Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day 194/366

The former Justice of the Supreme Court of India and ex-Karnataka Lokayukta, Santosh Hegde has seen it all in his 72-year-old lifetime! A revered public figure and one of the few government servants to have a clean chit throughout his career, he took out some time to talk on the much needed end of corruption:

“When I was growing up in the 50s, I remember hearing of a scandal where Rs 100 was illegally taken from the state accounts and that was ‘big money’. During the Bofors case in 1986, 64 crores were lost by the state. In the 2G scam of 2010, the figure went up to Rs 1,76,000 crores. The fact that scams are being exposed and that we know who A.Raja is or Kalmadi are is great. But we need to keep an attitude of making corrupt officials at arms length and making them pay for their crimes,” he says.

In 2005-06, India ranked #71 in transparency in the world and we were celebrating the fact that we were better than Pakistan. In 2010-11, we fell down to #84. While all these numbers might sound shocking, they are often overlooked or purposely ignored by the government when it comes to understanding what they imply.

“4-5 family members live on 1 pot of dirty water in some villages of Karnataka. The government is supposed to ensure every family an adequate amount of clean, potable water but they say they can’t afford this. Where has all the money gone?” asks an angry Hegde. “The government is literally looting the poor of their basic statutory rights and rendering them voiceless,” he adds.

One might ask who is responsible for this looting in broad daylight. The government of the day seems like the most obvious answer. But more than that, Hegde believes that it is the fault of the society. It is the people who don’t ask how a certain individual became wealthy overnight or raise a hue and cry over issues concerning their rights.

“A magazine called Election Watch conducted a study a few years ago that revealed that at the end of that year, elected representatives came out with 350% more assets. The most basic question needs to be asked - why would anyone spend so much money in campaigning to become a public servant unless you know there’s a way that you’ll get more later?” questions the ex-Lokayukta, making a strong case in just a few words.

So what is the solution to clean up the mess? “We need to adopt humanitarian politics and put an end to society’s tolerance to red-tapism,” replies Hegde. “Corrupt people are not human beings. Otherwise, how could anyone knowingly take something that they know legitimately belong to someone else?” 

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