Yesterday we all saw bundles and bundles of cash being arranged by Lokayukta Police. They found these bundles of money at Prashanth V. ‘Bundle’s’ ..oops! I meant Prashanth V. Maadal’s residence, a Karnataka State Audit and Accounts Services Officer. He is the son of BJP MLA K. Maadal Virupakshappa.
As I watched this, I was reminded of a promise — ‘na khaunga na khane dunga’ — a promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the context of corruption. It literally means, “I will not eat nor allow others to eat.”
When a PM, who seems to be in control of his party and its cadre says, “I will not be corrupt, nor will I allow others to be corrupt”, as a citizen, you feel immense hope…but in Karnataka, we have lost all hopes.
The citizens of Karnataka, especially urban Karnataka, have been feeling the pain of corruption everywhere — from the local City Council to the Vidhana Soudha, From a Police Constable to a clerk in the BESCOM Office.
Just this morning, a BESCOM engineer was caught red-handed accepting a bribe of Rs.20,000. She was taking a bribe to move an electrical pole from inside a citizen’s house premises!
First, why should a public property, an electrical pole, be inside a private property? Isn’t that BESCOM’s fault to begin with? Despite it being BESCOM’s fault, this private citizen had to pay a bribe to get it removed?!
Corruption has always been an issue in Karnataka. A survey conducted by Transparency International in 2019 stated that Karnataka was the 7th most corrupt State in India! It reported that 63 percent of residents in Karnataka admitted to paying a bribe to get official work done.
A 2017 study by the Centre for Media Studies reported that 77 percent of people in Karnataka had faced corruption while availing of public services. Interestingly just two days ago, the BJP Government decided to give a 17 percent increment to public employees.
The employees of public services have put forward their demands, including implementing the 7th Pay Commission report and reverting to the Old Pension Scheme. Who pays for this? Taxpayer. But have they served the taxpayer honestly? Will corruption in public services come down now that they have a hike?
In 2010, the then CM H. D. Kumaraswamy, with tears in his eyes, asked: “There are many people who talk about corruption at the higher levels. But who is there to address the issue of corruption at the lower levels?”
As if the Chief Minister didn’t know that corruption at the higher level facilitates crime at the lower level.
It is an open secret that many lower-level officers are corrupt because they have paid money at higher levels to get lucrative postings, and they need to be corrupt to get back the money they have invested.
All Karnataka Governments have been corrupt for a while now. Be it BJP, Congress or JD(S). That is why this morning, responding to the comments of KPCC President D.K. Shivakumar related to the Lokayukta raid on the residence of BJP MLA Maadal Virupakshappa, former BJP Minister K.S. Eshwarappa said, “Whoever is involved in corruption will go to jail after investigation. We need not reply to someone who has returned from jail and is on bail. Everyone has seen the bundles of money found at Shivakumar’s residence during the raids by Central agencies.”
He then added, “Justice Kempanna’s report has revealed Rs. 8,000 crore corruption in the denotification of Arkavathy land. Siddharamaiah is sure to go to jail in that case.”
Moving on to the statement of former CM H.D. Kumaraswamy that more than 10 to 15 jails are needed to fill those in BJP, Eshwarappa said, “Even 50 jails would not be enough to fill those in the JD(S) if an investigation is done.”
The question is that Eshwarappa’s Government is in power now, so why doesn’t he investigate? He will not. No one will. There will be no investigation because they are all “buddies” who scratch each other’s backs while the taxpayer is left itching for a corruption-free Karnataka. That is why they do nothing to sharpen the teeth of Lokayukta.
In the case of Prashanth Maadal, he should be dismissed immediately, but instead of dismissing the officer from duty, Section 19 in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is applied. This Section states that the Lokayukta cannot proceed against an offender unless the Government approves it. Do you think the Government will authorise prosecuting a person feeding the system (rulers)? In this case, whose father happens to be an MLA in the ruling Government?
This “Government permission” came into the Prevention of Corruption Act only in 1988. Probably because before 1988, the perception was that only very junior-level Government employees were corrupt. So who cares. But once the big babus and their political God-fathers started getting caught, this “need Government’s permission” clause was added to protect themselves.
The Lokayukta is useless. It only fixes the symptom but never the problem. It is a diagnostic centre which pretends to be a hospital that can cure the disease that is eating this country from the inside — corruption.
Speaking of the disease eating us from the inside, what about us, the people?
If one asks who is responsible for the corrosion of political morality? The answer is — we, the people. A political class such as ours can exist and thrive only in the presence of a characterless electorate.
We constantly blame illiteracy and poverty for our decadent democracy. The truth is a corrupt voter begets a corrupt politician. A voter taking Rs. 1,000 with either a saree or a bottle of liquor does not have to be a graduate to determine that it is a bribe. They also need not have a Master’s degree to know that the politician will reimburse himself that cost from the “people’s treasury” once he comes to power.
We will have characterless leaders and corruption as long as there is a characterless and corrupt electorate. So, can we expect change? No, not anytime soon.
Meanwhile, when the PM comes to Karnataka, he has to face the question of whether he kept his promise of ‘na khaunga na khane dunga.’ He might not have been corrupt, but his party in Karnataka has been. He has to address these issues and make changes else the senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s joke will ring true. Tharoor had mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘na khaunga na khane dunga’ promise, saying probably “he was only talking about beef.”
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