Friday, 14 June 2013

2013-02-09 Criminalisation of Politics

Paper for Seminar on 9th Feb, 2013

Criminalization of Politics

by R. B. Sreekumar, (IPS ret’d) - Former DGP Gujarat

Politics is the science and art of gaining and sustaining power and effectively running the affairs of the State – a product of social contract of people. Primary function of the State and its institution, the Govt., is to enforce the Rule of law so that an ambience for the citizens to be at the best of their selves can be maintained. The oldest etymological treatise in Sanskrit language, composed by Yaska Muni, defines the Administrator (Raja) as a person, who keeps the subjects (citizens/ praja) in a state if satisfaction, peace and amity – Prajanam Ranjanath Iti Raja. Even the much – maligned Manusmruti exhorted thus “Evam charana sadayuktorajadharmushu parthiva:| Hiteshu chaiva lokashya sarvan bhutyan niyojayet ||, - “the King conducting himself always in conformity with Raj Dharma should command all his servants to work for the welfare of people”.

All Govt. functionaries in India are soldiers and servants of the Constitution of India and are mandated to be devoted to their oath to this basic law of the land. Any deviation by Govt. servants from the core foundational values of our Constitution – concepts of democracy, secularism, socialism, justice, liberty, equality, fraternity and dignity to the citizens is a culpable criminal act. It is also the fundamental, but non-enforceable, duty of every citizen, “to abide by Constitution and respect its ideal and institutions” as per Article 51 (A) of the Constitution. Due to operation of multifarious factors, of late, vast sections of political, bureaucratic, social, economic and capitalist elite of India have been keeping close nexus with professional criminals and utilizing them for achieving and retaining power, position and acquisition of wealth through illegal means.

Though formal democratic drill of elections and formation of wings of the Govt. is visibly organized, citizens are greatly and intrinsically continued to be victims of unscrupulous money-cracy (rule by money), mobocracy and mafiacracy. Statistics had displayed that in the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-09), there were 128 MPs facing criminal charges and in the current Lok Sabha, constituted in 2009, the number of such persons had increased, reportedly to 162. Nearly 20% of legislators in State Assemblies are facing criminal charges. Union Telecom Minister Raja was jailed for 2G spectrum scam along with bureaucrats and a Rajya Sabha MP. Corruption in the financial transaction of Commonwealth games (one Lok Sabha MP in jail for this) is notorious. Earlier Union Telecom Minister Sukhram was convicted for corruption and in Kerala, a couple of years back, a State Electricity Minister was convicted by the Supreme Court for corruption. In the last Assembly elections in UP and Gujarat, many persons arrested for criminal charges were elected. The case of Raja Bhaiya, now UP Jail Minister and Amit Shah, former Minister of State for Home in Gujarat are illustrative.

Political leaders accused of corruption and heinous crimes project their acts of winning elections in the so called people’s court “as a defence” of their innocence even in the event of judicial verdict against them. The Counsel of Om Prakash Chauthala, five times Chief Minister of Haryana, convicted by Special CBI Court, in Jan 2013, for illegal recruitment of over 3000 under qualified persons as teachers has argued in the court “if he (Chauthala) has committed anything wrong, public would not have voted for him” but the court rejected this plea and observed “the manner in which the politician – bureaucratic nexus has resulted in depriving such a large number of candidates of their constitutional rights, I do not find any reason for leniency” – Judge Vinod Kumar. The victory in 3 State Assembly elections (Gujarat) consecutively – 2002, 2007 and 2012 – by Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister, is widely publicized to nullify his culpable criminal authorship of anti-minority genocide in 2002.

To unearth the evil link up of politician, bureaucrats, businessmen and criminals to the notice of people, the Apex court in 1993 had constituted a committee under the then Union Home Secretary N. N. Vohra (with members from CBI, IB, RAW and enforcers of economic laws) to make a study of this menace and suggest curative measures. The Apex Court had, later in 2002 had ordered that every candidate contesting elections from Panchayat to the Parliament should submit a declaration, along with their nomination papers about, i) criminal charges faced by them, ii) financial status regarding movable and immovable property and iii) educational qualification.

Media reports on the gist of Vohra Committee assessment indicated that the Committee had warned about the criminal network of politicians (drawn from all parties), bureaucrats, policemen, business persons, and musclemen criminals running a parallel Govt. The six major players of this devilish network are, i) The Neta, the corrupt politician, ii) The Babu, the corrupt bureaucrat, iii) The Khaki – the corrupt policeman, iv) The Lala – the businessman, v) The Jhola – the corrupt NGO and vi) The Dada – the criminal of the underworld.

Main findings of the Vohra Committee are:

i)              Crimes are getting organized like any industry and generating lot of black money with least investment. Social vices like prostitution, gambling, illicit liquor, land grabbing, smuggling of drugs, sale of illicit arms, hawala deals etc are a few money spinning activities of such criminal cartels.
ii)             No effective and purposeful action is taken by local police to counter germination, growth, expansion, perpetration of criminal acts and domination of criminal gangs in the society. Often law enforcers act as collaborators, partners and promoters of the crime business. Resultantly in short periods petty criminals like Iqbal Mirchi and Hassan Hawalawala of Mumbai and Abdul Latif of Ahmedabad city became high level business leaders.
iii)            Linkages with foreign crime cartels engaged in sale of illicit arms, drugs, illegal business deals etc have become routine. The flow of weapons to anti national groups like naxalites and extremists in the North East of India are reported.
iv)           Law enforcers remain ineffective due to manipulative money power and linkages of crime syndicates with senior politicians, bureaucrats, police and even some from the media, ensuring smooth operation of these anti-socials. The microscopic minority of sincere officers, keen to implement law, are made ineffective.
v)            Criminal gangs provide regular payments – haftas - to all political parties according to their influence and authority, bureaucrats, police, media, social activists etc for ensuring unhindered running of their business. The criminal muscle power comes handy for politicians to intimidate and terrorize their opponents and also in launching favorable operations during elections. Even in Kerala, flow of money from mafias dealing in illicit sale of sand, granite stones, soil / mud liquor, real estate etc to all political groups is a self evident truth. Even established political parties often use professional criminals of crime syndicates to kill their opponents – recurring violence in North Kerala is illustrative (N B. the role of quotation killers in the murder of Chandrashekaran – a rebel against CPM).
vi)           Rise of caste based armed mafias in Bihar and UP, dacoits in Madhya Pradesh, naxalites in Central and North India, controlling nearly 200 districts of five states is a major challenge to the authorities. Part of developmental funds are flowing to these groups through corrupt Govt. officials as often the naxalites do not want infrastructural development in areas of their control. Reportedly even judiciary avoids a confrontation with such criminal cartels.
vii)          ISI links with a few gangs engaged in smuggling and other money spinning organized social vices are notorious. Such gangs are used for implementing Pakistan’s anti-India plans, i) 2K project (Khalistan and Kashmir), ii) bleed India with thousand cuts – promoting communalism and violence by extremist and terrorist groups and iii) encirclement of India by establishing close links with underworld in India’s neighboring countries. The role of Kesgar group headed by Dawood Ibrahim and gang of Memons in the 1993 Mumbai blasts organized as a revenge to the post Babri Masjid demolition riots, is well known.
viii)         The organized criminal gangs are quite powerful, resourceful and influential and mostly successfully carry out their activities unhindered by intimidating and even eliminating minority of honest officers and whistleblowers including RTI activists.
ix)           Inadequate coordination, lack of courage, turf wars and reluctance to share real time actionable information due to the mentality of one-upmanship among agencies like, Central Board of Excise and Customs, Director General of Revenue Intelligence, IB, RAW, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Enforcement Directorate, Narcotics Control Bureau etc had debilitated prevention, detection and investigation of crimes and neutralization of criminal gangs.
x)            Often, no tenure security, career protection and adequate support from higher formations are provided to officers at the cutting edge level, who venture to initiate actions against crime cartels. Consequently even conscientious officers are reluctant to operationalise information received particularly from outside agencies against criminal groups.

The Vohra Committee had recommended the establishment of a Nodal Agency under MHA to tackle problems of control and containment of crime syndicates, with members from all intelligence, preventive, investigating and enforcement agencies. The periodical meetings are institutionalized and the principles of i) need to know, ii) need to carry and iii) need to share are implemented to prevent leakage of information. Creation of National Investigation Agency (NIA) is the outcome of this recommendation.

Corruption is the root of the criminalization of politics generating black money, sustaining mafias, impeding development and making life of common people miserable. The World Bank had defined corruptions “use of public office for private gain”. Justice Santhanam Committee, which probed into the corruption had defined it as “any action or failure to take action in the performance of duty for some advantage”. It promotes illegality, immorality, subjectivity, inequity, injustice, waste, inefficiency and inconsistency in administrative behavior. Inadequacy or absence of awareness of citizens in a democracy, viz. every citizen being a law enforcer or policeman without uniform; the colonial legacy of authoritarianism and callousness to public interests by Govt. officials; near total absence of courage and confidence to challenge higher authorities indulging in corruption and crimes (case of 1984 - Delhi and 2002 - Gujarat genocides); reluctance of even financially honest officials to contain corruption and discipline people indulging in illegal gratification and so on are major reasons behind the current decaying standards of governance in India.

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had identified more than 30 modes of corruption in India and opined that ingenuity and creativity of corrupt people are in-exhaustive – the speed money for normal service delivery to citizens, nepotism, favoritism, acceptance of gifts, extortion of money from honest businessman etc. In Mughal days bribes are categorized as, i) Nazarana (Gifts on festival occasions and events in the house of officers), ii) Shukrana (Money as a thanks giving for service), and iii) the practice of Zabrana (Extortion). The latest trend is to be a partner in criminal activities by even investing money by politicians, bureaucrats and police. This trend is called Sharikana (Partnership). Kaushik Basu in his book: Economic Graffiti,  Essays for Everyone (Oxford University Press – 1996) spoke about “sanskritisation of corruption” – a move for getting into the company of elite classes who indulge in corruption as a subculture.

In Nehruvian era, citizens had deemed that All India Service (AIS) Officers (IAS, IPS, IFS) were honest, while in post emergency period these senior officials were presumably getting corrupt increasingly, and since the launch of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation (LPG) policies, citizens felt that AIS officers had become collaborators and promoters of corrupt mafia of politicians, businessmen and criminals. The failure of departments of Executive Magistracy and police in enforcing the Rule of Law during two major pogroms in India (1984 and 2002 riots) was illustrative of erosion of integrity and professionalism of All India Services. Ramachandra Guha in his book, India after Gandhi, had characterized 1984 and 2002 riots as pogroms in the history of independent India. The tendency of IAS / IPS officers to fraternize with the affluent and corrupt sections of exploiters in Central and North India had only facilitated the rise of naxalism in nearly 200 districts of six States. Had these officers (including those drawn from SC/ ST sections and lower middle classes) shown adequate empathy to the problems of poverty and marginalization of tribals by genuinely implementing the governmental developmental and welfare programs, the naxalites would not have succeeded to indoctrinate and radicalize these downtrodden classes and mobilize and motivate them for waging “a war against the government and its security forces”.

The rise of modern India and dawn of independence in 1947 are continuation of the Bengali Renaissance of the 18th and 19th centuries heralded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in Bengal – a pioneer of multi-prong forward movements, aptly held as the morning star of modern Indian renaissance. While Rabindranath Tagore was the full moon of this massive illuminating crusade, Mahatma Gandhi was its mid-day sun, who, in fact, had observed and practiced the quint-essence of all previous moments of enlightenment – Vedic , Buddhist – Jain, Tamil Sangham, the Bhakti movement/ Islam, Bengali etc.The prevailing debilitating decadence conspicuous in all shades of Indian public life – intellectual, spiritual, religious, social, political, economic, administrative and cultural - most agonizing to the “wretched of the earth”, is the outcome of erosion of values nurtured by the modern Indian renaissance, freedom movement and Gandhism. The de-spiritualised materialism is resulting in commodification of human beings, commercialization of human relations and un-bridled consumerist hedonistic extravagance by the elite of India.

The rate of malnutrition, gender crimes, corruption, anomalies and mismanagement of justice delivery, inadequate empathy and insensitivity to the under privileged are on a greater scale in India than in sub Saharan African countries which, again have no claim of any great civilizational heritage since 3500 BC. The plight of nearly 5 lakh manual scavengers (includes those engaged by Indian Railways), highest number of child laborers suffering rigors of slavery, scams relating to misappropriation of funds meant for midday meals (Maharashtra), 46% of people affected by malnutrition, creation of winter shelters in Delhi, Adarsh Society Housing scam – Army Generals and top politicians misappropriating houses meant for widows of Kargil war martyrs!!!, corruption in allotment of 2G spectrum, coal and mineral resources, defence purchases and so on are only the tip of the iceberg. Transparency International in its 2005 report ranked India at 92nd position, from below, out of 159 countries surveyed by it and Indians had paid Rs. 21068 Crores as bribes in that year. Many African countries and even Bangladesh is less corrupt than India and are positioned higher. Highest black money depositors in foreign countries in the world are from India, besides the highest number of people defecating in public. Though legal and administrative framework to check these vices in the system and improve service delivery to the needy are structured, the unethical devilish individuals, at the positions of authority have always devised ways and means to subvert and subterfuge the plans and procedures for their illegal gratification.

The corruption and criminalization of politics had made India into a “soft state” (Gunnar Myrdal – Asian drama) where “confusion is roughly organised into a functioning anarchy”- J. K. Galbreth. These satanic trends are alarmingly destabilizing and do pose a threat to unity and integrity of India giving fillip to all anti-national tendencies like sectarianism, exclusivism, communalism, extremism, terrorism , casteism, secessionism and regionalism. The successors of creative elite of India, who spearheaded socio-religious reforms and freedom movement (19th and 20th century), had transformed into an authoritative dominant elite by 1980s and in the current times it had become a decadent elite impeding distributive justice, social egalitarianism, religious amity and effective enforcement of the Rule of Law.  Lofty ideals do remain at the level of thought and speeches as elite do not want to be part of the change they preach for. Blueprints and road maps for welfare of have nots remained excellent on paper with grossly inadequate implementation, as the elite  focus exclusively at money making from these projects. The law of diminishing merit of enlightened movements with the rise of successive generations is in operation in India. History recalls that corrupt societies would decline and collapse. The degeneration and fall of economies of Asian tigers of South East Asia should be an eye opener for India.

Political leaders in India, who indulge in crimes directly or indirectly, have the mindset of Raja Dhuryodhana who committed many evil acts, as admitted by him being fully aware of  their consequences but avoided pursuit of goodness consciously, – Gnanami Dharmam Nachame Pravarti | Gnanami Adharmam Nachame Nivarti || Those who fail to check evil in India are like Bhishma, Dhrona and Vidhura who did not venture to stop the disrobing of Maharani Draupadi in Kaurava Court. In India, even those who are not involved in corruption directly also do avoid correcting the corrupt people. The cause for this tendency was explained by Bhishma when requested by Yudhistira to join the battle on Pandava’s side. Bhishma expressed his predicament of serving the Kauravas thus “Men are slave to wealth (includes power and status) and I am with Kauravas for this reason – Ardhasya Purushodasaha | Dasashtvartho Na Kaschyachit | Iti Satyam Maharaja | Baddhodsmyarthana Kaurave || - Bhismavadhaparvam 41-42.

Solution lies in making corruption, generation of ill-gotten wealth and achievement of power through mob-mafia-money operations etc, as high risk activities. Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) towards enforcement of laws and regulations should be strictly followed by Govt. functionaries so that the prevailing ambience of permissiveness and laxity, in law enforcement, enfeebling the deterrent effect of penal action envisaged in law can be eliminated – recent Delhi gang rape and murder is illustrative.

The scope of criminalization of politics and corruption can be minimized by implementing numerous pending proposals for political, electoral, administrative, police and judicial reforms. Status-quoist mind set of those in authority and power has to be altered and they should come out from their comfort zones of advantage, nurtured by feudal traditions of Indian Administration.

A few preventive, detective and punitive measures are suggested below.

a)    Maximum openness and transparency should be practiced in the financial and administrative transactions in the Govt. and making of appointments to top and decisive posts.
b)    Review and amend cumbersome laws, rules and regulations providing scope for corruption and manipulation.
c)    Eliminate or reduce discretionary power given to political and administrative bureaucracy. There should be visible transparency for ending nepotism and favoritism.
d)    Loop holes in the Representation of People’s Act, facilitating even convicted persons to contest elections and assume positions of power be removed..
e)    Empower and energise investigating and vigilance agencies by removing the power of Govt. to refuse sanction of prosecution u/s 197 Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC) and administrative regulations.
f)     Establish independent institutions of Lokpal and Lokayukta with suo-moto powers for initiating action against all public servants including the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers.
g)    These bodies should be given adequate resources and independent investigating and prosecuting staff.
h)    Power of prosecution after establishment of a prima facie case should be given to these bodies.
i)      The charged Ministers should compulsory resign and be not appointed as Minister till he is exonerated of charges leveled against him.
j)      The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) should be made a statutory body by law and redesigned as the Central Lokayukta (CL) to deal with corruption of administrative bureaucracy.
k)    The CL should have powers to initiate disciplinary action and prosecution against any public servant after a case is established prima facie.

Thomas Paine, western political philosopher of 18th century wrote that liberty will not descend on people and they should make themselves eligible for it by adherence to ideals and principles. Indians have to give up their narrow selfish loyalties to caste, region, religion, political careerism etc and constrain greed to curb corruption and criminalization of politics in India. Exhortation of St. Paul, in New Testament is relevant here “Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your mind from within” (Romans 12-2). We all belong to each other – Atmavat Sarvabhoodhani. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, in his inaugural speech after assuming charge for the second time on 21-01-2013, had emphasized on the need for a more equitable society, declaring that the country’s founding fathers did not fight to replace “the tyranny of a King with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob.” Indian freedom fighters also did not sacrifice their lives and resources to replace the imperial authoritative British Raj with the rule of a syndicate of unholy politician – bureaucrat – police – business nexus. Former President, K. R. Narayanan once raised a question “Did we fail the Constitution or the Constitution had failed us”? An ancient aphorism directs all to wake up seven category of people – Student, Govt. Servant, Traveler, The Hungry, The Threatened, The Treasure Carrier and The Security Personnel, if they are found insincere and sleepy – Vidhyarthi Sevaka Pantho Shudhartho Bhayakathara | Bhandi Cha Pratihara Cha | Saptasuptan Prabhodayat || - Nitisaram edited by K. P. A. Menon. Let us pray for the dawn of a new renaissance and enlightened movement to emancipate India from the present despicable state of affairs.

R. B. Sreekumar

26th January, 2013

Source materials

i)              Legal and Constitutional history of India – Justice M. Rama Jois.
ii)             Criminalisation of Politics and Corruption – The rural scene - SVM Tripathi IPS (Ret’d) – Ex UP DGP and DG CRPF.
iii)            Corruption, Criminalisation of Politics and Development – Ahmed Shamshad and Nafees Ahmed Ansari (Indian Journal of Public Adminstration – Vol LIV No.4 – October/ December 2008.
iv)           The Insiders’ View – Memoirs of a public servant – Javid Chowdhury (IAS Ret’d); Penguin Vikas 2012.

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