From The King Of Good Times To The Gurus Of ‘Acchhe Din’ – May The Farce Continue

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Most readers would recollect the stirring conclusion of Mr. Narender Modi’s speech at Madison Square Gardens last year. “May the Force be with you!” he thundered to a delirious audience of NRIs, and we the resident Indians thought: here is the strong leader we have been waiting for, now for the Good Times.

What we have got instead is a farce starring a con-man and a God -man, though I must admit it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish one from the other. The responses to my last post on the subject (SIZE DOES MATTER OR THE ART OF LIVING ARROGANTLY – 10th March, 2016) and subsequent developments have thrown up a whole list of questions, issues and suggestions that need to be shared with the readers so that we can better understand the ramifications of a burlesque which would have been funny if it did not involve the collapse of all our institutions. A farce is a comedy with a ludicrously improbable plot- it is not supposed to happen in real life. But in India it IS happening, and given below are some of the disturbing questions and interesting observations that the Mallya/ Sri Sri Ravishankar affairs have raised:

[1] Does it behove a Prime Minister to inaugurate a function which has been held by two superior courts to be in gross violation of laws and a ” natural disaster”? An event which, according to two court appointed expert committees, has caused “irreversible damage” to the ecology of the Yamuna flood-plain ? Mr. Modi, through his Minister Mr. Javadekar, has proved time and again that the natural environment is not a priority with him notwithstanding the posturing at COP15 in Paris, but should he not have respected the laws of the land at least? The Courts? The Constitution, which he swore to protect and which enjoins upon him to uphold the legal covenents of our country? The President displayed this sensitivity when he withdrew from the valedictory function and he must be commended for this. By not acting similarly Mr. Modi has once again demonstrated the contempt he has for public opinion when it does not conform to his own. Even more dangerous, he has also shown his disdain for the law. Is this a precursor of things to come ?

[2] This has not been a good month for the judiciary, and I am not referring to the lack of action against the thuggish Patiala House lawyers, or to the judgement of Justice Pratibha Kumari , or even to Justice Karnan of the Madras High Court threatening to lodge an FIR against two Supreme Court judges for partially stripping him of his powers! I am referring to the inexplicable surrender by the NGT (National Green Tribunal) to Sri Sri Ravishankar in giving him the green signal for his dubious function (discussed in my last piece). This unusual restraint has now been further compounded by once again seeming to give in to the God man’s defiance and allowing him to pay the compensatory fine of Rs. 5 crores in INSTALMENTS ! What shall we have next- EMI’s ? Cash back coupons if you pay through PAYTM ? Reward points if you pay through credit cards ? And shall this corporate approach also be extended to imprisonments – serve your time in instalments, interrupted by conjugal breaks a-la-Sanjay Dutt  ? (Of course, parole and furloughs on specious grounds shall be additional benefits).

King of Good Times

King of Good Times

[3] Both the Supreme Court and the NGT have unjustly castigated the petitioner ( who filed the PIL against the AOL event on the Yamuna flood-plain) for approaching the courts  late, and also ruled that since all preparations for the function had been completed it could not be disallowed even though it was violative of environmental regulations. I find this position puzzling. Was it not the duty of govt. agencies (of whom Delhi already has a surfeit) to have taken AOL to court, rather than that of the petitioner? Why castigate the one responsible citizen among Delhi’s teeming millions who had the social conscience to protest?  And is there a limitation for reporting an illegal activity ?

The Court’s second objection – that it was too late in the day to stop the function- is even more intriguing. I am not a lawyer with a law degree (not even a forged one from Ghaziabad) and far be it for me to catechize their honourable lordships, but I do have a nagging doubt / question–if a murder is about to be committed and all arrangements made for knocking off some poor benighted soul, should the police / courts refuse to stop the killing on the ground that it would inconvenience the murderer (and the chief guest at the carnage)? Okay, Okay, Sri Sri was just knocking off a river, not a homo sapiens, but isn’t the logic and principle the same – viz. that if a crime is about to be committed the govt. HAS TO STOP IT , notwithstanding when it is brought to their notice ?

[4] I wonder what Baba Ramdev, the other poster boy for Indian culture and all things spiritual, makes of the government’s extraordinary endorsement of Sri Sri ? Is he just a trifle worried and feeling threatened? It does appear that the two are slugging it out for the position of BJP’s Guru Number One. If Ramdev got Z category security Sri Sri got the Indian army to build him a pontoon bridge. While Ramdev demonstrated his clout by making the Khadi Board sell his Patanjali products, Sri Sri showed he was no mean pushover by ensuring all Indian missions in 155 countries hawked his World Cultural Festival through govt. channels! The battle for Supreme Spiritual Leader is hotting up. My guess is that the Baba will now be compelled to organise a similar jamboree as that of Sri Sri, and not to be found wanting, knock off the Ganga at Rishikesh . Will it now be open season for all God-men, with Baba Ram Rahim doing his bit for the Ghaggar in Haryana too ?

[5] Some of my readers have posed an interesting question: India has a practically unblemished record in letting major scamsters flee the country (Dawood, Quattarochi, Lalit Modi, and now Mallya); the one blot on our escutcheon has been the imprisonment of the Sahara Shri, Subroto Roy. Should we not remove this taint on our otherwise spotless record by giving him a chance to leave the country too ? I feel we should otherwise, this amounts to discrimination: in fact, I am surprised that MS Mayawati and Mulayam Singh have not spoken out in his favour yet; even Mr. Deve Gowda has roused himself from his slumber to announce that Mallya should be given a chance (to do what?) and that he is after all a son of Karnataka. I guess he should know – after all he nominated Mallya (with support from the BJP) to the Rajya Sabha.

[6] Which brings me to another question / observation from a second reader viz. How much of the bank loans was paid to secure the Rajya Sabha nomination, and shouldn’t the party / parties that nominated him be held equally accountable for the default? A tricky legal question, I admit, but does this explain the govt’s muted response to his flight (if not the tip-off that enabled the flight) and to Mr. Gowda’s wake up call ? Maybe the Election Commission should add a column to this effect in the nomination forms for the Rajya Sabha.

[7] The BJP has lost the moral high ground to the Congress: if the latter (actually, there’s no “if” about it) allowed Quattorochi to leave, the former has done a similar favour to Mallya. I have no doubt about it at all, notwithstanding the govt’s limp defense of not being in possession of a court order to stop his departure. Pure Goebellsian humbug and prevarication. In the first place, this same govt. didn’t need a court order to stop the Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from flying to London last year to meet British MPs. She didn’t have a single legal charge against her. What made them so coy about using the same power against a person who was in fact a criminal on the day? Secondly, Section 10 of the Indian Passport Act empowers the govt.to revoke a person’s passport if he has a criminal case registered against him, or if doing so is in the public interest. Both could have been used against Mallya; the CBI had registered a PE against him as far back as 2014 for diversion of the Rs. 900 crore loan taken from IDBI, he had been declared a wilful defaulter by at least one bank in 2012, and he had committed serious crimes by embezzling the Provident fund of employees, misappropriating hundreds of crores of govt. funds by collecting TDS and Service Tax from passengers / employees  but not depositing it with the govt. Had both the past and present govts. done their job, Mallya should have been in jail long before he fled. The least Mr. Arun Jaitley and his merry men should have done, therefore, was to prevent him from flying the coop.

[8] Mr. Mallya is not coming back: he would be stupid to do so (even if Arnab Goswami were to suddenly lose his voice), . The govt. will go through yoga-like motions to get him back, but unlike what is prescribed in Baba Ramdev’s manual, the govt. will not be holding its breath. These amazing contortions will, like Sri Sri’s festival, be for your benefit only and intended to shroud the stink that emanates from the corridors of power( not the Yamuna, as is made out). Because the simple fact is that nobody of any consequence wants Mallya back- not the politicians who recommended his loans, not the bankers who happily gave them away, not the enforcement agencies who looked the other way, not the bureaucrats who partied on his yachts, not the Parliamentarians who owe similar, if not more, money to the banks. Because Mallya knows too much, and if he starts singing like Enrique Eglesias (who sang his swan song at his birthday bash in Goa recently) the roof will come down on the worthies mentioned above.

Much better to let him go like a bad wet dream that has served its purpose. After all , we’re growing at 7.5%, aren’t we ? Any economist will tell you that corruption grows at twice the rate of GDP growth. The farce continues according to the dictum of George Burns:

” You’ve got to be honest– if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains…..he has made them his home.

He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/

1 Comment

  • Nodnat says:

    I wonder if the points raised by Mr Shukla will ever ‘reach’ (or will be allowed to reach) the eyes and ears of those authorities overtly and covertly complicit in allowing such blatant disregard for both the law of the land and those who still manage to raise their voice against wanton high handedness of the ‘connected’? Even if these come to their notice, neither the Government nor the Judiciary (NGT in this case) is answerable to the people. Government may say we are answerable to the PEOPLE through quinquennial elections!

    Therein lies a BIG problem. We do not have a mechanism or a platform through which the government(s) are obliged to adequately respond to legitimate concerns and apprehensions of the citizens. The Justice system and instruments like the RTI have proven to be woefully inadequate and in any case they are not the means through which we can get a Prime Minister to speak when he must on issues of governance and policy failure or of communal nature. Where the ‘elected’ are sensitive to the questioning public they would at least attempt to give some answers and explanations. Ever heard of a minister replying to legitimate concerns or criticism through the Internet or in the Press? What we have instead is either total silence or bogus police action (disproportionate use of force) or misuse of outdated laws to answer criticism, dissent and / or protests. On the other hand, these same politicians are so quick to respond to foreign policy and other concerns outside the country? Racial attacks on Indians, abducted nurses and so forth.

    Because of this BLACK hole in our democratic dispensation, while the Press and the Public may keep raising a hue and cry, the politicians and the authorities continue to behave and act as if people don’t exist, till the next elections, of course. This is also a reason why representative democracy does not suit a country like ours where the already huge gap between the Rulers and the Ruled is further exacerbated by the unquestionable dichotomy between Word and Deed.

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