of moral and ethical uprightness are directly linked to the quality of the governance.

Given this fact, one would shudder to gauge the quality of governance with which the country is governed at present. As far as the governance of the country is concerned, flouting and twisting of rules, shifting goalposts to suit one’s game etc. have become order of the day.

Instance 1

The latest being the statement by V Narayanaswamy, Minister of State in PMO, who said that ‘jumping to conclusion before a proper inquiry is conducted is incorrect’. He was referring to the allegations leveled against his senior party colleague, Salman Khurshid for the misuse of funds received by his Trust.

While we appreciate his principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, we are not convinced of the intent with which he embraces this principle in its letter and spirit. It was the same minister who hit the first nail in the process of crucifying NGOs who were ‘alleged’ to have received and diverted ‘foreign money’ to stir the protest against Kudankulam Nuclear Plant. He hit the nail and it was followed by many others from his party and media too was part of this crucifixion. It was one of the toughest times for the voluntary sector as it had to answer questions from all corners.

However, what was more painful was the statement by the same minister in RajyaSabha that “it has not been proved so far whether that money (foreign money) is being used for the protests. Investigation is on the matter”.

Therefore, it is clear that when it comes to State and its cronies, it is inquiry first, then verdict. But for others like the voluntary sectors, it is judgement first then the inquiry.

Instance 2

The government who is a staunch opponent of taking foreign money to advance socio-economic scenario in the country spreads red carpet to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country. It goes all the way out to appease the foreign multinationals to invest in the country. One after another, sectors after sectors are open for the foreigners to invest in the country even while there are no consensus about the possible outcome of such a process within the ruling party itself, leave alone other parties and stakeholders.

Therefore, its stand is clear that for business foreign money is good and it tastes better. But when the money from the same countries, is being used for empowerment of weaker sections in the country and for other socio-economic purpose, it is a bitter pill to swallow. Allegations like, anti-state activities are leveled against NGOs.

Is it not a clear case of differential treatment? What is the principle of governance which is at work in these varying dispositions?

Dissenting views, perspectives and questions are necessary components of a healthy democratic framework and the voluntary sector which has taken up the mantle of empowering the poor and the weaker sections will have to, by its very nature of role, ask questions. However, it is unfortunate that they are considered as anti-state elements trying to hinder the developmental trajectory in the country. If the state’s focus for the years has been on growth in GDP and other materialistic indicators, the voluntary sector has been championing for integrating the principles of equity, inclusiveness and other socio-economic values with this engine of growth and development so that everyone in the country benefits the fruits of development.

Instance 3
There is growing clamour within the political parties that NGOs receiving funds of more than 10 crores of foreign donations need to be brought under Lokpal. Let us keep aside all other arguments with regard to the pros and cons of bringing NGOs under Lokpal, but what is not understandable is the logic behind bringing only those NGOs receiving foreign funds of more than 10 crores in a year under the proposed Lokpal. Let all the organizations receiving more than 10 crores come under Lokpal. Why should there be a differentiation between domestic money and foreign money? To investigate any misuse of foreign money, a draconian FCRA act is already in place under Ministry of Home Affairs. The objective of Lokpal is to ensure accountability and transparency of institutions, regardless the source of money.

If organisations receiving more than 10 crores have to be placed under lokpal, then many NGOs belonging to bureaucrats and politicians will fall in line. Therefore, it has to be understood that government’s move to bring only those NGOs receiving foreign money is a deliberate attempt to keep away the‘charitable’ organizations of politicians and bureaucrats out of its ambit.

Instance 4

Silent on the alleged FCRA violation of Congress and BJPSilence on the alleged 'violation' of FCRA rules by Congress and BJP by the Election Commission of India is also a reflection of its double standard. The Election Commission has asked the Home Ministry to order a probe into this matter as both the parties seemed to have received donations of about 5 crore each from Vedanta Group subsidiaries - sterlite Industries and Sesa Goa (Times of India, October 17, 2012)

Two yardsticks

This is a clear testimony to the fact that those in power use and misuse the authorities vested on them to suit their agenda. People holding responsible positions are expected to safeguard the fundamentals of our democratic framework have been relegated to lower moral and ethical standards.

One has to wait and see as to where all this is leading to.

( Harsh Jaitli is the Chief Executive Officer of Voluntary Action Network India (VANI) )

Shriya says:
Jan 18, 2013 11:32 AM

I congratulate our great leedar Anna Hazare for his perseverence and commitment to fight against corruption. It is a great victory. I would be happy, if Lokpal and Lokayukta are appointed as early as possible to stop this system. I, being from a remote villages of india and coming from poor tribal area have suffered enough of corruption from the government officers. Even today, it has not stopped. The poor, illiterate are the most and silent sufferers, as they are uneducated, have no voice to raise and to reachout the educated. Therefore, it is my humble request to start the function of both as early as possible. Leos Ekka

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