ग्लोबल हो गया राडिया प्रकरण

राडिया, टेप, टाटा, पत्रकार… यह प्रकरण दुनिया भर में छाया हुआ है. ताजी सूचना ये है कि एक बड़ी और चर्चित न्यूज वेबसाइट अरब न्यूज डॉट कॉम ने इस प्रकरण को ‘India of Gandhi’s dreams‘ शीर्षक से प्रकाशित किया है. लेखक हैं अजीज जका सईद जो दुबई बेस्ड पत्रकार और लेखक हैं. उनके लिखे को अरब न्यूज डॉट कॉम से साभार लेकर हम यहां प्रकाशित कर रहे हैं. इसके पहले न्यूयार्क टाइम्स में इस प्रकरण पर लंबी-चौड़ी स्टोरी प्रकाशित हो चुकी है. इस तरह कह सकते हैं कि अपना देश घोटालेबाजों के देश के रूप में पूरी दुनिया में ‘मशहूर’ होता जा रहा है. अपना देश और किसी मामले में ग्लोबल हुआ हो या न हुआ हो, पर नीरा राडिया के बहाने भ्रष्टाचार की चर्चा और इसमें पत्रकारों की संलिप्तता के नाम पर पूरी तरह ग्लोबल हो चुका है. जय हो राडियाओं और राजाओं की. -एडिटर

India of Gandhi’s dreams

AIJAZ ZAKA SYED

In the long years of India’s independence struggle, Mahatma Gandhi would often hold out the utopia of Ram Rajya (governance of Lord Ram) to cheer up a country weighed down by the tyranny of the colonial rule.

Of course, the Mahatma did not invoke Ram in the strictest religious sense or subscribed to the saffron-tinted worldview of today’s Hindu right.

What he really meant was an India where honesty, simplicity and piety ruled. In the same vein, writing in Harijan in 1937, the Mahatma turned to the Islamic caliphate as a model state and society, “I cannot help it but to present to you names of Abu Bakar and Umar (first and second caliphs). They were leaders of a vast empire, yet they lived a life of austerity.”

Austerity. Simplicity. And honesty. Gandhi lived by them and envisioned India of his dreams to be run by the same values. I wonder what would Gandhi make of the current state of affairs in India of his dreams? The great man must be turning in his grave as the country gets rocked by one staggering corruption scam after another. Every new case of the graft appears to be progressively bolder and wickeder, setting ever-new records of venality and depravity.

What makes the recent scams remarkable is not just the staggering extent of the corruption. While it is not unusual to catch the politicians with their pants down, for the first time they have been caught in the act with the folks who are supposed to watch and monitor them.

For weeks now the Indians – and others around the world – have endlessly listened in morbid fascination to the tapes that have British Indian corporate lobbyist Niira Radia strategizing in her varying accent with the bold and beautiful of Indian media to help her clients that include the mightiest of corporate giants like the Ambani brothers to the Tatas to the most corrupt politicians in the land. And up for the grabs are not just the whopping telecom deals worth 1.76 trillion rupees but plump federal Cabinet portfolios that would dole out those very deals for a song.

It’s amazing, and incredibly sobering, to see – or hear rather – fellow journalists play the kingmakers or even God as they promise the mysterious Lady Radia to tell the Congress leadership to pick up a certain A. Raja for the telecom minister’s job, the magician from Madras who made the exchequer considerably lighter with his sleight of hand. And all these years you thought selecting his ministers was the prerogative of the prime minister! Another eminent journalist, an editor of India’s first newsmagazine and a powerful media group, is found offering lessons to the nation’s richest man in fixing a court verdict.

Yet our fellow travelers remain charmingly blasé. My feisty friend Barkha Dutt of NDTV, who has inspired generations of young Indians to take to journalism with her world class reporting and news presentation, is enviously indignant when quizzed by senior editors on her acting as a messenger and go-between to lobby for the already discredited Raja.

“It was an error of judgment,” she concedes magnanimously but insists: “I did nothing wrong and I will not apologize!” As though it was a minor matter of interpretation and semantics.

Maybe I am a bit thick but isn’t it unethical for journalists to lobby for ministerial berths or other favors, even if they haven’t landed themselves a slice of the pie? Who has given this right to Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, Prabhu Chawla and many others figuring in the so-called Radia tapes? Certainly not the voters? The media are supposed to be the fourth estate in a democracy. It is supposed to guard over and protect people’s interests. Since when has it become a pimp to politicians? Since when has it started become more than a messenger?

And those who have been given the right to run this country by the people, they appear to be increasingly abdicating and surrendering this responsibility to all sorts of power brokers, lobbyists and corporate players.

What was Manmohan Singh, long lionized and celebrated by the media and growing middle classes as the greatest hope of a new, liberalized India, doing for God’s sake when Raja had been running the biggest financial scam since India’s independence in 1947?

Everyone in and outside the governing Congress sings hosannas of the good doctor and his fabled honesty and sincerity. But is honesty and sincerity enough to run a clean and honest government? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s one of those ironies of fate that over the past seven years India’s cleanest premier has presided over the biggest scams in the nation’s history.

But all said and done, perhaps it’s unfair to single out the politicians and journalists for censure and our collective outrage. In this Turkish hammam, just about everyone is gloriously naked, if we only care to look around. Besides, we get the politicians and journalists we deserve. They represent and are part of the society they live in. We have become a republic of scams, as Brahma Chellaney puts it. Corruption is all pervasive and eating into India’s vitals like a cancer.

Even the once sacred judiciary and armed forces haven’t remained unaffected. In the new, post-liberalization, pro-market India of the new millennium money rules and Mammon is the new deity. The phenomenal economic growth of the past few years, unaffected even by the global recession, has only fueled this feeding frenzy.

There’s money everywhere, more than India and Indians have ever seen. Yet we are far from content. Those who are rich are in an endless race to get even richer in the shortest possible time. In the process, they care not who is trampled under their feet.

Meanwhile, the less privileged are trying hard to fast catch up as they drool over the glitz and glamour of the rich and famous beamed into their homes from around the global village. Amitabh Bachchan’s Kaun Banega Crorepati (Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) generating hopes and launching a billion dreams is an apt metaphor for this new get-rich-quick India. It matters not how you get there. What matters is how fast you can come up with the answer that could unlock that door to El Dorado – pot of gold, smart home, a posh school, snazzy, Japanese cars and a foreign holiday.

In a culture that literally worships money – no businessman begins his day without offering elaborate tributes to Lakshmi, the symbol of wealth – affluence is always associated with respectability. It’s even more so in the 21st century India where the rich and successful moneymakers like the Ambanis and Tatas have emerged as the ultimate role models.

It’s very touching to see Ratan Tata get all worked up over the new culture of crony capitalism in a country that increasingly, according to him, looks and acts like a banana republic. But aren’t people like him, who has approached Supreme Court to protect his privacy right now being ripped apart in the Radia tapes, part of this crony capitalism culture?

Gandhi and his noble philosophy of simple living and high thinking sound like a nice topic for a drawing-room debate. They do not belong in today’s India though. The Mahatma has become hopelessly anachronistic and obsolete in the land that calls him Father of the Nation.

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