I was invited by Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), a leading institution in our country in the fields of commerce, economics, and management, to be a panel speaker on 'Learning from our mistakes: Does India take this seriously?' Other panellists were journalists Prabhu Chawla, Praveen Swami and Sonia Singh. Amit Sachdeva of the SRCC faculty coordinated the panel discussion.
I found the subject exceedingly relevant in current times. Too many mistakes (blunders) are happening and we are not doing enough to prevent and correct, despite the disastrous consequences.
Here is the content of my speech:"A mistake implies several wrongs. Such as doing a bad job, stumbling, making a hash of things, a clumsy performance, a fumble, a slip, being mischievous, distorting matters, to quote out of context, twist the words, misapprehend, confuse someone deliberately etc. etc.
We make a mistake when we are negligent, not proactive, casual, intentional, inexperienced, overzealous, or careless.
The key distinguisher of a mistake is the intention, immaturity and capacity.
Here are the key mistakes I believe we are continuing to make. Let's look at the ones being made in the area of policing.
'Selective law enforcement'
While we want the police to be a friend of the people, we are keeping the police away from the people by our 'selective law enforcement'. By this people do not trust the police and standby when the police need them. We are not implementing the Supreme Court judgment of September 2006, which had mandated very essential processes of change, such as fixed tenures for heads of police forces, objectivity in selection, separation of law and order duties, constitution of a security commission to provide a long-term perspective, police complaint authority and more. A few days ago, justice Singhvi and justice V Gopala Gowda commented in the court while hearing a contempt petition in this case said, "Unless some officers are convicted under contempt of court, things will not improve." The mistake continues because a few states, instead of complying with the judgment, are challenging it after more than nine years of its passing. What were they doing all this time?
The states are under-investing in strengthening police resources. Half of the states spent zilch on police upgrade despite being given resources by the central government under modernisation grants. To be exact, they spent only 27% of the funds, being Rs. 215.81 crore out of Rs. 800 crore allocated last year.
Without realising this, we are tiring out our police forces by mandating them to be present 24 hours a day in police stations. This is based on a recent circular issued by the Delhi Police and questioned by the Delhi high court. As if this is not enough, we tolerate disrespect towards the police uniform through various forms of media and the politicians. No action!
The mother of all mistakes is undoubtedly corruption since Independence. It has escalated from Rs. 64 crore in the Bofors case to an annual sum of Rs. 6.3 lakh crore, which is 6.3% of India's Gross Domestic Product (Source: India Today). The worst is that Indian corporates have done very little to stop feeding corruption.
The government continues to resist having an independent investigating agency to deal with the humongous monster of corruption. The Supreme Court is trying to set free the caged parrot of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which will enable the CBI to probe the big sharks without fear or favour! Whether it succeeds in doing so will depend on its determination to clean up the system.
Two judgments crucial to the cleaning-up of the country from corruption and criminalisation of politics are the ones recently delivered by the Supreme Court and the chief information commissioner where convicted politicians will stand suspended from legislative bodies pending appeals, and political parties, too, are public authorities under the Right To Information Act. The political parties concerned have united to overturn these. If they succeed, these shall be serious mistakes for which citizens will have to pay a very heavy price now and in the times to come. Matters will be back in the judiciary!
The recent case of a woman IAS officer's suspension is the most blatant mistake made by the Uttar Pradesh government. The whole bureaucracy has been hit by it. The rusting of the country's steel frame has been the biggest mistake made by politicians and the bureaucracy combined since Independence.
One has only to focus on other areas of the rule of law and observe ongoing mistakes, such as toleration of huge pendency in courts, causing a serious delay in the delivery of justice; large-scale vacancies being kept in the lower and higher judiciary due to delay in some internal mechanisms.
Since the time was limited to a 10-minute presentation, I decided to focus mainly on issues of the rule of law, which are hitting at the root of our sense of insecurity and dearth of overseas investments.
One thing I know. Where there is a will and intention, mistakes get prevented and dealt with. We are to revive this monsoon this is in our own hands "
It was now the turn of other panellists to take over.