Monkeys Running the Circus

Among cynics, HL Mencken (1880-1956) holds pride of place in my opinion. In his judgment, democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage. In India—are you really surprised—the monkeys running the government never cease to astonish. I thought that when it came to the insane depravity of the Indian politician, I had seen it all. But I was sadly mistaken.

A handful of members of parliament (MP) were caught taking bribes in a sting operation by a website called Cobrapost. Report of politicians taking bribes is as astonishingly novel as the news that bears do potty in the woods, or that Michael Jackson is weird. They are a seriously depraved lot (the politcians, not the bears) and it would appear that that level of depravity is not just mandatory but required. In India, real politicians are thugs and crooks. Those who are not are mere amateurs who don’t belong among the professionals. So Cobraposts revelations that MPs have accepted bribes to ask questions in the parliament is not news, merely detail.

What really astonishes is the reaction of the MPs to being caught red-handed. Only in the realm of fiction and satire would you normally expect that sort of reaction. In real life, you would dismiss it entirely out of hand.

Three days ago, the MPs have demanded that the media be investigated to determine what their motive was in exposing the mendacity of the MPs. The members argued that the media had no business to expose the greed of the MPs and thus lower the dignity of the House.

They said that that Cobrapost sold the report exposing the dishonest MPs to TV channels and therefore action must be taken against – and here is the astonishing part – the whistle-blowers. Gives an entirely new meaning to the Hindi saying ulta chor kotwal ko daten (instead the crook reprimands the police). They said that this expose attempts to defame the Parliament. The speaker of the House, Mr Somnath Chatterjee, said that “as the House is the most important body in the whole country … we have to maintain its dignity.”

Mr Chatterjee said that “we must see that the dignity of this House is never affected or prejudiced by anybody whether inside or outside. Therefore, if necessary we should do some self-introspection.”

Good idea even though I am not sure, if “introspection” means what I think it does, what “self-introspection” means.

Now it gets even more bizarre. So far we know that some crooked politicians accepted bribes and were exposed by the media. It takes a peculiar sort of brazenness to then claim that the media is at fault and is responsible for diminishing the stature of the House. And the action to be taken? Why, bar reporters from the Central Hall of the Parliament! That is what one MP recommended. And I suppose if we totally ban the reporting of any crimes committed by politicians in the country, the country will truly prosper.

In the US, I had heard of cases of perverted justice. For instance, a burglar while burgling, fell through the sky-light and hurt himself and then successfully sued the building owner for negligence. Or the drunken driver who went off the street and crashed into a electric-utility pole and sued the county, the city, the utility company, and the car manufacturer. The stuff of urban legends.

But to actually read about something as perverse in the newspapers totally baffles me. Which planet do these monkeys come from? I had heard that the Parliament was a circus but I did not realize that it is also a loony-bin. Have these people no shame?

Some time ago, I had proposed public flogging as a mechanism designed to fix some of the problems that plague India. That needs rethinking because public flogging may be too good for some of these critters.

Author: Atanu Dey

Economist.

9 thoughts on “Monkeys Running the Circus”

  1. Right on my friend. Your anguish over it is shared by most Indians.

    I think the Parliament y’sday did the rigth thing in expelling the MPs. It would be grt if they bar them from contesting again and initiate criminal procedings against them.

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  2. The only reason why they were so quickly expelled was probably due to the fact that it was in the benefit of the congress led coalition. I wonder if the underrepresentation of the congress was common sense on the part of Cobrapost. Knowing that if all parties were equally implicated, the matter would have simply been brushed under the carpet.

    All things remaining equal however, (by that I mean all parties being equally corrupt) I wish they would have targeted congress mps instead.

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  3. Atanu, rage and indignation will serve no purpose. We need a million Kautilyas to bloom in this country. Imagine, what a challenge for MBA-types: turn around a moribund hellhole through clever social engineering and people-manipulation. Selling the proverbial soap is so lame in comparison.

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  4. Flogging or even the death sentence for corruption will not stop it ever. It will be practised with more cleverness and more impenetrable secrecy. Though the frequency of practice would abate considerably. These punishments are effective deterrents and inhibitors.
    As always the only permanent solution to these external ill-actions is a complete change of the person inside.
    A human being should realize that there is a great satisfaction and joy in doing the right thing by themselves and by the country of whose parliament they are members, which far surpasses that satisfaction that more and more money taken as bribes, gives him.

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  5. Yup Patel…it kinda puzzled me why there was only one MP from the Congress being caught. I mean when we think or talk of corruption in politics in India, the first thing that comes into one’s mind is the Congress party.

    Hmmm…may be they were plain lucky this time around!

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  6. I was rendered ROTFL when I read this gem in your article:

    Report of politicians taking bribes is as astonishingly novel as the news that bears do potty in the woods …

    Although I am delighted by the expulsion of these corrupt MPs, I am a little uneasy as to how swiftly this expose has been dealt with and how well it has served the Congress.

    If a two-bit hitherto-unknown media outfit’s work is given so much value, why isnt the government going by the word of the CBI against Laloo and the other numerous chargesheeters in the government? Surely they too can be expelled from Parliament?

    When corruption is synonymous with power in our country, isn’t it strange that cobrapost targetted the opposition?

    I have put down some questions regarding this episode in my blog at http://kshetrajna.blogspot.com. Please visit and comment! Thanks!

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  7. The same things were said about Tehelka they and tried to bury them under a heap of paperwork of Boforsist proportions. It’s a sad comment on the way we conduct ourselves.

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  8. Like someone else mentioned in their comment, there is no way one can stop nincompoops from getting into politics and trying to encourage corruption. The best way is to put in checks and balances, like the freedom of information act. Open up every damn database of government activities and setup NGOs that watch this info, scrutinize every tender. In fact we should start an open source revolution of information monitoring within India. That will keep every monkey, ostrich and swine that twirls around as a ‘Neta’.

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