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Post Mortem Nation?

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A. Raja, former union telecom minister who had said only the other day that he would never quit, has been forced to resign. The Supreme Court has asked the Prime Minister to file an affidavit on why he did not give permission to member of Parliament Subramanian Swamy to file a case against Raja for so long. The opposition is baying for blood. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has shot off a note to the department of telecom to cancel 69 licences of six new players because of their non-performance.

The telecom brouhaha has pushed out the Adarsh housing society scam and the Commonwealth Games fraud allegations from the front pages of most newspapers. Of course, the Adarsh scam has claimed one chief minister and scuttled the chances of several former ones. Meanwhile, the CWG fraud investigations have resulted in the arrest of two former members of the Organising Committee.

Go a little further back — a few months only — and there was the IPL spat that resulted in Lalit Modi's unceremonious exit and a large number of investigations being launched against him.

The cynics point to all these scandals as proof that corruption has seeped into every facet of Indian life — from politics and bureaucracy to cricket. But there are plenty of optimists who exult that the power of media and public opinion has finally resulted in lots of rich and powerful people getting their just desserts. (Even if these desserts are served in small portions.)

My opinion is that we are increasingly becoming a post-mortem nation — one that specialises in acting after the event and not before even if all evidence was available. In each case — the telecom, the Adarsh society, the CWG and the IPL mess — the evidence that things were going dramatically wrong existed and was well known to almost anyone who reads the papers or watches the news. But our leaders never act on them because of one excuse or the other.

They finally do act — but that rarely results in any real good. Some money may be recovered. Some people disgraced and temporarily sent to less powerful posts. But nothing major changes to prevent the next big scam.

Post mortems are great at telling you the cause of death. They never prevent a death, though.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 29-11-2010)