“I don’t think many Indians care about the country,” he (George Fernandes) said. “By Indians I mean those in the highest places. If they cared they wouldn’t have been looting the treasuries as they are and they wouldn’t be allowing the crooks of the world to treat this country as a grazing ground. Some day we will sink and this is not anything to do with China or with Pakistan. It is because this country is cursed to put up with a leadership that has chosen to sell it for their own personal aggrandisement.”
I was struck by the note of despair in his voice. It was hard to believe that this was the country’s Defence Minister speaking, a politician who had reached the pinnacle of his career.
— Amitav Ghosh in his book ‘Countdown‘
By K.B. GANAPATHY
Reading an article some time back in India Today magazine, and on May 21, 2012 in The Hindu about Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the great Sardar, deputy chairman of the planning commission for the last nearly eight years, I was livid with anger and felt ashamed of myself as much as helpless for being unable to do anything to stop such alleged stealing and squandering of my nation’s wealth, created from the sweat of my countrymen for the development of my country.
Though a democracy, see how helpless we the Aam Aadmi are. And to think that his case of extravaganza in splurging our country’s wealth on himself is just a tip of the iceberg of a behemoth of Indian bureaucracy, frightens me.
I was suddenly made aware that what is bugging this country’s development is not just corruption but also a very highly indulgent bureaucracy rolling in luxury at State expense. Instead of helping build our nascent free-nation, these pseudo-intellectual, highly educated bureaucrats are bleeding our country of its tax and natural resources.
Thanks to the RTI Act and some of the newspapers like The Hindu and news magazines, this kind of ‘corruption by other ways,’ is also being exposed.
As I was reading The Hindu article by P. Sainath, I was reminded of bureaucrats of my own princely State of Mysore — some of the Dewans — specially two well-known ones: Sir M. Visvesvaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail, legends in their own time and perhaps for all the time to come in the matter of administration and honesty.
About Sir M. Visvesvaraya it is said that when he was on official tour and stayed in the government guest house (also known as inspection bungalow) after his official work, he would switch off the electric light and remove a candle from his pocket and light it for his personal work! That’s the level of honesty.
What a contrast to the total degenerate conduct of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, as reported in The Hindu.
It is keeping this Sardar in mind, the renowned author and journalist Khushwant Singh, being a Sardar himself, with natural pride in such situations which anyone would display, had said, in a lighter vein I suppose, that the prophesy of a Sikh Guru that ‘Raj Karega Khalsa‘ had come true with three Sikhs in top positions ruling India — Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Army chief Gen J.J. Singh (Retd) and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
This was during the 2004 victory of Congress. UPA-1 rule. But now, the Sikh Army Chief is not there but the other two are there in office. However, the question is, doing what? Oh, yes. From June 2012 when the new Army Chief, Lt Gen Bikram Singh, takes over as Army Chief it will again be ‘Raj Karega Khalsa.’
But, what about Montek Singh Ahluwalia?
A real Sheikh of a country that is ready to fall apart, the Centre cannot hold. If you have not read the The Hindu article, here I give a sample of it.
The title itself is sarcastic in tone — “The austerity of the affluent.” And it gives a peek into the details of financial abuse of office, “A rural Indian spending Rs. 22.50 a day would not be considered poor by a Planning Commission whose deputy chairman’s foreign trips between May and October last year cost a daily average of Rs. 2.02 lakh.”
And this man tells the Supreme Court and the dumb Indians that an Indian who spends (or earns) Rs. 29 a day in urban area and Rs. 23 a day in rural area is not a poor man.
What cheek, what gumption, what audacity and what economics!
The man undertook, between May and Oct. 2011, “four trips [abroad] covering 18 nights [which] cost the exchequer [tax payer] a sum of Rs. 36,40,110; an average of Rs. 2.02 lakh a day,” according to The Statesman News Service, says the article.
At the time it happened, that amounts to US $4,000 a day. And we are a poor country? Absurd. This is a poor country for ‘Aam Aadmi,’ not for bureaucrats like Montek Singh Ahluwalia and politicians. The truth is that this is a rich country where poor people live, because of rulers like Ahluwalia and other corrupt leaders.
There is more startling statistics to come from RTI: “Dr Ahluwalia made 42 official foreign trips and spent 274 days overseas during a seven-year tenure. That is ‘one in every nine days’ he was abroad. And that is excluding travel days. The India Today story found that his excursion cost the exchequer [of our country] Rs 2.34 crore. This could be apart from what Indian embassies abroad spent on him on frills such as hiring limousines. Even a Moghul Emperor would not have had this kind of luxury, freedom and enjoyment.
Apparently, Ahluwalia was and is a law unto himself as much as a boss unto himself.
No one to question him, not even his de jure boss, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
And remember, all this when our ‘dumb’ Prime Minister pleaded for austerity in 2009 and his Cabinet responded handsomely to the call. The message was for the opposition too. But look at this. This is the spirit of austerity practiced by the ruling party, as also the BJP opposition.
Praful Patel (UPA-NCP) cabinet minister and Nitin Gadkari (NDA-BJP) have hosted two of the costliest weddings ever, says the report.
The Hindu article mentions many more instances of such spending of looted money by our netas, bureaucrats and industry tycoons as you and I watch the world collapse around us helplessly.
What did Chanakya say in his ‘Chanakya Neeti‘?
“Do not live in a country that does not allow you self-respect, honour, means of living, a family, kith and kin, friends, well-wishers, ways of education and self-development. Quit such country. It is not fit for living.”
Alas! Quit and go where?
Jeena yahan marna yahan
Iske siva jaana kahaan…
(K.B. Ganapathy is the editor and founder of India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)
Photograph: Deputy chairman of planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, at a hydrogen energy exhibition in June 2007 (courtesy Manvender V. Love/ Press Trust of India)