Breakdown of institutions
Absence of accountability and the vanishing pedals of justice are deepening the rot in our institutions.
Heard about the latest bank loan fraud? The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked 15 senior bankers at IDBI Bank for disbursing Rs 600 crore as loans to the former promoter of Aircel, C Sivasankaran's two firms. According to reports, IDBI Bank boasts of the worst non-performing assets (NPAs) at 24.72 per cent among all Indian banks. This is not the first time that IDBI Bank has been in the news for the wrong reasons. In 2017, officials of the bank were charged with granting loans to Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines. Mallya, in true 'King of Good Times' spirit, continues to live his life unflummoxed by the defaulter tag and is, in fact, preparing to tie the knot for the third time.
IDBI Bank joins a long list of unravelling banking scams ranging from Punjab National Bank (PNB) and ICICI Bank to State Bank of India and Canara Bank. The sorry state of the Indian banking system is alarming as customers lose trust in financial institutions. Even more perturbing is the systemic breakdown of all our institutions. Pundits will find enough fodder to critique the stark mismanagement of our institutions; but, what does it mean to the 'aam aadmi'? To the common man, the country is a welfare state. The government and its institutions are meant to protect and safeguard the interests of all its citizens. But, when a select group of privileged people get away with scams, load frauds, corruption, and sometimes even murder, you know that the system is not working for the ordinary citizen. The proposed Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017 has a 'bail-in' clause whereby depositor money can be utilised by financial institutions to stay in business. Also, the Resolution Corporation can take our money in case a bank crashes and then decide on the amount that will be insured to every depositor. If the loans given to crooks will eventually be paid from the coffers of honest customers, then perhaps it is best to stash our hard-earned savings in pillows and under mattresses like the days of yore.
The common man is taught to believe in the system. If you vote, then you choose your own democratically-elected representative. But, when allegations of rigging through tampered Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) come out against the Election Commission (EC), they lose faith in exercising their franchise. When the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) suddenly strips Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes of their legal tender status and then follows it up with confusing and oft-changing statements, the common man loses faith in the central bank. And, when police officials actively collude and conspire to gangrape an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, the 'aam aadmi' believes that the police cannot protect us. With the collapse of each institution, the common man has no reason to believe in good governance.
The atmosphere around us is bleak, the people are either hopeless or cynical. Make no mistake…this rot in the system is old, it has been festering for years. So deep runs this malaise, that sometimes treating it seems futile. Governments, past and present, have helped shatter the ethics and ideals of each institution. They have bent and used every entity for their own selfish purpose. While the common man looked up to these institutions as their guardians – unbeknownst to them, the decay has been spreading its tentacles into every aspect of governance. The end result: the common man will lose complete confidence in the government and its governance. This loss of faith can cause anarchy, chaos, and maybe even a people's revolution. Perhaps that is what we need to take back control of in our own country. Can you hear the stirrings of a rebellion?
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are strictly personal)