18 January, 2013

Accountability, thy name is Kachori

(Pic courtesy : drhirams.com via Google)

What is accountability ?
The Wikipedia (who else !) defines accountability thus “In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability and the expectation of account-giving.”
Sounds like serious stuff, does it not ?  Well, it happens to be serious.  It IS serious stuff.  It is a known fact that for any organization, big or small, or even for the government of a country, accountability is a necessity.  Accountability is what grounds people, it is what stops people from acting irresponsible – well, atleast that’s what accountability is meant to do.
But then again – India has its own set of rules – fragile at best and it is a given that those rules too are meant to be bent.  They are, after all, made to be flexible and long lasting, aren’t they, with loads of loopholes in them ?!  Well, yesterday, accountability in one of the state owned institutions in India lost out – of all the things – to a kachori !!!!
Oh !  I’m not trying to insult a kachori here.  That would be sacrilege.  A kachori looks little but then like the saying goes “appearances can be deceptive”.  It is a little powerhouse, spicy and tangy, packed with all the things that have a huge feel good factor and yesterday, the kachori  proved powerful enough to leave hundreds of passengers stranded at the airport in Mumbai.  I can only imagine how potent and formidable the kachori must be feeling right now.  Thank the Good Lord that kachoris and samosas do not have voting rights in the country.  But then again, they might actually prove more sensible than some of our ministers and government employees !!! 
I was left speechless yesterday when I read this newsflash.  I mean, imagine the kind of guts it must have taken for the pilot in question to countermand a direct order from her seniors and just decide to do what she wanted to to.  Yet again, had the order been outside the realms of her job duties, her responsibility or if she had a very valid reason to have done what she did yesterday, one could probably condone her actions.  But to leave hundreds of passengers stranded at an airport because she had to go pick up, of all the things, a bag of kachoris – is rather appallingly and deplorably irresponsible behaviour.  Among those hundreds stranded at the airport because she so desperately wanted her kachoris, there may have been people who would have needed to get to Delhi urgently – who knows ?  Sick family members, an interview with a job hanging in the balance, a wedding to attend, a business conference – it could have been any of these and many many more.  Yet, she chose kachoris over her job responsibility.  Why ?  Simple !  Because of the strong, convincing, clear-cut notion that she was not and will not be held accountable for her actions.  That’s a pretty persuasive argument there, is it not ? 
A lack of accountability seems to have manifested itself in just about every aspect of organizations and the very government itself, in India.  It is colloquially known as the “chalta hai” attitude.  I wrote the other day about our Prime Minister being a silent observer.  Yet again, where is the accountability ?  This total lack of answerability seems to start right at the very top and pervades and seeps through right down to the bottom.  There is absolutely no sense of liability or responsibility anywhere.  Culpability seems to have gone missing from the very moral fibre in the country. 
Let’s not even talk about the Indian government and the ministers here.  Accountability is something they shed when they take office.  It seems to be a pre requisite.  That is one of the prime needs – any person with even a bit of integrity, morals or scruples would not last anywhere on the government ladder.  Remember Mr. Ashok Khemka ?  He was in the news recently too – he’s quite literally being rolled like a football all over because the government does not know what to do with a person like him who still has some morals left in him.  The system has not been able to corrupt him as much as they would have liked to, much to their dismay.  He is said to have been transferred nine times in five years under the Om Prakash Chautala government and has been at the receiving end of death threats for having taken on the state government over suspicious land deals between none other than Robert Vadra (Sonia Gandhi’s son in law) and the DLF (Delhi Land and Finance).  What was his mistake ?  Simple as this – he held the state government and certain “important” people responsible.  He demanded “accountability”.  That, in the eyes of the Indian government today, is a sin beyond redemption.
Lack of accountability is plainly evident in the judiciary too. The very same judiciary, whose prime duty it is, to uphold and serve justice.  Remember Judge Soumitra Sen who appropriated more than thirty lakh rupees as a court appointed receiver in a lawsuit between SAIL (Steel Authority of India) and SCI (Shipping Corporation of India) over supply of fire bricks ?  He did yield and turn in the money but resigned before the impeachment motion against him could be presented in the Lok Sabha.  One might argue saying “yay !  that’s accountability”.  Hold your horses !  The same Mr. (I cannot bring myself to call him by the title Justice) Sen is still eligible and will keep getting his post retirement benefits even though he resigned ahead of impeachment proceedings against him – just because there are no provisions by way of statute or constitution in India, curbing or constraining their entitlements in such situations or under such scenarios.  Well, can’t the government do anything about this ?  Can they not bring into effect laws to the contrary ?  Yes, they can.  But, they won’t.  Because to do so would mean admitting that something called “accountability” exists !!
The problem in our country is that the buck stops nowhere.  It just keeps going on and on in an endless loop.  It is like one of those old software “If – Endif” loops gone horribly wrong.  Pretty soon, there will come a time, if things continue the way they are going, when there will be no buck at all – forget the stopping bit.  No buck, no problem !!!
Take the instance of the Indian Cricket Team.  Despite appalling performances, they still get paid the same as they would have, had they won a match or a series.  Yet the nation goes into a state of shock when the players put up pathetic, absolutely contemptible performances.  Think about it.  Why do they not go that extra mile to give it their best ?  Simply because they are never held "accountable" for their bad performances.  Captains in other countries have been known to step down if their teams put up an appallingly abysmal performance.  Look at the Indian cricket team, though.  Let alone stepping down, they do not even work on getting their act together.  Imperviousness rules supreme ! Why ?  Because yet again, there is no sense of "accountability". 
What we have, working very effectively in our country, is a Theory of Absolute Unaccountability ! 
When the higher ups and then the higher ups again are seen being corrupt, one cannot really point fingers at the peons in the government offices who have to be paid money even to get your file out.  They see their bosses being openly corrupt and this rot (there is no other term for it) goes way up – right past the Prime Minister’s Office.  The whole country is steeped in it.  Lack of accountability has led to rampant corruption and vice versa and what we have now is a terribly vicious circle.  There are but a few left who still answer to their conscience and those are the people who are asked to shut up and mind their own business.  If not, they are mere inconveniences that get shunted out of the way or worse still, killed.  Anything to get them to shut up, is the prevalent ideology  !
Are people still wondering why those six men raped the 23 year old in Delhi ?  Do people still wonder why the 11 year old in Rajasthan was raped ?  Do people still wonder why children are sold in the country ?  Do people still wonder why our police force is so incompetent, callous, indifferent and insensitive to the needs of the people they are meant to protect ?  Do people still wonder why our inept politicians are coming up with stupid, imprudent, thoughtless statements when it comes to women in society ? Well, simply because they know just as well as we do that there is absolutely no accountability involved.  Not at the lower rungs, not at the higher rungs. 
All ij indeed well, my dear folks.  All ij supremely well with our country. 
The next time something goes horribly wrong with any of our endeavours in India, if we are delayed beyond reason or things just don’t move or happen, rest assured – there still is room for accountability.  There may be, there just may be a kachori or a paratha or a samosa at the bottom of it all.  No worries, people.  Just say to yourself – All Ij Well and then point your fingers firmly and squarely at the kachoris, samosas, parathas or what have you.  They still seem to have a bit of that factor called “accountability” left in them !!

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