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Why corruption is even worse than communalism

April 17, 2014 19:13 IST

While corruption destroys the moral fibre of a nation, its society and people, secularism as espoused in this country is cynical secularism, a sham perpetrated during election time and communalism is a spectre, a bogey raised by these great champions of Indian secularism to secure and perpetuate their vote bank, says Maneck Davar.

The statement of a minority community leader that corruption was preferable to communalism is shocking, but not surprising. In the present electoral debate while charges of divisiveness in the basis of religion, class and caste are shrill, there is not much focus on the huge scams which have emasculated our economy and diverted the nation's wealth to shady bank accounts in tax havens.

In a previous column, I had argued why the minorities need not fear a Narendra Modi dispensation as communal trouble would derail his programme of economic and infrastructure development, make him a whipping boy of domestic and international sentiment and deny him a place in history as a harbinger of change, which he aims for.

Modi is astute enough to have learnt the lessons of Godhra well, for all his re-election rhetoric in the subsequent elections he has won in Gujarat have been on the development plank. There has been no communal outburst in Gujarat for the last 12 years, creditable in a state where communal strife was endemic.

It does not take great economic knowledge to realise how corruption beggars a country's economy. At the apex of the pyramid it is the loot of the national exchequer by rent-seekers who hugely profit by under valuing the nation's resources, may it be under the ground like coal, oil and mineral ore or above the ground like spectrum and sharing the spoils with their political partners.

At the base are all those who occupy petty positions in government bureaucracy who prey on the helpless and ignorant, denying them even their sustenance in government schemes.

Corruption diverts the State's scarce capital resources to private pockets, denying crucial and fragile social areas like health and education much needed funding, leaving schools without teachers and teaching aids and hospitals without doctors, medicines and diagnostic equipment.

More important, it destroys the moral fibre of a nation, its society and people, making them insensitive to the intense suffering caused to those deprived of their basic right to a decent quality of life because of the base instincts of those in power who illegally enrich themselves.

Secularism as is espoused in this country is cynical secularism, a sham perpetrated during election time and communalism is a spectre, a bogey raised by these great champions of Indian secularism to secure and perpetuate their vote bank.

While at Independence, the promotion of a secular, multi-cultural nation was an imperative to assuage the fears of a community after Partition, over the years it has degenerated into an empty slogan, worse a promise unfulfilled.

Even constituencies were redrawn to ensure that in its composition at least 15 to 20 per cent comprised members of the minority community who would vote en bloc for the Congress.

True secularism is not ring-fencing minorities in ghettos, both real and in mentality, and creating unjustified fears, but in seeking and working for their emancipation, their economic and social progress and their assimilation as equals in society. This has not happened in 67 years of Independence of which the Congress has enjoyed six decades of power.

What does a child dying of hunger malnutrition or lack of medical care know or care about secularism?

What is the religion of a child begging at traffic signals when s/he should be in school?

What do the huddled masses on pavements and slums in the city or in mud huts in the villages without water, sanitation or electricity worry about communalism when they are reduced to mere husks of humanity?

It is when you make a serious effort to eradicate corruption and redirect the hundred of thousands of billions of rupees of illicit gains back in the economy and the building of concrete and social infrastructure, when you get the nation's wealth secreted in offshore banks back into the system, when you allow entrepreneurship to flourish by eliminating greasy palms and when these benefits percolate to the lowest level as they must and they will, then your slogan of secularism will be one of substance.

But here is the paradox and the reason why it is in the interests of the 'secularists' to keep a vast section of the populace poor. As an extreme analogy you don't find the denizens of Lutyens' Delhi, Malabar Hill in Mumbai or Banjara Hills in Hyderabad rioting and destroying each other's property. It is largely the poor, the dispossessed who suffer.

Almost all of sectoral violence -- religion or caste-based -- is due to social tension engendered by poverty, lack of education and employment and deprivation of basic amenities like water, sanitation and electricity.

Finally, not only have these 'secularists' who have been in power so long done anything to address the woes of the common man, but have perpetuated his misery by corrupting the system and reveling in the country permanently residing in the bottom ten per cent of global development and corruption indices.

For it is only an economically disenfranchised people, hobbled by corruption, that can be frightened by the 'threat' of communalism.

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Maneck Davar is the proprietor of Spenta Multimedia, a publishing house and a Web-based agency that creates corporate Web sites.

Maneck Davar