Times of India

The government is not above the rule of law

It takes a lot of doing to make the economy fall from a 9 per cent growth rate two and half years ago to 6.1 per cent in the quarter ending December. A fall of one per cent means the loss of almost 15 lakh jobs and so there is a lot of pain, mostly inflicted by the UPA government. Corruption scandals also refuse to cease. But the real tragedy is that the rule of law, one of India’s strengths, is crumbling.

Don’t be my favourite friend, be my most favoured nation

With time we come to realize that the only reliable pleasures in life are the smaller ones. The big sources of happiness--success, fame, marriage and religion—often fail us. Among the smaller enjoyments are things like friendship and humour. What is true for individuals can also apply to nations. Instead of nationalism and military grandeur, a modest delight in trade is more dependable, and this was underscored by a happy piece of news on February 29th.

Think of the spectrum like the village commons

In a shock ruling ten days ago, the Supreme Court cancelled 122 mobile phone licences that had been deceitfully awarded in 2008. The ruling sent the telecom industry into chaos, confirmed dreadful corruption in the government’s decision-making process, and damaged the reputation of our nation in the eyes of the world—especially foreign investors. There was much euphoria inside the country, however, for justice had seemingly been served.

A liberal but strong state is need of the hour

The mistake is to think that the current paralysis in decision making in Delhi is limited to politicians. Gutless bureaucrats, risk averse at the best of times, have done as much damage. India’s economy has sound fundamentals and is today one of the world’s strongest, but its confidence has been badly shaken by a weak state that cannot enforce its own laws, let alone enact its legislative agenda. Partly to blame is the Anna Hazare movement which has led to contempt for state institutions.

When democracy won but the people lost

The past two weeks witnessed a remarkable spectacle in which India’s democracy won but India’s people lost. On November 24, the government announced a bold reform to allow 51% foreign stake in retail. It triggered off a storm of protest across the political spectrum, and eventually forced the government to back down and suspend the reform. During the entire debate no one asked why China and dozens of countries welcome foreign investment in retail.

Duty or revenge, no one is above the law

On a sweltering afternoon on September 29th principal district judge S. Kumarguru began to hand out sentences. There was a hushed silence in the packed courtroom in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu. He began at 3.30 but could not finish until 4.40 because he had to read aloud the names of 215 government officials. Among those convicted were 126 forest officials, 84 policemen and 5 revenue officials. Seventeen were convicted of rape and they were sentenced from seven to 17 years; others received from one to three years on counts of torture, unlawful restraint, looting and misuse of office.

A primer for the corruption fighter

The dust has settled and a degree of calm prevails. Anna Hazare has returned to his village after conquering Delhi. He ought to consolidate his gains now before letting loose another storm. He would do well to sit down with his advisors in this lull and draw up a result oriented, longer term agenda to fight corruption. To this end, I offer Team Anna a primer on what we know about corruption--what works and what doesn’t--a sort of corruption fighter’s manual.

Middle class gets back its dignity

A year ago no one could have imagined that cabinet ministers, powerful politicians, senior officials and CEOs would be in Tihar jail awaiting trial. Corruption is no longer the news about India; it is our unexpected and puzzling response to it. What explains the unending movement against bribery is an increasingly self-assured and impatient new middle class, which has finally attained self respect and dignity and is being taken seriously by the media. The middle class will become 50% of India’s population by 2020, and when that happens our politics will also change.

Judging sex, lies, war and yoga politics

Human beings are flawed animals with plenty of good and bad in them. They are also addicted to judging each other. During the past month there has been plenty of high moralizing about the world’s most powerful leaders. But in most cases the judgements have often been flawed as I will show in the cases of Dominique Strauss Kahn, Osama bin Laden, Rajat Gupta and Baba Ram Dev.

Good omens for rule of law in India

On April 8, the day before Anna Hazare broke his fast, I was in Cairo to present the ‘Indian model’ for Egypt's future. After the conference, a few of us wandered off to Tahrir Square, where a massive demonstration had broken out.  Through a twist of fate, I found myself suddenly on the podium, offering good wishes to the 37,000 protesters from the people of Al Hind. In the next three minutes I tried to convey a lesson from India’s democracy: it is not elections, not liberty, not equality that finally matters; it is the rule of law. Corruption persists in India because the rule of law is weak.