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The huge scams which are unearthed in India every other day, trigger an important question: are Indians more corrupt than in other countries of the world? This is an assumption which many Indians accept as a fact, and which contributes to a very negative image of themselves. Yet this postulation is totally wrong: Indians have just inherited a system, post-independence, which breeds corruption. It is this very system which makes people corrupt.

First you are supposed to get elected with ridiculously low amounts, a leftover from the socialist days of Nehru. There is no way today, when an aspirant politician needs, to look genuine, a caravan of 100 cars, constant helicopter trips, posters, gifts of saris, dhotis, cycles, even TVs, to every constituent, that he can manage with the stipulated budget. Hence, he needs to resort to black money and it opens the door to corruption. Secondly, even if our elected MP, say from Tamil Nadu, still has some mental honesty left in him after having had to sacrifice some principles to get elected, when he arrives in Delhi and gets his car, his bungalow, peons, privileges, and attends this extraordinary un-vastu (no air, no natural light) building of the Indian Parliament, where he sees MP’s behaving worse than in a fish market, his beliefs are even more dented. But more than that, the amount of power he wields is totally disproportionate to his or her brief: hundreds of people line-up daily in his office for favours, businessmen come to him for licences to open factories, offering bribes, journalists queue to interview him or her… And there, in this big, arrogant, ignorant bubble, which is Delhi, so far away from the rural reality of his Tamil Nadu, he loses not only sight of his initial aspiration, but also his head. One of the great calamities of modern India is that everything is hopelessly centralized, to the point that at this moment, every important decisions is taken by one lone person sitting in her Delhi residence.

Yes, ultimately some blame has to be pinned down. There is no doubt, that the Bofors scam set a precedent: henceforth political parties needed hundred of crores for elections and the (black) money had to come out of scams. Part of the blame has to be also attributed to the Indian Media. In the times of Bofors, the Indian Express single handedly broke the story;, but today, the Media is often docile and sometimes blatantly sides with the Congress party.

In this context, it is highly symbolic that tapes of conversations between lobbyist Nira Radia and three of the most preeminent journalists in India have come to light. These top editors have been found to be not only lobbying for the Congress, but also using their good names, their columns or their prime time, to put across views which are at not their own. When one knows how much money the companies that Nira Radia represents have, there is a good chance that these journalists have been bought.

What is staggering is that so far, even though there are thousands (64.000) of tweets and posts on this scandal on the Net, the mainstream press and television channels have chosen to sit tight on this story. It is a real conspiracy of silence. Is it because they want to spare fellow journalists – famous ones at that ? Or do they also want to spare themselves, because many of these channels and newspapers are too – overtly or covertly – putting across the point of view of the Congress, while coming down hard on Hindus: the arrest of swami Asimanand blanked out all news of the Nira Radia tapes? Whether they are paid or not, is another matter. It is not always necessary to give cash: a Padma Bushan does the trick. Barkha Dutt, one of the journalists exposed in the Open and Outlook magazines stories, has got one from the Congress govt; and so has Teesta Seltavad, who repeatedly committed perjury in court, while going all guns after the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

People ask me: was it better when I was a reporter covering South Asia? Well, journalism is about Truth, about reporting honestly, as much as possible, given the fact that each journalist possesses a particular atavism, which make him or her, look at the world with slightly tainted glasses. It can’t be helped, but some mental sincerity is always there, at least in the initial stage of one’s career.

Nothing can be further away from this mental honesty and aspiration for truth, than the selling of editorial space, which makes publicity, or outright lies, appear as genuine articles, or as a TV documentary. This is a crime against journalism which started after my time.

The largest selling newspaper in India, was the first to introduce this unethical practice – and it minted loads of money, ast has been reported in a recent Outlook magazine issue. In the same way, the TV channel which also claims it is the most widely viewed in India, started the practice of selling some of its programmes. Others had to follow suit for fear of bankrupcy: many newspapers and TV channels sell today their editorial space and programmes. These newspapers and TV channels might appear glittering and triumphant at the moment, but what they have done is make the foundations of Indian journalism so unethical, so rotten, that the whole edifice has to collapse one day for a fresh start.

As for scams, one needs a government which is bold and courageous enough to change the political system. The ceiling of donations to political parties has to be freed. At the same time they have to be made transparent. This will take care of all the black money that goes in the coffers of parties. Secondly, the election commission, which has been incredibly biased towards the Congress since a few years, should ban all gifts during elections, which is just a bribe to buy votes. Thirdly, there has to be a decentralisation of Indian Politics. Delhi is too far away from the heartlands of India, not only in the South, but even from Central India. MP’s have to be made to spend more time in their constituencies and federalism of the kind practiced in the US, has to be encouraged, so that more power is devoluted to the states.

Then will the true Indian genius takeover and give back to this great country and great people, who are no more corrupt than others, the instruments to become a truly world power, eventually surpassing China.

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