Plundering the Public Exchequer

Throughout history, plundering the public exchequer for private gain has been the favourite pastime of unscrupulous crooks. No society, or no age is an exception to this. Sometimes such fraud is by misrepresentation and deceit, but often in collusion with officials entrusted with the responsibility of protecting public good.

Crisis of Confidence

While the world revels in finding a solution to every problem, we relish in identifying a problem for every solution.

Life Imitating Art and Deja Vu

For observers of Indian political and public scene, life does seem to imitate art.  Just when you think things will settle down, and the nation will focus on the key goals, there is a new scandal or scam or sensation or drama. Like in a soap opera, week after week we are subjected to titillation, suspense and excitement, sans good sense or clear direction. This week’s theme is oil dealerships, and the nepotism and corruption associated with selections. Once again, legislators are up in arms, parliament is paralysed, grave statements have been issued, and speeches have been made.

A Refreshing Breath of Fresh Air from Maharashtra

With the approval of the Bill to replace POTO by the joint session of Parliament, one of the most contentious chapters in our legislative history comes to a close. Now the ball will be in the law courts. Judiciary is the last bastion of defence against abuse of authority and arbitrary exercise of powers. We need a competent and clean judiciary, particularly in subordinate courts, to render justice and protect our liberties.

Local Governments and Fiscal Management

Local governments have been constitutionally mandated with the enactment of the 73rd and 74th amendments in 1993.  Sadly, the Constitution only provides for over-structured and underpowered local governments. The results are mixed. The role of local governments as schools for democracy is well recognised.  Chittaranjan Das, Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhashchandra Bose, Prakasam Pantulu and several other stalwarts started their political careers in local governments.

Plundering the Poor and Protecting the Rich

Exactly a decade ago the Narasimharao-Manmohan Singh duo initiated the economic reform process under severe fiscal compulsions. The process has been incomplete and there have been many problems. But even the worst critics of economic liberalization would admit that there are many successes. Moderately high growth rates have been sustained for a decade. Inflation has been under control. Consumers have far greater choice now, with quality of goods improving, and prices declining.

Campaign Finance Reform - Civil Society Should Act

For a few fleeting days after the Tehelka revelations, our somnolent political class actually raised some hopes of reform. There were early signs of responding to people’s urges to cleanse the system.  With a few resignations and some withdrawals of support the government seemed shaky.  The prime minister characterized the episode as a wake-up call. He pleaded for electoral and other reforms.   And then, as suddenly as it all began, the issue got sidetracked. Our politicians promptly went back to what they are good at – petty power games.

The Real Lessons of Tehelka Exposes

Tarun Tejpal, Aniruddha Bahal and Matthew Samuel of have done a great national service by exposing the pervasive corruption in the establishment. But it will be a great national tragedy if these exposes are regarded as a juicy scandal to embarrass the ruling combine or promote the prospects of the opposition. That was how the political establishment responded to the Bofors revelations in 1987. Fourteen years later the system reeks of corruption, and none of the culprits have been brought to book. Jain Hawala and other scandals followed the same pattern.

Election Expenditure and Corruption

The problem of corruption enters every citizen’s daily life. Almost every interaction with the government — be it for a birth certificate or ration card, electricity connection or water supply, for filing a police complaint or approval of a building plan – requires a bribe. All the eloquent sermons on the scourge of corruption by every party seeking power have provided no real relief to citizens. If anything, both the scale and spread have escalated.

Semantics and Politics


Often I am troubled by the lackadaisical deployment of certain words. Recently, I attended a small get together and as the discussion veered around to state of politics and corruption, the language that was used to explain various corrupt practices surprised me. For instance, many found Telgi, the kingpin of stamp scam, a very intelligent person! To my surprise I found quite a few using similar language to describe various corrupt practices.