Archive for February 18th, 2010

VVIP Security, Corruption, and We the People.

18 February 2010
First I thought it was the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ demanding this miffed over the threat of withdrawal of security cover to his cub by CM Ashok Chavan. But it turned out this was Manik Thakre, president of MPCC. His demand was not anywhere as dramatic as suggested by the headline. He was entreating, “In wake of the recent terror attack, all politicians should cooperate and agree to give up police protection unless and until it is most needed. This should be applied across all party lines so that staff shortage can be addressed”. I believe this is a very good suggestion and must be followed upon immediately across India. It is again a RTI activist, Chetan Kothari, whose work has thrown light on how much abuse the VVIP security heaps on the hapless police force. He says, “VIPs use the police force like use and throw material. Even those who do not want it use it as a status symbol”.
Total Mumbai Police Force :  41,914 persons.
VIP duty
On top of this is the “round the clock police cover given to builders, businessmen and film stars”. “At whose cost is this manpower being assigned? There aren’t so many policemen to be assigned for VIP protection. When they take policemen from the police station, this means that you and I are less protected. There’ll be no police cover for public”, asks Julio Rebeiro former top cop of Maharashtra & Punjab. Kothari’s RTI application also showed that “Mumbai police provided security cover to 1,600 people under Z-plus, Z , Y, and X categories based on the threat perceptions in 2009. For every VIP that came to the city, the Mumbai Police put 10 officers and 30 police personnel each”.

Whenever I have discussed the plight of Adivasis in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere, I was often countered with this, “If the popularly elected representatives of the people are taking the decision to hand over fifth schedule tribal lands to corporate interests, then it has the consent of the majority of the people in the state. Who are Manish Kunjam, Himanshu Kumar or other activists to question or oppose it?” On the face of it this may sound a terrific argument. But by that token no acts of the Executive should be questioned in a liberal democracy because it has the sanction of the majority of the elected representatives and therefore, by inference, of the majority of the population as well. We are not consumers of Democracy to gobble up whatever decisions are handed down to us once we perform the periodic ritual of voting. We have to own democracy. We have to be its proprietors. Leave alone the unlawful activities the State is engaged in the vast tracts of tribal land; we must be alert, study, and provide a reasoned critique of even lawfully put forward proposals of the Executive if we find these would do harm or if better alternatives exist. I usually answered this line of reasoning by asking some more questions, which silenced these consumers of democracy : “Why do these popular representatives of the people have to move in a flotilla of armed police protection? Won’t people who love them protect them? Whom do they fear?” I think we should all commend Thakre’s suggestion and call for its implementation throughout India.

BJP Government of Madhya Pradesh led by Shivaraj Singh has made an announcement. Announcement has come in response to an RTI application made by an opposition Congress party leader, Chaudhari Rakesh Singh, and the consequent directive issued by Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of MP, P P Tiwari. Even if not a voluntary act, Shivaraj Singh must be congratulated for this announcement because unlike the Supreme Court he has decided to comply with the decision of CIC. “Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the ministers will submit details of their properties to the Assembly Speaker during the next session, after which the information will be made public. Similarly, he said, all IAS and IPS officers have been asked to disclose details of their properties and make them available online as soon as possible”. All this information will be put online for anyone to access. Recently an IAS couple, Arvind and Tinoo Joshi, were found possessing Rs. 31 Million in cash, which was disproportionate to their known sources of income, at their residence in Bhopal. Around the same time Babulal Agrawal, Agriculture secretary of Chhattisgarh, was investigated for millions of unaccounted rupees and over “220 bank accounts, several of them opened on fake names and addresses, and a few in the names of his domestic helps”. Candidates in electoral politics have been declaring their assets prior to every election as per the provisions of Peoples Representation Act, but corruption still hasn’t ceased.
Even then it is useful to have this information in public domain. Though most of us have become inured and inert to the situation around us to do something about it, all hope is not lost. There are those valiant crusaders like RTI activist Satish Shetty, who paid with his life, willing to take on the powerful and mighty to fight against corruption. We need to at least support these crusaders whatever way we can.