Ten commandments for Dr Singh

Dear Dr Singh,

At the annual meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry, you eloquently argued the case for corporations to go beyond their narrow financial interests, and embrace corporate social responsibility. You urged businessmen to avoid conspicuous consumption and behave in a socially responsible manner, even if it affected their purse and power.

I am sure you would like to extend this same principle to the political sector. Surely you agree that we need political social responsibility no less than corporate social responsibility. At the CII meeting, you framed social responsibility in the form of ten commandments for the corporate sector. So, allow me the liberty of laying down ten commandments for you in the political sector.

Thou shalt sack governor Rajeshwar of UP and prosecute chief minister Mayawati forthwith in the Taj Corridor case. Back in 2003, the Supreme Court sought to remove politics from this case by ordering the CBI to register an FIR against Mayawati. The CBI wants to prosecute her and a special judge has been appointed. Yet your governor Rajeshwar has refused to sanction her prosecution, for the unstated reason that you need her votes in the Presidential election. Now, if you antagonise Mayawati, your candidate for President may not get elected. But social responsibility is about acting for the public good and not private gain, right?

Thou shalt stop traveling in cavalcades of half a dozen vehicles, for which all other traffic is forced to stop. You told the CII that conspicuous consumption did not go down well in a poor country. But surely traveling in a cavalcade that forces other traffic to stop is more conspicuous than anything Mukesh Ambani or Azim Premji do. You really must stop it, right?

Thou and thy fellow ministers shall move out of palatial government bungalows and shift to modest houses. Top businessmen are buying houses in Delhi for over Rs 100 crore apiece, but their residences pale in comparison with the multi-acre houses that you and your ministers occupy. This does not sit well with your concern for the aam admi , right?

Thou shalt lift the barricades that block Race Course Road and allow the public to use it. Security is an important issue, of course. But Downing Street in Britain is not off limits to the public, and the White House in Washington DC is actually open to tourists. Nobody wants a repetition of Indira Gandhi\’s murder, but she was killed by her own security guards, not by people rushing in from the road outside.

Thou shalt dismiss all ministers, whether in New Delhi or states ruled by the Congress, who face criminal charges. You have taken the position that people must be considered innocent till proven guilty. This may be a laudable principle in countries where the guilty are typically convicted. But in a country where virtually no resourceful person is convicted beyond all appeals, it is a licence for crime. Social responsibility is not about legal technicalities; it is about showing that you care for society, right?

Thou shalt stop collecting black money for elections, and stick to only legal donations. Every party hack will tell you that this would be political suicide. But social responsibility is more important, right?

Thou shalt discipline millions of teachers, health staff, and other providers of government services who are guilty of high absenteeism exceeding 10%. Sacking them all may be too stiff a penalty. But thou shalt authorise panchayats to withhold pay for all days of absenteeism. In retaliation, government employees will launch massive strikes, and may also help Opposition parties rig the next elections against you. But we must do what is socially responsible, right?

Thou shalt weed out surplus labour in government corporations and departments. Public sector undertakings are grossly overmanned. The Railways alone are estimated to have half a million surplus workers. The Posts and Telegraphs department should shrink since telegrams have become obsolete. Eliminating labour where it is not needed will release funds required to recruit staff that are needed in services such as the police, courts, jails, schools and health centres. Rationalising surplus staff will lead to strikes and probably lose you elections. But it will be socially positive, and that is more important, right?

Thou shalt propose a law giving seniority to all cases of elected legislators over all others. Today, many criminals enter politics in order to stall prosecutions in cases they face. But if getting elected becomes a recipe for instant trial, criminals will opt out of politics. Hurrah for such reform! Unfortunately, you party has so many skeletons in its cupboard that it will be oppose such reform. Yet this is what political social responsibility should be about, right?

Thou shalt insist on intra-party democracy in the Congress, and on open, transparent elections for all posts. If you do so, the Gandhi family will sack you. But it will be socially responsible, no?

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