Web of Corruption

| July 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

Politicians talk about it without setting their own house in order, says Pushpa M. Bhargava

ALL this happened in the later half of July 2009. On July17, the owner of a major seed company came to see this writer (as the nominee of the Supreme Court on the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee) about the problems he has been facing in getting approval of the appropriate committees of the Government of India for marketing his genetically manipulated (GM) seed, in spite of his being acutely aware of this writer’s opposition to GM crops in the existing set-up.

His point — with which he knew this writer would agree — was that different standards were being used for granting approval to various seed companies, with a clear preference for multinational companies. He had filed a police complaint and also another complaint with the Central Vigilance Commission saying that a very senior person of a scientific department of the Government of India, involved in granting of such approvals, was delaying or denying approvals because the complainant company was “not meeting his illegal and unfair demands in cash or kind”. Familiar! Isn’t it?

On July 18, after a talk this writer gave, a young man working for a multinational major health-care company told him that, recently, he was invited to give a talk by a new pharmacy college that was awaiting approval by the Pharmacy Council of India. After his talk, he was asked if he would, for Rs 25,000 per day, make an appearance at the college for a few days, when the inspection team comes for granting recognition to the college.

He refused and reported this matter to the members of the inspection team who listened to him carefully. He then had the courage to tell the college management of what he had done. The management was unperturbed, and said that there was no cause for worry. Every member of the inspection team had been bribed adequately! The recognition was granted.

On July 19, one of the most ethical medical doctors this writer has known, who runs one of the finest and highly ethical hospitals for women and children anywhere, called on us totally distraught. The problem was that either she pays a bribe of Rs 2.5 lakh to the Nursing Council of India, or the recognition of her nursing college shall not be renewed — which would mean a terrible loss to the students. She wanted this writer’s advice. Keeping in mind the interest of the students, this writer’s advice was: “Pay up.”

On July 29, Deccan Chronicle (DC), published from Hyderabad, had three interesting reports. The first, report, on Gammon India – the construction company whose lapses have been responsible for accidents leading to deaths recently, during construction of the Metro in Delhi, said that “in the Rs 295-crore Galeru Nagari Project second package in Nellore district, though Rs 14 crore was taken by Gammon as advance, no work was done”. Many other examples of lapses by the above company were given. No action was ever taken by the Andhra Pradesh Government. In fact, the company was recommended to the Government of India. The reason is obvious.

The second DC report talked about 30,000 teachers obtaining jobs and promotion “by submitting fake certificates issued by unrecognised universities”. It is widely recognised that education and health are amongst the most corrupt departments in the country (exceptions granted!).

The third report says : “Qualified pharmacists ‘rent’ out their certificates for Rs 3,000-5,000 per month to traders who set up retail shops. Though the practice is fairly widespread, the AP Pharmacy Council has not cancelled or suspended the registration of a single erring pharmacist to date. While pharmacies must employ qualified pharmacists, many employees have not even passed their tenth standard.”

All this happened in the second half of July 2009. Shall we choose, again randomly, June 15 to July 15, 2009?

The New Indian Express (NIE) of June 24, 2009 talked about schools in Hyderabad charging a fee under every possible head, even under heads that don’t exist. What about “Rs.2,000 towards infrastructure fee and PRB fund?”. Can any reader tell this writer what is PRB?

The DC of June 25, 2009 said: “More than 25,000 students who (are supposed to have) joined various higher and professional courses under the scheme (of the Government paying their fees) did not attend their classes”. False teachers, fake students, false education. And no one is held responsible, for everyone in the ladder of hierarchy is involved. True private-public partnership!

And what about charging Rs 10,000 lab fees for a class I student (NIE, June 26, 2009)? Or the school giving a receipt for only a fraction of the amount charged (NIE, July 6, 2009).

As reported in DC of July 18, 2009, a parent said, “while we get books for Rs 150 in the open market, they (the school) are charging Rs 800”.

DC, NIE and The Hindu of July 30 report employees of the AP State Housing Corporation apparently swindling Rs 2.29 crore of Government funds; and the suspension of the Chairman of All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), Prof Yadav, for alleged corruption, which means granting affiliation to underserving engineering colleges for a consideration. No surprise, therefore, that as of July 29, there are 69,568 B Tech degree holders amongst the 17,61,913 unemployed educated persons in AP alone which has 2.4 lakh seats in its 645 (mostly commercial) engineering colleges (DC, July 30, 2009).

NIE of July 30 also reports that Ch. Subramanyam, a gazetted instructor at the Extension Training Centre in Bapatla (Guntur District), swindled Rs l.3 crore from the treasury within a period of four months.

What this writer has narrated is everyday experience of citizens of our country. Corruption, corruption everywhere — from the Chief Minister to the lowly person — is common knowledge. Exceptions granted, there is no court of appeal. Many in power, like the AP Chief Minister, talk against it, but without first setting up their own house in order, which reminds this writer of a story that his grandmother told him 70 years ago.

Once upon a time, there was a little boy in a village who would be eating jaggery all the time. His parents could not relieve him of this habit. One day, a holy man came to the village. The father took the son to him, and requested him to talk to the boy so that he would leave his bad habit. The holy man thought for a while and then asked the father to bring his son back to him two weeks later. The father complied. And lo, behold after the holy man talked to the boy, the boy left his bad habit. The perplexed father went back to the holy man a week later and asked him why didn’t he talk to the boy on their first visit. The holy man answered, “My son, when you first came to see me, I had the same bad habit. I had to get rid of it first, before I could talk to your son, and that took two weeks.”

Where are such holy men today who could be an example? We are fortunate that our Prime Minister is honest, but he doesn’t have much company, and we need a critical mass of honest and courageous people at the top to bring about a revolution of honesty and transparency. How to create that critical mass is the million-dollar question. It is fortunate that new parties like the Lok Satta of AP are at least trying to achieve the above objectives, but it is an uphill battle.

Till such efforts succeed, honest people like Binayak Sen will be in jail and dishonest and corrupt people like – well, whom do I name: AM, BM, CM, DM, EM, FM, GM, choose whichever you prefer –– will rule our cities, states and the country. As of today, corruption is the basis of public-private-partnership — be it in business or politics, education or health.

Our leaders should read a bit of history: for example, what happened in France in 1789. They must know that there are limits to tolerance, even of corruption.

Reference: Web of Corruption. P.M. Bhargava. The Tribune. 9th August 2009.

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