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Arbitrary Behaviour

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The Enforcement Directorate is having to work overtime as it seems almost everybody is on the take these days. The revelations regarding the criminal activities of top cops in Mumbai, in cohorts with senior politicians, had hardly subsided, when the shenanigans in Kolkata have been exposed. Similar scams have been reported in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Has corruption become the new normal in the system? Have the traditional checks and balances failed? Where is the idealism that used to inspire, both, bureaucrats and politicians? Has the abysmally slow delivery of the judicial system encouraged the wrong-doers to the point where they can make a mockery of the basic tenets of governance? Are state governments reaching the levels of corruption that have undermined democracy in Sri Lanka and rendered Pakistan a failed state?

Perhaps, the wise should identify the warning signs of such a decline and advise the general public to look out for them in their respective eco-systems. Arbitrary use of power is one, where someone can behave in a manner that is clearly unjustified but no one has the courage to oppose or question it. The misbehaviour of Punjab’s Health Minister, recently, with the Vice Chancellor of a Medical College is one such. There has to have been a steady decline in the balance of power between officialdom and politicians for such a situation to emerge. What are the compromises being made that take the dignity and courage out of those in government service?

The responsibility lies, of course, on those that are on top of the pyramid. They should be answerable to the public and have the skills to note what’s going on under their noses. Wrongdoing should be recognised and dealt with deftly, well in time. For this, they have to be smarter and, also, be aware of the system’s modalities and the hierarchy of responsibility. Ministers or bureaucrats crossing established boundaries should be red-flagged, not just by their seniors and opposition parties, but also by the media and the general public. If allowed to function unimpeded, they will bring everything down around them. So, beware.