DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The thick-skinned Indian politician

Politics, perhaps, more so Indian politics, desensitises its practitioners and dulls their sensibilities. Emotions, including those which are considered superior, like shame and embarrassment, hardly ever affect them in any manner. Confronted with disgrace and dishonour after committing the most unethical of acts, our politicians put up a straight face, occasionally, even adopting an aggressive stance.


This was in evidence in ample measure during the preceding few weeks. TR Baalu, a Central minister, for instance, was caught misusing his official position for promotion of his son’s business. He not only canvassed with the Petroleum Ministry but also had half a dozen recommendatory missives sent to it by the PMO. When exposed in the Parliament, far from being embarrassed, he blatantly and aggressively shook off the accusations and denied having committed any “wrong”

Anbumani Ramdoss, another Central minister, likewise, brazened out the expose` in The Pioneer about the huge favours shown to a party apparatchik. Using WHO’s adverse comments on vaccines produced by three PSUs, he peremptorily shut down their production, allowing a free run to a party worker in the starved market in vaccines. That the WHO had also offered to upgrade the manufacturing facilities in the PSUs was unscrupulously suppressed. He also irregularly lavished financial favours on his friend from government funds. Wilting under pressure, Ramdoss ran for cover, ordering an enquiry.

The PM, observing the coalition “dharma”, remained a passive spectator of the shenanigans of his two ministers.

In Madhya Pradesh, having presided over a scam of Rs. 500 crore in the Health Department for two years, the Health Minister, Ajai Vishnoi, refused to resign when his house was raided by the Income Tax authorities, nonchalantly pointing out that only the portion occupied by his brother was raided. That his brother, operating from a PSU in collaboration with senior departmental officials, was the lynchpin of non-supply, under-supply and supply of spurious medicines to the field healthcare units in the state didn’t seem to occur to him.

According to researchers, shame and embarrassment, though ephemeral, are emotions cherished only by individuals who are highly evolved. Our politicians, who are too unennobled, hardly ever harbour such superior sentiments. Sheer power with its pelf is what drives them –ethics be damned!

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