Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sting Operations : Democracy at work

There are some great signals for democracy & governance in India. The wind is changing and changing fast. The push & pulls of our system seem to be far more active in the new liberalised, confident, aggressive, aware and most of all competitive India. The latest example are the series of sting operations.

Tehelka started it all when it caught on camera BJP president Banagaru Laxman accepting a wad of notes. And now its a trend. We have had a series of sting operations both national and some at the regional levels too (yes there are even local TV cables who are conducting such operations). The latest & the most talked about ones being the recent cobrapost+ Aaj Tak and Star News + DIG which trapped a dozen odd MPs accepting, demanding bribes and even bragging about it, for work they are anyways supposed to do.

Ofcourse, channels conducts stings to improves TRP ratings and hence advertising revenues. But there is something great about all that is unfolding.

Democracy & Sting Operations
Arguably the biggest vice of our democracy is that we are a corrupt society. Not that we are the only corrupt society, however we do carry the dubious distinction of being a heaven for corrupt people. The corrupt can remain so with impunity - they are hardly ever brought to books and almost none gets punished. Most of this people have carefully cultivated the image of being clean and hence are in high places due to their image.

Sting operations have added a curious twist to this. One such expose and this image (read kai varsho ki mehnat - year's of hard toil) is shattered. Whatever one does - it will never be the same again. Look at what happened to Bangaru Laxan, Jaya Jaitley, Shakti Kapoor etc. They have surely lost their status in the society. Think about calling them to inaugurate your club's activity this year - & you know what I mean.

Its a deterrant - and that too a strong one. This will at least make people think about feeling secure. They might not be deterred by the law of the land - but they are feeling the heat of the law of free (competitive enterprise).

Its a tool
Another important aspect is that sting operation is a tool. The competition in the system makes it work. Because channels compete for eyeballs - so they go the extra mile to catch bigger fishes. We might soon have political parties getting such operations conducted to bring the skeletons in the opposition out. That would be the ultimate state of functionality that a state can reach for.

Will it work
Surely not. Such tools lose their efficacy by regular exposure - once they lose the novelty value. However - it brings an opportunity for our system to respond and conduct an operation clean out. If the churning brings about a cleaner lot of people reaching public offices - it would have done its job. The system needs to gear up - ensure that this time those caught red handed gets punished - visibly. Is the prime minister & the home minister listening?