Author : Deepak Sinha

Originally Published 2017-08-16 09:59:10 Published on Aug 16, 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s priority should be to insulate police from political interference.
Why we need better leaders

Lord Acton, a British historian and moralist, famously wrote that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” The average citizen of this country may never have heard of either Lord Acton or what he wrote, but would fully endorse his conclusions having himself either been or witnessed with increasing frequency utterly deceitful and appalling behaviour on the part of their elected representatives, despite the fact that we are sorely lacking in great men or women adorning public life.

A common turn of phrase, most of us with a little more than a passing acquaintance with computers and software are bound to be familiar with, is the acronym “garbage in is equal to garbage out”. It simply implies that in the field of logic, flawed data inputs will always produce erroneous and nonsensical results. One can take this reasoning a bit further and apply it to life as well, especially to those who ostensibly join politics to “serve” the Nation. Despite Mr. Modi’s ambition to transform India little will actually get done if those at the helm lack the necessary administrative abilities and leadership skills. This, as is becoming increasingly obvious, is the case in Uttar Pradesh, a State that has unfortunately not seen even half decent governance in decades, if ever since Independence.

The latest example of this is the Gorakhpur tragedy. The death of 70 children in a Government Medical College cum Hospital over five days for whatever reasons, other than an unexpected scourge, is totally unacceptable. The attempts by the government, therefore to dissimulate and prevaricate on the issue and put the onus on the principal and the prevalence of Japanese Encephalitis, without even the formal enquiry into the matter being completed reflects poorly on the Government, especially the Chief Minister. It is fairly obvious that he has succumbed to pressure from elements that have much to gain from a defunct system, especially those who exercise vast administrative powers with little or no accountability. We saw that in Delhi as well during the Chikungunya outbreak last year.

The fact of the matter is that in our country politics is deeply entwined with every aspect of governance because that permits politicians of all hues to fill their own and party coffers. Therefore, probably the most abused phrase used by our leaders is “the law will take its own course.” It is obvious then that in a country where the criminal justice system is broken and incapable of delivering justice such a statement by politicians ensures their longevity and lack of accountability. A perfect example of this is Laloo Prasad Yadav who despite being convicted by a CBI court for fraud and sentenced to five years imprisonment in 2013 continues to roam free on bail. Not just that, he continues to be provided with security by the Central Government in keeping with his “VIP status”. As is common in most civilised countries should he not be in jail while his appeal is under consideration?

This privileged treatment is no longer just restricted to the ‘high and mighty’, whatever that means, but provided to anybody connected to any politician regardless of status. The Barala case in Haryana is one such as is the manner in which the UP Government transferred the gutsy Police Circle Officer, Shreshtha Thakur, who refused to be cowed down by a mob owing allegiance to the ruling party in Bulundshahr. Her crime was the firm insistence on ‘challaning’ a BJP worker, Pramodh Lodhi, for travelling on his motor cycle without the requisite documents. While the Government there may wish to convince itself that such an act enhanced morale of its local cadre, as suggested by a local leader, it actually only proved to what extent the leadership of our Indian Police Service is compromised.

The fact of the matter is that no nation with a dysfunctional criminal justice system can ever hope to advance on the developmental ladder given that this constitutes the very foundation of civilised society. More importantly, the absence of professional and independent law enforcement directly impacts our security environment. As the situation in States like Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir and Bengal clearly show that the insurgency/law and order problem there is fomented by a clear nexus between criminal elements, politicians and those responsible for running the administrative and security machinery.

It may seem counter-intuitive but Mr. Modi’s first priority now should be to insulate the police from political interference if he wishes to push through with his developmental agenda and make his reputation as a statesman. He is the only leader with the gravitas and strength of character to push such reforms against deeply embedded political obstacles. Even if he were to achieve a modicum of success in such an endeavour, on the premise that he is interested in lifting this country out of the morass it finds itself in by the jackboots, a lot of the garbage that rises to the top would find them restricted to the sewers they belong in. Even intent to do so will make for a wonderful Independence Day gift to the common man.

This commentary originally appeared in The Times of India.

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Deepak Sinha

Deepak Sinha

Brig. Deepak Sinha (Retd.) was Visiting Fellow at ORF. Brig. Sinha is a second-generation paratrooper. During his service, he held varied command, staff and instructional appointments, ...

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